500 millions of Europeans are celebrating Europe Day today. By doing so, we mark the anniversary of the historic speech of Robert Schuman, Foreign Affairs Minister of France, in which he called upon European nations to engage in an unprecedented integration process.
66 years have elapsed since Robert Schuman’s speech and we can fairly say that, thanks to his efforts and those of a long list of exceptional people who devoted their lives to European integration, today we live in another Europe. We live in a free, peaceful Europe, where we can live, study, work, love and travel whenever and wherever we want, regardless of the place in which we were born or grew up.
Furthermore, there is almost no place in the Union, where we cannot see a mark of what Europe has done or is doing for us all. As European Commissioner for Regional Policy, I have already had the opportunity to visit almost all 28 EU countries and note on the spot how EU policies have helped change the life of people on the ground. I am particularly happy and proud that EU cohesion policy has played a great role in this success story.
Cohesion policy has supported and is supporting hundreds of thousands of projects in all 274 EU regions, boosting the engines of tomorrow’s growth, jobs and quality of life; such as innovation, ICT, SME competitiveness, the low-carbon economy, sustainable transport or social inclusion.
This is why I am so glad that the European Commission has just launched a campaign called “Europe in My Region”, which seeks to encourage citizens to discover how much Europe is present in their lives, by learning more about EU-funded projects all around Europe. Running from 29 April to 11 June and involving over 1200 events in 23 EU countries, this campaign is organised around four different initiatives: the EU Open Project Days, a treasure hunt, a photo competition and a blogging campaign.
Throughout May, EU funds’ beneficiaries will present their projects to citizens during the EU Open Project Days and an online map will help geo-localise the projects adhering to this initiative. Meanwhile, citizens will be invited to participate to a treasure hunt hosted by 18 countries and a total of 45 regions. Treasure hunters will have to find hidden hints in some co-funded projects and reply to an online quiz.
In parallel, the 5th edition of the Facebook photo competition, which runs from 2 May to 28 August, aims to celebrate projects that are making a real difference to local communities: To enter the competition, citizens need to take a photo of a project receiving EU funding, with the plaque or billboard with funding information and the EU flag somewhere in the picture. Three winners will get the chance to win a photography course with a professional photographer and a trip to Brussels.
Last but not least, the most talented bloggers posting about local projects will be invited to Brussels to participate to the media programme of the European Week of Regions and Cities (10-13 October 2016).
As Romanian Commissioner, I would like to encourage people in Romania to participate in these events. Since accession in 2007, it is so much that cohesion policy has done in our country to change the present of people and prepare the future of our children, in terms of new railways and motorways, active support to SMEs creating jobs, improvement of living environment, etc. This is certainly a great opportunity to demonstrate what Romanians are capable to build a better and stronger Europe, with whose destiny we are now more committed than ever.