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CEI as bridge between EU macroregions: international conference in Vienna attended by Commissioner Hahn

On 24 January 2014 in Vienna, the Austrian CEI Presidency 2014 organised a joint meeting with the CEI Committee of National Coordinators (CNC), who had met the day before for their first gathering under this year’s Presidency, and representatives of various regional, international organisations and international financial institutions. EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, also took part in the meeting.

The event - under the title “CEI as bridge between European (Macro-) Regions / Synergies with International Organizations” - served as a platform for sharing views and opinions on the CEI’s rising role in this regard, thanks to its geopolitical position connecting both the existing and upcoming EU Macro-regional Strategies (i.e., for the Baltic Sea Region, the Danube Region, the Adriatic-Ionian Region and the Alps) as well as initiatives such as the Eastern Partnership.

“This is why we had the idea to organise today’s panels with representatives of 18 regional and international organisations. In order to pinpoint favourable synergies and avoid unnecessary overlapping. In times of rigorous budgetary restraints worldwide, it constitutes an undertaking that could generate real streamlined, value-added and cost effective cooperation. Our idea is to have meetings of this kind on an annual basis. During our discussions today, we could decide upon arrangement possibilities of these meetings and choose between/among different models: one could be, for example, a rotation system between/among all the organisations present here or interested in an exchange or updating of their programmes in order to create a sort of ‘clearing house’ for Central European Projects. This would be even more so for the CEI, thanks to its large membership, enabling the Organisation to act as a sort of  ‘catalyst’ “, said  Michael Linhart, Secretary General of the Austrian Ministry for European and International Affairs.
Johannes Hahn’s intervention was along the same line: “The CEI is really connecting all macro-regions ”, he pointed out. “The European success of the macro-regional strategies is something that is visible and concrete. A lot has been carried out in regional cooperation. However, more power and synergies among all of them is necessary”. In this context, Commissioner Hahn briefed the participants on the philosophy of the macro-regional strategies, based on a bottom-up approach where individual projects are implemented in different countries contributing, however, to an overall established goal. He also underlined the horizontal approach of the macro-regional strategies regarding the involvement of the line ministries in the implementation of the strategies. This from a practical point of view.  The political role is confirmed by the fact that the non-EU Member States are offered the opportunity - since many of them are included in all the macro-regional strategies - to work with the EU Member Countries and gain experience on EU standards, etc. The European Commission is a facilitator and supporter in this process. But “there should be something to be managed by the Member States”, Mr. Hahn continued. “Ways and means on how to develop a governing structure is needed. How do you deal with the new challenges and priorities? Who is deciding? How do you make the various Macro-regional strategies cooperate? Here I see a lot of opportunities for the CEI.” In this regard, he recalled one of the guiding principles of the Macro-regional strategies “no new institutions” (the three NOs).

CEI Secretary General, Amb. Giovanni Caracciolo di Vietri, thanked Commissioner Hahn for this illuminating statement, pointing out that this was exactly the idea behind the reasoning when the CEI’s motto “bridge between macro-regions” was established a few years ago. In doing so “the CEI can count on a well-functioning intergovernmental machinery, a strong Secretariat and on consolidated instruments and funds, which are the main assets of the Organisation”, Amb. Caracciolo highlighted.
All participants also agreed that the CEI could play a “catalyst” role, necessary for avoiding overlapping and duplications and for creating synergies. To this end, the participants agreed to have these kinds of meetings annually.  The invited organisations included: Alpine Convention, Adriatic Ionian Initiative, Baltic Cooperation Council, BSEC, RCC, EIB, UN ECE –ES, Danube Commission, International Commission for the Protection of the Danube, Energy Community Secretariat, Joint Vienna Institute, Vienna Economic Forum, UN Nations Office in Vienna, UNDOC, Council of Europe, OSCE, IACA, IIASA.
For more information:

from left: Austrian NC, Amb. Heidemaria Guerer; EU Commissioner, Johannes Hahn;
Secretary General, Michael Linhart.

Family photo

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