• 13 European regions have submitted a joint contribution to the public consultation on the Europe 2020 Strategy
• They stress the need to focus more on demographic change, including the population decline, age structure and territorial distribution of the population and migration movements
• They highlight the difficulties of the regions affected by demographic change in reaching the EU2020 targets and warn on the fact that the whole EU will be affected by demographic change consequences in the next years
Brussels, 31 October 2014.- In the framework of the DCRN, 13 European regions from Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden have submitted today a joint answer to the public consultation launched by the European Commission on the Europe 2020 Strategy.
In this contribution, they point out that the Europe 2020 Strategy has not paid enough attention to demographic change, even though the whole EU will be affected in the upcoming years. They warn against a polarization of regions, where some prosperous and central regions face over-population problems while other parts of Europe (nearly 75% of its territory) experience depopulation and a rapid increase in the ratio of older population. Therefore, DCRN calls for a “balanced” growth in the EU -together with the sustainable, inclusive and smart growth envisaged by the strategy- in order to avoid the existence of two categories of regions: those attaining the EU 2020 objectives and those lagging behind. In this regard, the contribution shows how ageing and shrinking regions have difficulties in reaching the EU 2020 targets concerning the employment rate, the part of GDP invested in research and the risk of poverty rate.
Although ageing is taken into account in the current strategy, especially inside the “Innovation Union” flagship initiative, the whole complexity of demographic challenge is not faced. The EU initiatives in this field are very much driven by a technological innovation perspective whereas many of the problems related to the demographic change could often be solved non-technological innovation measures, such as in the fields of transport, housing or urban-rural development.
For the further development of the Strategy, DCRN stresses the need of a territorial approach based on a new benchmarking system and regional indicators (e.g population change, fertility rates, migration balance…) that can properly reflect the challenge of demographic change. It also underlines the importance that the European budget and European policies, specially the Cohesion Policy, can be efficiently used to overcome the demographic challenges that prevent the affected regions from attaining 2020 goals. To do so, DCRN suggests the creation of a new flagship initiative on demographic change and the introduction of a multilevel governance approach in the European Semester process, so that the regional disparities can be better taken into account.
As a final point, DCRN puts forward that the regions already facing the consequences of demographic change could act as forefront players in preventing and mitigating demographic change at EU level. For that, Europe 2020 should take seriously the demographic challenges and pay particular attention to these regions.