These Regional Offices, of which there are around 300 in Brussels, are the representations of European regional and local authorities and act much like “embassies” to the EU on city or regional level.
It was very interesting for me to meet the representatives of these Regional Offices, as they are the "Brussels voice" of the European Regions as well as our main points of contact with the people on the ground who make Cohesion Policy a reality for more than 500 million European citizens through their day-to-day commitment to implementing valuable projects.
During this first meeting, I presented the main priorities of my mandate, as well as the state of play on the adoption of the 2014-2020 Operational Programmes. But even more interesting to me, was the interactive questions-and-answers session after the presentation which gave participants the opportunity to address to me directly their comments and questions on the issues affecting their daily work.
The questions came from various Member States all across the Union and covered all kinds of topics, such as the Urban Agenda, macro-economic conditionality, the role of Cohesion Policy in the Juncker investment plan, the co-operation with other services on projects in rural, coastal and mountain areas, and many more. It was truly a great opportunity to learn about the concrete obstacles, but also opportunities, faced by the people working with EU funds in the regions.
I would have liked to spend some more time discussing these topics, but after some 45 minutes of questions and answers, unfortunately I had to take off to a briefing with Romanian journalists in preparation of the mission to Bucharest this Monday. This first encounter however, convinced me even more of the importance of maintaining regular contacts with regional and local stakeholders, who are the ones who actually implement our policy on the ground.