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LALRG secretary general: we have to reduce gap in quality of life for EU citizens

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Ever since Latvia joined the European Union, its population has declined 14%. The most significant decline was caused by the departure of residents of working age to other EU member states. Because of that, the population in eastern regions of Latvia has declined 23%.

Equalization of the level of quality of life among different regions of the European Union remains a major challenge, comments Secretary General of Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments (LALRG) Mudīte Priede.

Last week, LALRG chairman Gints Kaminskis, deputy chairman Andris Rāviņš, secretary general Mudīte Priede and Education and Culture Committee’s head Ligita Gintere participated in a meeting of Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in Soria, Spain.

The meeting opened with a discussion regarding European Union’s cohesion policy after 2020. Discussions addressed several problems and challenges – which priorities to focus on in the future; which regions to support financially assist with development; and if it is necessary to introduce new instruments to divert funding.

«It is important to ensure cohesion policy not only maintains what is detailed in the EU treaty – reduce development gaps between different regions and pull up less-developed regions in terms of their development – but also make a larger contribution to the improvement of quality of life for all EU citizens. Under conditions of a fully-opened market [the one EU offers], prices and costs of basic necessities have already more or less become equal for most citizens. However, living conditions still differ region to region. Since 2004, when Latvia joined the EU, out country’s population has declined 14%. Population in eastern regions has declined 23%. Harmonization of quality of life with other EU regions remains a serious challenge,» comments Priede.

The mentioned that for Latvia focus should be put on further development and improvement of existing infrastructure, because it is not recommended to guarantee social inclusion, education and work availability if the country’s transport infrastructure is in poor shape.

«This is not a problem just for Latvia, it is a choice by EU – can we afford to let enormous territories to become uninhabited under current geopolitical conditions? Can the EU afford to let its eastern border to become uninhabited? It is very important for the cohesion policy that every country is able to find the most effective development models and tools,» notes LALRG secretary general.

Representatives of western countries also mention that the cohesion policy should divert support to all regions – no region should be left without support. Delegations of all countries agreed that funding for cohesion policy should not be reduced after 2020.


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