Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso President of the Autonomous Community of Murcia has announced his candidacy for the Presidency of the Committee of the Regions. The new CoR President will be elected on 10 February 2010, at the inaugural session of the CoR's fifth term of office, which will be the first five-year term, following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.
How does your work as a local or regional representative prepare you for the challenges of the presidency of the Committee of the Regions and how would you balance the two roles?
As the President of the Autonomous Community of the Region of Murcia, I am directly accountable to the electorate and am responsible for ensuring that their diverse needs are always taken into consideration. Given that the region of Murcia has a wide range of legislative competences from economics and agriculture to health and immigration it is up to me to ensure that the voice of the citizens is heard and that the necessary changes are made for the benefit of the whole region. Throughout my work in both Brussels and at home, I have striven to develop a more cohesive region within an increasingly cohesive and competitive Europe. I have witnessed many changes in Europe since joining the Committee of the Regions in 1994 and during this time, I have worked towards a strengthened role for Europe's regions and cities. In particular, I was deeply involved in the European Convention, which was assigned the task of drafting the Treaty establishing a European Constitution and which has formed the basis of the Lisbon Treaty. I am fortunate that my region has a clear European vocation, as highlighted in successive European elections, and I am confident that my strengthened role at the Committee of the Regions will provide Murcia with a stronger voice for the international debates.
How will you lead the Committee of the Regions in its relations with the other institutions, in view of the new powers and responsibilities given to the CoR by the Lisbon Treaty?
The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty will make the EU more democratic, transparent and efficient, and improves the standing of regions and cities in the EU's political system. The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty confers upon the Committee major new responsibilities – in particular as one of the guardians of the subsidiarity principal. The extension of the policy areas in which the CoR must be consulted to include tourism, energy, climate change and civil protection places it in a new and privileged position in the Community inter-institutional decision making process. We have to make sure that the CoR is involved in a regular and timely manner so that the specifics of Europe's regions and cities can be taken into consideration when proposing new legislation. Over the last two years, we have worked tirelessly, under the Presidency of Luc Van den Brande, to strengthen the CoR’s political and institutional role by taking positions that have led to greater institutional recognition and tangible results. As President of the CoR, I will ensure that we not only continue to strengthen our partnership with the European Council Presidencies as well as the full time President, Herman van Rompuy, the European Parliament, the European Commission, but also the national and regional Parliaments and Europe's many regional assemblies and associations during their scrutiny over subsidiarity.
What do you see as the three main priorities and/or challenges for the Committee, its members and regional and local authorities in general over the next five years, and how will you work to ensure that they are tackled effectively?
An intensive path lies ahead of us within the framework of the debate on the future Cohesion Policy and the CoR must transmit its message that we will not accept any form of renationalisation. We must ensure that the experience of European local and regional authorities is a key element in the shaping of the new European regional policy by working closely with the many stakeholders not least the European Parliament. Another area for our concern as local and regional representatives is to ensure that Europe manages to effectively recover from the financial crisis through the development of growth and jobs. The EU's new 2020 strategy, as proposed by European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, is a good starting point for reflection. We, at the local and regional level, were the first to see the impact of the crisis and therefore need to ensure that we are fully involved in any response that is to be made, starting from creating an entrepreneurial and sustainable environment. Last but not least, we have to convince the European Commission and the other main institutions of the main advantage of a Europe built in partnership where all levels of governance have direct role in shaping the European laws. This is an area where I very much look forward to working with the newly appointed European Commissioners.
A key part of the role of President of the Committee is to bring Europe to the local and regional level. Can you give a good example of how you have achieved this in your home region?
I have been a member of the Committee of the Regions for the past 15 years and throughout this time I always tried to involve my region and its 1.4 million people in the activities of the CoR for example by participating every year in the OPEN DAYS: European Week of Regions and Cities. This is an opportunity for the people of Murcia to share their experiences and best practises with European decision-makers as well as working with other regional partners. I have also actively encouraged journalists from my region to attend the annual EPP/CoR Summer University for regional and local media, which enables them to witness the European Union firsthand and to translate this into a language that the people of Murcia are able to understand. In addition, the opinion that I recently drafted on water scarcity drew attention to a key issue for my region and demonstrated to the added value of working together at the European level to the citizens living there.