jeudi 9 juin 2011

Regional Policy in Latin America - the role of the European Union

By Constanze Krehl

In 2008 the European Commission approved the Operational Programme Amazonia, a cooperation Programme involving French Guiana, Brazil and Suriname, with financial support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Under the European Territorial Cooperation objective also non-member states, especially those bordering the EU can benefit from the fund.

The cross border strategy for the Amazonia programme aims to enhance the territorial development of the involved regions, the protection of the natural and cultural heritage of the Amazon as well as cross-border economic activities and social cohesion. The economic programmes of the cross-border cooperation are focused especially on the field of tourism, whereas in the social context the main aim is to bring together the local populations. The total cost of the programme is 17.1 million Euros, involving also Suriname and Brazil financially, next to the ERDF, which covers up to 75%.

With the digitalisation of many aspects of our lives, including economic activities, social networking as well as education services, it is important to give broadband access to as many people as possible in order to avoid their economic and social exclusion. Thus, giving rural and less developed regions access to broadband internet connections is not only on the European regional development agenda. The cross-border project "Spany", co-financed by the ERDF and currently implemented in French Guiana, Suriname and the Brazilian region of Amapá, aims at the economic development of those regions by improving their digital access.

This example shows the importance of cross-border cooperation to improve the regional development within and outside the European borders.
In fact, the European Commission and Brazil are cooperating since many years in the field of regional development, their bilateral dialogue mainly focusing on the mutual exchange of experience and best practices, but also giving practical support to Brazil to enhance institution building as well as preparation and training of policy-makers and personnel to improve the implementation of regional policy in Brazil´.

The Brazilian National Regional Development Policy (PNDR) has the dual purpose of reducing regional inequalities and unlocking the development potential of the highly diverse regions of this continent-sized country.
Similar to the European Structural Policy, the PNDR pays special attention to economically less developed regions with a low income level (GDP). The regions are pooled in different meso-regions, enhancing regional integration and enabling common initiatives, based for example on their production focus. All programmes are organised and implemented with the support of the regional society, based on local participation and consultation.

The regional development policies in Latin America, based on European as well as national programmes, are essential for the economic growth and social development of the continent. The partnership, cooperation and dialogue between countries and regions of Latin America with the European Union have so far been very effective and should be expanded.
The ultimate objective of this cooperation could be a Latin American regional integration similar to the European Union, pooling financial and human resources of all participating countries and creating common strategies for all regions of the continent.

However, some steps have to be taken to achieve this objective. The economic framework of a single market, as targeted by MERCOSUR, the building of cross-border institutions based on multi-level governance as well as transparency and assessment of how money is allocated and spent are just some of the pre-conditions for an effective adoption of a Latin American regional policy. Whichever path the countries of Latin America take concerning regional development - the European Union stands at their side.

* Constanze Krehl is a Member of the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament and Coordinator for the S&D's Regional Policy. Since 1994 she is a Member of the European Parliament. After having chaired the Delegation of the European Parliament to Russia for many years, she is now member in the Delegation to the countries of Central and Latin America.