Regions and cities play a crucial role in kick-starting the economy and helping young people find a job, according to Danuta Hübner, chairwoman of the regional development committee. We spoke to her on the occasion of the Week of Regions and Cities, which will see many regional authorities come to Brussels this week to share best practices and discuss Europe's future. The Polish Christian Democrat MEP talked about how structural funds and quality programmes can help regions to make a difference.
What role do the regions play in boosting growth and employment and what can the EU do to help them?
The real Europe is right next to us, on the level of the regions, cities and villages. That is where the decisions that affect our quality of life are made. This is where new investments are discussed and decisions are made. Regions need to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the EU. EU funds help regions to create new jobs and boost economic competitiveness.
How should we overcome existing problems with structural founds such as a lack of good-quality programmes? What support can be offered?
Having a complicated policy makes it easer to make mistakes. Today legislators are trying to simplify the system at the European and regional level. By not creating new regulations for cities and regions, we aim to reduce the number of mistakes. When it comes to the quality of programmes, we just added new preconditions to the cohesion policy, such as the need to have a developed strategy in order to qualify for EU funding. These new procedures will improve the quality of projects. I believe that combining private and public funds by attracting private investors might also have a positive impact on the quality of projects.
What can be done to help young people?
There is no doubt that the crisis especially affects young people, particularly when it comes to their chances of finding a job. The new version of the EU's cohesion policy needs to cater to young people. Regional programmes using regional funds must focus on developing programmes for the young. Any government developing new programmes on a local, regional or national level, should not only work together with the regions but also with representatives of civil society, such as NGOs, business leaders and young people. I believe a policy based on partnerships should not only help young people to find a job, but also to create their own businesses. There is a variety of EU funds that could help young graduates to start their own business and develop different, new sectors, which Europe needs now.