Slovenian actors: what requests on the future of Cohesion Policy investments?
Brainstorming on mountains’ needs in Slovenia
In May and June, Regional Development Agency for Podravje – Maribor organised 3 workshops on how to use the funds of the Cohesion Policy in the Slovenian mountains. Participants – from tourism providers to students and Partnership for Pohorje – were asked to reflect upon the needs their territory to become sustainable and resilient. Then, they moved this reflection towards some concrete project ideas that could be financed via the funds of the Cohesion Policy.
What do tourism providers ask for?
Held on 16th May in Limbuš, the first workshop mainly involved tourism providers. They expressed the need for more green and digital infrastructure and services, such as the installation of a small wind power plant to produce energy locally, or the renovation of mountain huts to make the territory ready to welcome guests.
Beyond this, all tourism stakeholders agreed on one main point. It is to say, the first step to building a resilient mountain area is to connect all local actors, from tourism providers to local producers, regional development agencies and other intermediaries.
What do students ask for?
On 25th of May 2022, students in Hoče were called to reflect upon their needs and wishes during the second workshop. Most of them said to be familiar with the Cohesion Policy. Cohesion Policy is perceived as opportunity to develop projects within different organisational frameworks they are involved with. In particular, students highlighted their needs for more e-mobility and environmentally friendly measures that should be introduced on national, regional as well as on local level.
What do regional representatives ask for?
The third workshop was held in Ruše on the 10th June 2022 and it involved the Partnership for Pohorje. This Partnership is the first and most advanced cooperation partnership between three regions, municipalities, tourism providers and tourism operators in Slovenia. They adopted joint strategy and action plan for 2022 –2030 that will benefit the mountain areas and foremost the citizens that do live there.
Representatives of this Partnership agreed that the possibility for municipalities to participate in all Cohesion Policy priorities and measures – introduced in the 2007–2014 period – greatly benefitted the mountain areas and should therefore be kept. Contrariwise, in the period 2014 – 2020 a new instrument for the implementation of regional development policy was introduced. This instrument limited the possibility of local communities to apply for the subsidies and grants to few measures of the Slovenian Operational Programme for the Cohesion Policy. Moreover, regional representatives agreed that the funds of Cohesion Policy should not replace the national co-financing of regional projects. Although Slovenia has the National Strategy 2030, the so-called Development Plan was not introduced. The representatives also discussed the possibility of introduction of two or more Operational Programmes, divided for East and West Cohesion Regions but this request was not accepted for the 2021-2027 period.
In Slovenia, the 2021– 2027 the Operational Programme is still in the draft. However, there are some possibilities that it will pursue the so-called endogenous regional policy. This policy would divide the measures for urban areas and the rest of local communities. It would be detrimental for local communities, and it would not be in line in line with the polycentric development model of Slovenia.
All three workshops revealed that the Cohesion Policy does play an important role in achieving sustainable development of the mountain areas. The key for thriving communities is cooperation between different stakeholders. Stakeholders have concrete ideas to foster the quality of living in their territory. For moving from discussion to practice, it is fundamental that Managing Authorities listen to those stakeholders and their needs by putting the basis of a real discussion and giving the tools for cooperation.