From Brussels with LOVE*

Policy op-ed by Claire Roumet


Publication date

February 17, 2022

We rarely talk of love in a professional context. We might say “I love my job” or “I really love my colleagues!” but anything beyond that is not in our culture. And yet, “love” could bestow upon us the necessary momentum to successfully lead the transformation of our society.

Although we may not choose to make love an “essential tool for transitions”, we are nonetheless acutely aware that the hate that is developing, that continues to spread disinformation, and that triggers increased aggressiveness towards our elected representatives, must be countered, that the hate of some towards others represents a significant risk to democracy. Hate not only erodes our capacity for mutual support, for understanding otherness, but also our respect towards our environment.

The European Commissioner for Regional Cohesion and Structural Reform, Elisa Ferreira, revealed the main points of the 8th Cohesion Report. She calls for European policies that are no longer “blind” to regional disparities.  Her mantra: “Do not harm cohesion”. While this is not exactly a declaration of love, placing the desire for cohesion at the heart of all European policies means finally recognising that each territory is different – that each region is differently influenced by imperatives of competitiveness, climate change or demographic decline.  An entire menu of opportunities and resources, with an almost infinite palette of nuances, is needed to describe how European policies “land” in our territories in practical terms. It represents a real, almost Copernican shift, not to impose the same unique objective on all territories (we go digital, we specialise to be more competitive, etc.). Here, the approach is to have a common goal and to then look at what kind of support will be needed in each territory (for Energy Cities, we could even say “in each neighbourhood”)! I’m getting carried away… Perhaps it’s this month’s theme that has me reading into these announcements through rose-coloured glasses! I can see, however, that growth continues to be used as the eternal evaluation criterion… Growth!

The 8th Cohesion Report (these three-yearly reports are an obligation of the European Treaties given that cohesion is one of the Union’s primary missions) is clear in its conclusion: there has been no significant progress over the last period. Taking care of all territories, developing economic and cultural exchange between them, remains an absolute necessity for a pacified Europe**.

Three issues will soon be brought to the table, which promises a profound change in European action:

  • all policies must take into account their impact on the cohesion between territories;
  • a “true” multi-level governance must be established: this cannot remain a slogan, it must become a reality!
  • visionary investment needs to be designed: not just green and digital, but investment that prepares us for the upheavals to come. 

This conversation is promising, it could provide us with fresh impetus for a fruitful (or dare I say – loving?) relationship between the territories and Europe!

* The owner of this lovely title is Brook Riley who has recently published this OP-ED

** I could probably use a little psychoanalytical exercise to draw out the threads of this connection that is automatically made in my mind… between nurturing relationships and love… but that’s not the purpose of this editorial 😊)