The President-elect of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso, also President of the Spanish region of Murcia, attended the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on 23 July. He was attending his first EU meeting in his capacity as CoR President-elect.
On the sidelines of the Council meeting, Mr Valcárcel Siso held a bilateral meeting with the European Commission President, Mr Barroso, during which he briefed the Commission President on the political priorities of the new CoR presidency, focusing in particular on the contribution of local and regional authorities to the Europe 2020 strategy. Mr Valcárcel Siso maintained that "the best way to involve Europe's regions in achieving these goals is through territorial pacts and a greater role for the regions in the Member States' national reform programmes".
Other matters discussed included the EU budget for 2014-2020, a budget which, according to Mr Valcárcel Siso, "should match up to the current circumstances and take account of the fact that we, the regions, are key agents of change. We are the biggest investors in our own economies and account for over two thirds of public investment in Europe. The CoR will thus stand with the Commission against those calling for a reduced budget".
The two Presidents also addressed the future of EU cohesion policy. "We consider it crucial to maintain a credible budget for cohesion policy, a budget that should not be viewed simply as an expense but rather as an investment for ensuring the continuity of the added value of EU action in support of all of Europe's regions," said Mr Valcárcel Siso. Moreover, "the EU budget ought to be more flexible in order to be able to adapt the funds to the situation in each region", he added.
As regards relations between the two institutions, the two Presidents discussed the common agenda of the CoR and the Commission for the rest of the year, with Mr Valcárcel Siso emphasising that "the new presidency of the CoR will continue to develop its cooperation agreement with the European Commission to help the EU executive in its task of building the Europe of today and laying the foundations for the Europe of tomorrow".