Porto Metropolitan Area inaugurates its Brussels liaison office

Martin Banks

Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The Porto Metropolitan Area (AMP) has inaugurated its first-ever permanent representation office in Brussels.

The official launch took place at the Portuguese Permanent Representation to the European Union in Brussels on Wednesday.

Speaking at the launch, Eduardo Vítor Rodrigues, AMP President, said, “The European Union is worth it, European policies are worth it, and that is why we want to be there”.

This, he said, was “for those who believe that Portugal can better manage its priorities”.

“Of course, this will help us secure more funding, but this is not about going after funds. Rather, it is about being present, emphasizing our priorities, sharing our resources and everything we have to offer, thus aiming to contribute to policies that are more refined and adapted to each reality, and to a debate on governance models, where decision-makers adjust European mechanisms to our priorities”, he said.

Rodrigues said he believes in decentralization in a development logic and says that he would like “the replica effect to exist, we do not have an individualistic approach, we just want to position ourselves in the best way to try to mitigate problems.” 

“My message to those who maybe are not Portuguese and do not know the Porto Metropolitan Area that well, is that Brussels and EU governance will benefit a lot from this interaction. The Porto Metropolitan Area is an essential hub in the Northwest of the Iberian Peninsula and one of the most dynamic regions not just in the Peninsula, but also in the EU”, Rodrigues added.

Further comment at the launch came from Vasco Cordeiro, President of the Committee of the Regions, who said,”Regions and cities have to play a role in how the Committee of the Regions addresses all the current challenges, not just for the EU level, but also for the national level. They are essential in overcoming the development challenges that Europe is facing. AMP launched its office in Brussels at just the right time in the fight for the defence of the cohesion policy. The way the fight will go forward will not just affect citizens and regions, but the EU as a hole, contributing to social, territorial and economic cohesion. This is a fight between those who believe the cohesion policy should continue and be improved and those who believe the cohesion policy is a thing of the past.

“Those who defend the cohesion policy are in fact defending an Europe of solidarity and an Europe that serves its citizens.” 

He went on, “Each policy the EU adopts is designed to be the most efficient overall. Meaning that usually, they are first though of to work at the EU level, then national and then local, explained EU Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira. “So the regions and committees should have a dialogue with each other, your voices should be heard by the European institutions and they must be taken into account. The new permanent representation of AMP is important because Porto is such an important region in the EU and it is crucial that this presence and this force is able to maximise the impact of its strength.

“Together we are stronger and I hope this initiative can be an inspiring model and I do hope that together we can find solutions to our common challenges, such as climate change and the energy crisis.”

Addressing the challenges of creating legislation at EU level that is also tailored to benefit individual regions, Isabel Carvalhais, a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Regional Development, said, “It’s not an easy task. But what helps is making sure that regional actors are actively involved in the consultations and processes that lead to the creation of new legislation, which is why this is a historic day.  I am sure you [AMP] will be making history in the near future.”

With its eyes set on 2023, the AMP will have three priority areas, namely social action, education and transport, the latter within a framework of environmental improvement that includes new models of mobility, targets for decarbonisation, sustainability and proximity, as well as operating strategies for public transport that minimize the use of individual vehicles in favour of less air pollution.

Taking into account the connection with some of the major national industries, such as textiles, footwear or furniture, AMP intends to support companies, investing in economic diplomacy and training them, with a special focus on internationalization, helping to strengthen ties that open a better dialogue with institutions, so that everyone shares the added value of a more functional and less bureaucratic structure.

Finally, the AMP intends to involve its 17 municipalities in a common composition and shared solutions, respecting the particularities of each one and adapting solutions depending on whether, for example, they are more urban or more rural municipalities.

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Martin Banks is an experienced British-born journalist who has been covering the EU beat (and much else besides) in Brussels since 2001. Previously, he had worked for many years in regional journalism in the UK and freelanced for national titles. He has a keen interest in foreign affairs and has closely followed the workings of the European Parliament and MEPs in particular for some years.