CoR President Karl-Heinz Lambertz on the Estonian EU Presidency

"Estonia takes over the helm of the EU Presidency during unprecedented times. The EU must concentrate on what unites us which is why the Estonian EU Presidency's motto – "Unity through Balance" – is  most welcome. The Estonian priorities – building an inclusive and sustainable Europe; an open and  innovative European economy; a digital Europe; and a safe and secure Europe; - show that not only do we continue to share many challenges but the most pertinent issues of our time matter especially for Europe's local and regional governments.
 
Creating sustainable jobs and growth is one our Committee's main priorities. We need local investment to tackle social and regional disparity and demonstrate that the EU can positively improve the lives of all citizens. It means using EU policies to attract private investment and, with the tough EU post-2020 budget talks soon to commence, we therefore need a stable EU cohesion policy. If Europe is to be more integrated, more cohesive and more united, cohesion policy needs to be strong, more visible and more effective. Digitalising Europe can help tackle regional differences, open up the single market and transform our economy. We need to overcome the digital divide which is hampering social progress by investing in areas such as e-governance and public procurement to improve services for all citizens.
 
Estonia's EU Presidency also comes during the next round of international climate talks in Bonn, Germany. After the regrettable decision of the US President to pull out of the Paris Agreement, the EU's energy and climate ambitions are more important now than ever before. We need to properly, formally and fully acknowledge the importance of cities and regions in realising our EU energy and climate change ambitions.
 
The migration crisis continues to have direct demographic, economic and political consequences. Managing the flow and reception of people into Europe ultimately falls on the shoulders of local and regional governments which is why the EU's response must be based on solidarity, civil rights and pragmatism. The EU needs to step-up its efforts to support EU local and regional governments in integrating migrants into their communities. We need to strengthen partnerships between regions and cities from both sides of the Mediterranean. Helping at the root of the issues is critical to find a workable solution to the migration crisis.
 
A prosperous, sustainable and better European future lies in delivering tangible results that improve the lives of all citizens. As local and regional leaders, we need to communicate what the EU does, listen to our citizens and share their opinions about Europe in Brussels. It needs local and regional governments across Europe to work together to improve and deliver EU policies and bridge the gap between Brussels and our communities. Our Committee stands ready to support the Estonian government and its regions and cities to help build a better European future."