Selected from more than 100 applicants, the 30 participants - from 17 EU Member States and two non-EU countries - in the Master Class of the EU Regions Week and the 39 speakers – policy-makers, EU officials and senior academics – focused on the EU cohesion policy’s implementation, its future post-2020, and EU and international research programmes and projects.
The programme began after a welcome by the CoR’s Secretary-General, Jiri Buriánek, and Ronald Hall, Principal Adviser at DG Regio, who both underlined the need to build and consolidate bridges between research and public institutions at all levels, together with partners Prof John Bachtler and Sally Hardy, Regional Studies Association, Prof Dr Jouke van Dijk, ERSA, and Dr Izabela Mironowicz, AESOP.
EU cohesion policy implementation
During the two first days, participants presented their papers, focusing on three themes related to the EU cohesion policy’s implementation: Resilient regions and cities; Governance of regional and local development; and Sharing knowledge across borders. Feedback received from EU officials and senior academics was appreciated and helped feed into and improve the research.
The participants had also the opportunity to learn more from European Commission high-level officials about the academic and institutional work behind the preparation of the 7th report on economic, social and territorial cohesion, which was presented on the occasion of the European Week of Regions and Cities. Marc Lemaître, Director-General DG Regio, stressed that the European Commission needed researchers with insight into policy-making at local level when designing public policy such as cohesion policy. He reminded the meeting that the concept of smart specialisation had emerged in academics circles 10 years ago and was now being fully and rapidly taken into account by public administrations.
EU cohesion policy's future post-2020
A panel debate with representatives from EU Member States and EU institutions focused on questions related to the politics of the negotiations on the future of EU cohesion policy, the influence of different actors and the role of evidence and research in the context of reform. Iskra Mihaylova, Member of the European Parliament and Chair of the Commission on Regional Development, pointed out the need for a simplified and flexible policy, while Michael Schneider, Secretary of State, Saxony-Anhalt, Member of the CoR and rapporteur for the opinion on the Future of EU cohesion policy, presented the #CohesionAlliance and called for a new policy and programming period starting on time, in 2020. Nicola de Michelis, Head of Cabinet for Commissioner Crețu, highlighted the fact that cohesion policy was the most monitored and evaluated policy in Europe: there was a need to roll over the system that existed today. The next cohesion policy would face new challenges and its objectives would then be spread differently.
EU and international research programmes and projects
Participants also had the opportunity to become familiar with:
- The recent trends and practical examples of how to visualise and map regional and urban data
A session with EU officials and researchers discussed mining and visualisation of regional data. The 7th report on economic, social and territorial cohesion, Eurostat’s Regional Yearbook and applied research were presented. Alasdair Rae: visual is powerful; open data on its own is not enough - need to bridge the gap between data and knowledge; simple is better - there is too much data today; and comparisons are important.
Presentations by Hugo Poelman / Laura De Dominicis, DG Regio; Dr Alasdair Rae, University of Sheffield; and Oliver Müller, Eurostat.
- How the European Parliament cooperates with external researchers
The European Parliament Research Service (EPRS) and the European Parliament Directorate General for IPOL discussed how the European Parliament (EP) used research on cohesion and regional policy in its work and in the policy-making process, giving participants the opportunity to interact directly with EP experts in the field of cohesion policy. In a second part, three groups looked more closely at the European Parliament's research on EU cohesion policy, in particular its implementation, the debate on its future post-2020, and the links to EU and international research programmes and projects. The EPRS also provided a Topical Digest containing a selection of briefings it had produced on regional and cohesion policy.
- The challenges of international research programmes and projects
In a world café session, participants received valuable input on funding and managing research programmes and projects from the EU’s Research Executive Agency, the ESPON programme, the OECD and the Cohesify project and NordRegio. Dr Joaquim Oliveira Martins, OECD, underlined that the involvement of subnational governments in regional policies was needed. At the OECD a change was taking place: they were thinking more and more about regional policy in all fields. Moray Gilland, DG Regio, concluded that young researchers needed to create networks in order to be successful on the international stage.
Presentations by: Jens Hemmelskamp, European Commission, Research Executive Agency; Dr Laurent Frideres, ESPON, Luxembourg; Dr Carlos Mendez, Senior Research Fellow, European Policy Research Centre; and Dr Jukka Teräs, Nordregio, Stockholm, Sweden
The Master Class programme ended with a feedback session: participants appreciated being able to improve their knowledge on how the institutions worked and on the current debate on EU cohesion policy; they expected that their research would significantly benefit from the class.
For 30 young researchers from 19 countries, the 2017 Master Class provided insights into the current debate on EU cohesion policy, including the findings of the 7th report on economic, social and territorial cohesion. They had been able to hold discussions with almost 40 EU officials, experts and senior academics and develop their network on regional and urban policy research. The Master Class on EU Cohesion Policy was a valuable contribution to evidence-based policy development built on EU-wide networking.