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Presidents Tusk and Markkula call for more regionalism and strengthened free movement to ensure a better Europe
President Tusk describes himself as "a long-time advocate of regionalism as an antidote to nationalism and separatism"
 
The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, joined President Markku Markkula and the members of the European Committee of the Regions in a debate on the main challenges of the European Union. The leaders highlighted free movement as the foundation of European liberties and called for a strengthening Europe's external borders.
 
The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, stated that "the next six weeks will be key for the future of the European Union and the role of our cities, local communities and regions will be pivotal in confronting the challenges EU faces. These are the places where things get done and we need to fully reflect this in how we structure our political conversations and how we manage crises."

The President of the European Committee of the Regions, Markku Markkula, stressed that "we need political leadership based on delivery and tangible results on the ground. We need a proactive Europe to respond to our citizens' and communities' priorities – closing down borders and erecting walls are not the answers."

The members of the Committee of the Regions will on 11 February issue a cross-party resolution urging the EU's national leaders to protect freedom of movement in the 26 European countries that make up the Schengen zone of border-free travel. The resolution argues that re-installing national border checks will not solve the underlying problem of mass movements of refugees and economic migrants into Europe, and will instead add to the costs faced by fragile economies.

Karl-Heinz Lambertz , the First Vice-President of the Committee of the Regions, warned that "in the past few months, country after country has rolled back one of the greatest achievements of the EU in the past 25 years – the creation of a border-free zone. The Schengen zone has brought benefits to communities and economies in most corners of the European Union. We must defend it."

President Markkula emphasised that "the future of the Union does not belong to one or the other Member State, or depend on a specific challenge, policy or tool. European cities and regions believe in a comprehensive approach and committed partnerships in order to address the challenges of the EU – such as migration, climate change and radicalisation".

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