Written by Christiaan van Lierop.
This year’s European Week of Regions and Cities will truly be like no other. Not only will the event be taking place online due to local Coronavirus restrictions but it will also extend over three consecutive weeks for the first time ever in the event’s history. Each week will focus on a different headline theme, covering in turn Empowering Citizens, Cohesion and Cooperation, and Green Europe, with EWRC 2020 expected to provide the usual rich forum for discussion and debate.
But of course it’s not just this year’s special circumstances that makes this event so unique. After all, the world’s largest annual gathering of regional movers and shakers is always going to attract attention, with some of the biggest names in regional policymaking joining the party this year, albeit from the comfort of their own living room. And while the only face-to-face meetings this year may be taking part through the prism of a computer screen, the discussions will be no less passionate for all that. Against the backdrop of the Coronavirus crisis and with negotiations on the post-2020 cohesion policy framework in full swing, there will certainly be no shortage of things for this year’s participants to talk about, with the event providing local and regional stakeholders with a unique opportunity to share their experiences on the front line.
As in the past, EPRS has also published a Topical Digest to tie in with the event. Prepared specially for the 2020 EWRC, the publication showcases a selection of briefings published by the European Parliament on many of the key topics up for debate at the EWRC, such as the Just Transition, cross-border regional healthcare or digital democracy among many others. And although our special information stand has gone virtual this year, visitors will still be able to visit it online to find out more about the EPRS’ research activities, and download a selection of our specialist publications on regional policy.
But there’s much more to our involvement in this year’s event than just counting clicks on our virtual stand. EPRS will once again be organising a workshop on research as part of the EURegions Week College, which replaces the Master Class of past years. Unlike previous years, however, this year’s workshop will be open to all not just to students and early career researchers – and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to present our work to a wider audience. The workshop will show participants how EPRS supports the work of the European Parliament during the policy making process, and consider how closer links may be established between researchers in the academic world and policy-makers in the EU institutions.
Far from talking to an empty computer screen, we will also be asking participants to get actively involved in the discussions. As ever, we want to hear what they have to say – so we too can learn from the event. At EPRS, we understand that ‘Empowering through knowledge’, far from being just our motto, is in reality a two-way process.