The Basque Government and Basque entities positioned in the European agenda and the annual discussion forum of the European regions
In its 16th year of participating in the European Week of Regions and Cities/EWRC2020, the Basque Country was praised by the President of the European Commission in her opening speech during the plenary session of the Committee of the Regions. Different representatives of the Basque Government, along with public entities and institutions, took part in the online forums during EWRC2020.
As in previous years, the Basque Country Delegation to the EU coordinated the participation of the different Basque actors and institutions taking part in the European discussions and seminars organised over the fortnight and coordinated by the European institutions. Even though it was held online this year, the European Week of Regions and Cities/EWRC2020 is still the leading EU forum to highlight and position the voice of the regional and local authorities on the European agenda regarding the main European issues and global challenges such as COVID.
Digital innovation and competitiveness, along with the resilience of the SMES, the potential of the Atlantic macroregion, specialisation and the new partnerships in the creative and cultural industries, excellence in vocational education & training and innovation, gender equality and the cohesion policy, along with the regional dimension and the cohesion policy in the challenges set by the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were some of the areas which the Basque Country discussed with its international and European partners.
The Basque agenda at the EWRC 2020
The Basque Country Delegate to the European Union, Marta Martín addressed in the session concerning the 2030 Agenda and cohesion policy, organised jointly with the United Nations, ORU-FOGAR and the Assembly of European Regions/AER. Along with a panel of international and European entities and bodies, the Basque Government’s representative in Brussels described the Basque Country’s 2030 Agenda journey and argued for the need to capitalise on the regions’ experience in cohesion policy to advance territorially in compliance of the Sustainable Development Goals/SDGs.
Otherwise, the Director of European Affairs, Mikel Antón, participated in a seminar on the future macroregions of the EU and their future outlook regarding multilevel cooperation in the EU to address the new challenges and priorities. Mikel Antón focused on the work led by the Basque Country in the Atlantic Arc Commission to drive the Atlantic Maritime Strategy and its evolution towards a Macroregional Strategy for the Atlantic.
As regards digital innovation, the SPRI Group took part in “The Role of Digital Innovation Centres in the post Covid-19 era” on 14 October, where it presented the Basque Digital Innovation Hub initiative. It should be stressed that the Basque Digital Innovation Hub (BDIH) was showcased at EWRC 2020 as a success story, almost coinciding with the European Commission President highlighting the Basque initiative when she spoke to the Plenary Session of the Committee of the Regions. It was indeed great recognition of the initiative’s 21 partners and of the Basque Government’s stimulation and coordination work over the last four years. The Basque Digital Innovation Hub is the Basque Government’s innovative commitment to set up a “one-stop shop” to facilitate the sustainable and digital transformation of Basque companies. Basque companies can use this one-stop shop to access the technology supply and R&D infrastructures of the technology centres, universities and business R&D centres. The BIDH has been operating for four years and is underpinned by a private-public partnership where the government itself is the supply catalyst and has undertaken to make it reach the companies.
With respect to the knowledge hubs and new partnerships in the field of creative and cultural industries, the RICC/Regional Initiative for Culture and Creativity network, co-led by the Basque Government, and ERRIN/European innovation network also organised a European seminar. The theme of the seminar was in line with the priorities being set by the European agenda and in relation to the upcoming European Call of the Knowledge Innovation Community/KIC in the field of the Creative and Cultural Industries, involving the European institutions. A UPV_EHU Euskampus representative presented the initiatives of the Basque knowledge hub in the field of the creative and cultural industries. This is part of the KSI strategic initiative coordinated by the Basque Government’s Ministry of Culture and Linguistic Policy, which addresses culture and creativity from innovation and their link with the Basque innovation strategy.
EMAKUNDE representatives also took part in the “Gender equality in cohesion policy seminar”, organised by the European Commission Directorate-General for Regional Policy. EMAKUNDE highlighted the key success factors in the Basque Country. The representatives pointed out the importance of the legal framework (Gender Equality Act) and the infrastructure (gender equality experts at all levels of the administration and the participation of the equality bodies in the ESF and ERDF monitoring committees. They also stressed the coordination between the equality bodies and the fund intermediate bodies in order for the gender perspective to be included in the management of the structural funds.
There was also a workshop on the Professional Excellence Centres organised by the European Commission and the European EARLALL network chaired by the Basque Government. The aim of the event was to analyse how those centres of professional excellence contribute to the setting up of skills ecosystems for innovation, regional development and Smart Specialisation. A representative of TKNIKA, coordinators of the project funded by the EU Centre of Professional Excellence in the Industrial Production sector – EXAM 4.0 (https://examhub.eu) , stressed the important of strategic collaboration between different regional stakeholders and pointed out the need to provide workers with the skills they need in a changing international context and guided by the dual green and digital transition.