On 23 and 24 November, the first Alpine Forum took place in Bavaria. Close to 600 participants from seven countries converged towards Munich to take a "snapshot" of what this specific macro-regional strategy has achieved and to set objectives for the future.
There are four such strategies (Baltic, Danube, Adriatic and Ioanian, and the Alpine - the youngest of all), and each of them focusses on cooperation between those concerned to solve common challenges.
Beyond the Youth conference (which was inspiring!), the Munich forum identified the major challenges the Alpine region faces and will face, such as globalisation, climate and demographic change, infrastructure, digitisation, energy supply and protection of natural resources, and over ten specialised workshops allowed participants to exchange ideas.
You see, that is why I feel macroregional strategies show the true European spirit: rather than having each country or region struggle with issues that its immediate neighbour faces in exactly the same way, the solution is to work as one team.
I reminded participants that some 80 European Structural and Investment Fund programmes cover the Alpine territory, that these programmes could support the objectives of the Alpine Strategy, but that unfortunately, they are often implemented in isolation, leading to a fragmented impact of EU policies.
However, in today's world, achievements will not be recognised if we are not vocal about them. And to communicate more effectively, we need to understand the concerns of our citizens. For many, it is about feeling connected, seeing that their views are taken into account, and feeling involved in what is going on in their region.
This call to make our achievements better known led me to remind participants that the months ahead will be crucial, not only for the Alpine strategy, but for cohesion policy and Europe altogether as soon tough negotiations on the post 2020 EU financial period will start.
In May 2018, the European Commission will present its proposals for the next multiannual financial framework. In difficult budgetary circumstances, we must ensure that tomorrow's cohesion policy will be funded sufficiently to help every region of Europe bring more prosperity, more positive perspectives to every person in the European Union.