The 9th OPEN DAYS were held over four days from 10 to 13 October, in a period during which the debate on the European Commission's legislative proposals for cohesion policy post-2013 and the budget debate in the Council and the European Parliament about size, duration and priorities of the forthcoming Multi-annual Financial Framework dominated the political agenda. This happened against the backdrop of continued efforts at all levels of governance to exit the financial and economic crisis and the 2nd year of implementation of the 'Europe 2020' strategy. The latter will influence the discussion about objectives of the new generation of cohesion policy programmes.
Regions and cities will play a major role in the discussions on the above-mentioned issues. Their input with regard to a more efficient delivery of cohesion policy is particularly valuable.
The OPEN DAYS took good account of the political and institutional circumstances. In parallel, it continued to be the annual platform of good practice showcasing results and projects from current 'convergence', 'regional competitiveness and employment', and 'territorial cooperation' programmes, in order to support sharing of experiences and to stir debate about good local, regional and cross-border governance and management of EU funding. This exchange between practitioners was mixed with input from academia. Another successful element was the participation of third countries, which are keen to hear and learn from European regions' experiences in regional policy.
Under the headline 'Investing in Europe’s future: Regions and cities delivering smart, sustainable and inclusive growth', the OPEN DAYS 2011 were structured around three thematic priorities:
focused on discussing and visualising how Cohesion Policy contributes to smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. This thematic priority included issues such as; research and innovation; "Digital Europe"; creative industries; regional and urban low-carbon development strategies; energy efficiency; cooperation on climate action; regional and local employment strategies; tackling poverty and social exclusion.
Under this thematic priority, workshops and debates focused on how to improve delivery of Cohesion Policy in the current period, but also after 2013. Exchange of good practice between practitioners was mixed with discussions on certain aspects or novelties of the regulatory framework post-2013 proposed by the Commission. Seminars could focus on sub-themes like "moving from grants to loans", "more focus on results", on-going evaluation, new evaluation methods, the right balance between concentration and flexibility, how to ensure visibility of EU's Regional policy through results and projects, Common Strategic Frameworks and Partnership contracts etc.;
Under this thematic priority discussions focused on highlighting the usefulness of territorial approaches when identifying regional needs and exploiting regional potentials. Experiences and specific solutions in the fields of e.g. urban and local development, territorial co-operation and the European Grouping on Territorial Co-operation (EGTC), macro-regional strategies, regions with specific geographical/demographic challenges etc. could be exchanged. In addition, new research on regional and urban development will be was debated under the roof of the 'OPEN DAYS University'. Seminars with third countries also took place under this theme.