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Recherche et développement régional durable

Corinne Larrue

Session 4. Les territoires du développement durable et le rôle du niveau régional / Territorial entities and sustainable development : the role of the regional level

Bridging the gap between scientific evidence and current practice ? Awareness of issues at regional level and means of action


François Desrentes

Texte intégral

  • 1 Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe, France.

1Note portant sur l’auteur1

2When we consider the concept of "region", we can define it in terms of economic, financial, budgetary and developmental issues. We will limit ourselves here to the concept of the political and administrative region, based on the functioning of development policies arising from European initiatives, because no longer can anything be done below the State level without support at the community level.

3The papers presented raise four issues :

1. Information

4Nowadays we are overwhelmed with information. But a surplus of information is not what we need at regional level, because our immediate reaction to the sort of excess we have today is to take only that which interests us. It is not a question of increasing value : it is clear that information is one thing, highlighting results is another.

5Taking the example of the "Life" programme and the "Life" week organised in Brussel. Out of 150 participants, three represented regional authorities, all the others were people who were already convinced. There is no merit in preaching to the converted. We must come back to the importance of emphasizing results : there are undisclosed treasures here whose value has not yet been put to good effect.

6A brochure about structural policies for the islands and coastal zones of DG Regio is being prepared, based almost entirely on two aspects : a rather lyrical view, and the funding programmes which have been made available to actors in the coastal zones and on the islands, to the extent that from reading such a document, it seems that the Commission's only added value is financial.

2. Systems of governance

7The second point concerns systems of governance. Indeed, a wide variety of situations currently exists in the regions of Europe. It is difficult to speak about regions in a monolithic way, as there are many differences in powers and means. The Spanish regions or German lander have nothing in common with the Swedish or British counties. It is therefore difficult to make these different regions work together and to integrate a number of single ideas. That is why a variety of tools and methods must be made available.

8As regards governance, the commission, in consultation with the regions, is looking at ways of modernising the European system of governance. Six areas of work have been planned, concerning essentially decision-making processes, institutional levels, and devolution and decentralisation. Following publication of the official report, those European regions which have legislative powers, i.e. the German lander, the Spanish and Italian regions, came together and agreed to request full and total subsidiarity moving towards power-sharing. Overall, this does not seem good, as the view taken by regions with legislative powers is based on the idea that the less powers the Commission has, the better. Among these powers, the environment is of course at the forefront, i.e. in regions with legislative powers, the environment is the first element to be delegated. As yet, there are no elements allowing further analysis.

3. Regions

9Another issue concerns knowing who carries responsibility for the regions as territories today. The answer is nobody ; there is support for political leaders and divided-up administrative regions, but not for regions as territories which could in turn sustain the principles of sustainable development. It is noticeable that there is no electorate linked to sustainable development in the regions, in the way that there is an agricultural or maritime electorate. It must not be forgotten that administrative boundaries partly prevent the existence of the physical notion of region.

4. The transnational and inter-regional dimension

10The fourth point concerns transnational and inter-regional dimensions. Regions are very attached to this notion, which is incontestably relevant in advancing the concrete implementation of the principles of sustainable development. At the regional level, it is almost impossible to set up programmes and projects based on the principles of sustainable development for two reasons. The first concerns time : all the successful programmes and projects of sustainable development have taken two to five years to prepare, which is the time needed for a development programme to be brought into effect. Nobody with political, administrative or other responsibilities would agree to take on any such programme or project knowing that it would reach maturity at the end of the planning period, and that the programmes themselves would be implemented during the following planning period. This could be improved with management initiative schemes. But in fact it seems that almost the opposite happens, as good management is considered to be the ability to use up credit in a given time. Financial bonuses are granted which can be five to six per cent of the amount of the programme. One must be realistic – a number of small things need to be changed which could improve the situation.


1 Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe, France.

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2002

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