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Involvement of policy makers in RIS3 on regional level - case of Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok


Written by Katalin Herbály

 

The concept

How to implement it

Step in the RIS process

What can be expected?

A quote

The experience of Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok County

References

 

The concept


Smart Specialisation is a strategic approach to economic development through targeted support to research and innovation (R&I). It will form the basis for European Structural and Investment Fund interventions in R&I as part of the future Regional and Cohesion Policy's contribution to the Europe 2020 jobs and growth agenda.

More generally, smart specialisation involves a process of developing a vision, identifying competitive advantage, setting strategic priorities and making use of smart policies to maximise the knowledge-based development potential of any region, strong or weak, high- tech or low-tech. Developing RDI can be considered as the key factor in improving  the economic performance of any regions of Europe. Although the regional level is differs by country to country in their independence and responsibilities delegated by the Member States of the European Union.

Changes in the EU’s institutional structure seemed to herald the inclusion of a third tier of (regional) government in the EU policy process. The creation of the Committee of Regions (CoR), the inclusion of the subsidiarity principle in the Treaties and the provision  that regional ministers could attend the Council of Ministers generated the impression that regions could become substantial players in the European policy.

 

How to implement it


The subsidiarity principle became part of the European regional policy as a result of the Delors packages. The subsidiarity principle is one of the most important principle integrating the European Union, codified by the Article 3.b of the Maastricht Treaty. It says that all the decisions should take place on the lowest level, where the optimal information, decision making responsibility and their effects could be visible and effective.

The Maastricht Treaty established also the consultative body of the Committee of Regions, which offers regional entities their own institutional framework within the European Union. Although as a consultative body, it has a limited importance to be the representative of local and regional interests within the Union.

The CoR is an important organisation which put on the agenda the issue of multilevel governance (MLG) in Europe. Especially through its White Paper on Multilevel Governance (CdR 89/2009) it has tried to offer some practical steps for regional and local authorities how to implement subsidiarity principle in practice.

The White Paper is defining MLG as a subsidiarity, shared responsibility, financially decentralisation based territorial governance structure. The White  Paper  especially reflecting the fact, that there are many differences between the decision making power of regional structures in Europe, although the Member States are equal in a European level.

The direct relationships and communication lines between regional authorities and the European institutions can increased the know-how, information, and overall bargaining positions of regions in different policy fields. This is the case in Smart Specialisation Strategies as well.

Although S3 is a topic only in the last 2 years in the majority of EU regions and counties, but some of them have been already working on this issue for a longer period. Those who could have information and followed the discussion on the renewal of the cohesion and innovation policy as part of the general renewal of the EU strategy towards 2020 had an advantage in preparation time to create and adopt an S3 which is properly discussed and planned with the involvement of stakeholders.

 

Step in the RIS process


Some of the regions/counties have the opportunity to have a political representative in the CoR. This situation can be considered as an advantage from the point of view of gaining and providing information originating from the EU’s decision makers to the residents of the county.

This CoR member being an elected member of a local or regional authority often meets other elected politicians on different territorial level, so they can discuss problems and can find solutions together.

Especially if a regional minister or president is the representative then there is a logical order how information could be spread. The members of the region’s/county’s assembly/parliament must be informed first. Then all the mayors and heads of the different departments of the local governments need to have adequate knowledge of the concept at regional and local levels, as well. Then other stakeholders (colleges and universities, business entities, NGOs, other governmental organisations) can utilise the information received through a representative in an EU institution.

The above-mentioned functions can serve the aim of being well informed on the S3 Strategy for different groups of society, as the following quote from „The practical guide for ERDF Managing Authorities” attest:

’’The Europe2020 strategy is built on the three objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth to be implemented as 'three mutually reinforcing priorities'. In order to deliver on these goals and provide a response to the economic and financial crisis, it is of utmost importance that all involved actors connect these areas of action, involving all relevant stakeholders, developing synergies and boosting the added-value of  public  investments.” [Smart and Sustainable Growth through Smart Specialisation - A practical guide for ERDF Managing Authorities (November 2012)].  

In case of S3 strategies the full spectrum of interested stakeholders should be involved in the design of a Smart Specialisation Strategy. In mapping the organisations, the planners use the so-called classical triple helix grouping and its improved version, the quadruple helix grouping. In a way all these type of organisations listed below should have participated earlier in the management of domestic RDI, and the proposal for the  new  governance system also calculates with the participation of these types of organisations:

  • scientific organisations;
  • government organisations;
  • business entities;
  • NGOs.

These stakeholders will play an active role not only in the planning, but also in the implementation of S3 strategies.

 

What can be expected?


Multilevel governance can help in that to have not only a horizontal, but also a vertical partnership supporting the design and implementation of S3 strategies. Not exclusively in S3 strategy making process, but in any EU level strategy making process the utilisation of EU institutions, especially the CoR which is composed of regionally and locally elected members can help to access information in an early phase of new policy developments. Later the CoR member can also help the implementation of the created strategies. In case of S3 a major challenge for today policy-makers is how to ensure the financial resources for the implementation on regional and local level for their S3 strategy.

Combining different funds accessible directly from EU, from EU operational programmes allocated for Members States, national, regional and local funds are necessary to provide a suitable framework for S3 implementation. In the establishment of this financial background the role of policy-makers on every level of territorial governance is vital.

 

A quote


"A multi-level governance based approach is useful for the successful design and implementation of S3 strategies. Besides the locally created partnerships of quadruple helix stakeholders, access to information and effective interest representation on European and national level of policy-makers can help to ensure the necessary financial background for achieving the goals set in S3."

 

The experience of Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok County


Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok County lies in Central Hungary and is one of the three counties of the Észak-Alföld Region. The county shares borders with the Hungarian counties: Pest, Heves, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén, Hajdú-Bihar, Békés, Csongrád, and Bács-Kiskun which  provides  a good opportunity for cooperation given the relatively high number of the neighbouring counties. The rivers Tisza and Körös flow through the county. The seat of Jász-Nagykun- Szolnok County is Szolnok often mentioned as being the heart of the Great Plain. The favourable location (also meaning that the county is not far from the capital) and the variety of the available means of transport (public roads, railway, water routes and the airbase) are also valuable assets.

Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok is an underdeveloped county of Hungary, therefore an important regional development goal is to enhance the standard of living of its residents.

The S3 Strategy is one of the primary documents of Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok County for using the Structural Funds of the EU and that is why a new way of thinking is required for each of the stakeholders. The active participants (decision makers, researchers, entrepreneurs) must be familiar with the concept so that they could use it in their every day work and especially employ it in their future development.

The primary aims of the county’s S3 strategic goals are:

  • start  a  new-style  co-operation  in  the  Middle  Plain  and  develop  a  new  industrial agglomeration;
  • found a new R&D Innovation Centre for adaptive water resource management in Eastern Hungary.

The full spectrum of interested stakeholders has been involved in the design of the County’s Smart Specialisation Strategy. These stakeholders will play an active role in the implementation of the S3.

The President of the Self-Government of Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok County is member of the CoR as well. It helps to ensure a good information flow on the policy framework and financial assets available for S3 design and implementation.

 

Katalin Herbály


Dr. Katalin Herbály Ph.D. is member of the Unit of Agriculture and Rural Development since 2010 at the University College of Szolnok. She has her research focus on rural and local development. Especially interested in HR, R&D opportunities and innovation perspectives of local communities.

She was taking part in different international study  programmes, recently just spent an academic year in the US. She has a long list of publications in national and international journals.

 

References


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