Flo Clucas (UK/ALDE) set to retire after 26 years in the political limelight
Cllr. Flo Clucas (UK/ALDE), President of the Committee of the Region's ALDE group, is set to step down after a political career stretching over 26 years. Cllr. Clucas entered Liverpool City Council in 1986 before becoming an executive member in 1998. Her list of accolades include being awarded an OBE in 2005 for services to the community of Merseyside.
Having joined the Committee of the Regions (CoR) in 2002, she finishes her career President of the CoR-ALDE group (being the first woman ever to hold the post) and President of the CoR's Commission on the Post 2014 European Budget. We talk to Cllr Clucas about her experiences and what she feels she has achieved being an active member of the CoR.
Cllr. Clucas, you have spent 26 years working in politics of which you have spent the past ten working for the Committee of the Regions. What do you feel were your main successes working at an EU level?
In terms of the CoR, doing the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and being President of my group (ALDE) was an immense privilege. That aside, I have seen my city and the surrounding metropolitan area go from having a very low GDP with virtually no investment, to having a regenerated city centre; an expanding airport; a successful cruise liner terminal; seeing 90,000 jobs created due to European funding; having 300,000 people trained for work and put in work; creating 17,000 new businesses and helping 24, 000 businesses; and also the creation of a new centre for womens’ economic development, which was built with European and private money - these have unquestionably been the main highlights over the last ten years.
You have been involved in presenting many opinions during your time at the CoR - which of them are you most proud of?
Firstly, the MFF because we were able to get almost unanimous support in plenary. That was a great experience not just because it gave us an opportunity really to influence things before decisions were taken, but because it affected every city and every region in the EU. The housing policy opinion I did was done at some speed - we did the opinion in a fortnight, it went through plenary and because of what had been written we actually had European regional development fund rules changed so that in the EU-15 we were able to use that money, ERDF money, for energy efficient housing in poorer communities. In fact, my own region will benefit to the tune of €9.5 m for our poorest people in homes that need to be more energy efficient. The other one that stands out was the maritime safety package - this example demonstrates just how the CoR can write an Opinion where some of its recommendations were included in a European Parliament report and its Report was then adopted. So I'm pleased about those three – they did the job we thought they could do and should do.
Do you feel that at home your work with the EU has been positively received? What role does the CoR play in improving the image of the EU on a local and regional level?
Absolutely, yes, I have been supported by our local press and other media. The CoR gives all of us who have an interest in the development of our cities and regions an opportunity to influence not only in terms of fund allocation, but also in terms of legislative framework and in terms of broader influence. We can shape legislation, shape European policy, shape how the institutions react to individual cities and regions all because we are CoR members. In my own experience we have been well received and really supported from officials and members of the European Parliament. By working together we can make a great deal more happen then by working alone - and that’s where the CoR comes into its own.
Who has been the biggest influence in your political career at a local and/or EU level?
The biggest influence on my career was a lady called Shirley Williams who was at first, a Labour MP and Cabinet Minister. The Labour party in the UK swung very hard to the left in the late 1970s and she helped form the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in 1981 with Roy Jenkins. I joined and became a conference representative, then a councillor. At a European level the person who influenced me most was Jean Monet not just because of the creation of the European Union, but because he had a great way of looking at issues. He once said that if a problem seems to be intractable then look at it from a different angle and a solution will present itself. I'm sure that is absolutely right and it is something that I have tried to put into my political life by because I think it's very important.
The CoR has been a wonderful experience. I wish it and all my colleagues well for the future.