Eusalp: an engine for Europe’s growth

 

In the framework of the European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC), held in Brussels in October from 10 to 13, a debate took place at the headquarters of the Delegation of the Lombardy Region in Brussels. The debate focused on the Alpine Macro-regional Strategy Eusalp. As this strategy is closely linked to the local realities of the three regions of the Euregio, the topic was of great interest, in particular with regard to the speeches of the President of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano-Alto Adige, Arno Kompatscher and Boglarka Fenyvesi–Kiss, official of the Province independent of Trento and coordinator of the Action Group 3. High-level speakers were confronted on innovation and tradition, in particular with regard to the issue of identity, the importance of participation in the macro-regional strategy and the opportunities that it can offer, and the impact that Eusalp can have on territorial policies. The conference was also attended by Herbert Dorfmann, member of the European Parliament.


The first part of the conference was especially focused on the more general aspects of the Eusalp strategy, future expectations and the outcome of some concrete projects carried out during the last programming period. In this regard, President Kompatscher emphasized the four basic elements underlying the macro-regional strategy, namely identity, innovation, challenges and consensus. Among the challenges of the Alpine Region, there is the remoteness, geographical and mental, from the national capitals, which does not fully understand the instances of these particular regions.
This challenge, according to the President, has to be transformed into an opportunity to act with a bottom-up approach, using regional experiences shared in the macro-region Eusalp, in order to find common cross-border solutions. The President then went through the activities of Action Groups 3 (on improving the quality of work), 4 (mobility) and 9 (on energy efficiency), respectively coordinated by Trentino, EGTC (European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation) and South Tyrol. He stressed first of all the importance of diversifying, by finding new forms of agrifood production, including for example the disabled in the small mountain farms; on the topic of traffic he underlined the need for intelligent pricing policies, which must be carried forward by the Alpine macro-regional Strategy and mentioned in this regard the construction of the Brenner Tunnel. Also Peter Kaiser, governor of Carinthia, spoke about the importance of sustainable solutions to address the challenge of mobility. For this reason, the theme of green economy must be a priority of the strategy too, for example thanks to the role of natural parks which link tourism and respect for nature.
The importance of the setting of bottom-up macro-regional strategy was also emphasized by other speakers: the Eusalp platform is ideal for the exchange of know-how between regions and for the cooperation in addressing the major challenges that the Alpine region is facing, such as climate change, the growth of the green economy, sustainable mobility, and the need to overcome the digital divide. Even the issue of unemployment and the depopulation of the Alpine region has been examined by several speakers, as it needs to be addressed through targeted policies for rural areas which can generate a significant impact on the labor market. In particular, the importance of pursuing common solutions to make work more attractive in the Alpine area for young people was stressed. This could be done by creating an incentive framework, by using tools such as the Youth Parliament, mentioned by Peter Kaiser. It is therefore crucial to plan future-oriented activities to ensure the birth of a new vision of the Alps to be passed down to future generations.


The second part of the conference focused on the technical aspects of the tourism industry in the macro-region. Among the speakers, Silvia Draghi, member of the Unit Tourism of the DG GROW, underlined the importance of tourism, a particularly important sector in Europe, as it represents 10% of European GDP and 25 million jobs. The sector will be growing until 2030, but more targeted policies for the stakeholders of the sector are required. The European Commission plays a role of coordination and promotes a European, sustainable and innovative tourism. The intervention of the coordinator of the Action Group of Trentino, Fenyvesi-Kiss, focused especially on the new aspects of modern tourism, which is based on three key dimensions: experience, evidence and emotion. Trentino adopted the 2016-2018 program lines with two key issues: diversification and seasonal adjustment. It is indeed important to eliminate the difficulties arising from the gap between winter and summer, making the most of natural resources with a more conscious use of new technologies and develop a more diversified tourist offer that meets the most different requirements. Another advantage of the elimination of the low season would be the transformation of jobs, usually seasonal, into permanent jobs for local and more highly qualified young people.


Of particular interest were also the interventions of other speakers, including Fabrizio Sala, Vice-President of the Lombardy Region, Davide Donati, director of the Piedmont Region, Augusto Rollandin, President of the Autonomous Region of Valle d'Aosta and Andreja Jerina, national coordinator of the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They talked about the business impact of climate change on tourism, the need for increased digitization of the Alpine area, the attractiveness of the region in terms of a healthy environment and the problems of the poor accessibility and the depopulation of certain Alpine areas. The debate ended with an invitation to cooperation, which should focus on environment in the Alps, on the historical, cultural and natural heritage. To face these common challenges, a coordinated approach and working as a team in a governance process where regions play the role of protagonists are crucial elements.

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