Dear Ms Stimolo, can you tell us exactly where do you work and what is your role?
I am the Director of the Brussels Office of the Region of Sicily, that is the Office for liaison with European Institutions and it is directly linked to the President of the Region of Sicily. I am also the General Director of the International Departments Affairs of the Sicilian Region.
Presently the Office is made up of seven policy officers. Our role in Brussels is twofold. We represent the Regional interests to the EU Institutions and among the European Regions, and we transfer first-hand information to regional stakeholders in order to bring the European Union closer to the citizens of Sicily and the Regional Authorities.
In particular, we monitor the EU legislative activities and funding programmes and we help regional stakeholders to access European direct funds. We also help them to create or participate in transnational consortia providing support in elaborating project proposals. Regional bodies, but also municipalities, universities, schools, SMEs and private bodies, NGOs and all the citizens interested in EU affairs are our target groups.
We cover several important topics for our Region, such as: Culture and Tourism, Education and Youth/Social policies, Migration and Cooperation policies, Fisheries and Agriculture, Justice, Research and Innovation, SMEs and Entrepreneurship, Cohesion Policy, Transports, Health, Environment and Energy.
Do regional offices in Brussels have a different goal and agenda compared to the ones which operate in each country?
All Regional Offices in Brussels work in concert with territorial bodies, following the political guidelines of each Region. Thus, goals and agenda are decided in accordance with the policies of each Regional Government.
Can regions, and specifically the Region of Sicily, be considered a valid partner for the European projects? Why?
Public Authorities have taken on even more importance within the EU funding opportunities. In fact, it is necessary to involve a Public Authority in many calls for proposals for the new programming period 2014-2020. For this reason, the Region of Sicily has a strategic importance for the consortia. Sicily can certainly be a valid partner (or support partner) in EU projects thanks to the synergies between our Regional Departments and the Brussels Office.
In which areas of EU projects are you more active?
Regarding EU projects, we support participants in learning more about the calls and in obtaining first-hand information and anticipations on funding opportunities.
We disseminate information to the stakeholders through our website and our Facebook page.
In addition, we help the creation of transnational partnerships through a strong European regions network. We always receive partner searches from other EU Regions and we summarize, we translate in Italian and, then, we send them to our Sicilian contacts. We also help people who want to create a partnership through the dissemination of their partner searches among EU Regions and their contacts. This two-way sending produces a very positive result and, as a matter of fact, several consortia have been created in this way. For example, two small Sicilian Municipalities – Librizzi and Villafranca Sicula – have been selected in a transnational partnership lead by the Lodzkie Region for a project under the Europe for Citizens Programme.
We also give advices about writing and submitting a project proposal and we follow step by step people who participate, for the first time, in EU projects.
Finally, we disseminate information through a mailing list which is constantly updated and extended. Readers, who are interested in receiving our information, can send us an e-mail to this address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is there any other regional office which you work frequently with? Are they all from Italian regions?
We frequently work and collaborate with the Italian Regional Offices in Brussels. In particular, we participate to the “URC” (Uffici Regionali di Collegamento), the network of the Italian Regional Liaison Offices. Within this network, we organize workshops, conferences and we lay the basis for future collaborations in different topics.
For example, during the Italian Presidency of the Council of the EU, we organized the principal event of the Italian Regions, with the Permanent Italian Representation to the EU. The conference “Creativity and innovation as Motors for Economic Growth: the Role of Culture and Territories” was focused on the importance of the creativity and cultural industry in Europe. The principal outcome of this event has been the creation of a transnational network of EU regions for collaborating and lobbying EU Institutions in this important field.
We often cooperate with the other EU Regional Offices, especially during the “Open Days”, which is the European Week of Regions and Cities taking place each year in October.
In which networks does your office in Brussels participate, and how important is the “networking” practice for your activities?
Networking in Brussels is crucial for achieving positive results in our territories, and, for this reason, it is important for our Office to take part in several (formal and informal) networks for EU Regions that exist in Brussels.
We believe that the presence of a Regional Liaison Office in Brussels is of utmost importance and it is an added value for taking advantage of the opportunities that the EU offers.
Damiano De Rosa
Chief editor – NEU