The in-person meeting in Milan for the political talks and the celebration of the handover of the presidency of the Four Motors for Europe has proved a real value for the political delegations of Lombardy, Catalonia, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Baden-Württemberg, represented respectively by Undersecretary to the Presidency Alan Christian Rizzi, the Minister for Foreign Action, Institutional Relations and Transparency Bernat Solé i Barril, the Regional Councillor Astrid Baud-Roche, and the Director at the State Ministry Karin Scheiffele. Gathering at Palazzo Lombardia, the Lombardy regional headquarter, the Four Motors for Europe had the opportunity to make a balance about achieved cooperation and the ways forward in response to the challenges raised by the needs for the recovery. Under the leadership of Undersecretary Alan Christian Rizzi, the main achievements of the Lombardy presidency (19th April 2019-25th September 2020) were presented. A special thank was addressed to the working groups of the network and to the organizations and associations from Lombardy who worked closely in cooperation with the Lombardy Region for the implementation of major events. High level representatives from Confindustria Lombardia, Fondazione Regionale per la Ricerca Biomedica, ANCI-Associazione Nazionale Comuni Italiani, Lombardia branch, Fondazione Lombardia per l’Ambiente, Cluster Lombardo della Mobilità and Politecnico Milano, Lombardia Aerospace Cluster, ASST Fatebenefratelli Sacco with the Casa Pediatrica, attended the institutional meeting at Palazzo Lombardia.
The thematic core that characterised the work programme of the Lombardy presidency, titled “Four Motors for Europe: blazing the trail”, was innovation and the ability to project into the future. The four regions, together and through mutual learning, can manage and anticipate major changes and cooperate to build adequate responses to the emerging needs. The same objectives have emerged in all their urgency as a result of the outbreak of the pandemic from Sars-Cov-2, which after Lombardy has also heavily impacted Catalonia, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Baden-Württemberg.
Before the outbreak of the pandemic, the activities focused on the following six priority areas of cooperation:
- personalised medicine with regard to the quality and future of care services;
- policies and predictive tools for the efficiency of government action;
- eco-innovative production chains and Industry 4.0;
- innovative platforms in the agri-food chains;
- training for the professions of the future;
- new forms of relationship with millennials and the fight against bullying.
For each area of collaboration, Lombardy organised at least one event with the partner regions, with the involvement of experts from the administrations and stakeholders of the Four Motors for Europe.
Despite the emergency situation faced by all four regions, the Four Motors for Europe considered it important to further strengthen the dialogue (political and within the working groups) and during the emergency continued to exchange, mainly through virtual meetings, about policies and measures designed to prepare the exit from the crisis and the relaunch of economic and social activities through investments, including green and digital ones, acting as drivers for recovery and competitiveness.
The political meeting on 25th September offered a significant opportunity for the four partner regions to also share an update about the priorities, expectations, and achievements for the economic recovery. “I consider it a fundamental asset to be able to meet in person today in order to reflect together on the prospects and urgencies for cooperation within the Four Motors for Europe as well as on the role the Four Motors for Europe can play in the European Union. We are all engaged, at all levels, to identify the priorities and the ways to build a “Renaissance” of Europe, to be ever more able to respond to emerging needs in order to ensure - our territories as well as Europe as a whole - competitive capacity” stated Undersecretary Rizzi while opening the official meeting at Palazzo Lombardia. In view of the restrictions to movement of people and the heavy impacts of the pandemic on key economic sectors of the economies of the Four Motors for Europe, the four regions believe the circulation of ideas allows the Four Motors to act as laboratories for renewed and sustainable economic and social models and as driving forces for a transformative resilience along the social, economic and environmental dimensions.
Catalonia takes over the presidency of the Four Motors for Europe from Lombardy and will hold it until autumn 2021. The Catalan Presidency wants to show the commitment of the Four Motors for Europe to global challenges. The programme of the Catalan Presidency places the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda at its centre, as well as the European Green Deal, in order to strengthen the transformative resilience of our societies. The Catalan Presidency will focus on recovering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as announced by the Catalan Foreign Minister Bernat Solé. “We will tackle the consequences of the pandemic with the compass of the 2030 Agenda, which has a holistic vision and interconnected Sustainable Development Goals that require integrated solutions that are cross-cutting, effective and real for our citizens”, Solé explained. “We can only respond to the actual European challenges with more democracy. Also with more collaboration and networking as we do in the Four Motors for Europe”, the Catalan Minister said. “After three decades, we have shown that bonds of solidarity and cooperation like ours give us more strength and capacity to react in adverse times. It is time to do it again and to empower the network to be a key actor in Europe’s post-Covid future”, he added. Solé explained how during the pandemic there had been examples of this cooperation between territories. He noted that “it is precisely this spirit of sharing and understanding, present since the beginning of our alliance, which makes us feel proud to belong to one of the first European networks of territories, created at a time when the European project was expanding rapidly”.
From Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Councillor Astrid Baud-Roche congratulated the work of the Lombardy presidency, led in a particularly difficult context, and wished full success to Catalonia for the year to come. She welcomed the priorities presented by the Catalonia presidency, in line with global challenges: “The impacts of climate and environmental crisis on our lives are more and more severe and concrete. The European Commission has made it a priority with the Green Deal. It has to be a priority of our actions as well”. She recalled that Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is very committed to supporting circular economy and hydrogen mobility in the Region and in the Alps. Councillor Baud-Roche also welcomed the initiatives that the Four Motors are taking to help the economic actors affected by the crisis, particularly a « passport » project which will facilitate business and cooperation.
Karin Scheiffele from Baden-Württemberg equally expressed her gratitude to Lombardy region for a successful presidency in difficult times and highlighted the strengths of the network. She reminded, that the Four Motors for Europe were and are in close contact with each other even during the most difficult moment of crisis. Regular communication took place at both political and administrative levels. “The good and close cooperation that so many people at all levels have invested in the past years in building up and consolidating relations between our regions has paid off in times of challenges. Even in the immediate crisis situation, contact has never broken down and we have supported each other wherever possible. In my view, European solidarity has taken place on a regional level much faster and has worked better than between states.” She added that the tragic and dramatic consequences and overcoming the corona pandemic also offered an opportunity to set a new course and new priorities. “We can now equip ourselves with the necessary tools to cope with similar crisis situations even better in the future.” she explained. Karin Scheiffele concluded in wishing all the best to the Catalan Presidency of the Four Motors for Europe and assured the full support of Baden-Württemberg.
At the end of the meeting the authorities of the Four Motors for Europe jointly signed the position paper “Analysis of the Covid-19 situation, consequences for the mobility sector and countermeasures” that brought together analysis and proposals the Working Group “Electric Mobility and Future Transport Technologies” of the Four Motors for Europe brought to the attention of the policy-makers in the four partner regions. The four regions agreed on the fact that this crisis is a complex challenge for society, politics and economy in Europe. However, it also offers a perspective for innovation in new areas of green mobility. A pan-European market with restructured, abundant and fully operational European supply chains will allow leading European regions like the Four Motors to emerge stronger from the crisis and to enhance the overall green mobility.