The CoR's work with the EU Southern neighbours is mainly carried out through the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM). In its Recommendations for 2021 adopted on 22 February 2021 at its 12th plenary, ARLEM addresses the new partnership between the European Union and its southern neighbours, as set out in the Joint Communication, and the need to systematically take local and regional authorities into account in this new partnership. Local authorities are driving local development that is close to the people, reaching far beyond the capitals of our countries.
The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) promotes awareness and action at local and regional level on the foundational EU values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, which must be protected and respected even in times of emergency, as during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
As stated by the Resolution on CoR political priorities 2020 - 2025 adopted on 1 July 2020, CoR policy priority no. 1 is about "Bringing Europe closer to people: Democracy and the future of the EU". The idea is that these values should be also at the core of the external relations of the CoR as stated in the resolution (point 18): Support the EU global action by promoting values and principles such as human rights, democracy, rule of law, sustainable development and social inclusiveness, among others, in close cooperation with its Mediterranean and Eastern partners.
The opinion on the new Agenda for the Mediterranean is an important opportunity to take stock of the work already done by the CoR in the several pillars around which the Agenda is built, and to streamline it in its future work, in particular, in the framework of ARLEM. In this regard, it should be noted that the Agenda does not fully acknowledge the role of local and regional authorities in the different policy areas. It is therefore important that the opinion impacts the implementation of the Agenda, marking the importance of involving and recognizing LRAs as essential components of European action also in its external relations.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- welcomes the Commission's initiative to renew its partnership with the EU's Southern Neighbourhood in the interests of peace, stability and prosperity in the region;
- calls on the EU and its partner countries to make specific and appropriate use of local and regional authorities as drivers for territorial development close to the people;
- notes that the European Committee of the Regions and the local and regional associations active in this context set up the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) in 2010 to give local and regional authorities (LRAs) a voice in the Euro-Mediterranean process;
- stresses the need to strengthen existing instruments to protect human rights, as, although positive, what the EU has actually done in this respect is not yet sufficient. Would welcome, in this connection, that all nationals of non-EU countries who are members of the partnership benefit from an upward convergence of rights and responsibilities in the area of equality and non-discrimination;
- proposes that ad hoc forums for dialogue and multilevel exchange be set up between representatives of local, regional and national authorities and representatives of civil society from European and Southern Neighbourhood countries to promote good governance and involvement in decision-making processes;
- is committed to promoting women's empowerment and gender equality, in terms of rights and opportunities, as an essential resource to promote regional stability and socio-economic development;
- stresses that it is crucial to pursue a balanced approach which takes into account all relevant aspects of migration;
in view of the strengthened geographical approach and in line with the priorities set out in the agenda, urges all the EU institutions to consider local and regional authorities and their associations as key factors for sustainable development and partners in programming.