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Depopulation and brain drain: It's time to act, local leaders say  

​ Representatives of the EU's cities and regions have welcomed the European Commission's increased efforts to reduce territorial disparities and support the regions facing development challenges, such as depopulation and brain drain. However, the measures recently presented in the Harnessing Talent in Europe's regions communication need to be supported by tailor-made approaches steered by a reinforced cohesion policy, with a particular focus on rural areas whose future depends on retaining and attracting young talent. This was the message of the members of the European Committee of the Regions to Dubravka Šuica, European Commission's Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, during today’s plenary session debate.

In the debate with Vice-President Šuica, local and regional leaders warned that the brain drain and growing regional disparities pose a risk to the long-term sustainability of the European project. They stressed the need to better identify the diversity, challenges and opportunities in these regions and to develop tailor-made measures for each region, especially considering the reskilling and upskilling needs linked to the green and digital transitions.

Vasco Alves Cordeiro , President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), said: "The European Union faces rising inequalities, but some regions are at greater risk of falling behind. When young people leave their place to find opportunities, this is a warning signal that there is a need to act. The European Committee of the Regions welcomes the European Commission’s proposal on harnessing talent to help boost regional development in 82 regions. Cohesion policy represents a key tool, combined with other factors, to promote solutions that can better respond to the needs of each territory. We have a duty to succeed for all those who feel left behind. This would represent a tangible success for the European Year of Skills."

Dubravka Šuica , European Commission's Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, said: "Freedom of movement is one of the EU’s most precious achievements. To complement this, we must ensure that regions experiencing population shrinking and thereby facing a ‘talent development trap’ have the means to attract and harness the fruit of their investments. Demographic change can be an opportunity to strengthen resilience across EU territories."

Tanya Hristova (BG/EPP), Chair of the CoR's SEDEC Commission and Mayor of Gabrovo, stressed that " economic and social development at local and regional level has a better chance of succeeding when action is taken at the local level - the level not just closest to citizens but also to the economic and social specificity of each region". She suggested that "regions specifically affected by the green and digital transition, such as coal and carbon-intensive regions, as well as automotive regions, should be prime candidates for the Talent Booster Mechanism, as they will have a significant number of workers in need of upskilling and reskilling."

More information:

The European Commission communication Harnessing Talent in Europe's regions identifies 46 EU regions that are already in a so called “talent-development trap” and 36 that risk falling into one. Most of these regions , located across 16 Member States, are from Southern and Eastern Europe, and account together for almost 30% of the EU population. They are particularly affected by low birth rates, a decline of the working-age population, a low share of university and higher-education graduates, and brain drain. The Commission proposes to set up a Talent Booster Mechanism consisting of 8 pillars and offering dedicated support and assistance to these regions.

CoR members will tomorrow (16 March) adopt a resolution calling for a boost to the transition of regions caught in a talent-development trap and for the promotion of digital cohesion as an objective of the European Union. It also calls for a strategic approach to the integration of third-country nationals into the EU as a potential driver of local growth and underlines the crucial role of EU cohesion policy and regional smart specialisation strategies in stimulating the emergence of dynamic innovation ecosystems. Particular attention is requested for rural and remote areas, islands and all the areas with severe and permanent natural or demographic obstacles, because the loss of young people in these regions, together with declining birth rates, makes it difficult to maintain essential public services and boost economies.

The resolution will also call on all European policy, including the new ones to retain and attract talent in EU regions, to do no harm to cohesion. Tomorrow, on 16 March, the CoR will launch, together with the other partner associations of the #CohesionAlliance , the new direction forthe largest EU-wide coalition for a strong cohesion policy. Details about the event are available here .


Monica Tiberi

President's spokesperson

Tel: +32 479 51 74 43

Lauri Ouvinen
Press officer

Tel. +32 473 53 68 87

Matteo Miglietta

Press officer

Tel. +32 470 89 53 82

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