The EU’s regional policy aims to remove economic, social and territorial disparities across the EU by making regions more competitive, fostering economic growth and creating new jobs. The policy also has a role to play in wider challenges for the future, including climate change, energy supply and globalisation.
What is the EU doing?
The EU’s regional policy covers all European regions, although they fall into different categories (so-called objectives), depending mostly on their economic situation.
In the current 2007–2013 funding period, EU regional policy consists of three objectives: Convergence; Regional Competitiveness and Employment; and European Territorial Cooperation. More than one third of the EU’s budget is devoted to meeting these objectives.
The EU’s Regional Policy has been a valuable source of support for cycling-related schemes across Europe, particularly in terms of funding. It is estimated that regional funds have provided €600 million to such schemes between 2007-2013. This has been provided at three different levels: transnational; cross boarder; and regional / national. Generally speaking the focus of the project changes depending on the level, with transnational projects typically being about knowledge transfer, whereas at the regional / national level it is more likely to be related to hard improvements (e.g. providing infrastructure).
What is ECF doing?
ECF is obviously very supportive of regional funding being spent on cycling-related schemes, such as the North Sea Cycle Route. Indeed, it has itself been involved with several initiatives that were part-funded with in this way.
It goes without saying that ECF will be lobbying for more than €600 million to be spent on cycling-related schemes during the next funding period (2014-2020) and it will always be open to opportunities to be involved in such projects.
However, ECF believes that it is important that there is a common and coordinated strategy in place to ensure that these significant resources are used effectively. This strategy would include setting quality standards, sharing best practice and ensuring that were necessary a consistent approach is taken. The ECF considers that it is in the perfect position to assume this coordinator role and will be seeking to work with the Directorate General Regional Policy (DG REGIO) to see if an agreement on this point can be reached.
ECF did held a regional policy workshop at its AGM 2012 in Vienna.