The Commission proposal for a revised regulation for European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation is now to be adopted but the Council talks have not started yet and concerns are rising about the speed of the decision process, as was made clear during the inter-institutional conference organised by the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the European Parliament on 29 March with the participation of representatives of the European Commission and delegations from all over Europe as well as from Serbia, Morocco and Jordan.
Territorial cooperation is becoming evermore important within EU policy as demonstrated by its role in the new Multiannual Financial Framework proposed by the European Commission. Within this context the European Groupings for Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) are close to completing the experimental phase of the current programming period and are ready to ensure effective cross-border cooperation in a wide range of policy areas.
"EGTCs have been introduced to respond to concrete needs of cross-border regions", said the CoR president Mercedes Bresso, "and thanks to the strong commitment of the CoR, they became a reality within the current programming period 2007-2013". Bresso reiterated that the new EGTC legal framework "needs to intervene in a timely and effective manner. By correcting a set of restrictive and confusing provisions in the current regulation, we can once again place the law at the service of territorial development, and not vice-versa".
The CoR rapporteur and Chairperson of the COTER Commission, Michel Delebarre (PSE/FR), noted that the draft regulation improves the functioning of EGTC without a direct link to EU funding. Therefore, "in the absence of relevant budgetary issues, the Committee of the Regions calls for a rapid adoption of the new regulation without taking the risk to be taken hostage by the adoption of the entire legislative package on cohesion post 2013. We expect the current EU Council presidency to become a bit more offensive in this regard".
In the opening speech, Danuta Hübner, Chair of the REGI committee of the European Parliament, underlined the importance of the EGTC to bring down barriers in territorial cooperation: "The EGTC is a highly efficient instrument for enhanced territorial cooperation, which can help to overcome internal market barriers. It empowers local and regional communities and stimulates growth across borders".
Until now 26 EGTCs have been created involving more than 570 local and regional authorities in 15 EU Member States representing 22 million European citizens. With 20 more EGTCs expected to be launched in the coming months, it has become even more urgent to introduce the new rules.
European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn underlined in his message the key role played by the CoR in this respect, with the institutional function of mapping and supporting the EGTC activities.
In the opinion adopted last February the Committee has welcomed the clarification and simplification proposed by the European Commission and has proposed amendments to facilitate the creation of the new EGTCs, to clarify the legal requirements in the EU Member States and to confirm its role in the follow-up and promotion of the Groupings.
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The Committee of the Regions
The Committee of the Regions is the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives. The mission of its 344 members from all 27 EU Member States is to involve regional and local authorities and the communities they represent in the EU's decision-making process and to inform them about EU policies. The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council are obliged to consult the Committee in policy areas affecting regions and cities. It can appeal to the EU Court of Justice if its rights are infringed or it believes that an EU law violates the subsidiarity principle or fails to respect regional or local powers.
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