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Ruhr area delegation enters into discussions with EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger with a position paper advocating the continuation of EU support policy.  

Ruhr Metropolitan Region/Brussels. The mayors and district authority heads of the Ruhr Metropolitan Region and the regional director of the Ruhr Regional Association (RVR) have joined the current debate in Brussels on the future of European cohesion policy with a position paper. In the paper the political leaders of the Ruhr area argue for the continuation of cohesion policy, as the main instrument of EU investment policy. The activities supported by the European Community are part of a "grassroots" policy that creates a sustainable link between the EU in Brussels and towns, cities and districts in the regions. The Ruhr area representatives also back equal support for urban and rural areas. This is particularly important for the Ruhr Metropolitan Region as a polycentric region with a marked urban-rural mix. The delegation discussed the future cohesion policy in talks with Commissioner Oettinger in Brussels, and in five dialogues with the DGs at administrative level.

Common objective of the 2017 EU-Ruhr dialogue: the Ruhr as a model European region

Karola Geiß-Netthöfel, regional director of the Ruhr Regional Association, said: "This is the fourth visit of the mayors and district authority heads to Brussels and we would like to strengthen cooperation with European bodies and underline our objective of becoming, as a city of cities, a model European region for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, in the context of the future cohesion policy".

The Ruhr delegation presented its vision of what successful cooperation between the EU and a region could look like in five specialised discussions with high-ranking representatives from nine European Commission DGs and in a Wednesday evening panel discussion held at the European Committee of the Regions during the fourth EU-Ruhr dialogue on 18 and 19 October. The discussion partners included Günther Oettinger, EU Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, Marc Lemaître, director-general of the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy, Carsten Pillath from the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union, Kieran McCarthy for the European Committee of the Regions, and MEPs.

Both the proposed pilot projects from the Ruhr Metropolitan Region and the wide-ranging regional and inter-municipal cooperation were of great interest to the European discussion partners. The Ruhr area scored points in Brussels, inter alia, with its long experience of land rehabilitation, the current "Mark 51°7" project (the redevelopment of a former car manufacturing plant), its integrated urban development and district projects, initiatives and projects to promote the Digital Ruhr region, skills and integration measures, pilot projects to reduce youth unemployment, the development of the environmental economy, research consortia and the Ruhr University Alliance (UAMR), coordinated business development policies, the various mobility concepts, the Ruhr Green Infrastructure and the integrated climate strategies that are already well known and in demand throughout Europe, for which InnovationCity Ruhr is the flagship. During the dialogue between the Ruhr Metropolitan Region and the EU, direct programmes were brought up by the EU that run outside the framework of the North Rhine-Westphalia operational programmes. The possibility is currently being considered of selecting the Ruhr area as one of ten model regions for successful structural change.

Early participation of municipalities in the reconfiguration of EU support policy

In addition to a clear commitment on the part of the EU to continuing support policy for all European regions, the position paper of the mayors and district authority heads contains three key proposals for improved cooperation: towns, cities and districts should be more closely involved in shaping the guidelines and selecting support instruments. This is where the city leaders believe that the greatest expertise in local-level challenges is to be found. At the same time, administration and applications for funding need to be thoroughly simplified. Thirdly: the Ruhr Metropolitan Region advocates a prompt start for the new funding period on 1 January 2021, so that measures can be seamlessly continued.

The region, its European activities and the position paper on the web:

Opinions from the Ruhr area delegation:

Bernd Tischler, mayor of Bottrop : "I am of course particularly pleased that our Innovation City project has attracted a great deal of attention. Our approach is considered a blueprint for many cities across Europe."

Thomas Eiskirch, mayor of Bochum: "Europe is a living and visible reality in the Ruhr area. This is clear from the development of business sites and projects to make residential areas more attractive, as well as, for example, from the QuAZ initiative, which offers language courses and vocational training for immigrants. If people are aware of the impact of the EU at local level, this also increases support for the European idea."

Pascal Ledune, Wirtschaftsförderung Dortmund (Dortmund economic development office): "The EU took up the idea of a Ruhr Digital Model Region with great interest. There are many initiatives in the Ruhr area for linking start-ups with existing businesses."

Michael Makiolla, head of Unna district authority: "It is of great importance for the future of our region that it maintain close contact with the relevant people at European level. This is the only way the Unna district can benefit from EU financial support programmes."

Opinions from the European discussions partners:

Marc Lemaître, director-general of the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy, European Commission : "The fourth EU-Ruhr dialogue and the position paper of the Ruhr Metropolitan Region come at exactly the right time. For the European Union the practical experience of the Ruhr area is of great importance. It would be good if the Ruhr area were to take part in the forthcoming pan-European initiatives for exchanges of experience on integrated urban and regional development."

Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, European Commission , welcomed the commitment of the Ruhr area towns, cities and districts to the continuation of European cohesion policy, and provided an update on steps currently being taken to prepare the future medium-term European budget framework. He also recommended that the Ruhr Metropolitan Region put its proposals to the Federal Government in Berlin.

Lambert van Nistelrooij (MEP / EPP): "We need direct initiatives of this kind from the cities and regions as part of the political debate here in Brussels. We need alliances in Europe and the position paper of the Ruhr area is a good basis for this."

Kieran McCarthy, member of the European Committee of the Regions, Ireland: "The European Committee of the Regions needs grassroots experience from the cities and regions. The views of the Ruhr area exactly match our Cohesion Alliance initiative. It is a very good thing that the towns, cities and districts of the Ruhr Metropolitan Region will be joining this Alliance today."


The Ruhr Metropolitan Region is one of the largest conurbations in Europe. It comprises four districts and eleven urban districts with a total population of about 5.1 million. Ruhr Regional Association studies show that in the 2007-2013 period more than EUR 1bn flowed into the region from the three Structural Funds alone (ERDF, ESF and EAFRD), of which over EUR 630m came from the EU.

The delegation represents the towns/cities of Bochum, Bottrop, Dortmund, Duisburg, Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Hagen, Hamm, Herne, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Oberhausen and the districts of Ennepe-Ruhr-Kreis, Recklinghausen, Unna and Wesel and the Ruhr Regional Association.

EU cohesion policy

Through the cohesion policy the EU invests around 1/3 of its total budget in Europe’s regions and cities. The aim is to promote the harmonious development of the entire European Community. In particular, the policy aims to even out development disparities and to achieve economic growth in all Member States.

The instruments used for implementing cohesion policy in North Rhine-Westphalia are the three European Structural and Investment Funds: the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2014-2020), the ESF (European Social Fund in North Rhine-Westphalia in 2014-2020) and the EAFRD (European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development in North Rhine-Westphalia 2014, NRW programme for rural areas). Over the past decades these European support instruments have played a decisive part in promoting structural change in the Ruhr area. Between 2007 and 2013 more than EUR 1bn flowed into the region from these funds alone, of which EUR 630m came from the EU.

The current funding period runs from 2014 to 2020, and preparations for the shaping of the future cohesion policy post-2021 are already in full swing in Brussels. Regional input is therefore very timely.




The participants in the Ruhr Metropolitan Region’s visit to Brussels

  • Thomas Eiskirch, mayor of the City of Bochum
  • Bernd Tischler, mayor of the City of Bottrop
  • Pascal Ledune, deputy director of Wirtschaftsförderung Dortmund (Dortmund economic development office)
  • Thomas Kufen, mayor of the City of Essen
  • Karin Welge, treasurer of the City of Gelsenkirchen
  • Erik O. Schulz, mayor of the City of Hagen
  • Rita Schulze Böing, first deputy mayor and city councillor responsible for urban planning, City of Hamm
  • Dr Frank Dudda, mayor of the City of Herne
  • Frank Lichtenheld, director of economic and tourism development, Oberhausen
  • Michael Makiolla, head of Unna district authority
  • Dr Ansgar Müller, head of Wesel district authority
  • Karola Geiß-Netthöfel, regional director of the Ruhr Regional Association (RVR)
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