Agenda item


The Policy and Business Development Officer tabled the following report:


“1.0      Purpose of Report or Summary of main Issues


            The purpose of this report is to provide a summary update to Members on the recent visit to Brussels.


2.0       Recommendations


            Members are asked to note the update provided. 


3.0       Main report


            Key Issues


            Members are reminded that, it was agreed that ‘That the Committee agrees to an all-party deputation plus appropriate officers from the Council be appointed to visit Brussels in relation to the ongoing Brexit developments and noted that the upcoming European Week of Regions and Cities from 7-10th October has been identified as an appropriate time to attend’.


            The delegation consisted of Councillors De Faoite, Mc Laughlin, Hanvey, Flynn and Hutchinson and an officer.  A delegation from NILGA was also in Brussels over the same period and both delegations jointly attended a number of the meetings. 


            The European Week of Regions and Cities is an annual four-day event during which cities and regions showcase their capacity to create growth and jobs, implement European Union cohesion policy, and prove the importance of the local and regional level for good European governance.  To ensure that we gained as much learning as possible, members of the delegation attended as many different events as practical. Among the events that members of the delegation attended were:


·        NI Executive Office Event  - ‘Urban Policy and locally led strategies in a new financial perspective’

·        NI Executive/Department of Health Event - ‘Achieving Award Winning Healthcare Transformation’

·        Galway Capital of Culture Launch

·        Fighting Food Waste

·        Social media breakfast for young elected politicians

·        Building regional skills ecosystems

·        Better evidence on cross-border regions and INTERREG impacts

·        Regions and Cities catalyse social innovation

·        Understanding the economic impact of cultural heritage in European regions

·        Hacking Growth - boosting entrepreneurial ecosystems in European regions

·        How to engage local stakeholders in policy and decision-making


            Over the course of the visit the delegation also met with the following:


·        Andrew Elliot, Head of Office, NI Executive Office in Brussels – this meeting was also attended by an officer from the UK’s Permanent Representation to the European Union who provided an update in relation to the position around funding

·        Nina Obermaier, Adviser to Taskforce 50

·        Rory O’Donnell,  Director EU Trade Policy at the UK’s Permanent Representation to the European Union

·        Gunnar Selvik, Director Oslo Region European Office


            The delegation also had the opportunity to attend the UK Delegation to Committee of the Regions’ pre-plenary meeting and had the opportunity to contribute to their discussion around Brexit.   The delegation also attended an informal networking dinner organised by the Local Government Association’s office in Brussels.  Members of the English, Welsh and Scottish Associations and NILGA also attended this dinner.


            Members of the delegation also took the opportunity to have side meetings and attend events organised by their affiliated party groupings. 


            Grainia Long, Commissioner for Resilience was also in Brussels during the European Week of Regions and Cities event and spoke at several events including, the NI Executive Office Event - ‘Urban Policy and locally led strategies in a new financial perspective’  and the DEEDS workshop (Dialogue on Decarbonisation) which is part of a new strategic approach by the EU to help cities decarbonise. 


            A key theme within all the discussions was that it was important that views from all the different perspectives in Belfast and the wider region were presented in Brussels and that ongoing engagement would be welcomed. Key points to come out from the various meetings were:


-       Importance of partnership working both at the city/regional level with other stakeholders and with other cities/regions

-       Working with other cities/regions provides opportunities to learn from their experiences, share best practice and collaborate on developing solutions to common problems 

-       There are potential opportunities for us to develop city to city relationships but these will require further exploration

-       The NI Executive Office in Brussels are keen for the Council  to continue to engage with them and to use their experience and insight to build partnerships

-       The meeting with the Oslo Region European Office provided a good insight into how a region not in the EU, but in the EEA effectively exercises soft power

-       In relation to the ability to access future EU funding programmes this will depend on the type of exit and the agreements that are reached; Peace funding will continue as separate legislation exists  


            Financial & Resource Implications


            A budget of up to £10,000 was approved by the SP&R Committee to enable the visit to take place, which would be covered from the existing Place and Economy departmental budget. 


            Equality or Good Relations Implications/Rural Needs Assessment


            There are no implications relating to this report.”


            During discussion, the delegation gave thanks to the Policy and Business Development Officer for her assistance on the visit and reported that it had been a useful learning experience.


            Members raised concerns in relation to the access of regional funding and reported that the next round of Peace Funding was for the period 2021-2027 and that Erasmus student programme would be run via Dublin.


            Several Members questioned the potential to work with other cities to maximise opportunities and reported that links with other UK Council’s had been made via the Local Government Association in relation to the Council’s work on resilience and climate change.  The Direct of Economic Development reported that work was ongoing in relation to the 4 Cities - 3 Strings Music Programme (Galway, Boston and Nashville) and the Galway European Capital of Culture 2020.   


            One Member also reported that, during one of the conferences, research into the potential to fight food waste had been presented, such as how to increase the usage of ‘doggy bags’ in restaurants to change behaviours. The Strategic Director of City and Neighbourhood Service noted that this research could be considered as part of wider discussions on tackling food waste.


            The Chairperson advised that there was the potential for one more plenary session of the European Cities of the Regions, that the UK delegation would be able to attend, however, the two Northern Ireland seats had not been filled.   


After discussion, the Committee noted the contents of the report and agreed to write to the European Committee of the Regions to enquire why the allocated seats for Northern Ireland Representatives on the Committee had not been filled and to clarify the process for appointing Northern Ireland delegates.