Cities and regions sharing and networking in Brussels

Between 7 and 10 October 2019, Brussels was the stage for the Region’s Week, focused on highlighting and understanding how regions and cities are using EU funds to improve citizens' daily lives and how cohesion policy can help to make Europe greener, more inclusive and smarter. This year's event brought together over 9,000 participants including more than 600 politicians who will take part in nearly 400 sessions, debates, exhibitions and networking opportunities about the different aspects of cohesion policy.

With the negotiations for the 2021 to 2027 EU budgets ongoing, the targets of the event in various policy areas were clear: to showcase their capacity to create growth and jobs and exchange views on planning and implementation of European Union cohesion policy.

Margo de Lange joined the event on behalf of the It’s Great Out There Coalition representing the outdoor voice in the European context and shares her views on the potential of structural and regional development funds to support outdoor sports after two busy days of networking on an EU level.

The future priorities for the Regional Development and Cohesion policy beyond 2020 as expressed in European Commission policy papers in 2018 are:

  • a Smarter Europe, through innovation, digitisation, economic transformation and support to small and medium-sized businesses;
  • a Greener, carbon free Europe, implementing the Paris Agreement and investing in energy transition, renewables and the fight against climate change;
  • a more Connected Europe, with strategic transport and digital networks;
  • a more Social Europe, delivering on the European Pillar of Social Rights and supporting quality employment, education, skills, social inclusion and equal access to healthcare;
  • a Europe closer to citizens, by supporting locally led development strategies and sustainable urban development across the EU.
Sport and physical activity have recently gained increased importance at EU level as a driver for local and regional development following a study on the contribution of sport to regional development through the EU structural funds. This study supported that sport makes a direct contribution to regional economic activity and social cohesion by encouraging innovation, sustainable development and urban regeneration as well as enhances the overall attractiveness of regions. All of this is true even more so for outdoor sport activities considering the fast-paced growth of active tourism in Europe, additional importance attributed to protecting green spaces in line with the green priorities and the results of the Eurobarometer for sport indicating European prefer informal settings and in particular parks and the outdoors as an environment to #beactive. Stakeholders in different sectors, however, are not necessarily waiting for sport to play in increased role and to break through the political and topical silo’s on EU level. To respond to this the European Commission has launched the SHARE Initiative following the above-mentioned study to take a transitions approach cutting through various policy areas to highlight the importance of sport as part of regional development policy.
The It’s Great Out There Coalition has agreed to join the SHARE Initiative, broadening the representation of the outdoor industry beyond sport policy to trigger investment in nature and outdoor activities on a regional level. The SHARE Initiative members will meet for this purpose on a regular basis. We will report on opportunities and developments as they arise.