Annual Conference of the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR)

8-9 NOVEMBER 2012, Berlin (Germany)

Cross-border labour market mobility - experiences, problems, challenges

Speech by Nataliya Romanova, President of the Congress Chamber of Regions, Council of Europe

Check against delivery,

(pronounced in Russian)

I would like to thank the Association of European Border Regions you for the invitation, and I would like to thank in particular Mr Lambertz, President of the AEBR.

The Congress has very tight links with the AEBR, which has been the first Association of European Regions that signed a cooperation agreement with the Congress: it was in 2010.

For those of you who are not familiar with it, the Congress is a political assembly of local and regional elected politicians from 47 European countries, who represent more than 200,000 territorial communities of our continent. The Congress adopts resolutions, addressed to local and regional authorities, and recommendations, addressed to national governments, in several fields of relevance for self-government. Being an institution within the Council of Europe, the Congress has direct access to national governments of the 47 member states, with which maintains permanent dialogue. 

The Governance Committee of the Congress, chaired by Mr. Lambertz, is a pillar of the Congress and brings an important contribution to the governance of the European regions. 

To-day the economic and financial crisis, has impacted on all levels of governance – and in particular the local and regional levels, which often have to make hard choices with regard to budget cuts and the provision of social services -.

In this regard, and I get into today’s subject of the conference, having a job is a pillar of integration. 

Creating new businesses and eliminate the obstacles to labor market mobility are the keys factors for overcoming the economic and financial crisis and its impact on our communities. We need to ensure that European development brings growth and jobs to our societies.

Work makes it easier to feel that you belong and that you contribute to society. Today, it is difficult for many migrants to break into the regular labor market, and this is a problem which we have to solve. In today’s society we cannot afford to have a population which is fit for work but cannot break into the labor market, even if they want to.

But still, the Regions have a major role to play as economic poles. They have to ensure access to social rights and public services, which must include access to employment, education, health care, etc.

If we could create better conditions to start businesses, eliminating the obstacles the cross-border manpower mobility, it would probably be possible to increase commerce and businesses; this would increase the number of job opportunities and improve the conditions for taking on the challenges of the future.

Large parts of the EU economy involve small and medium-sized enterprises. The welfare of this continent truly depends on this type of enterprises. We need to make sure that the existing and new enterprises in Europe have the best possible conditions to grow and to continue their business activities. Regions can work to improve the conditions for starting and running businesses in Europe.

In addition to the current economic crisis, European regions have to face the “demographic challenge”. The ageing population in many parts of Europe means that fewer people have to support more people. We need to ensure that those who want to work should be able to work. We must remove as many obstacles as possible in order to let everybody fully contribute to the welfare of the society. As a matter of fact the ageing population also creates new needs for new businesses, and prompts new ideas regarding service and care. There is a market here, which is well-suited for new regional businesses, and we need to make businesses opportunities simpler and more flexible.

Last but not least, funding job creation initiatives is a real challenge.

There are undoubtedly many good examples in Europe on how to create financing opportunities for people. Micro-credits seem to be a way of creating good financing opportunities for new ideas and for people the banks have no interest in. We need to get better at promoting these best practices so that others can follow.

It is important that the existing opportunities for supporting and financing businesses are properly marketed and made accessible. Here it is useful to exchange experiences and best practices on how to reach the groups that are in the greatest need in the most efficient way.

We need to help match employment supply and demand in specific areas. Regional authorities can play in this matter an important role as intermediaries. In particular, the management of problems relating to irregular migration is an area where local and regional authorities are key actors as both promoters and implementers. They may organise dialogue and co-operation with countries of origin and transit.

In this respect, I would like to stress the importance of networking, of pulling together resources, efforts and activities in order to promote entrepreneurship at regional level.

May I finally inform you that the Congress is currently preparing a report in the Current Affairs Committee, on facilitating migrants’ access to regional labour markets. This report will look in particular into possible measures to simplify procedures for the evaluation of migrants’ diplomas and qualifications, and for promoting the informal recognition of their skills.

Your important contribution to-day will be taken into consideration for the Congress’ future work.