2030 Agenda: SDGs and the Future of Europe

By Maruxa Cardama – External Adviser to the CPMR Secretariat on Global Agendas

A blueprint for the future of the whole European project

The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda was adopted at the United Nations in September 2015, following unprecedented levels of engagement with local and regional governments, civil society, the private sect

or and academia; with the EU playing an instrumental role in shaping the intergovernmental agreement.

The 2030 Agenda consists of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 associated targets, which the international community has pledged to achieve by 2030. The SDGs are a roadmap to end poverty in all its forms, promote equitable prosperity, protect the planet; and ultimately to shift the world towards a more sustainable path. As such they provide a framework in which to embed the future of the EU.

Why? Because the 17 SDGs aim to address the root causes of the wide range of interconnected social, economic and environmental challenges and opportunities facing poor, middle-income and rich countries in the 21st century and to which the peoples of Europe are not immune.

The European Commission’s Communication in November 2016 puts this very clearly:

European societies today face many sustainability challenges from youth unemployment to ageing populations, climate change, pollution, sustainable energy and migration… To preserve the European social model and social cohesion, it is essential to invest in our young people, foster inclusive and sustainable growth, tackle inequalities and manage well migration… To preserve our natural capital, it is crucial to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon, climate resilient, resource efficient and circular economy. For these challenges to become opportunities for new businesses and new jobs, a strong engagement in research and innovation is needed.

Delivering SDGs through a territorial approach

In November 2015, the CPMR made clear that the universality of the 2030 Agenda can and must be compatible with a differentiated and territorial approach to its implementation.

Through SDG11, the 2030 Agenda sets out an unprecedented global resolve “to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” But the urban and territorial dimension – so inherent to the territorial development model encouraged by the EU – is critically important for addressing the other 16 SDGs in an interconnected manner. Delivering the SDGs in practice requires planning and implementation strategies that have integration and interlinkages as foundations.

It is commonly agreed that the SDGs must be localised: translated into concrete actions for territorial development and positive impact on local communities. This global agenda will fail to deliver any real positive transformation for people and the planet if there is no empowerment of local and regional governments and ownership by citizens. The European Commission’s Report about the “Territorial Approach to Local Development” (TALD) launched last year, is therefore, a flagship piece of EU development policy.

There is also increased understanding that localising the SDGs means giving local and regional governments a leading role in the process, as well as commensurate resources. A study by Misselwitz et al[1] shows that the implementation of up to 65% of the SDGs is at risk if local urban stakeholders are not involved: 21% of the 169 targets can only be implemented with local actors and an additional 24% should be implemented with them. A further 20% of the 169 targets should have a much clearer orientation towards implementation with local actors, even if the (current) SDGs wording does not suggest this.

The European Commission has stated that the EU will implement the SDGs “together with its Member States, in line with the principle of subsidiarity.” Multi-level governance is crucial in ensuring that this principle of subsidiarity is effectively put in practice. Regional governments – in their capacity as an intermediate level of government between the national and local levels, with direct engagement in global multilateral processes – are central to this.

The negotiations towards SDG11 also confirmed a desire to move away from an anachronistic dichotomy between urban and rural areas. The regional development model that the EU has pursued, based on the notion of integrated territorial development, offers extraordinary synergies with the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. This approach has been recognised at global level to reinforce the idea of complementary functions and flows of people, capital, goods, employment, resources, information and technology between rural and urban territories of various sizes such as metropolitan regions, networks of small and intermediate towns or sparsely populated areas.

The CPMR is right to insist strongly that balanced territorial development, focused on addressing territorial disparities, should be at the heart of the reform agenda in the reflections on the future of Europe

Moreover, the combination of SDG11 on cities and communities and SDG10 on “reducing inequalities within and among countries” reinvigorates the role of the EU’s Cohesion Policy as an enabler of the values of solidarity and social cohesion that are so intrinsic to the European project. Equally, SDG10 calls, among other things, for reducing inequalities in income as well as those based on age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status within a country. All these elements are inextricably linked to fundamental European values.

Where do we go from here?

The November 2016 Commission’s Communication announced the launch of a reflection on how the EUs sectoral policies after 2020 can be refocused around the long-term implementation of the SDGs, including a reorientation of the EU budget under the next Multi-annual Financial Framework post-2020 towards these goals.

The CPMRs has recognised the importance of this reorientation of policies around delivering the SDGs in its position adopted in November 2015.

Since then, important developments have shaken the very foundations of the EU and called into question the fundamental human values that underpin the European social model. The SDGs offer a solid foundation to rekindle the European values and collectively trace a meaningful future for the European project that speaks to the needs of European peoples in this century of interconnected global challenges and opportunities. The SDGs also embrace a territorial dimension that is so characteristic of the European model of regional development. European local and regional governments are heavily engaged in multiple initiatives to localise the SDGs and translate them into relevant frameworks for their local realities and communities. Is the European Union ready to tap into this huge potential?

[1] Misselwitz, P. et al. The Urban Dimension of the SDGs: Implications for the New Urban Agenda. In: Sustainable Development Goals and Habitat III: Opportunities for a successful New Urban Agenda. Cities Alliance Discussion Paper No. 3. November 2015.

Why EU cooperation matters: energy & climate in central Denmark

By Birgitte Karnøe Frederiksen, EU Senior Adviser, Central Denmark EU Office 

c denmark

Since the structural reform in 2007, which created the regions in Denmark, including the region of Central Denmark, energy and climate have been major focus areas for growth and innovation, thereby boosting business development and R&D.

During the period, our region has followed and benefited from EU development within energy and climate such as: setting ambitious, political targets, finding cooperation partners among other regions, challenging assumptions and rethinking ways of going forward, and funding innovative projects – not least making use of the ERDF for business development and innovation.

It is no secret that Central Denmark Region is of the opinion that the EU continues its ambitious cooperation within the area of energy and climate, thereby paving the way for even better regional development.

When mentioning ‘energy and climate’, we think of the ‘classical’ energy mitigation projects such as the increased production of renewables and the boosting of energy efficiency, as well as their newer forms such as bioeconomy, circular economy and climate adaptation.

In all areas, political will at regional and local level has sustained realities on the ground – not least the ambition to have 50% renewable energy of total consumption by 2025. The Central Denmark region is well on track – today, 33% of consumption comes from renewables.

So, what has come out of this?

Early on, Regional Development Funds have been supporting energy and climate through ameliorating framework conditions for businesses.

To name just a few examples: from 2011 until 2014, the region funded an initiative to boost business development in the wind industry by, among others, analysing the whole value chain in the wind market, coaching industry leaders, forming networks, and evaluating the possibilities to connect wind mill suppliers to end-producers.

Another initiative launched an integrated, holistic, and strategic regional approach to energy planning and to assist local administrators to calculate baseline figures on CO2 emissions. Apart from ERDF, other EU-funds have underpinned this effort (e.g. 5 ELENA-projects in the region as well as a number of Interreg-funded projects).

Lately, the circular economy and the bioeconomy have become the primary areas within innovation in energy and climate. In the circular economy, the emphasis is on the development of new business designs is a leading element in the regional effort.

Examples include leasing, which allows a company to retain control of its raw materials after production, and industrial symbiosis, where waste products from one company become raw materials for another product.

Other elements of the circular economy are public-private partnerships, education and urban development. In bioeconomy, initiatives have focused on cross-connecting industries (regional and international – and the whole value chain) in the following areas: bio refinery based on grass (to the benefit of the environment), bio refinery based on marine biomass (thus closing the nutrition cycle) – and enhanced biogas production from residuals.

In 2014, the Central Denmark region was acknowledged as an EU frontrunner in bioeconomy, which gave the sector a renewed sense of direction.

The last example to be mentioned here is an increased focus on climate adaptation, which was initiated around 2012, getting a major boost with the allocation of 7 millioneuros from the EU in the form of support to an Life IP (total budget of 12 MEUR).

The Central Denmark region, leading the project named Coast 2 Coast Climate Challenge, has the ambition to become a hub for integrated, holistic approaches to climate adaptation, taking into account groundwater, sea and fjords, rivers and water in cities, as well as development of management tools and innovation. The project, which lasts for 6 years, has 32 partners, including universities, innovation centres, national government and business organisations.

To conclude…

As can be seen from the above, energy and climate issues have developed to become a stronghold in Central Denmark Region – spurred by EU cooperation, stimulated by EU co-financing and with a strong multi-level approach from local to EU level.

Further development will certainly benefit from a strong European and cross-regional focus on energy and climate. We are looking forward to contributing our part.

The single market is the EU’s real core business

By Mikael Janson, Director of the North Sweden European Office

EC photo

The existence of the European Union is at stake. Everyone involved in European affairs can feel this existential anxiety. It is also the backbone of the ‘White Paper on the Future of Europe’, released in March by the European Commission: We need to ‘reinvent’ the EU.

The EU offers a unique platform for cooperation, built on nations voluntarily giving it supranational power to bring Member States together in a common regulatory framework. Without this ‘forced voluntary cooperation’ Europe would undoubtedly go back in time, heading towards unrest and potential conflict.

The Brexit debate on both sides of the Channel has clearly shown that the EU is still a cooperation between sovereign nations, who are open to apply for membership or indeed leave, but also that Europe is still its own worst enemy, with neo-nationalism once again growing.

The basic goal of the EU is to bind countries together to avoid future wars. However, in the long run, to safeguard this role, it will also be necessary to foster common prosperity and economic growth, to avoid internal tensions. That is what could be called the leverage side of the EU project, which also makes Europe a relevant and competitive global actor. No European economy is big enough on the world scale, not even that of Germany’, but a common market can deliver the critical mass required.

It is in this context that the common or European internal market should be seen. It ties countries together with the need to create economic prosperity that in turn also delivers wealth to citizens. The possibility of maintaining interventionist welfare states is also very much part of the European market economy model.

Therefore, the internal market of today is not only a customs union, or some sort of extended trade deal mechanism, it is a common market, with common regulations decided in a common open regulatory framework.

Within this common structure, the European Commission is the guardian of the free movement of goods, services, capital and people, as these four freedoms are the basis for the full functioning of the internal market. As such, the internal or single market is very much the core of the EU project.

In the Commission’s White Paper on the Future of Europe, the second scenario of ‘nothing but a single market’ is presented. It is put forward on one hand as some sort of ‘EU light’ and on the other is the scenario of ‘doing much more together’.

By presenting the scenario in this way the European Commission aligns itself with the Brexit perspective of being able to have full participation in a single market of goods and services on the one hand, whilst getting rid of all EU regulations and payments to the EU on the other.

Of course, the idea of a single market can be something other than what we see today and this needs to be discussed as a part of the overall debate on the future of the EU. However, to some extent the White Paper is just an illusionary trap when the scenario is read fully, as it delivers a concentrated story of the full dissolution of the EU, rather than some simple single market EU.

It is a future where the EU is some sort of trade agreement member platform for emerging different internal and bi-lateral markets, that will certainly result in a total collapse.

In the end, the single market wouldn’t really be a single market. Case closed.

The “EU light” scenario would surely instead be to get rid of the single market altogether. Most regulations that affect individuals and businesses in daily life could then more or less be removed, paving the way for a possible so called ‘multi-speed Europe’ of different integration ambitions between the States.

In contradiction to this, the internal market approach is the driver for more integration and even actions in other areas such as migration, customs and external border controls, national security, national and regional development, climate actions, global competitiveness, foreign affairs and more. If you are to trade on a common market you need common rules and regulations in and around that market.

Without such rules, the risk is that it will be a race to the bottom between the countries concerning social and worker rights, taxation, income levels, security and climate, environment protection and more. It will also be impossible to know what you as a customer buy, as there are no common standards and quality marking, or even safety guarantees concerning the products.

The single market approach requires a social pillar, and even more the EU Cohesion policy, to safeguard the possibility for everyone to take part in a socially responsible way, strategically balancing this with the ambition and need for global competitiveness for the whole of Europe.

A two-speed Europe at macro-economic level, made up of those within the Eurozone and those outside, offers to some extent the opportunity to have opt-ins and outs concerning people’s movements. But it soon becomes complicated if different countries at different levels integrate in an EU with one market, without putting up borders and customs.

Furthermore, this would make it impossible for the EU to have one common trade policy, as that is built on trade partners having access to the EU as one common body for the external trade relations and the full internal market.

Therefore, the single market is not, and cannot be, “EU light”. The question is rather what new structures at EU level a true internal market approach needs in order to increase EU growth potential, as the internal market is not today functioning as well as it could or should.

This is, of course, my personal view. Europe’s remote regions, with few people living in vast areas, are also very much export dependent. They need the internal market and Europe’s ability to be globally competitive, in order to foster their own regional development. But that is another story.

The important point here is that the discussion on the future of Europe should provide a realistic viewpoint on what the single market really is. It should deliver what the EU aims to do. This to avoid simplified beliefs about what a possible “EU light” is and is not.

CPMR President outlines ‘Political Statement’ on Future of Europe

Watch an interview blog with CPMR President, Vasco Cordeiro, after the CPMR issued a ‘Political Statement’ on 09 May 2017, setting out the vision of Regions on the future of Europe debate.

The CPMR is calling for a positive vision for a reformed Europe built on: strengthened territorial, social and economic cohesion; reinforced co-operation and partnership; and a Europe based on shared values with solidarity at its core.

New report looks at UK tourism after Brexit

By Katie Cavell, Cornwall Brussels Representative


The UK Tourism Alliance, which represents the Tourism Industry across the UK, has published a report looking at the policy agenda for the UK Tourism Industry post-Brexit.

The report, titled ‘Tourism After Bexit 2017′, considers the various policy areas that have an impact on the tourism sector, including deregulation and tourism-related taxation, skills and employment, transport, the CAP, and community regeneration, and comes up with a list of measures to lobby government.

Recommendations include:

  • a new British version of the CAP that recognises the link between farming, the environment, and tourism;
  • developing a plan to fill staff shortages in the industry generated by Brexit;
    constructing a tax regime for the sector that is sustainable and encourages growth; reducing the regulatory burden on the sector;
  • The report sets out the key challenges and opportunities of Brexit to the Tourism Industry and makes policy recommendations that could be incorporated into a revamped UK policy agenda post-Brexit.

Read the full report here.

CPMR issues Political Statement on the Future of Europe

By the CPMR 


The CPMR has today issued a Political Statement calling for a reformed vision of Europe built on territorial cohesion, cooperation and solidarity, with Regions at its heart.

Read the Political Statement here:




Future of Europe at stake

While Europe celebrates the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, it once again finds itself in a period of uncertainty and unrest. That Europe faces a myriad of ongoing and emerging challenges is clear. However, the strong co-operation that has been built between Europe’s peoples and nations over the past 60 years, and that has been the foundation of its lasting peace and prosperity, gives us confidence and hope that the European project and the values it represents will overcome these current difficulties, and act as a positive force in people’s lives for many more years to come.

Robust defence of European values

We have seen in recent years how the social and economic challenges across Europe have fuelled fear and uncertainty in people over their future, including younger generations. This has led to a deeply concerning growing disillusionment with democratic processes in general, a rise in populism and xenophobia, and Eurosceptic forces. The events of 2016 – the Brexit vote and the election of an anti-EU President Trump in the US – have added further pressure showing the potential vulnerability and fragility of the EU if we do not unite to defend it.

The EU Institutions and Member States have a responsibility to make a more robust and positive case for Europe: why co-operation across national boundaries matters, and the fundamental values that the EU stands for. We as regions have a central role to play in conveying these messages to citizens, acting as the bridge between the EU and ordinary people.

CPMR regions at the heart of the agenda

We represent a population of over 200 million people from more than 160 regions across Europe, and we are the first to feel the impact of many of the social, economic and political changes and challenges facing Europe at its borders. Hence, the voice of our territories needs to be taken into consideration in any discussion on the future of Europe.

European Solidarity

Our member Regions are strong believers in the European project, and would ideally favour a model in which the whole of the EU walked at the same pace. However, differentiated levels of integration in Europe are already a reality, the Eurozone and the Schengen Area being two examples of this. Furthermore, we recognise that Member States do not all share at present the same level of ambition for European integration.

Whichever scenario is finally chosen, it must not set us on the path to a fragmented Europe. Solidarity must remain one of the fundamental principles at the heart of the EU project, underpinned by a strong commitment to territorial and social cohesion and balanced economic development and the appropriate policies to support this.

Cooperation and partnership

Co-operation and partnership are at the core of what the European Union stands for, bringing people together, helping to cross political and cultural boundaries, as well as facilitating economic exchange. Regions play a central role in driving such co-operation through animating links between partners from all sectors and levels. The future European Union must continue to place a high priority on supporting and facilitating co-operation activities between regions, with a much greater focus on actions that address the challenges and concerns of European citizens.

Strengthened Territorial Cohesion

The growing disparities and imbalances across Europe mean that economic, social and territorial cohesion must be a fundamental pillar underpinning the future vision of the European Union.

We must demonstrate that Europe can provide relevant and sustainable solutions to the everyday problems facing communities, citizens and enterprises.

To deliver this priority we call for:

  • A reinforced and reinvigorated Cohesion Policy covering all Regions of the Union and addressing the growing social, economic, environmental and territorial disparities in Europe, and to counter balance the negative impacts from the functioning of the Single Market;
  • Prioritisation of key investments in competitiveness, innovation, research, education and training, sustainable energy production, blue growth and the maritime economy, accessibility (including digital infrastructure), and developing sustainable solutions to new and emerging challenges;
  • Emphasis on long term investment, in both physical and soft infrastructures, as well as human capital, to foster long term convergence and cohesion and sustainable development;
  • A strong focus on territorial co-operation at regional level within the EU and with current and future neighbouring countries;
  • Strengthened multi-level governance in order to involve regional and local governments, the private sector, academia and citizens.

What could five scenarios in EU Paper on ‘Future of Europe’ mean for CPMR regions?

By the CPMR Secretariat

Future of Europe pic

It’s been a few weeks since the European Commission published its White Paper on the future of Europe which has given us a bit more time to reflect on what the different scenarios could mean for the CPMR’s member regions. Take a look at the CPMR’s reflections on each of the scenarios:

Scenario 1 – Carrying on

The ‘status quo’ option or ‘muddling along’ as some commentators have described it. This scenario poses challenges even if on paper the EU27 would retain the same structure.

First, there will be the impact of Brexit on the EU budget and the multi-annual financial frameworks (MFF). This is estimated by some reports to be an annual loss of €10bn[i] which over the duration of a seven-year financial framework would be upwards of €70bn of the total MFF. This could be exacerbated further depending on the negotiations over the UK’s ‘leaving bill’, which certain reports estimate to be around 60bn euros[ii], and how this bill would be shared out among the EU27 in the case of a default by the UK.

Second, there is the call for further EU action to address new and emerging challenges, including the migration/refugee crisis, security and defence.  Hard choices would have to be made with potential implications to the biggest budget lines, particularly Common Agricultural Policy, Common Fisheries Policy, Cohesion Policy, Research and Innovation (Horizon 2020), and Erasmus+. Or the EU27 would have to commit to increased contributions to absorb the loss of the UK or consider new and alternative methods of financing the EU,which would take us away from a ‘carrying on’ scenario per se.

Scenario 2 – Nothing but the Single Market

This approach would in theory refocus the EU’s co-operation around the Single Market, meaning activities in other areas such as external co-operation, international action on climate change, neighbourhood policy, justice and home affairs, migration and refugees, would be dropped unless a clear case was made linking such policies to the functioning of the Single Market.

In many of these areas reduction of EU level action and co-operation would have a major impact on the CPMR regions, given the territorial dimension and risks associated with many of the challenges in these areas. One such example is migration and refugees, and the importance of this issue is seen in the response in early April from seven Member States in the Mediterranean calling for a consolidated and shared response at EU level to dealing with this crisis. A retreat in such areas would leave significant gaps, and it is difficult to see how this could lead to a stable environment given the serious external pressures facing the EU. It would necessitate some sort of international co-operation in response.

The White Paper also paints a very specific picture of how the EU would re-focus around the Single Market: based on a ‘non-interventionist’ approach through reduction of regulatory burden (repeal of two existing pieces of legislation for every new legislative proposal). It concludes that this would lead to persisting or increasing disparities in regulatory standards.

This is, however, a simplistic and unrealistic picture of how the Single Market works, and assumes agreement would be reached among Member States on removing existing standards. We would argue this is not a given at all, and that the setting of common and consistent regulatory standards across the EU is essential to the functioning of the Single Market, encapsulating environmental, employment and social policy, consumer safety, health and safety at work.

Similarly, the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy are fundamental elements of the Single Market and would continue to be key priorities under such a scenario. The Cohesion Policy is an essential component of the Single Market to ensure that the EU takes co-ordinated action to address disparities resulting from market failures and to invest in competitiveness, research and innovation, education and training. These elements constitute the lion’s share of the EU budget, so the budgetary questions posed in scenario 1 would need to be addressed under Scenario 2 as well. The White Paper does not address these at all.

Scenario 3 – Those who want more do more

This scenario, the so-called multi-speed approach, would see formal recognition of differentiated levels of co-operation within the EU.

To a certain extent a multi-speed Europe already exists, seen in the Eurozone and Schengen, as well as opt-outs/opt-ins within the area of justice and home affairs, although the departure of the UK and British exceptionalism would take away one of the strong proponents of ‘different treatment to the others’. One of the challenges of multi-speed will be to ensure that it does not lead to the unintended consequence of further fragmentation within the EU.

Therefore, we agree with the Commission’s White Paper that multi-speed should strengthen the Single Market, and should also maintain common standards in employment, competition, social and environmental legislation across the EU, as well as reinforcing the four freedoms that are at the basis of the Single Market. It also means a central role for Cohesion Policy, delivered at EU level and across all regions, on which we comment further in our consideration of scenario 4 below.

Scenario 4 – Doing less more efficiently

This scenario would need to define which areas would be prioritised within an EU for strengthened co-operation, whilst other areas would be dropped where EU intervention was considered less efficient. The ultimate goal would be to clarify where the EU is responsible and where national governments are responsible, hence closing the gap between ‘promise and delivery’.

The CPMR has already highlighted one of its major concerns with this scenario: the backhand attack on Cohesion Policy (described as regional development) as one of the areas where EU intervention ‘is perceived as having more limited added value, or as being unable to deliver on promises’. We would argue that Cohesion Policy is a fundamental pillar of the EU and a necessary compliment to the Single Market, providing the glue that keeps the EU united. Therefore, any scenario focusing on doing less must include Cohesion Policy as a central element.

Scenario 4 also poses uncertainty about the status of other areas of special interest for the CPMR such as research, innovation, mobility in education, maritime affairs, climate change or transport. Would these be considered part of the core? Or would they be left to national governments? And what about the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy?

Finally, scenario 4 (echoing elements of scenario 2) sees a more limited role for the EU in some aspects of the regulatory framework for the Single Market with social and employment policy identified as one of the areas where regulation would be left to national governments to determine. To conclude, therefore, this scenario as described raises many worrying questions, and is one of the least attractive options for the CPMR regions given the real threat it poses to policies and priorities of central importance to regions.

Scenario 5 – Doing much more together 

Viewed as the least likely of the five scenarios, the final scenario presented in the White Paper would lead to a deepened union, with a strengthened role for EU action across many areas. The key issue for the CPMR would be to see how such a process would take place and what it would mean for regions.

The Commission notes that this scenario would raise questions around the ‘legitimacy’ of the EU to act, and from our perspective the role of the regions within this new approach would be a fundamental concern for CPMR member regions to ensure that concerns around disconnect or remoteness of Brussels and the EU Institutions were addressed. Similarly, it would pose questions around the place and role of territorial cohesion, the implications of strengthening economic and monetary union for the regional level and several other issues directly affecting regions.

Furthermore, given the current weak voice for regions within the EU Institutions and the structures and policy/law-making process, we believe this would also need to be addressed for a deepened Union to work properly.


[i] Jacques Delors Insitut, January 2017, Report ‘Brexit and the EU Budget: Threat or Opportunity’

[ii] Centre for European Reform, February 2017, Article ‘ The 60bn Brexit Bill : How to Disentangle Britain from the EU Budget’; Report ‘The 60bn Brexit Bill : How to Disentangle Britain from the EU Budget’