Representatives from the Committee of the Regions met today with the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, to express the urgent need for the creation of a sustainable budget as well as structural reforms in the European Union (EU). They argued that austerity alone was not enough to find a way out of the economic crisis and that growth measures, driven by local and regional authorities, must also be part of the EU strategy.
The President of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), Mercedes Bresso, was joined by first Vice-President Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso and the presidents of the CoR's political groups, Michael Schneider (DE/EPP), Karl-Heinz Lambertz (BE/PES) and Bas Verkerk (NL/ALDE), and Uno Silberg (EE/EA), to share their concerns and present their proposals ahead of the European Council's that will take place on 28-29 June. They argued that whilst austerity measures are a necessary evil in responding to the crisis, it must be coupled with growth measures if the risk to cutting the investment capacity of local and regional authorities is to be avoided, and their role as drivers of growth and public investment in Europe is to continue.
President Van Rompuy welcomed the CoR's call in fully involving local and regional authorities within the growth strategy and specifically in preparing and implementing national and EU plans to counteract the effects of the crisis in key areas such as private-public financing at local and regional level; active labour market policies and life-long learning; new financial instruments of the EIB; and re-programming of structural funds programmes particularly with regard to using the European Social Fund for tackling youth unemployment.
The CoR argued that local and regional players can improve the effectiveness and speed of the coordination of European efforts in response to the crisis on the ground. Broader dialogue is necessary between all actors involved, complemented by an EU Recovery Package geared towards the achievement of sustainable and long-term quality growth. In this regard, the CoR argued that the recent Commission proposal on "Actions for Stability, Growth and Jobs" does not sufficiently take into account the important role of local and regional authorities.
The CoR also reiterated its belief that the setting-up of "Territorial Pacts" in order to implement in partnership the objectives of the EU's strategy for growth, whilst creating greater synergies between public budgets at all levels, would be an asset that Member States must not ignore. It further underlined its negative position towards macro-economic conditionality of structural funds.
The timely adoption and implementation of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) was also among the main issues on the agenda. According to the CoR representatives, if no agreement on the MFF can be found in the coming months a delay to the start of the new programming period, in particular in the field of cohesion policy, agricultural policy and research policy, is inevitable. An early adoption with sufficient means would be the best response to the growing need for a comprehensive package to stimulate growth and increase competitiveness at European level, while continuing the efforts for sound and sustainable public finances in the Member States. This includes the need to strengthen the own resources of the European Union by, for example, establishing a European Financial Transaction Tax.