The global processes that are changing the geo-economic balance will impact also the Northeast. A defensive response risks to weaken the competitive regional advantages and to jeopardize EU achievements weakening EU internationally. Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia should form trans-regional partnerships to strengthen productive chains and bring back to EU "lost" part of the global supply chains, in the meantime as well as areas that also supporting EU areas that the transfer of the '14-'21 budget cycle could penalized. This strategy seems useful given that the Northeast is more exposed than Central and Northern Europe to the global processes.

 

The Italian North-East regions, along with other European regions, are facing a long period of transition towards a new global geo-economic and geo-political order. This order will be determined by the actions and reactions of supranational, state and regional entities to some (economic, demographic, climate and energy change) global processes that will affect more and more the choices of political, economic and social actors. If the European institutions will certainly have a significant role and a responsibility in this game, you cannot escape the obvious fact that the pressures of the Member States and their regions will be crucial in a Europe that is increasingly the "Europe of the Nations" .

In this sense the responses of national and regional Member States' entities can vary from a reaction of defense, protection and closure that could also expand and compound to the detriment even of the Single Market, to a cooperative attitude that would lead to identify partners in the first place on EU, for an "active" defense and safeguard of the European competitiveness not conflicting with the objective of social and economic cohesion.

A defensive response and closure could in fact prevent the preservation of  regional competitive advantages. At the EU level the adding up of not- cooperative strategies could undermine the achievements and to prevent the EU to play an international game (to defend its values and interests) that promises to be hard enough. This strategy seems beneficial when one considers that the Italian Northeast is particularly vulnerable, in comparison with the regions of Central and Northern Europe, to the global processes in place and to the same economic globalization, as indicated by various analysis commissioned by DG Regio, including "Regions 2020".

The Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia should, in other words, look for partner regions to build trans-regional partnerships to strengthen a range of selected sectoral productive chains to bring back to Europe "lost" parts  of global supply chains, supporting at the same time the socio-economic development of areas that might be penalized by the transfer of Cohesion Policy smaller amounts in the planned budget cycle 2014-2021 compared to the 2007-2013 one. The identification of potential partners, although the scenario analysis mentioned above are usable, should be implemented, especially for regions with heterogeneous areas such as Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, at the provincial level. However, the NUTS-3 level is still not widely used and some programs - such as ESPON - are beginning to fill this information gap.

 

If the innovation system has been particularly studied in terms of trans-regional cooperative models, there are other topics that must be addressed in this context, primarily the education and training. Infrastructure-building initiatives in the broader sense should therefore be identified by the regions' leaders' or 'co-leader. These initiative should be aimed to make manifest the  "partnership potential" of other regions belonging to the current EU or to the New European Neighborhood. A form of management borrowed from the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation seems to be a suitable formula.

The European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation has legal personality, a budget and dedicated personnel. So a legal instrument like the EGTC by its very nature could provide a hierarchical structure with one or more leader regions who would manage a Trans-regional Fund of Intervention for other regions and would act as policy-makers. The contributions to the Fund would be made by the co-leader regions. At the operational level, the reference would be to the integrated programs of economic and social cooperation but with some significant differences.

The hierarchy implicit in this proposal not only comes from the inter-regional currents differential but is (and it will be even more in the coming decades) a result of the response that will give European regions to the changes related to the four major global processes mentioned above.

Not all European regions will be winner, as the different resources endowments and institutional, socio-economic and demographic characteristics (the initial conditions of any scenario analysis) identify different strengths and opportunities that a region can exploit, and diverse weaknesses and risks it will face. For example, not all EU regions can enjoy the effects of innovation and the positive impact on productivity and the spread of new technologies. Even when they have the technology diffusion, the comparatively poorer regions can be so decentralized that they cannot enjoy the spill-over effects in a way to climb the technology ladder.

These considerations apply also to the New European Neighborhood (both Eastern and Mediterranean)'s countries, as their integration with the "corporate" Europe is increasing but is suffering from a remoteness (peripherality) respect to the EU that is not only geographical but also geo-political (think of all the ambiguities and limits of the European Neighborhood Policy). These countries have already attracted the interest of East Asia, as evidenced by the current Chinese offensive in the Western Balkans. The development of these areas would benefit in the first instance the most vulnerable regions of the Eastern and Mediterranean EU.

(This paper partly summaries an article being published on "Veneto Internazionale 2010", edited by Unioncamere Veneto - Centre for Studies and Economic and Social Research)


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