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2nd year of the Joint Action Plan: Regions and cities strengthen ties with the European Commission  

Innovation, research, culture and education are key to the EU's competitiveness, cohesion, and ability to lead the green and digital transitions. Close cooperation between the European Committee of the Regions and Commissioner Mariya Gabriel's services is therefore important for maximising the positive impact of EU action in Europe's regions and cities. In an exchange of views with Isidro Ballesteros, an expert in Commissioner Gabriel's cabinet on 17 February, SEDEC members took stock of recent developments and in particular the implementation of the Partnerships for Regional Innovation pilot action that was launched last year.

The CoR's SEDEC Commission and Commissioner Mariya Gabriel's services (DG RTD, DG EAC and the Joint Research Centre) signed a Joint Action Plan in November 2020 (the 2nd year Monitoring Report will be available soon). It aims to increase the administrative and implementation capacity of the regions and cities in order to leave no one behind, to reduce the innovation divide, to build an interconnected innovation ecosystem in Europe, and to facilitate the completion of the European Education Area and bridge education gaps. In addition to the 26 original actions, the cooperation has been expanded to cover more recent initiatives including the European Year of Youth 2022.

In 2022, one of the key accomplishments was the launch of the Partnerships for Regional Innovation initiative. Building on previous work in the area of smart specialisation, the pilot action presents an opportunity to develop jointly a new strategic approach to innovation-driven territorial transformation, linking EU priorities with national plans and place-based opportunities and challenges. After having gathered information on the needs of each of the 74 participating territories, the pilot action will move to the implementation phase this year. The next major step will be the Partnerships for Regional Innovation High-level event “From Playbook to Implementation", taking place in Brussels on 28 March.

Tanya Hristova (BG/EPP), Chair of the SEDEC commission and Mayor of Gabrovo, said: "Together with the regions and territories participating in this pilot action, we are ready to contribute with our experience and policy recommendations to the definition and implementation of future EU innovation policies for strong and interconnected regional innovation ecosystems. The CoR has also been engaging for the future of the European Research Area in the ERA Forum and several of CoR members' cities and regions participate in the EU Missions. We are looking forward to the launch of the regional innovation valleys, and expect them to build on these experiences, as announced in the Communication for a New European Innovation Agenda."

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, in her message - delivered by cabinet member Isidro Ballesteros - said: “I urge you, European regional leaders, to create your own Regional Innovation Valley for deep tech innovation and to transform your regions into innovation hubs. Your economies and societies will be more competitive and resilient as a result of the Innovation Valleys".

Social topics were also high on the SEDEC meeting agenda, with a presentation of the Social Progress Index and the adoption of an opinion on "Zero long-term unemployment: the local and the regional perspective". This opinion drafted by Yonnec Polet (BE/PES), Deputy-Mayor of Saint-Agathe Berchem/Sint-Agatha-Berchem, presents examples of successful initiatives implemented by local and regional authorities in different Member States, calls for some ESF+ funds to be earmarked for such initiatives and suggests to set up an ad hoc fund to combat long-term unemployment.

"Today, there are more than 5 million unemployed people in the EU who have been looking for a job for more than a year. This is a difficult situation for each individual and it impacts the social cohesion of our communities. Initiatives such as zero long-term unemployment territories, the job guarantee and the 'basisbaan', focus on job creation at local level in France, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands. Quality employment, which meets social and environmental needs and is properly paid and adapted to the individual, does not cost more than the added costs of long-term unemployment. We need to highlight these local initiatives that demonstrate that no one is unemployable. They prove their effectiveness in helping those who, despite their efforts, are unable to find employment," Mr Polet explains.

Read the rapporteur's interview: "No one is unemployable" says CoR rapporteur Yonnec Polet

Members also appointed Anne Rudisuhli (FR/Renew E.), Member of the Bouches-du-Rhône Departmental Council, as rapporteur for an upcoming opinion on “Mentoring: A powerful and meaningful tool for the Europe of tomorrow". The opinion will be discussed at the next SEDEC meeting in Tampere (Finland) on 21-22 April.​​

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