Shortly after his election as the new president of the European Committee of the Regions, we met Markku Markkula to discuss not only his views and priorities for his two-and-a-half year term of office, but also his local and regional experience in his native Finland. He stressed that Europe needs to rebuild the trust of its citizens, be more engaged at neighbourhood level, preserve its values and principles, but, first and foremost, in a time of continuing economic crisis, be able to support business-friendly policies and be future-oriented: “Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman had both political courage and vision; today, if we want to renew the European project, we have to be more courageous and innovative and perhaps less politically correct.”

On the occasion of the Scottish referendum, we met in Geneva an eminent expert on regional questions, Emeritus Professor of the University of Geneva, Charles Ricq. Professor Ricq is secretary-general of the European Centre for Observation of the Regions (COEUR). In the course of the interview he stressed that it was important to speak not of a Europe of regions but of a Europe with regions.

Europe is still searching for a way to get back on its feet. We met with Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General since 2006, to discuss the challenges facing Europe’s regions and cities. Secretary-General Gurría stressed that “policies that take account of regional differences will be crucial to mitigating the long-term consequences of the crisis and tackling challenges such as population aging, environmental sustainability and inclusive growth. Our countries need new and original ideas for creating growth and jobs and enhancing public investment, education and transparency. This will require engaging and empowering regions and cities.”