Only the regions with the most credible and promising entrepreneurial vision are awarded as the European Entrepreneurial Region (EER) by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR). This year Extremadura, Lower Austria and Western Greece convinced the EER jury with forward-looking political strategies to boost small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurship as well as with credible action plans to turn these visions into reality in 2017.
"SMEs are Europe's main engine for creating sustainable growth and jobs – 8 out of 10 new jobs are created within them. Each year, the EER winners show us that local and regional authorities play a key role in boosting entrepreneurship. Especially when SMEs are taking their first steps, they are susceptible to external pressures and changes – decisive support and action from the city or region is of immense importance for enterprises' success", said Markku Markkula, President of the European Committee of the Regions.
The Spanish region of Extremadura structures its entrepreneurial action plan around four pillars: territory-centred actions, offering innovative services, customising support, and national and international connections. The EER jury specifically acknowledged the interesting elements aimed at boosting entrepreneurship in the regional administration and the innovative cooperation measures.
"With Europe's support, Extremadura has experienced enormous progress in the field of entrepreneurship. We nevertheless still have a lot of work to do. This award is the result of a collective effort that transcends a single generation, government or political affiliation. The acknowledgment we are now receiving from the CoR is a stimulus for further growth and for improving the quality of life of our citizens", said Guillermo Fernández Vara, President of Extremadura and PES member of the CoR.
Moving away from passively offering services and aiming to actively identify and mobilise entrepreneurial potential is the key element in Lower Austria's strategy to attain entrepreneurial innovation and growth. The strengths identified by the EER jury are especially to be found in the robust action plan with a focus on start-up and spin-off support.
"This EER award is recognition at European level of the widely concerted business policy of Lower Austria and our commitment to the framework of Europe 2020, entrepreneurship and the optimal use of EU funds. It is also a great compliment to the performance of the many enterprises in our region", said Erwin Pröll, Governor of Lower Austria and EPP member of the CoR.
With a particularly challenging economic starting point, Western Greece convinced the EER jury with a plausible and realistic regional development strategy engaging different stakeholders across society, while also maintaining social cohesion. The region aspires to build an entrepreneurial culture based on cooperation, idea- and experience-sharing, and learning/mentoring.
"In the difficult situation currently faced by our country, we wish to join forces with successful businesses, in particular SMEs, and move towards a better future together. Our idea, which is receiving the EER 2017 award today, represents our vision and strategy to unleash the creative potential of our region and to establish the necessary conditions for sustainable growth", said Apostolos Katsifaras, President of the region of Western Greece and PES member of the CoR.
Pictures from the event are available from 16 June on flickr