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CoR celebrates 20 years and urges for a stronger position in the EU set-up
To mark the celebrations of the 20 years of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), its members debated today the future direction of the institution. They set out a roadmap to strengthen the CoRs' political and institutional role and make full use of its territorial nature to grow its influence in EU decision-making. As part of any future EU reform, they called for the CoR to be given new rights in the legislative procedure, possibly leading to a binding say in EU cohesion policy.
Opening the celebrations ceremony held during its plenary today, outgoing CoR President Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso stressed that: "Looking back I believe no one could have anticipated 20 years ago the impact the CoR would end up having in shaping the EU strategic objectives. I believe it is fair to say that, today, the CoR is not merely an advisory body but a fully-fledged political assembly. If Europe is to climb out of the crisis, local and regional authorities need to be empowered to help shape EU policies. This is why I plea for the strengthening of the CoRs' political and institutional role".
CoR First Vice-president Mercedes Bresso, who will also join the European Parliament in July, underlined: "The added value of the CoR and its members is that their involvement in EU legislation and in communicating Europe brings to the EU a political legitimacy that is complementary to that of the members of the European Parliament and the national governments represented in the Council. At a time where the EU is facing unprecedented distrust, the CoR can help close the 'delivery gap' of EU policies on the ground which is more than ever needed".
Reviewing its main achievements, participants in the debate, including former CoR presidents and EU institutions' representatives, stressed the CoR's growing ability to successfully influence EU decision-making to safeguard local and regional authorities' interests in a majority of policy areas. They underlined that, beyond its advisory role, the CoR also managed to develop its political weight by initiating new policy actions (e.g. European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation, Charter for Multilevel Governance in Europe) and lead key initiatives for cities and regions, such as the OPEN DAYS, the Covenant of Mayors and the European Entrepreneurial Regions award). The development of the CoRs' influence beyond the EU's borders was also emphasised, especially with regards to sharing expertise in decentralisation and exporting the European values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law to the EU's Mediterranean and Eastern partners.
Looking forward, members adopted a resolution setting the course for the CoR's future with the overarching aim of contributing to restore public confidence in the EU, promoting a multi-level Union and reinforcing the representation of local and regional authorities in EU decision-making.
Consolidating the political role of the CoR
To assert its position as a political assembly the CoR will further develop its cooperation with the European Parliament and national and regional parliaments - especially second chambers representing territorial authorities – in relation to monitoring subsidiarity and through the organisation of inter-parliamentary sessions. In a bid to commit the European Commission to be more accountable to the CoR on proposals where its consultation is mandatory, the CoR calls for theright to formally question the Commission on priority issues and have a say in the appointment of the Commissioner for regional and urban policy. The CoR also advocates greater involvement in economic governance mechanisms ("European Semester") and will further engage in assessing the development of decentralisation and regionalisation within the EU.
Influencing EU decision-making
With a view to increasing its influence in the legislative process form the earliest stage, the CoR will further contribute to the analysis of the territorial impact of EU legislation and the definition of territorial indicators. The CoR also calls for being involved as an observer in the "trialogues" between Parliament, Council and Commission on subjects where consultation of the CoR is mandatory.
Greater political and institutional role as part of the next revision of the treaties
In a longer term, should a European Convention be convened for revising the EU treaties, the CoR stresses that its representatives must be part of it - as was the case in the past - to ensure as much democratic legitimacy as possible. In the event of a review of the treaties addressing the EU's institutional set-up, it calls for being formally granted the status of an EU institution whose formal approval - under the "assent" procedure - would be required for legislative proposals relating to economic, social and territorial cohesion. The CoR also calls for adding the word "European" to its current denomination, so that the complete title would be " European Committee of the Regions".
President Valcárcel: Towards a "European Senate of the Regions"
As a testimony to his two-year mandate at the head of the CoR, President Valcárcel also presented a report laying down 50 recommendations for the CoRs' future. The report goes a step further than the CoR resolution, suggesting that the CoR gradually develops into a "European Senate of the Regions" and detailing how it could operate in the EU's set-up.
More information:
· Photos of the CoRs' 20 years ceremony available on our flick gallery
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Tel: +32 2 282 2499
Mobile: +32 473 86 05 30
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