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Successful digital transformation is key for territorial cohesion  
Local and regional leaders meeting in Palermo this week emphasised that the challenge of territorial cohesion can only be addressed if the EU's next long-term budget helps cities and regions to improve digital connectivity, digital public services and their accessibility to the public, while ensuring that no region is left behind in the digital transformation. Bridging the digital divide and speeding up the development of Digital Single Market through the involvement of cities and regions have been key components of the work of the current mandate of the SEDEC Commission of the European Committee of the Regions.


The two-day event in Palermo was hosted by Gaetano Armao (IT/EPP), Vice-President and Regional Minister for Economy of the Sicily Region and member of the European Committee of the Regions since February 2018. Mr Armao recalled that throughout the history Sicily has been a central trading point in the Mediterranean and today it wants to position itself in the centre of the information highways. "We want to establish a new perspective for the development of our region: digital future", he said.

José Ignacio Ceniceros (ES/EPP), President of the CoR's Commission for Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture (SEDEC) and President of La Rioja Region, said: "Digitalisation and connectivity are key factors for the attractiveness of a territory against the phenomenon of brain drain. New technologies also allow for the delivery of public services for small communities in economically sustainable way. Our region, La Rioja, is therefore aiming to be the first in Spain to provide high-speed broadband access to over 90% of its citizens and 75% of the territory."

Markku Markkula (FI/EPP), First Vice-President of the CoR, recalled that cities and regions are mobilised for an ambitious EU budget for digitalisation, innovation and education in the context of the current negotiations for the post-2020 EU budget. As rapporteur for the Digital Europe programme , he stressed that "cities and regions – with their industries, start-ups, universities and citizens – can speed up the European wide digital and economic transformation by considerably increasing public and private investment in human and physical capital. Digitalisation needs to be stepped up by increasing local and European cooperation and partnerships. We must therefore strengthen synergies between the various EU programmes, funding instruments and strategies for smart specialisation."

Territorial strategies presented during the meeting showed the dedicated efforts of local and regional authorities to adapt the delivery of public services to the unprecedented challenge of the technological transformation of the society and the economy and to speed up the implementation of the Digital Single Market at all levels of governance. However, high-speed broadband connectivity is a prerequisite for developing innovative and competitive digital services. To bridge the digital divide and to find solutions for improving connectivity particularly in rural and sparsely populated areas, the CoR has been working together with the European Commission in a joint Broadband Platform, whose mandate is set to be renewed.

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Through the Digital Europe programme , European Commission is proposing to invest during the 2021-27 period EUR 9.2 billion in improving the EU's international competitiveness, as well as developing and consolidating Europe's strategic digital capacities related to artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, high-performance computing and digital excellence

In his opening speech Leoluca Orlando, Mayor of Palermo, announced that the city of Palermo would honour the memory of Pawel Adamowicz, CoR member and Mayor of Gdansk assassinated in January, by naming a square after him.

On the first day of the SEDEC meeting on Monday, members elaborated on proposals to develop a sustainable bio-economy for Europe (rapporteur Jácint Horváth, HU/PES) and to strengthen STE(A)M education in the EU (rapporteur Csaba Borboly, RO/EPP). Both draft opinions will be adopted at the next SEDEC meeting on 2 April. The programme also featured presentations of the WiFi4EU initiative and of the European Capital of Innovation Award , which was won last year by Athens.

The 8th Summit of European Regions and Cities will be held in Bucharest, Romania, on 14-15 March. Under the title "(Re) New EUrope", the Summit will focus on the contribution of local and regional governments to the future of Europe, including the impact of Brexit on European regions on the negotiations on the EU long-term budget for 2021-2027 and how it may affect local and regional authorities, as well as the European elections and restoring citizens' trust in the EU.


Lauri Ouvinen

Tel. +32 22822063

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