Bridging Development Gaps Between Regions Through Solidarity and Fiscal Redistribution – Closing Plenary Session

The debates of the 3rd European Congress of Local Governments were closed with a plenary session on: Bridging Development Gaps Between Regions Through Solidarity and Fiscal Redistribution chaired by Emanuela Claudia Del Re, President and Chair of EPOS -International Mediating and Negotiating Operational Agency from Italy.

The first to speak was Professor of Dresden University, former Minister President of Saxony (2002-2008), Mr. Georg Milbradt who underlined a huge role of central government and EU funds in introducing the targets of the cohesion policy. “EU funds are not aimed to redistribute funds – their aim is to lay foundations for the future competitiveness”, stated Milbradt. He added that Saxony received subversions from the central government for over 20 years and currently this region is able to function independently. “The local authorities are aware of the development priorities in the region. The most important priorities shall be infrastructure and education. What is crucial is a well functioning cooperation between central government and local authorities representatives”, continued Georg Milbradt.

Anatolii Tkachuk, Director, Civil Society Institute from Ukraine underlined the issue of the huge regional diversification of Ukraine, caused by the historical developments (in USSR time the Eastern Ukraine was a center of heavy industry while the Western Ukraine was primarily agricultural). It was not until the 21st century that the central government has started to deal with the problem of decentralisation and sustainable regional development of Ukraine. “A Fund of Regional Development – a state institution in the European meaning was founded in 2015” continued Anatolii Tkachuk. “The current regional reforms are being introduced in war conditions, he pointed out, because “Ukraine has lost a significant part of its territory, economy and population in 2014.”.

Dounia Besson, Deputy Mayor for Social Economy, Solidarity and Sustainable Development of the French city Lyon has visualised the region of Lyon to the conference guests: “it is a huge region with over 1,3 million citizens, a first French metropolis and the city of Lyon spends a lot of funds for subsidies for the neighbouring regions.” Dounia Besson stressed that France has currently introduced a budgetary reform which makes the continuation of the cohesion policy more difficult. “In spite of this”, the Deputy Mayor of Lyon pointed out, “we have introduced innovative investment, for example car-sharing”. “Our goal is to fight against social asymmetry – we don’t want the city to split into rich and poor districts”, said Besson. On the other hand, she continued, we have to face global problems, such as global warming, which causes higher spending on cooling systems.

The last speaker to take the floor was Brunon Bartkiewicz, CEO, ING Bank Slaski S.A. from Poland. „Investments in self-government have to support competitiveness in the regions”, he underlinded. The best effects may be reached only if the development targets are introduced in cooperation with the central government and with international help within the EU framework. Brunon Bartkiewicz mentioned that Poland has a unique chance to make a civilisational step when it comes to introduction of the ecologic and innovative solutions in the cities, but, he added, we have to focus on how to most effectively use the EU funds before 2020.

All speakers agreed with a conclusion that in order to lead an efficient cohesion policy you need all of these: an integrated attitude, a vision, as well as targets and commitment from all partners.

Before the plenary session the conference guests have been asked to listen to a presentation on “The Financial Situation of Local Governments” prepared by Professor Wojciech Misiag, Director of the Institute of Research and Financial Analyses from the Rzeszow University of Information, Technology and Management.

According to Professor Misiąg, “situation of the self-government in Poland has a multidimensional character and nearly 29% of all public expenses are spent by local governments”. He pointed out that in 2016 Polish local governments noted a significant surplus of 8 billions of PLN from the state budget, mostly caused by the implementation of the 500+ programme. The biggest financial challenge for the local authorities, underlined Prof. Misiąg, is the perspective of lower EU subventions in the nearest future.  A closing gap between rural and municipal communes is considered a positive trend, while touristic and industrial communes on the countryside join the wealthier communes without any problem. To sum up, Prof. Misiag added that self-government is currently one of the most stable fundaments of the country.