750 political regional representatives from throughout Europe, as well as representatives of the European Institutions, joined the Assembly of European Regions (AER) in Strasbourg today to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
Riccardo Illy, President of the AER, emphasised the important role that innovation in the regions plays in ensuring economic growth and employment, which in turn are key elements for guaranteeing a successful social policy. 'It is the people, the individuals, who make innovation happen. Let the regions play an active role in developing their own potential and resources. Everybody will gain'.
The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, agreed with the points made by Riccardo Illy, and stated that, 'Structural and cohesion funds are more than just an instrument for solidarity, it's a win-win game.' He also joined President Illy in emphasising the importance of innovation and clusters, which constitute key success factors for regional economic development. The regions expressed their support for President Barroso in the development of a Cohesion Policy that promotes competitiveness and innovation in all the regions in Europe.
Both President Illy and President Barroso stressed the fact that it is of no use to build an innovative Europe on part of the continent whilst neglecting the rest. European innovation policy must encourage the development of a creative culture in all countries of our continent. For this reason, President Illy urged President Barroso to ensure that the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, the new funding instrument for the countries neighbouring the European Union, provide support for interregional co-operation projects.
In order that these policies which support the competitiveness of the regions can operate successfully, it is vital that the necessary financial resources are secured. If the programmes are to enter into effect in 2007 as intended, it is crucial that an agreement on the EU financial perspectives be reached under the British Presidency of the EU and that the resources earmarked for regional competitiveness and co-operation are not reduced. For this reason, President Barroso joined the AER in urging the EU Member States to reach agreement on the budget in the coming month.
AER Contact: Barbara Skoczylas-Thauront, Press and Communications Officer, email@example.com or Francine Huhardeaux, Assistant, firstname.lastname@example.org - Tel: +33-3-88 22 74 46/49 - www.a-e-r.org