What is cooperation? How to bring it to the regions? We gathered together politicians, policy makers, project partners, managing authorities and other interested parties to discuss these questions in a session on 9 October during the European Week of Regions and Cities.
The session was organised jointly by Interreg Europe and Interact. We were glad to have a chance to showcase how territorial cooperation and policy learning accelerate regional development and enable sharing of solutions.
When it comes to defining cooperation, we gave the word to the participants to hear their thoughts. Cooperation can take many forms and mean different things, but out of a myriad of individual responses, issues like 'exchange', 'sharing', 'learning', 'inspiration', and 'solutions' emerged as clear common favourites. And we couldn't agree more; all of these are very much at the core of the Interreg Europe programme and interregional cooperation.
The same key words came up also when the panel of policy makers shared their experiences on working together with other regions:
"I am a firm believer of projects that make our regions cooperate and prosper", Juraj Droba (President of the Bratislava Self-Governing Region) commented based on his experience. He also stressed the importance of sharing the results and impact of collaboration. In this regard, he encouraged politicians to proactively communicate the benefits and value of European cooperation at the regional and national levels.
"Cooperation is the essence of Europe", continued Karina Angelieva (Deputy Minister for Education and Science, Bulgaria) and stressed the importance of cooperation and reaching beyond your own borders as means to strengthen our regions. She also shared the Bulgarian experience of participating in a peer review facilitated by the Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform. Thanks to the peer review, the managing authority was able to learn from practical examples on managing research and innovation infrastructures in other parts of Europe.
"When regions start sharing a specific good practice or activity, others can benefit and the activity grows", were the concluding thoughts of Markku Markkula (First Vice President of the European Committee of the Regions). He stressed the positive overall impact of working together with other European partners. Based on his experience of chairing the High Level Committee of the iEER project, he noted that cooperation and partnerships among regions are vital to create and develop entrepreneurial ecosystems. Cooperation is an investment that pays off with many benefits in the regions.
In short, we can bring cooperation to the regions in many different ways. Getting involved in projects is a great way to reach out to other regions. Having the right mindset and being open to learn from others and get inspired by novel solutions is also important. All of us - from policy makers and politicians to stakeholders and other local actors - can play an important part in sharing experiences and passing on information and knowledge of opportunities to reach out to other regions. And there are also tools and support available. How about trying something new? Have a look at the peer review call that is currently open and invite other regions to come over for a visit!
See also what else happened when regions and cities took over Brussels for a week:
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