"The cooperation between the 'Four Motors for Europe' is a powerful example of what regions can achieve when they join forces." These were the words chosen by Committee of the Regions (CoR) president, Mercedes Bresso, to mark the hand-over of the "Four Motors for Europe" presidency from the Rhône-Alpes region to Baden-Württemberg.
The "Four Motors for Europe" have a combined population of 33 million, generate 8% of the EU's GDP and are partners in a cooperation agreement between four major European regions: Baden-Württemberg (Germany), Catalonia (Spain), Lombardy (Italy) and Rhône-Alpes (France). This agreement has a twofold objective: to help give the regions and their people a more prominent international profile and promote the role of Europe's regions in the European integration process.
The new Baden-Württemberg presidency has set out its priority goals for the year: strengthening participatory democracy, putting the Four Motors for Europe on the global stage and supporting young people, training and university exchanges.
In her speech, Mercedes Bresso pointed to the driving force that European regions represent in terms of European public investment. She also underlined the danger in the temptation for net contributor countries to reduce the EU budget by EUR 100 billion over seven years. She said that the EU budget was an investment budget equivalent to a mere 1% of the Union's gross national income, which was not much compared with the amounts paid out to shore up the banking system. She added that cohesion policy was the key tool in this area and that even the most prosperous regions, such as those forming the Four Motors, needed it to consolidate their development and prevent industrial jobs in Europe being lost on a massive scale.
At a meeting in Brussels in March, the four regions set out their joint positions on the future of cohesion policy, reform of the common agricultural policy and the new "Horizon 2020" framework programme for research. They said they wanted to achieve a level of competitiveness in the medium and long term that would enable them to increase their inhabitants' wealth and improve their welfare by overhauling the current growth model, a target that is also central to the Europe 2020 strategy.
The CoR president concluded that without Europe's towns and cities, the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy could not be achieved. Moreover, she felt that the regions, with their local knowledge, expertise, creativity and drive, would put Europe back on the path to sustainable development.