On 21st November, political representatives of Vanguard Initiative member regions gathered in Brussels for the Vanguard Annual Political Meeting. During the meeting, the representatives took stock of the latest developments in EU policy. In particular they acknowledged the important lobbying efforts that have resulted in the inclusion of Component 5 for Interregional Innovation Investments in the European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) programme, and opportunities through the Horizon Europe Programme. In the upcoming period lobbying efforts will be pursued individually and jointly to a maximum extent in order to defend the opportunities offered for Vanguard Initiative activities in the MFF proposals.
In an open session, senior European Commission representatives - Director-General Jean-Eric Paquet from DG RTD and Director Rudolf Niessler from DG REGIO - elaborated on the opportunities for regions and Smart Specialisation collaboration in the European Commission proposals for the MFF, in particular through Horizon Europe and ETC. In particular, they highlighted the importance of the proposals as a way to support EU regions in facing new challenges and global competition, and encouraged Vanguard members to continue to work with the European Commission to develop the detail of the proposals, and highlight any challenges with implementation.
In the political statements and interventions by member region representatives, a number of common themes emerged:
- Widespread and vocal support for efforts to protect the Component 5 proposal in the ETC
- It is essential for EU regions – even those who have traditionally been competitors - to work together to face Europe’s “real” global competitors, e.g. China and the US – the challenges are too big to face alone.
- Scotland and Wales also both highlighted the importance of EU collaboration for their regions now and beyond the UK’s exit from the EU.
Perhaps the most pertinent quotation of the day came from the Basque Country’s Secretary General for External Affairs, Marian Elorza Zubiria who said, quoting Henry Ford: “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.”. Another noteworthy quote came from the current Chair from the government of Navarra, Mikel Irujo Amezaga, who said: "I not only like Component 5, I love Component 5".
The meeting also took care of network management issues, with particular highlights being:
- The approval of Gävleborg (Sweden) becoming a member of Vanguard
- The approval of Navarra as Treasurer and 10 board members, including many regions who are new to the board. The 10 board members for 2019 will be Baden-Württemburg, Piemonte, Slovenia, Wales, Asturias, Dalarna, Skåne, Emilia-Romagna, Randstad and Norte (Portugal).
Current chair of the Vanguard Initiative, Mikel Irujo Amezaga also called for regions to lead the important work of developing the future funding model for Vanguard, following the mandate received at the High Level Directors meeting of June 2018.