The European Commission's President José Manuel Barroso met today together with the President of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso, and the Presidents of seven major European associations of local and regional authorities, to exchange views on the preparation of the Commission's work programme 2014 and other priorities on the agenda. The meeting took place in the framework of the "structural dialogue" between the European Commission, the CoR and Local and Regional Associations, which seeks to strengthen relations between the EU and representatives of local and regional authorities.
The meeting allowed the CoR and Presidents of the European Associations to share their concerns as regards the many economic, social and political challenges faced by the EU, and stress the role cities and regions can play in that context. President Valcárcel emphasised that: "The time has come to initiate some serious thinking on how the European Union can truly strengthen the power of cities and regions, the authorities which are the closest to the citizens. I am fully convinced that to help our local businesses to create jobs and our young citizens regain faith in their capacities; we must continue the European integration process and extend the role of Europe's regions. "I believe that the only answer to this crisis is "More Europe"", he added.
Mercedes Bresso, CoR First Vice-President, referred to the role of cities and regions in the success of the Europe 2020 Strategy: "At the moment there are concerns about the insufficient overall progress made in achieving the Europe 2020 Strategy headline goals. This is due not only to the economic downturn but also to the Strategy's overall governance architecture and ownership, which does not adequately involve local and regional authorities as partners in a multi-level governance approach."
Giorgio Orsoni, Vice-President of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions and Mayor of Venice, highlighted the dramatic situation regarding youth unemployment: "The European project risks losing credibility and support, in particular, among young Europeans. The absence of concrete measures aimed at addressing youth unemployment violates the solidarity between the generations.”
The President of the Assembly of European Regions (AER), Hande Özsan Bozatli, President of the EU and International Relations Committee of Istanbul Provincial Council, also expressed concerns about the younger generation: "We live in challenging and rapidly changing times. We are nowadays confronted with two major challenges: to ensure a sustainable future and to provide our Youth with employment. We, as regions from all over Europe, need to ensure that our policies help the young generation to find good and satisfying jobs and take into account the environment, for the welfare of next generations. Regions have the tools to reach these goals, through mobility schemes such as the AER Eurodyssey programme, which is fostering the exchange of trainees throughout Europe, or thanks to relevant structures which foster youth entrepreneurship education throughout Europe."
Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the Association of European Border Regions and Leader of the Government of the German-speaking community of Belgium, insisted on the need to tackle the situation of frontier workers: "Despite many improvements, frontier workers, especially those from the border regions, are still facing a lot of problems. It is the responsibility of both European and intergovernmental level to work to tackle these problems. As President of the Association of European Border Regions I call on the European Commission to continue paying attention to this.”
The need for a stronger role for regions in the European economic governance was also pointed out by the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR): "The CPMR considers that despite the substantial share regions have on public expenditure in Europe, their say in ongoing developments on reinforced European economic governance, is very limited. A thorough reflection needs to be carried out on how best to associate regions in this process. A more inclusive model of the European semester would have long lasting results on the ground. The CPMR will be working on the issue and remains at the disposal of the European Commission to study this in more details.’
The Mayor of Ghent and member of EUROCITIES' executive committee, Daniël Termont, specifically highlighted the role of cities in delivering growth: “I welcome today’s structured dialogue with Presidents Barroso and Valcárcel as an opportunity for exchanging between local and regional associations and the EU. The European Commission is making efforts to strengthen coordination on urban issues and EUROCITIES hopes this can continue. Europe’s cities, where three out of four people live and work, are Europe’s assets – its international brands. We need them to be part of integrated and coordinated policy solutions if Europe is to deliver its objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.”
Françoise Dupuis, President of the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies and of the Parliament of the Brussels-Capital-Region, underlined the urgent need for the EU to do more to fight poverty and social exclusion: "Millions of European citizens live in a precarious situation. The current economic crisis does not explain everything. We are not without resources to fight this situation and regions play their role in the field. While today the fight against poverty and social exclusion is mainly a competence of the Member States and their regions, we hope that the EU will make it a real political priority in the future."
Franco Iacop, President of the Conference of European Regions with Legislative Powers (REGLEG), called for better recognition of the specific role of regions with legislative powers: "The European Regions with legislative powers represented by the REGLEG implement a large part of EU regulation and carry out a leading role in the regionalisation process in Europe. This is why, in the context of the debate on the future of the EU, we call on President Barroso to further recognise this crucial role through specific Treaties' provisions concerning the partner region concept, the enhanced importance of subsidiarity and a real regionalisation of key EU policies."