Markku Markkula (Kolari, Finland) has been the President of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) since February 2015. He is a member of the National Coalition Party in Finland and a former member of the Finnish Parliament (1995-2003). He has also been a member of several High Level Expert Groups, such as the EU Smart Specialisation Mirror Group.
Markkula believes that regions can be the pioneers of a European renewal in order to change the idea of top-down policies which citizens associate with the functioning of Europe.
What could Helsinki and Finland teach Europe about the Smart Cities strategy?
We have found out that we are not operating at an effective level yet ourselves either, so it is important to experiment faster, piloting activities, learning and sharing the experience with other cities.
This is one of the issues with the Smart Catalonia strategy as well, how we can integrate the work done in different regions, in different parts of Europe. How can we seek synergies and co-create something which will be partly tested in one city and partly in another, and then learn from both experiences.
The Committee of the Regions (CoR) considers that if we are investing enormous amounts of money in research and innovation through the Horizon 2020 programme, it is important to get the results of the research projects already during the research itself, not waiting until a project is over and the publish some results as a report.
This is what we are doing very actively in the Helsinki Region inside Finland and looking at our own priority areas where we could find now more European collaboration with the research. We respect the work of our researchers and experts, but we need to integrate their findings into political decision making.
Learning from this piloting and experimenting and having a strong role with the political decision markers is the key. That is something that we want to encourage more and where we have a lot of good experiences.
How can the Committee of the Regions help in that process?
During the first months of my Presidency I have had several meetings with Commissioner Carlos Moedas, who is in charge of Research and Innovation, and with Commissioner Corina Creţu, in charge of Regional Development, so with both we have drafted our joint agenda, a kind of working road map. We are analysing from the CoR how we can get our regions to be the pioneers of this European renewal.
What will be the greatest challenge of your mandate as President of the Committee of the Regions?
It is not one single issue, it is more a question of mindset. We need to change the perception of our citizens that Europe is dominated by top-down policies. We need to change that attitude, not just paying lip service that regions are crucial for any development, but we need to have some kind of bottom-up movement involving regions and cities so that citizens are more integrated and involved in the development of bottom up policies, especially taking advantage of a digitalised world. It is very much smart citizen development as well.
How can the Committee of the Regions help implement Juncker’s Investment Plan?
We are very much involved in this, encouraging the implementation of operations locally to boost regional collaboration platforms with investment banks and more institutions to have the better quality in this investment targets.
A good example is that Europe needs new jobs, so we encourage our regions to develop examples of concepts where they integrate entrepreneurial start-ups as part of the more traditional investments in housing and infrastructures. Digitalisation is a driver, but local decision makers should also review the opportunities and bring these concrete examples for the European Investment Plan.
Source: Aquí Europa