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More cohesion is needed to tackle brain drain in Europe  

​Brain drain and negative effects of demographic change have been key concerns for the SEDEC Commission of the European Committee of the Regions during the current mandate period, which is nearing its end. At its last meeting of the year on 27 November, SEDEC members adopted an opinion drafted by Emil Boc (RO/EPP), mayor of Cluj-Napoca, which urges to address the challenge of brain drain in coordination with all levels of government. Otherwise, "the phenomenon will have long-term and permanent effects on the future of the European Union", the draft opinion warns.

Rapporteur Emil Boc – Prime Minister of Romania between 2008 and 2012 – pointed out in his presentation that nearly 3 million Romanians are currently living in another Member State. The emigration particularly concerns high-skilled workers, of which more than one out of four has left the country (27% in 2017).

As brain drain is directly triggered by existing social and economic imbalances between the EU regions, Mr Boc's opinion calls for a strong association between EU's cohesion policy, which is meant to address these imbalances and to promote a more even development across the EU, and measures envisaged to deal with brain drain. These include investing in education, employment, innovation and social inclusion in EU regions.

"No one should be forced to leave their country, region, city or village due to poverty or other economic reasons", the rapporteur said, stressing that the solution is to improve the quality of life for our citizens through job opportunities and higher wages, higher per capita wealth, economic growth, social security, easier access to labour market, higher employment rates, affordable and available housing, quality education system, better infrastructure and healthcare.

Mr Boc's opinion will be adopted at the plenary session in February. It stresses that European and national policies should support local and regional authorities, which are best placed to assess local needs, assets and policies that can increase the attractiveness of sending regions and help them to retain and regain talented people. Cities and regions should set local alliances with all stakeholders, including businesses, universities and NGOs, to draft and implement local policies that help to mitigate brain drain. SEDEC commission published last year a study that presents successful best practises from across the EU to tackle the problem.

In many regions, brain drain is part of a larger and more complex issue of demographic change. SEDEC commission is currently preparing an opinion on measuring and tackling the negative effects of demographic change in EU regions. Members exchanged views on the topic with rapporteur János Ádám Karacsony (HU/EPP) at this week's meeting, in which they also adopted a draft opinion on "Culture in a Union that strives for more: the role of regions and cities" (rapporteur Vincenzo Bianco, IT/PES).

The CoR has also emphasised the role of digital connectivity in building a competitive and knowledge-based economy, which is key to boosting the attractiveness of a region and retaining people. SEDEC commission organised a conference on EU digital policies on Thursday 28 November with members of the Broadband Platform, which is a joint effort of the CoR and the European Commission to boost broadband connectivity across EU, particularly in rural and remote areas. Speakers highlighted the need to bridge the investment gap – estimated to be EUR 254 billion – to reach EU's 2025 targets for connectivity everywhere in the EU.

SEDEC is the CoR's Commission for Social Policy, Employment, Education, Research and Culture. It is currently chaired by Tanya Hristova (BG/EPP), Mayor of Gabrovo.

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