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Interview: the Region Hauts-de-France tells us about being the Entrusted Entity of the UIA

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Anne Wetzel entrusted entity
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We interviewed Anne Wetzel, Director of the Europe department of the Hauts-de-France Region. She tells us about what it means to be an Entrusted Entity, how they worked to set up the UIA Initiative and what their daily role is.

A committed European, Anne studied in France and Germany. She started her career as lecturer at the University of Lille, then switched to local development at the European Metropole of Lille where she managed several European projects. She joined the Hauts-de-France Region and became Director of the Europe department five years ago. Today, three cooperation programmes, the UIA Initiative, and four mainstream programmes are managed under her responsibility.

1)  The Region Hauts-de-France is Entrusted Entity for the UIA Initiative. Could you tell us a bit more about what it means for the Region and what is your role in managing the Initiative?

89% of the population in the Hauts-de-France Region lives inside or under the influence of large urban centres. When the European Commission offered us to be the Entrusted Entity of this new Initiative, we didn’t hesitate! It was a unique opportunity for the Region to develop know-how and expertise in the emerging field of urban issues. The Region Hauts-de-France is very active on the European scene and has been managing European programmes since 2002. We created a specific tool, the European Economic Interest Grouping GECOTTI-PE, to ensure the social, administrative and financial management of the budgets for technical assistance, and have demonstrated our experience in carrying out wide European Calls for Proposals.  With this expertise based in Lille, we felt fully competent and committed to manage this new Initiative. For the 2014-2020 period, our Region is now Managing Authority of 3 INTERREG programmes and Entrusted Entity of the UIA Initiative, employing 84 people from 16 different European nationalities! We hope that with this tried and tested experience we are able to provide European Cities across Europe, through the UIA Initiative, a strong framework to develop and manage the most innovative urban projects ever undertaken in Europe.

The European Commission delegated the implementation of the Initiative to the Region via indirect management, meaning that there are no Member States involved in the management of the UIA. We are proud to say that this is the first time that this type of indirect management is delegated to a Region. We sign the subsidy contracts with the selected projects and we work with the Certifying Authority (the Province of East Flanders in Belgium) to proceed to the order of the payments to beneficiaries. We also overview and ensure the quality of work of the Permanent Secretariat.



2)  The UIA Initiative has been running for more than a year now, and the first wave of projects has been launched in October 2016. How would you describe the work that has been achieved so far?

Before the launch of the UIA Initiative in June 2015, and in order to make it possible, the Region worked very closely with the European Commission to prepare the supporting documents of the Initiative, such as the Delegated Act, to prepare the global budget and to recruit the first members of the Permanent Secretariat. Once the Director of the Permanent Secretariat, and the rest of the team were recruited, together we managed to launch the 1st Call for Proposals in three months and to proceed with the selection of the applications, and I am extremely proud of the great quality of the job to date.
378 urban authorities applied to the 1st Call, which is a considerable number, and proves the interest of cities across Europe for this Initiative. The inventiveness of the solutions from the 17 cities selected is very promising. We’re truly looking forward to see the results in these urban areas and to hear about the solution they will test on the ground!

 

3)  Any conclusive words for our applicants all over Europe who are finalising their project proposal for Call 2, and why they should join the Urban Lab of Europe?

Don’t underestimate the importance of securing a political support in your urban authority before sending your project proposal, it will be a key element for the smooth implementation of your project as planned.