British representatives discussed the option with colleagues from the European Committee of the Regions at a meeting of the commission for territorial cohesion policy in Cluj, Romania.
Macroregional strategies are proving able to deliver growth and improve cohesion of neighbouring regions from both EU and non-EU countries, faced by common challenges. Adopting a draft opinion on the Danube strategy, members of the Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget (COTER) of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) kicked off a preparatory debate on how to ensure close cooperation with UK local authorities, including via a North Sea macroregional strategy, in the event that the UK withdraws from the EU.
The COTER commission of the CoR met on 26 March in Cluj-Napoca, Romania's third-largest city. Local leaders assessed the impact of macroregional strategies in an opinion led by Dainis Turlais (LV/ALDE), a member of Riga City Council.
Experience gained in the Danube basin shows that macroregions can be an excellent tool for bottom-up territorial coordination, involving all levels of government without creating new red tape.
Macroregional strategies are improving public services, natural-resource management, innovation strategies and many other aspects in the life of involved local communities," said the rapporteur, adding that "stronger coordination is needed at EU level, with better integration of different funding tools and stronger cooperation between all relevant directorates of the European Commission".
Looking at improving coordination at national level, COTER members identified the network of national authorities implementing the European Regional Development Fund in the Baltic Sea region as a model to replicate in other sectoral policies and geographical areas.
With regards to territorial cooperation in post-Brexit Europe, the draft opinion stressed that macroregional strategies could contribute to the future UK-EU relationship, offering an important means of ensuring "sustainable joint programming, coordination and cooperation between UK and EU cities and regions".
This point was highlighted during the debate by the head of the UK delegation to the CoR, Albert Bore (UK/PES), member of Birmingham City Council.
He said: "We are working to make sure that the future relationship between the UK and the EU can rely on a strong territorial dimension and benefit from the best available tools, to ensure close cooperation at the local level. A North-West Europe economic forum and macroregional strategy are among the most significant options on the table."
Future initiatives could benefit from the experience gained from the ongoing North-West Europe programme, which is funded by Interreg, one of the key EU instruments supporting cooperation across borders, and involves the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Switzerland.
The draft opinion will be voted on by the CoR plenary on 25 June.
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