An International conference on ESI Funds was held in Varaždin

As part of the project “Together for Cohesion: Let’s rEUnite!”, Varaždin County and the Public Institution for Regional Development of Varaždin County organized an International Conference on European Structural and Investment Funds after 2020, with the aim of discussing the future of Cohesion Policy during the next EU budgetary period.

Through the speakers’ presentations and panel discussion, the conference participants were introduced to the importance of Cohesion Policy for investing in local and regional development and the changes that are proposed to make Cohesion Policy as understandable as possible for the benefit of citizens and the betterment of their daily lives. Danijel Pejić, a representative of the Ministry of Regional Development and European Funds in charge of programming and implementating projects in Croatia, and Jaksa Puljiz from the Institute for Development and International Relations, dealing with European policies and their impact on the economy and development, gave an overview of their mandates.

The European Commission has decided to modernize Cohesion Policy and put the emphasis on financing key European policy areas that will aim to have a smarter, greener, more cohesive and social Europe. Priority investments will be related to digitalization, innovation, energy transition, renewable energy, combating climate change and strategic change and digital networks.

Michiel Rijsberman, Minister of the Dutch Flevoland Region and President of the Working Group on Cohesion Policy of the Assembly of European Regions, presented the Dutch experience in programming European funds, as well as how the regions can defend their projects and positions before the European Union institutions. “We have supported the Cohesion Alliance and have good cooperation with the Committee of the Regions of the European Union, because we believe that, as representatives of the regions, we can make a significant contribution to the quality of Cohesion Policy, with a view to strengthening the equitable development of our European regions”, said Michiel Rijsberman.

Tina Wu, from the Assembly of European Regions, stressed the importance of the regions themselves in the creation of Cohesion Policy and how to use networks such as the Assembly of European Regions: “We are the largest independent regional network in Europe. Quality cohesion policy is just one of the policies we are working on to strengthen the voice of European regions. Given that one of the five main goals in the new Cohesion Policy is that Europe is closer to citizens, it is through our regional authorities across the European Union that we can clearly advocate local urban development strategies for the benefit of our citizens, but also explain the importance of Cohesion Policy for the quality of our lives ”, Wu concluded.

The County of Varaždin has based its entire development on European funds and has been very successful in putting them to good use. Projects in the County are worth more than HRK 800 million; already during the past year HRK 400 million have been allocated to various projects along the County. Schools and hospitals are getting built or renovated and more projects are currently underway for the next period. Also, suggestions are being made on how to improve the programming system in the new era based on lessons learned from our own and foreign experiences.

For more information, watch the video from the event: