Danuta Hübner, Member of the European Commission responsible for regional policy, is continuing her visit to France to meet the authorities in charge of implementing cohesion policy in the field. Following Champagne-Ardenne yesterday (IP/08/1319), she is today in Lorraine, at the invitation of the region’s Prefect, Bernard Niquet. The Commissioner will participate in a symposium on the ‘regional innovation strategy’, which has been developed by the region with a view to finally putting the various waves of industrial restructuring behind it.
Speaking about her visit, the Commissioner noted that “the region of Lorraine has made the right diagnosis. Innovation is the only suitable response to the waves of industrial restructuring and international competition. European investment will help the region to exploit its assets and thus develop the use of information and communication technologies and raise the level of private research by supporting the region’s two poles of competitiveness which create innovation: ‘MIPI’ (‘Innovative Materials — Intelligent Products’) and ‘Grand Est Fibres’ (‘Eastern France Fibres’). There is also very strong potential here, perhaps one of the best examples in Europe, for high-quality cross-border cooperation to boost the region’s competitiveness. 329 million euros from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), 136.5 million euros from the European Social Fund (ESF) and 108 million euros form the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), giving a total of 573.5 million euros, has been earmarked for promoting the economic development of your region.”
A new regional programme for 2007–2013
Over the last three decades Lorraine has lost most of its jobs in the mining, steel and textile industries. The regional development strategy adopted under the cohesion policy shows that the region is now focusing on innovative sectors. A total of 172 million euros, more than half of the allocation from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for the region (329 million euros), will be used to support research, innovation, business development and to promote information and communication technologies (see MEMO/08/564). This represents a fundamental change in course compared with the previous period (2000–2006).
The Commissioner also intends to visit the site of a project concerned with the economic conversion of the region: the ‘pôle de plasturgie de l'Est’ (‘Plastics Pole of Eastern France’) in Saint-Avold. This centre offers low-cost innovative plastics technology for the region’s industries. The European Union is planning to contribute to the creation of a new platform bringing together businesses and higher education and technology establishments in order to develop new composites for the aeronautical industry. The aim is to set up a national, and perhaps even European, reference centre in this field (ERDF contribution: 627Â 000 euros).
Increased cross-border cooperation
Lorraine is also participating in the ‘Grande Région’ cross-border programme with Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg. The total budget for this programme up to 2013 is 212 million euros (see MEMO/08/317). In 2009 the ‘Grande Région’ partners will establish a European Grouping of Cross-border Cooperation (EGCC), a new legal tool proposed by the European Union to facilitate more flexible management of cross-border projects (IP/08/970). With its new status as an EGCC the ‘Grande Région’, which has a total population of 11.2 million, will have legal personality and will be able to buy and sell goods or employ staff directly. This will make it easier to create cross-border public services (transport systems, hospitals, natural parks etc.).
France has made promoting innovation and the knowledge economy one of the priorities of its ‘national strategic reference framework’ for the cohesion policy for 2007–2013. Against this background, the Commission has proposed, as a specific objective of the French programmes, that each region should draft a ‘regional innovation strategy’ within an indicative period of two years. France occupies a mid-way position in the field of innovation in Europe. According to the indicators in the fourth report on economic and social cohesion, four regions lie above the Community average: l'Ile-de-France, Midi-Pyrénées, Rhône-Alpes and Franche-Comté.
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