"The regions of Europe have to take up the new challenges of a rapidly changing European and global context. Growth and competitiveness depend on the capacity of the regions to enhance their self-development based on sustainability. To achieve this goal, the AER Centurio-Interreg III C Programme, gathering almost 50 regions, provides the best interregional platform for exchange of know-how and experience in three key areas of regional sustainable development: sustainable economic development, environmental protection and sustainable quality tourism. The program also offers an opportunity for developing initiatives in these priority fields." stated Mr Carlos César, President of the Regional Government of the Azores at the Conference on "Promoting Sustainable Development: Learning From Regions' Experience", organised by the AER in Ponta Delgada, Azores-P.
Disseminating experiences and information gained during the first stage of Centurio (2004-2005) was the main target of the Conference, which was organised within the framework of the Programme. More than 100 participants - regional politicians, officers, experts, from Regions within and beyond the EU- focused on the following issues:
Public-Private-Partnership as a tool for regional development,
Environmental Protection: our environment, our capital,
Regions' economic potential and human resources for sustainable development,
Sustainable quality tourism as a key for regional development.
"The Conference allowed some leading regions showing proactive approaches in the field of sustainable development" said Mr Klaus Klipp, Secretary General of the AER.
The successful projects of Public-Private-Partnerships presented by Gloucestershire (UK) and Vejle (DK) were particularly useful for the regions of the new EU Member states. The Gloucestershire initiative involves local authorities, actors from the private sector and regional partners and their main aims are to identify the needs of employers and investors, to promote the region's economic potential, to form concepts, strategies and to establish partnerships. Vejle's Green Network is a public private network on sustainable development with focus on continuous improvements within environmental and social responsibility. The network gathers 280 companies, Vejle Region and 9 municipalities from the region.
The examples on clusters presented by Upper Austria (A) and the Canton of Zurich (CH) were also welcomed by the participants as tools for sustainable development. The Upper Austria's clusterland is one of the best examples how to improve the competitiveness and innovative strengths of companies, particularly SMEs, in the regional industrial and technological agglomerations through co-operation in networks. Clusters operate in the field of automotive, drive technology, plastics, wood, eco-energy, food health, technology, and mechatronics with more than 1600 partners. Zurich's strategy on economic development also focuses on the growing importance of clusters, concentrating on the industry sectors, on the significance of knowledge and on creating networks between universities, businesses, research and development, the government and the community.
Presentations on different approaches in the field of environmental protection among others by the Region of Valencia (ES), as well as in the field of quality tourism by the Region of Azores (P) or Lapland (FI), gave a unique overview how to focus on sustainability in these areas of development. The Region of Valencia implemented the regional sustainable development strategy in the framework of the Programs LIFE, IEE, e-TEN and Leonardo as well as the projects like Ecobus, Urbanbat or Ecorice cover the priority fields of sustainability and environmental protection.
The closing presentation at the Conference was the integrated approach of tourism development in Lapland. The tourism industry's most important feature in Lapland is offering all year round attractions with various tourism products and services. To secure controlled and sustainable development, the tourism and public sector are in close cooperation and one of the most important strategic goals are high quality and customer satisfaction.
Orsolya Farkas, Centurio co-ordinator; ph.: +33 388 22 74 32; e-mail: email@example.com
Herbert Schenner, Centurio co-ordinator; ph.: +33 369 22 99 39; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org