The Committee of the Regions (CoR) set out its vision for a the future of Europe today with a clarion call for a new bond of trust between the EU and its citizens, more investment in policies crucial to future generations, such as environmental protection and global warming, more decentralisation and more respect for local and regional diversity, identity and autonomy.
The CoR's Declaration for Europe' was adopted at the close of a special plenary session and high-level commemorative ceremony held in the Italian capital to mark the 50 th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.
The ceremony, attended by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and chaired by CoR leader Michel Delebarre, took place in the magnificent surroundings of the Auditorium Conciliazione, at the invitation of Lazio President Pietro Marrazzo. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi were among the keynote speakers at the event, which was attended by more than 600 European, national, regional and local government politicians, as well as representatives of the European Youth Summit.
Other major contributors included Luxembourg Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema, EU Regional Policy Commissioner Danuta Hübner, German Minister of State for Europe Günter Gloser, Spanish State Secretary for the EU Alberto Navarro, the Mayors of Rome, Warsaw, Istanbul, Stockholm, Luxembourg, Maastricht and Lyon, and the regional presidents of Catalonia, Tuscany and Aquitaine, among others.
President Delebarre, Mayor and MP for Dunkerque, France, said the occasion was not only an opportunity to celebrate the invaluable contribution made by the EU to peace, democracy and prosperity in the past 50 years, but also a chance to mark the triumphant return of the local communities to the forefront of European affairs. The prosperity and influence of Medieval and Renaissance Europe was rooted in its towns, its provinces, its regions, its principalities, its duchies and its counties, and today, in the face of increasing globalisation and the advent of the information society, Europe needs to count increasingly on its geographical diversity and on the dynamism of its regional stakeholders, he told the gathering.
In adopting its Declaration for Europe, M. Delebarre underlined that the CoR wished to demonstrate its firm commitment in helping to create a new bond of trust between the Union, its various levels of governance and its citizens, and to support the heads of state and government in bringing the constitutional process and the necessary reform of the Treaties to a rapid conclusion, without losing the ground gained by and for local and regional authorities, especially with regard to monitoring of subsidiarity and territorial cohesion.
The 750-word text, which is being sent to EU heads of state and government ahead of the Informal Summit in Berlin on 25 March, identifies five priority needs for the Union 's future:
- The promotion of European values and consolidation of the European social model;
- Completion of a single market geared to sustainable development, equity and inclusion;
- European elections based on a clear programme and budget and strengthened relations with elected assemblies at all levels;
- An Community remit which responds to those areas where citizens clearly sense the added value of a European approach, in line with the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality;
- More cohesion to meet the challenge of globalisation more successfully.
These themes were echoed by many speakers in the course of the two set-piece debates at the heart of the ceremony, focused on the contribution of local and regional authorities to the re-launch of the European project and the Europe of tomorrow.
Speaking in the first debate, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that local and regional authorities had a key role to play in regaining public confidence in Europe and that the Committee of the Regions continued to provide the basis of the bond of trust between the EU and its citizens.
He underlined that the public wanted concrete results and solutions, economic and social cohesion and more regional solidarity. The principle of solidarity is essential and we must continue to affirm it, he added. Mr Barroso also stressed the need to find a compromise on the stalled Constitutional Treaty: Nice is not enough we must ask our Member States to find a consensus because our future depends on it.
Prime Minister Romano Prodi was equally clear on this point, saying that the Treaty had to be in place before the European Parliament elections in 2009. The Italian government is very committed to this, he commented.
However, the main focus of his speech was the role of local and regional authorities. He said that Europe was not only a Union of states and peoples, but also, a Union of local communities which, by working together, were helping Europe to become a world player. Stressing the importance of subsidiarity and a bottom-up approach, the former European Commission President urged local and regional authorities to focus on three missions: to listen more to the citizens and do more to explain what the EU means; to push for more local and regional autonomy; and to strengthen institutional cohesion by networking at all levels of government.
Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema was unsurprisingly on the same wavelength as his premier as regards the Constitutional Treaty.
In a rousing speech, he described the gathering as a truly momentous occasion and said the 50 th anniversary was an opportunity for Europeans to remember with great pride how successful the European project had been.
Lazio President Pietro Marrazzo was at one with his compatriots on the need for a proper dialogue with the public about Europe's future. If our continent really wants to grow, we must listen to the voices of our citizens, he said. Mayor of Rome Walter Veltroni added that local authorities had the leading role to play in relating Europe to the daily lives of its citizens.
The official ceremony was preceded by a plenary session in which the CoR adopted three opinions, focused on the leverage effect of the structural funds (rapporteur: Manuel Chaves González, President of the region of Andalusia, ES/PES); the future of the single market and stocktaking of European society (rapporteur: David Parsons, leader of Leicestershire County Council, UK/EPP); and European policies concerning youth participation and information (rapporteur: Roberto Pella, member of Biella Council, IT/EPP). Giovanna Malandri, the Italian Minister for Youth and Sport, told the assembly that she welcomed the main points addressed in Mr Pella's opinion.
- Opening speech by Michel Delebarre, President of the Committee of the Regions: EN - FR - IT
- Speech of Piero Marrazzo (President of the Lazio Region, IT)
- Speech of Romano Prodi (Italian Prime Minister)
- Speech of José Manuel Barroso (President of the European Commission, PT)
- Speech of Mr Jean Asselborn (Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of foreign affairs and immigration, Luxembourg)
- Speech of Mr D'Alema (Minister of foreign affairs, IT)
- Speech of Mr Günter Gloser (State Ministe of European affairs, DE)
- Speech of Mr Alberto Navarro (Secretary of State EU affairs, ES)
- Speech of Mr Bo Bladholm (Lord Mayor and Leader of Stockholm City Council, SE)
- Speech of Mr Gérard Collomb (Mayor of Lyon, FR)
- Speech of Mr Dimitris Dimitriadis ( President of the European Economic and Social Committee, EL)
- Speech of Mr Kadir Topbas (Mayor of Istanbul, TR)
- Speech of Mrs Linda Lanzillotta (Minister for Regional Affairs and Local Communities, IT)
- Speech of Mr Gerd Leers (Mayor of Maastricht, NL)
- Speech of Mr José Montilla (President of the Regional Government of Catalonia, ES)
- Speech of Mr Alberto Navarro ( State Secretary for European Affairs in the Spanish Government, ES)
- Speech of Mr Hans-Gert Poettering (President of the European Parliament)
- Speech of Walter Veltroni (Mayor of Rome, IT)
- Speech of Mr Bronislaw Geremek (MEP, PL)
A new roadmap for Europe's regions and cities: DE - EN - FR - IT
Committee of the Regions celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome: EN - FR - IT
Rome Youth Summit newsletter
Rome Youth Declaration