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Cities and regions expect an ambitious budget proposal from Finland's EU Presidency  

​​​​​Innovation capacity of EU regions depends on digital inclusiveness and skills for future

In an exchange of views with Finland's Minister for Economic Affairs Katri Kulmuni, EU local and regional leaders stressed that Finland's Presidency of the Council of the EU must come up with an ambitious proposal for the EU's next multiannual budget, providing all cities and regions with means to invest in human capital and to tackle the digital divide.

Speaking at the meeting of the European Committee of the Regions' Bureau (CoR) in Turku on 13 September, Finland's Minister for Economic Affairs Katri Kulmuni said: "The local and regional authorities have an important role in stepping up the use of latest knowledge and experience on the ground. The complexity of today's challenges requires common solutions and joint efforts with all relevant actors at different levels of governance. No region should be left behind in this dialogue."

Ms Kulmuni added: "As for cohesion policy, the Finnish Presidency stands ready to re-start inter-institutional negotiations with the European Parliament. We will prioritize issues most relevant for programming and prompt start of the next generation programmes in 2021."

Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the European Committee of the Regions, said: "As new technologies such as artificial intelligence change how we to work, communicate and learn, education systems must provide learners with future skills that contribute to the innovativeness of our regions, be they urban, metropolitan or rural. The digital dimension is becoming increasingly important for territorial, social and economic cohesion. Finland's EU Presidency has asked us to prepare an opinion on how to improve the inclusiveness of the Digital Single Market. In this regard, it is important to better identify territorial disparities and tackle them with targeted public investments. We hope that Finland's upcoming proposal for the next long term EU ​budget ensures that regions and cities have the means to drive forward the digital transformation."

The Bureau, which consists of two or three CoR members from each Member State and is in charge of preparing the assembly's political agenda, decided to adopt a resolution on the state of the negotiations on the next multiannual EU budget, particularly regarding cohesion policy, at the Committee's next plenary session in October.

The Bureau meets every semester in the country holding the rotating Council Presidency. In Finland, discussions focused around the local and regional dimension of learning, education and knowledge creation and the development of skills for future. It was pointed out that all levels of governance should work together to strengthen and modernise education so that it responds to the challenges brought forward by the digital transformation, globalisation and new technologies.

STEAM Turku project was presented to the participants as an interesting example of what local and regional authorities can do in this field. To increase the attractiveness of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, the City of Turku has built together with local stakeholders a science and technology path combining early childhood, basic and upper secondary level education. Csába Borboly (RO/EPP), President of Harghita County Council and rapporteur of the opinion adopted in June, stressed that these subjects form the basis for an innovation-based economy and are drivers for growth and job.

In coming years, artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to have a big impact on education and knowledge creation. Jan Trei (EE/EPP), Mayor of Viimsi Rural Municipality and rapporteur of the CoR opinion, highlighted its potential to improve education at all levels: for example, AI-powered technologies can provide personalisation at scale and enable teachers to identify the educational needs and potentials of their students. At the same time, ethical guidelines and legislative proposals at European level are needed to guarantee privacy and the rights of the individual.

Contact:

Lauri Ouvinen
Tel. +32 22822063
lauri.ouvinen@cor.europa.eu