A Carpathian Strategy is the basis for preserving the region's natural wealth and multicultural heritage and for ensuring its sustainable socio-economic development
At its December plenary session, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) adopted an opinion on a macro-regional strategy for the Carpathians, following an initiative by the Marshal of the Podkarpackie region Władysław Ortyl (PL/ECR). Putting in place a fifth macro-regional strategy would mean additional funding for all regions in the Carpathians, both EU and non-EU such as Ukraine, Serbia and Moldova.
The Marshal of the Podkarpackie region stressed that "the creation of the Carpathian Strategy is of huge importance to our region and will allow us to open up to neighbouring countries. This tool will help strengthen cross-border ties and promote stronger integration of local communities in the Carpathian macro-region, with initiatives including shared development and measures to protect the environment and cultural heritage."
Władysław Ortyl's opinion is the result of efforts to create a Carpathian Strategy that date back several years. The document highlights the Carpathians' unique assets, such as their natural wealth, unique multicultural heritage, human resources and shared identity of mountain communities. This all provides a basis for working together towards more dynamic, sustainable and balanced socio-economic development in the region. The initiative to set up a Carpathian macro-region is also being taken forward at the level of governments, national parliaments and regional and municipal authorities as well as local communities.
"The (CoR's) proposal is justified and Carpathian regions speak with a single voice on the need for appropriate EU support for this area. Through our long-term efforts, we have been able to very clearly highlight the needs of the Carpathian region (...). I strongly believe we will get the go-ahead for Carpathian countries to continue working on this project. It should be noted that the Alpine Strategy also had its roots in the European Committee of the Regions," underlined the rapporteur.
The Carpathians represent a homogeneous mountain range, with their geography giving rise to specific challenges and possibilities for development. They cover 190 000 km2, making them the second largest mountain region in Europe after the Alps, with a population of around 68 million. The potential of the centuries-old neighbourhood of Carpathian societies stems from being at the crossroads of influences from East and West, of shared historical experiences and pastoral traditions.
The Alpine Strategy, which works well for a mountainous area and whose main beneficiaries are relatively wealthy regions, served as an example when creating the opinion. The CoR opinion points out that the Member States' poorest regions make up a significant part of the Carpathian macro-region, with GDP per capita below 50% of the EU average in most of them. It also highlights the lack of infrastructure resulting from many years of underinvestment and from economic transformation, as well as neglected development potential.
Within existing macro-regional strategies and the process of creating new ones, local and regional authorities play a key role in promoting democracy, decentralisation and local and regional self-government. Strategies are becoming a bottom-up tool for territorial cooperation and are based on the involvement of local and regional entities and civil society. Multilevel governance takes on even greater importance in the case of regions where their development is limited by being located far away from European development centres, and of regions with poorly developed communication networks because of mountainous conditions and historically inherited barriers in the form of borders.
According to local and regional elected representatives, macro-regional strategies can help meet shared challenges for specific areas. Pooling the potential of cross-border areas helps to achieve territorial cohesion between countries and regions. They are also a tool of multilevel governance, bringing together the activities of bodies representing the EU, national, regional and local levels around selected objectives.
· A macro-regional strategy for the Carpathian Region, briefing, October 2019.
· Carpathian Convention
· EC Study on macro-regional strategies and their links with cohesion policy final report, 2018
· Euroregion Karpacki website
· Via Carpatia website
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