This year, the European Commission published the third report on the implementation of macro-regional strategies. The biennal reports aim at taking a look at the progress made in the four strategies. Furthermore, the reports identify challenges regarding the implementation process in the Baltic Sea Region, Danube Region, Adriatic-Ionian Region, and the Alpine Region. Against this background, the European Commission focused on comparing achievements in the areas of environment and climate change, research and economic development, and connectivity.
Macro-regional strategies support connectivity for mobility and environment
The European Commission’s thematic focus in the report is closely linked to key European policies such as the European Green Deal and the European Digital Agenda.
Hence, the report is not only assessing the state of macro-regional strategies’ implementation, but also shows how the strategies concretely push forward European policies in the partner countries.
Particularly in the Danube Region, macro-regional cooperation helped to enhance the water status of the Danube river through river basin management and flood risk prevention. In addition, the Danube Strategy facilitated a stronger capitalisation and share of research and innovation in the entire region.
Furthermore, the cooperation between waterway mobility and law enforcement in the Danube Region is continuously improving the navigability of the Danube river.
However, the report is not only looking at the sectoral dimension of the strategies. The Danube Strategy and the Adriatic-Ionian Strategy also contribute to the enlargement process by supporting stronger policy coordination. As macro-regional strategies offer the opportunity to shape regional development inside and outside the European Union at eye-level, EU member states, accession countries, and neighbourhood countries are engaging in mutual learning and joint implementation of activities.
Macro-regional strategies’ contribution to COVID-19 pandemic recovery
Since the European Commission published the report in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the report also reflects upon the potential of macro-regional strategies to find solutions to pandemic-related challenges. The flexible nature of macro-regional strategies is one key feature that make them valuable tools for economic, social and territorial development. According to the European Commission, macro-regional strategies “provide a ready and operational cooperation framework to ensure better coordination of actions, investments and projects within their territories.”
Keeping in mind the progress and achievements already made, the strategies can help countries to move on implementing the European Green Deal and the European Digital Strategy in a coordinated manner. Therefore, the report recommends a close coordination between national and thematic coordinators of the strategies and all relevant stakeholders across the macro-region. This cooperation should also continue in the programming process for the programme period 2021-2027, as the embedding of macro-regional strategies in Cohesion Policy programmes is vital to achieve their economic, social and territorial objectives and to contribute to the post-pandemic recovery of Europe.
- 3rd EC Report on the implementation of EU macro-regional strategies, COM (2020) 578 final, 23/9/2020
- Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the 3rd EC Report, SWD/2020/186 final, 23/9/2020
- All EC Reports under ‘MRS Progress Reports by the European Commission’
- European Green Deal
- A Digital Agenda for Europe