CIVEX Commission debate how cities and regions can strengthen falling support for the EU

Committee of the Regions' (CoR) proposals to help restore people's engagement with Europe was the main focus of debate during the CoR's commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX). The meeting was followed by a seminar to discuss in a broader perspective "The role of local and regional authorities in the future of the EU", with the participation of Maria Carmela Lanzetta, Minister of Regional Affairs of Italy. The two events took place in Brindisi (Italy) at the invitation of Cosimo Consales, Mayor of Brindisi, and Mauro D'Attis (IT/EPP), CoR member and Municipal councillor of Brindisi.

At the meeting rapporteur Christophe Rouillon (FR/PES), Mayor of Coulaines, presented his proposal for a communication plan which puts regions and cities at the heart of EU communication. The own-initiative opinion calls on the European institutions to jointly commit to a "2015-2019 Communication Plan: reconnecting Europe with its citizens", with a view to the next European elections. The Plan sets quantifiable and measurable objectives for mobilising people and stimulating people's engagement with Europe, based on a coordinated, creative and decentralised approach.
The implications of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) on local communities were also discussed based on a draft opinion prepared by Olgierd Geblewicz (PL/EPP), Marshal of the West Pomerania region. He stressed that, "The CoR together with regional and local authorities should play an active role in framing and implementing comprehensive institution-building programmes and should be appropriately represented in bodies monitoring the use and reviewing criteria of EU funding." CIVEX members additionally looked into the role of " Local and regional authorities in the multilevel protection of the rule of law and fundamental rights in the EU " after a presentation from rapporteur Luc Van den Brande (BE/EPP), Chairman of the Flemish-European Liaison Agency.
The CIVEX meeting closed with a debate on the specific issue of the management of immigration flows in Italy, with the participation of Brindisi's Mayor Cosimo Consales, Guglielmo Minervini, Councillor of Apulia Region, and Angelo Malandrino from the Italian Ministry of Interior.
The meeting was followed by a seminar which reflected on hpw cities and regions can be involved in - and contribute to - the ongoing debate on the future of the European project. The discussions considered the specific role to be played by the CoR and the contribution of cities and regions in strengthening public support for Europe. Maria Carmela Lanzetta, Italian Minister of Regional Affairs, pointed out that "In the last European elections we saw the mistrust and disaffection of many citizens towards the European institutions, often seen as something abstract and distant. If we instead start from the regions we can build a Europe closer to their needs, to make them feel truly represented."
The discussion also benefited from contributions of Cosimo Consales, Mayor of Brindisi, Dimitrios Kalogeropoulos, Secretary General of Ministry of Interior Greece, Jesús Gamallo Aller (CoR, ES/EPP), Mauro D'Attis (IT/EPP), Nichi Vendola (IT/PES), Cécile Le Clercq, European Commission, DG Communication, Andrej Stuchlik, Bertelsmann Stiftung, and Andreas Kiefer, Secretary General of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, who offered a deeper cooperation on this issue. In detail he offered to the CoR the findings of its monitoring missions to use them as the basis for its thematic work.
The Committee of the Regions' CIVEX commission:
The CIVEX commission is responsible for issues including justice and home affairs, fundamental rights, smart regulation and the reduction of administrative burdens, citizenship and broader institutional issues such as governance and devolution. It also deals with the EU external dimension, focusing on neighbourhood and enlargement countries, as well as decentralised cooperation for development. CIVEX gathers more than a hundred regional and local elected representatives from all the 28 EU Member States. It is chaired by Antonio Costa (PT/PES) , Mayor of Lisbon.