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EER regions pathways for economic recovery - workshop summary  

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The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the European Entrepreneurial Regions 2020  demonstrated how the EER label could be used as a tool to stimulate an entrepreneurial and sustainable recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

The workshop​ began with a welcome speech of the Chair of the CoR ECON commission, Mr Michael Murphy (IE/EPP), who reported on the recent work of the CoR, including the publication of the first annual Barometer of EU regions and cities.

This was followed by an academic analysis of the strategic implications of the Covid-19 crisis on the economy by Professor Philip McCann, who admitted that more prosperous and more resilient EU regions would cope with the spatial and sectoral shocks caused by the pandemic better than less developed territories. He stressed that, even though local and regional authorities have been at the forefront of the fight against the crisis repercussions, the crisis will certainly increase the risk of resurging centralization in many Member States. 

The speakers representing the EER 2020 regions assessed the impact of the pandemic on their regions, showcased key measures taken and provided an outlook on the future challenges and strategy.

Mr Patrick Andersson, CEO of the Business Region Gothenburg (Sweden), pointed out that the​​ Gothenburg Region's EER strategy stands form and robust even during the time of the pandemic. Whilst the first phase of delivering “business emergency" services and support, the Gothenburg Region has now entered the second phase (0-4 years) with focus on “skills leverage", supporting the challenges many companies are facing concerning digitalization, technology, sustainability.

Ms Izaskun Goñi, representing the Government of Navarra (Spain), explained the emergency policies applied to help SMEs in the region. She said that the situation remains quite stable in the entrepreneurship in Navarra and some start ups and industries have developed solutions against the Covid-19. For the future they continue managing emergency policies and trying continue with the plans for the economic development. The analysis shows that the key policies to address the challenges still remain the same, but most of them must be accelerated (innovation, circular economy, internationalization…etc).

Mr Ludwik Szakiel, on behalf the Marshall's Office of the Pomorskie region (Poland), said that the process of building adaptive capacities and resilience of Pomorskie economy has been so far of great importance to the development of the region and now it is being deeply developed in a new document laying down policy directions with a 2030 horizon (Pomorskie Regional Development Strategy 2030).

The workshop continued with an exchange of views on the European SME Strategy for a sustainable and digital Europe between the rapporteur of the CoR opinion on the matter and speakers from the European Commission and SME United. This debate was also marked with a publication of the report on SME Policies in Europe - Towards a Place-Based Approach, by the Windesheim Applied University, being a result of a research project supporting the work of the CoR rapporteur.

Mr Eddy Van Hijum (NL/EPP), whose opinion was adopted by unanimity by the CoR plenary assembly, pointed out that the Covid-19 pandemic has not ended and that the fragile economic recovery could be easily jeopardized, putting many European SMEs into severe financial difficulties. Mr Van Hijum insisted on the need to associate local and regional governments fully into the recovery measures developed and adopted at national and EU levels.

Mr André Meyer from The European Commission's Directorate for Single Market and Industry said that the Commission stands firm on the need to involve local and regional authorities in the SME Strategy governance and implementation.

Mr Luc Hendrickx from the SME United concluded the workshop by outlining the key elements of policies responding to the actual needs of SMEs – reducing regulatory burdens, supporting the solvency of SMEs through timely payments, helping SMEs in financial difficulties, developing business transfer policies and supporting digitalization of all SMEs, including traditional firms.