One year after the Commission had launched its updated European Bioeconomy Strategy, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) organised together with the European Commission an event on European Bioeconomy: Regions, Cities and Civil Society in Brussels on October 16.
The event was opened by Maurizio Reale, President of the EESC’s NAT Section, together with CoR rapporteur Jácint Horváth (HU/PES) and Wolfgang Burtscher, Deputy Director-General at DG RTD.
In his welcome speech, Mr Reale underlined the importance of the bioeconomy in achieving the SDGs. He also highlighted the crucial role of Europe’s farmers in the sustainable management of our natural resources.
Mr Horváth underlined the bioeconomy’s huge potential for economic development, particularly in rural areas where it represents an important factor in stopping rural exodus. Depending on the resources, the regions must have the opportunity to develop their own bioeconomy. Regional and local governments have an important coordinating role and should foster cooperation between the various projects across borders too.
CoR member Anthony Buchanan (UK/EA) from Scotland highlighted the growing importance of blue bioeconomy. “While the European bioeconomy is still predominantly a land-based economy, more and more aquatic biological resources for industry including food, energy, and medicines are being developed”, Mr Buchanan said. He stressed that the local level can assist in promoting collaboration among business, institutions, and environmental organisations and also in raising public awareness of blue biomass products.
The closing panel explored the topic of the bioeconomy within the framework of the World Food Day. The growing world population will lead to a higher demand for food and the increase of economic wealth will aggravate the situation even more.
Alin Nica (RO/EPP), first vice-chair of the CoR’s SEDEC commission, began with the following statement: “All the regions are potential bioregions”. He continued by explaining that the bioeconomy is a cross-sectorial topic and that to achieve our goals we need horizontal approaches and cooperation with the local level. The Member States and the European Union should act as facilitators in order for the bioeconomy to thrive at the regional level. Making agriculture sustainable does not mean straying away from technological innovation: precision technology, soil monitoring technology and other things can be great assets for the transition to more sustainable agriculture.
EESC member Peter Schmidt reminded the audience of the common theme throughout the event: the idea of a fundamental and systematic change in the agricultural sector. “Data shows that hunger has increased in the world. The European Institutions have worked extensively on the issue and organised civil society must do its part in implementing the ideas that are already on the table. The window is now open. We have all the tools, we have to do it”, he concluded.