ARL goes Brussels

ARL International ARL International
published on 13/03/2024

ARL delegation was in Brussels on February 26-27, 2024

The delegation from the Executive Committee and the Headquarters visited the Representation of the State of Lower Saxony to the European Union, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG Regio), and the European offices of the German County Association, the Leibniz Association, and the Stuttgart Region. The internationalisation of the ARL and its activities is progressing rapidly. The expansion of the network and increased cooperation throughout Europe are illustrated through the following initiatives:

  • enhancing interdisciplinary work through working groups which are internationally focused and composed of international participants
  • increasing English-language publications as well as the use of the English language in digital and event formats
  • dynamically developing - - the English-language knowledge and communication platform

The Executive Committee and the ARL Headquarters are also focusing on personal networking discussions at the European level and direct exchanges with European institutions in Brussels in 2024. 

The first intensive visit and work program, compiled by Britta Bockhorn, was attended by Prof. Dr. Axel Priebs as President, Prof. Dr. Susan Grotefels and Prof. Dr. Annette Spellerberg as Vice Presidents, as well as from the Headquartes Prof. Dr. Andreas Klee, Dr. Britta Bockhorn, and Dr. Sebastian Krätzig. 

The discussions with institutions and individuals working on spatial development topics in Brussels were not only a great opportunity to introduce the ARL and its activities in more detail, but also to explore common interests and cooperation opportunities and to initiate various ideas for ARL events in Brussels. The focus was on topics such as European Regional development and policy, cohesion policy and the future of structural funds, European legislation on EU spatial policies, Europe and its regions, as well as the importance of small and medium-sized towns for regions, urban and rural areas in EU policies, climate protection and energy transition. 

The visit to the representation of the state of Lower Saxony to the European Union was supported in advance by the State Secretary in the Lower Saxony Ministry for Federal and European Affairs and Regional Development (and member of the Committee of the Regions), Matthias Wunderling-Weilbier. The intensive discussions in Brussels with the advisor for agriculture, fisheries, and consumer protection, Lena Rieforth, as well as the advisor for interregional cooperation, regional development, cohesion policy, and relations with the CoR, Lars König, led to plans for a joint event at the premises of the state representation, hence this topic will be finalised in the coming weeks. 

The visit to the European Office of the German County Association (DLT) was also very productive. Michael Schmitz, Deputy Head of the Office, was already familiar with the ARL and emphasized that he had recommended it several times. Michael Schmitz, who has an excellent knowledge of European bodies and EU policies relevant to counties as essential providers of basic services, was also invited to one of the forthcoming ARL Lunch Talks with the goal of achieving a deeper cooperation. Matthias Wohltmann from the Berlin office of the DLT has been a member of the ARL User Advisory Board for some time, and the ARL’s focus on small and medium-sized towns in rural areas is of particular interest to the DLT.

The visit to the European Office of the Leibniz Association was also very interesting and beneficial. Claudia Labisch and her colleagues reaffirmed the ARL in its new understanding as a social research infrastructure and pointed out the possibilities and potentials of the ARL as an enabler, especially in Brussels. They suggested that the expertise of the Academy and the network should be confidently used for agenda setting at the European level. 

The visit to the Committee of the Regions (CoR) was also very enlightening, and a discussion with Thomas Wobben, Director of the Directorate C, Legislative Work, also yielded tangible ideas for cooperation. The CoR plays a major role in bringing regional and local issues to the European level, while at the same time bringing Europe to the regions. In Germany alone there are 24 CoR members appointed by the federal states and local government associations. A joint Brussels Talk on the importance of regions for Europe is planned for the future. 

At the European Office of the Stuttgart Region, the office manager Marcus Göpfert gave an impressive demonstration of how networking and lobbying are done in Brussels. Here, there are also perspective points of contact through the ARL member Thomas Kiwitt, Chief Technical Director at the Stuttgart Region Association, who is also actively involved in the board of METREX - The Network of European Metropolitan Regions and Areas. 

The meeting at DG Regio was more informative and it provided insight on where and how the ARL can contribute in the future, the relevant stakeholders for the ARL and the spectrum of topics it addresses. It would be beneficial to have a stronger involvement of the expertise of ARL members in consultation processes at European level. 

Axel Priebs concluded by stating the following: "It has been two intense days full of impressions. Of course, it cannot be claimed that we have already arrived in Brussels, but after these very open and informative discussions, I am very optimistic that we will soon be able to present initial ARL positions in Brussels.  We certainly need to strengthen the links we have established, because Europe and the EU are more important than ever for our political future and spatial development at all levels."

The ARL delegation visiting the Committee of the Regions (CoR); from left to right: Annette Spellerberg, Sebastian Krätzig, Thomas Wobben (Director of Directorate C: "Legislative Work" of the CoR), Axel Priebs, Susann Grotefels, Andreas Klee, and Britta Bockhorn.
The ARL delegation visiting the Committee of the Regions (CoR); from left to right: Annette Spellerberg, Sebastian Krätzig, Thomas Wobben (Director of Directorate C: "Legislative Work" of the CoR), Axel Priebs, Susann Grotefels, Andreas Klee, and Britta Bockhorn.