Today I had the pleasure to meet with the newly-elected President of the Committee of the Regions, Markku Markkula. The Committee of the Regions is a strong and natural partner of the European Commission in the development and implementation of Cohesion Policy across Europe - it is the voice of local and regional governments. This is why I was really looking forward to this meeting.
The Committee of the Regions is the European Union's assembly of local and regional representatives. Its role is to put forward local and regional points of view on EU legislation. The Commission, the Council and the Parliament must consult the Committee of the Regions before decisions are taken on matters concerning local and regional government.
I was glad to see that we shared the same priorities and visions for the future of Cohesion policy. For example, we both think that boosting innovation, administrative capacity-building and promoting simplification are of a vital importance. That is why we discussed the possibility of involving the Committee of the Regions in the different initiaves we will take in these areas.
We also ensured mutual assistance in achieving our main policy's goal: to reduce the disparities between the regions of Europe. We agreed to work together as often as possible and to develop joint initiatives, especially in the field of research and innovation, to close the existing gaps in that area. To this end we mentioned the formidable potential of smart specialisation strategies, which allows every region to capitalize on its own specific assets to create sustainable growth.
Together, we also reviewed the upcoming major initiatives of the new European Commission, such as the Energy Union, the Digital Single Market, the SMEs initiative and of course, the new EU Investment Plan, in which the Cohesion Policy Funds play a key part.
This meeting was a friendly and fruitful one; I discover that we were both looking ahead and in the same direction. The Committee of the Regions is a precious ally which will help ensuring the success of our policy in the coming years.