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CoR calls for multilevel governance to be taken on board in the review of the EU's Growth Strategy

For the first time multi-level governance (MLG) has been firmly anchored as a guiding principle in the EU Cohesion Policy for 2014-2020. This new approach should inspire the upcoming review of the Europe 2020 Strategy in inciting greater ownership of local and regional authorities and effective delivery of growth and jobs on the ground. MLG also needs to be applied when communicating Europe to citizens so as to step away from the usual top-down approach of explaining and "selling" Europe. These are the main messages expressed today at the conference "Governing a multilevel Europe" organised by the Committee of the Regions.

The Committee of the Regions' (CoR) longstanding determination has ensured that the principle of "multilevel governance" is now more firmly enshrined in EU policy-making and delivery, in particular through the recent adoption of the Charter for Multilevel Governance in Europe. To assess the state of play of the application of this guiding principle in public policy, the CoR brought today policy-makers from all levels of governments, as well as representatives from international organisations and European associations, to focus on two key issues where multi-level governance proves most valuable: EU cohesion policy and its connection with the Europe 2020 Strategy; and the role of regions and cities in communicating Europe and EU citizenship.

Opening the event, CoR president Michel Lebrun emphasised that "Multilevel governance has turned into a real political campaign of our institution as the principle fundamentally underpins the democratic legitimacy of the EU. This why we need to take the opportunity of the upcoming revision of the Europe 2020 Strategy to strengthen its territorial dimension. We also need to ensure that multilevel governance is duly applied in the context of the European Semester exercise and that local and regional authorities are involved in the definition and implementation of national reform programmes." The President further underlined that these political changes would however be in vain if they do not go hand in hand with an effective EU communication strategy towards the citizens, placing regions and cities, as well as local and national media, at the heart of a decentralised communications approach.
Luc Van den Brande , Vice-President of the CoR and special adviser to the European Commission on multilevel governance, was eager to stress that MLG should be a driving force when designing those EU policies and strategies having a strong territorial dimension, such as the (successor to) Europe 2020 Strategy. He further pointed out that "In terms of the EU legislative framework, and pending a potential revision to the EU Treaty, the functional concept of multilevel governance is not just helpful but clearly needed to enhance a participatory approach and a collective commitment of EU policies to deliver decisions closer to the citizens and in the benefit of the people".
Also taking part to the event,Iskra Mihaylova, Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Regional Development, underlined how partnership and multi-level governance are now key elements of the EU cohesion policy: "All partnership agreements and operational programmes must observe the principle of multilevel governance and partnership through the whole cycle of their preparation and implementation. It is indeed only through a coordinated action between all actors and all the various levels of governments that we will be able to achieve more effectiveness in selecting projects and more ownership in implementing them".
As the Political Coordinator of the CoR’s Europe 2020 Monitoring Platform, member of the French Senate Michel Delebarre also endorsed the view that the implementation of multilevel governance needs "to be included as part of the DNA of EU policies". He however drew attention to the fact that "unlike the provisions on economic governance, multilevel governance is not associated with any sanction mechanism. Respect of the principle therefore largely relies on the good will of the Member States. It is therefore no coincidence that the degree of implementation of multi-level governance greatly differs from one Member State to another."
During the conference debate on the role of cities and regions in reconnecting Europe to its citizens, Christophe Rouillon, Mayor of Coulaines (France) and CoR rapporteur on the issue, highlighted the need for an EU joint communication plan for the next five years to fight the rising populism in EU politics. Presenting their regional case studies, Michael Schneider, State Secretary and Delegate of the State of Saxony-Anhalt for the German Federation, and Pavol Frešo, President of the Bratislava Region, argued that an active engagement of local and regional politicians can help strengthen the democratic basis and public understanding of the European project.
The CoR Charter for Multilevel Governance in Europe
The CoR adopted a Charter for Multilevel Governance in Europe in April 2014 seeking to achieve Europe-wide recognition of the benefits of multilevel governance as a guiding principle to ensuring the success of public policies. As a political manifesto, the Charter calls on all public authorities to make multilevel governance a reality in all stages of policy-making (design, but also implementation) both at EU and Member State level. This primarily involves working in partnership with the different levels of government and applying a set of principles in policy-making, such as participation, cooperation, openness, transparency, inclusiveness and policy coherence. Close to 200 local and regional authorities and associations have signed the Charter so far, with an increasing number of national, EU and international policy makers having already expressed their support, including European Commission's President Juncker.
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