On October 8-11, 2018, Brussels hosted the European Week of Regions and Cities. It is an annual four-day event, during which cities and regions display their capacity to create growth and jobs, implement European Union cohesion policy, and prove the importance of the local and regional level for good European governance. The event takes place annually since 2003. This year, 140+ regions and cities were represented by 6000+ participants, 300+ partners and 30 Master Class partakers who have shown their determination to influence the debates on future challenges.
Developing from the initial concept, the event has become a European networking platform for experts in regional and local development. Exchange of good practice in economic development and social inclusion, cross-border cooperation, public-private partnerships, regional innovation and community-led local development have become some of its many topics.
This year, the thematic cluster ‘Territorial Development’ of the European Week of Regions and Cities has offered numerous discussions on regional, local and rural levels. The workshop ‘Delivering Sustainable Development Goals at regional and local level’ explored what sustainable development means at regional and local levels. These levels are where decision makers have to balance different dimensions of sustainability, participatory, social, economic and environmental and make sustainable development a reality. The debate was formed around the added-value of the work of leading regions and cities on sustainable development. The discussion included linking these efforts with progress and support at international, EU and national level and types of governance needed to accelerate implementation. The debate on territorial cohesion of rural and urban areas has showcased how local and regional authorities implement smart solutions to connect rural and urban areas through integrated governance and territorial planning, based on broad partnerships and using innovative tools. These strategies enable integrated, smart communities to flourish that actively bind the potential synergies of such territories for the benefit of all citizens, regardless of where they live. Other workshops discussed reducing urban poverty through design, ways to accelerate digital transformation in the cities, multi-partner cooperation formulas and more facets of territorial development.
At the closing ceremony, Anthony Gardner, Former US Ambassador to the EU, delivered his keynote speech ‘Cities and Regions: the Promise of Europe’. He shared his view that Europe’s regions and cities are a key part in addressing some of Europe’s greatest challenges because ‘all politics is local’. He highlighted that ‘the natural alliance of the EU […] is with the regions and cities of Europe’.
The President of the European Committee of the Regions, Karl-Heinz Lambertz emphasised the importance of the EU Regions Week as the platform for regions and cities to have a real impact, notably for a strong cohesion policy. He added that, as much as regions need the European Union, the EU also needs regions if it wants to rebuild itself from the ground.