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News: Working Group on Regional Development & Inter-regional Cooperation
Meeting of the Working Group on Regional Development & Inter-regional Cooperation

WG Programme Coordinator:
Alexey Barabashev, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russian Federation

Place: 26th NISPAcee Annual Conference, Iasi, Romania
Date:  May 24-26, 2018

Two sessions were dedicated to the subject of regional development and inter-regional cooperation. Two major themes were explored in 5 reports:

•    Regional development in the context of strategy elaboration and quality evaluation;
•    The reasons for inter-regional cooperation at the municipal level and for best regional HR practices distribution.

The first session concentrated on the theme of regional development. The peculiarities of municipal strategic planning in Russia (report of A. Barabashev, co-author – S. Semenov) was discussed. It showed that a variety of Russian regions, their cultures and traditions, and social and economic conditions, are compensated by the standardisation of the federal legislation on strategic planning and the strict requirements of the procedures of preparation and realisation of strategic planning measures. As a result, strategic planning in the Russian Federation is transformed into a bulky bureaucratic process, with elements of a methodical arbitrariness and an abundance of control and supervising functions. At the municipal level, additional difficulties of strategic planning are encountered: dependence on subsidies of most municipalities; target funds which are allocated "from above"; multi-levelness of the system of municipal management; unevenness of the allocated resources and the considerable failure in financing the lower levels (rural settlements). Nevertheless, strategic planning in the Russian Federation in general is useful. It induces municipalities to extend their purposes and tasks, to proportion the allocated resources and results of their use, and to involve citizens in the processes of change.

In the last part of the article, how strategic planning is carried out in the city of Lyubertsy (The Moscow region) and in the city settlement Tutaev (Jaroslavl region) was described - two of the municipalities in which the empirical research was conducted.

In the report of A.M. Bercu (Romania) entitled "Study of the labour market flexibility in CEE countries” a question on the relationship between the labour market and economy effectiveness – "does it exist,” was asked. The general idea of the report was that it is possible to measure the level of cooperation between employers and employees in different countries. High values of cooperation, a sense of joint responsibility, and participation of businesses and citizens in decision-making brings profits.

Using the data from the World Economic Forum Report (2015), particularly from European countries, taking into account that the more presently active generation is now the "Generation Y”, and formalising the elements such as size and skills of the HR of the region, the author explored the level of flexibility of the labour market in salaries determination, and hiring and firing practices, etc. A table of the variations was presented. It was shown that cooperation is highest in Estonia (second Slovakia), and lowest in Romania (almost no cooperation and trade agreements, discussions, etc.). Romania was used as the main case of research. A.-M. Bercu argued that over the years, the level of cooperation in Romania decreased.
The main results of the research are: decentralising of negotiations to make the labour market more flexible.  Well-functioning cooperative relations between the free market and central state made the economy more flexible and effective.

E. Kalfova (Bulgaria) explored, in her report, the quality of governance and EU regional policy, evidence from Bulgaria; how the quality of governance impacting the implementation of EU policy was the focal question of the research. Using the definition of the quality of governance proposed by Kauffman, Kray, Mastruzzi (2009), as the combination of NPG + NPM concepts, the author used indicative analysis based on the indices of efficiency of regulations, civil society activity, corruption, and the voice of the people. The survey methodology consisted of the various levels.

Using indices such as WGI, EQI, LISI and macro-economic indices such as GDP per capita, unemployment, foreign direct investments, sectoral indices, such as quality of the roads etc., the linear regression was calculated.
The result of the research: 3 regression models show the importance of the quality of governance for the implementation of EU policy.

The Second Session, dedicated to inter-regional cooperation, concentrated mostly on two issues: cooperation of municipalities in the provision of municipal public services, and cooperation of regions in the elaboration and distribution of best HR practices of governance.
The report by A. Mikalauskas (Lithuania) used the case of this country to show that the cooperation of municipalities in the provision of services increases in some specific circumstances and decreases when such circumstances do not exist. The author began with a description of the present situation with population and municipalities (for example, the National Population Statistics show a decrease in its size from 3,693,700 citizens in 1991 to 2,810,118 citizens in 2017). The number of municipalities also decreased, as their inhabitants reduced. Now there are 10 counties and 5000 residencies in Lithuania.

The main idea of the author was to find the drivers for cooperation (intrinsic and extrinsic), to discover the goals (shared goals, maintenance of the status quo and forced by central government actions and destined to change the environment by external international actors). The analysis of the data shows, as A. Mikalauskas pointed out, that actors are acting mostly in favour of municipal political leaders. The next step in the research was to distribute the 5-degree agreement table questionnaire. In the main, replies to the questionnaire showed that cooperation is less preferable in the areas of energy and natural resources supply, and water and heating are lowest in the cooperation scale. The main conclusion of the research was that the effectiveness of the service, paradoxically, is higher in areas where the cooperation is less.

T. Zaytseva (Russia) explored cooperation as the distribution of the best HR practices in Russia. Using the results and data of a 3-year annual regions’ competition organised by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Russia in quest of the best HR practices, the author clearly shows the positive impact of this competition and exchange of HR practices elaborated in different Russian regions on the improvement of regional governance. The creation of the pool of best practices has activated a new style of communication between the regional administrations of Russia, and their HR offices have involved more regional administrations, urban and rural settlements into an exchange of ideas, and has helped to find better instruments to improve the quality of services. Many statistics about applications (distribution) were presented. The number of participants in the competition has constantly grown from 122 (in 2015) to 214 applications (in 2017). Extension of the geography of the applicants and the number of municipal applicants is also visible.

To conclude, the WG sessions show the growing capacities of inter-regional cooperation, together with the distribution of the evaluation tools as an instrument for the improvement of regional development.
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