The European Union: Challenges or lost opportunities
Kieran McCarthy, a member of the European Committee of the Regions, looks at the European Union and the positive activities that we should focus on
The financial crash, the refugee crisis and Brexit have created a myriad of concerns and challenges for the institutions of the European Union (EU). And, watching the news on television and reading newspapers, it seems that the EU is caught in a downward spiral.
But, on the ground and viewed from the EU’s assembly for local and regional politicians, the European Committee of the Regions, the EU is engaged in many positive activities. These are positive narratives about the EU that we rarely hear. Across the EU, from north to south and from east to west, great work is being pursued with money from the European Structural
Investment Funds, innovative work is being done by scientists thanks to the Horizon 2020 programme, inspiring projects are connecting people across borders, and the free movement of people, trade and capital is having positive effects.
The role of Cohesion Policy
We need to hear more about the opportunities that the EU offers. Take, for example, the EU’s support for regions, provided through its ‘cohesion policy’ and European Structural Investment Funds. We need to speak more about the value that these add, about how they support the EU’s growth strategy (Europe 2020) and promote inclusiveness, about how they improve the quality of life in regions, and about how cities and regions are becoming lighthouses for research and development. Cohesion policy offers a means of improving our social and political context, it enhances research and economic development, and it encourages ‘smart specialisation’ so that regional entrepreneurial ecosystems emerge. We never hear that every €1 invested produces an average return of €2.75-€3 for that region or city.
When we talk about the EU and its Cohesion Policy, we need to talk more about solutions and resolutions, not demolition or dilution, about re-invention not the status quo, about communication not isolation, about growth, about opportunity and about the next generation. We need to create more agile regions capable of facing globalisation full on. A downward narrative does not help anyone. More communication and more outreach are needed – the positive stories of the EU need to be told more. Every institution has a responsibility, as do citizens. We are all the future of the EU, and local and regional authorities are critical to delivering its success. Kieran McCarthy is an independent member of Cork City Council.
Member, European Alliance Group
European Committee of the Regions