by EBR* **
It is a fact that Cohesion policy for 2014-2020 adopts a new approach towards the necessity to address the needs that the economic crisis emerged. The new agenda aims at bridging the gap between public infrastructures and private investments, stimulating employment and supporting implementation of best practices. Opportunities are laying both for the private and public sector but concrete steps are needed to be taken.
Juncker’s plan, together with the new financial instruments – JESSICA, JEREMIE, etc. - are shifting focus from subsidies to loans and guarantees; from public investments to public-private partnerships.
It is the end of an era. But for some countries – especially those in crisis - this change comes in a very bad timing. If financing infrastructures was already a hard job for Regions with small population, deficient connectivity and long distanced from the European capitals, now it becomes something more than a challenge: It becomes almost impossible. They will have to compete with other European Regions and prove that their proposal is worth to be financed and can be sufficiently profitable to attract private investors to implement it.
What are the chances borders and peripheral regions might have? To answer to this question the Region of North Aegean (Greece) organised an exclusive event in the framework of the “European Business Summit (EBS) 2015” - held in Brussels on May 7 - under the title: “Innovation as a stimulus for Regional Growth”. Speakers were invited from the private sector – Mr. Hans Hack, Head of Financial Services at FTI Consulting, the institutions – Mr. Luiz De Mello,OECD’s Deputy Director for Public Governance and Territorial Development and the Regions – Mrs. Eleni Marianou, Secretary General of CPMR. The Region was represented by the Executive Secretary, Mr. Nikos Kostopoulos. The discussion was moderated by Mr. N. Peter Kramer, editor-in-chief of the European Business Review magazine.
All speakers agreed that change of mentality is maybe the most important factor when it comes to attracting private funds in public investments. Mentality can be seen at the reduction of red tape, tax reliefs and special agreements or even flexibility in the final agreement. At the same time it was underlined that availability of public funding and available infrastructure can be also important factors in investors’ decision.
Luiz de Mello and Hans Hack encouraged all European Regions to become more extrovert, improve their direct contacts with Institutions and Development Banks and exploit the opportunities that Juncker’s plan is now offering.
Eleni Marianou on the other side stressed the danger for isolated and not so developed Regions to become even more marginalized – compressed between the competition from other Regions and their lack of potentials for investors that would make their area attractive for them.
The need to sustain a level of public investments dedicated to these Regions is absolutely necessary Mrs. Marianou concluded. Mr. Kostopoulos also pointed that Regions like North Aegean sometimes create a distorted view, as due to the touristic period they are sometimes seen as paradises on earth, but reality is long distanced from that.
Concluding the meeting, Mr. N. Peter Kramer summarized three axes for a Region to successfully attract private funds: reduce of red tape, extrovert approach from the administration and public funding for securing or supplementing the investment.
* The Greek Region of North Aegean established recently a representation office in Brussels, in Rond-Point Schuman,14, 1040 Bruxelles