We met Corina Cretu, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, to discuss the current challenges Europe is facing in supporting jobs and economic growth. She stressed that, 40 years after its creation, regional policy is the most important investment tool of the EU. The new 2014-2020 priorities are research and innovation, the digital agenda, support to SMEs and the low-carbon economy. Regarding green growth, European Union will invest more than EUR 38 billion in the low-carbon economy, which is twice the amount spent during the previous funding period. These investments will help regions and cities invest in energy-efficient buildings, renewable energy, smart grids and sustainable urban transport. Commissioner Crețu also stressed that we have to cut red tape: “We do need further simplification of our procedures, while preserving sound administrative and financial management. I know this is a difficult challenge, but I do not want to hear again that an SME is no longer interested in receiving our support, because it finds it too lengthy or bureaucratic.”

We met Annabelle Jaeger, member of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Regional Council (France) with responsibility for biodiversity, to hear her thoughts on the negotiations for COP21 that are currently underway. She emphasised that it was possible to make our environmental commitments even more robust by suggesting an even greater reduction in CO2 emissions: “By 2030, we believe that Europe could reduce emissions by half compared with 1990 levels, meet 40% of its energy consumption from renewable energy sources and make energy savings of 40%, particularly in the construction and transport sectors.”