The Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE conference “Cooperation is central for a more cohesive Europe in transition” has taken place in Vienna on 22 March. Together with high-level speakers and nearly 800 participants online and onsite, the programme reflected on achievements of transnational Interreg funding and looked ahead into the future of cohesion policy and territorial cooperation. Participants also learned more about the second call for proposals, which was officially launched and will offer fresh funds for central European regions and cities that want to cooperate beyond borders to become smarter, greener, better connected and more integrated.
The conference opened with a keynote speech by Mr Šime Erlić, Croatian Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds. The Minister emphasised how cohesion policy is helping to transform Croatia and pointed out that territorial cooperation programmes will be key for Croatia and Europe in facing future challenges, such as the transition to a low-carbon, digital economy. In this context, he specifically referred to the importance of Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE for Croatia and expressed his satisfaction that a second call for proposals will be opened.
The keynote address was followed by an expert input from Mr Kai Böhme of Spatial Foresight, who provided a glimpse into the future by presenting potential scenarios for cohesion policy and territorial cooperation beyond the current programming period. In his speech, he stressed that cooperation will be central to achieve a more cohesive Europe, that “cooperation is a must, not a luxury” and needs to go beyond Interreg programmes alone.
These inputs were further discussed in a panel of experienced policy makers and practitioners from the regional, national and European level. Speakers in this session included Mr Slawomir Tokarski, Director for European Territorial Cooperation, European Commission; Mr Roland Arbter, Deputy Director, Directorate Coordination Regional Policy and Spatial Planning, Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Regions, and Water Management; Ms Francesca Campomori, Associate Professor at Philosophy and Cultural Heritage Department, University of Venice; and Mr František Kubeš, Head of Department Strategic Development and Cooperation, Statutory City of Brno.
The political discussions were followed by the presentation and official launch of the second call for proposals, before the live broadcast ended and the conference continued onsite only. Participants in Vienna could attend a series of targeted community-building workshops with newly funded projects, in which they had the opportunity to get to know all projects, exchange with experts from other financing instruments and identify potential collaborations in the same thematic fields.