Preliminary results of a pan-European study from the London School of Economics seeking the views of local and regional authorities on the future of Europe and the role they wish to play in a renewed Union were presented yesterday at the meeting of the Committee of the Regions' Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs ( CIVEX ). A vast majority of respondents agreed that the number one priority should be to put the citizens at the heart of the EU integration and that they are ideally placed in this process. They also feel that they have a unique role to play in creating a new model of EU solidarity based on a number of key principles, such as cohesion, inclusiveness and partnership.
Ahead of the presentation of the London School of Economics' (LSE) first study results, CoR First Vice-President Markku Markkula said: " The debate on the Future of Europe is becoming richer every day. But let me be clear: I think that a European Union without a full contribution of its cities and regions would be a Union without any solid foundations, built in a vacuum. Unfortunately, regions and cities are still the less represented in the EU decision-making process. This paradox creates disaffection among citizens, and sometimes reluctance or mistrust towards the whole integration process. "
As part of the CoR's " Reflecting on Europe " campaign, the CIVEX commission chaired by Barbara Duden (DE/PSE), Member of Hamburg City Parliament has commissioned a pan-European study from the LSE. This includes a wide consultation of local and regional authorities, regional parliaments and local-regional authorities' associations at national and European level. The consultation was also sent to all CoR members. Participants were asked to identify the main challenges that the EU should tackle, and how cities and regions could contribute to make the EU a stronger player in terms of governance, policy and representative links with the citizens. The results of the study will feed into the CoR opinion on the future of Europe, to be adopted by October 2018.
The survey was conducted with about 2000 stakeholders and enjoyed a high response rate, showing a clear interest on the topic. The questionnaire included 14 questions and consisted of three sections: Governance, Policy, Communication and Representation. Michael Bruter, Professor of Political Science, and Sarah Harrison, Associate professorial Research fellow, at the LSE, presented the first results of the study, with a full report expected at the beginning of 2018.
Here are some of the main findings:
On the issue of structural reform priorities, a majority of respondents emphasised the need for a better delineation between the various levels of governments, as well as increased powers for the regional levels and the regional parliaments;
Concerning the sort of policies the EU should most deal with, cohesion policy clearly tops the list, followed by employment, growth, migration, security, environment and youth;
Regarding the challenges posed by the migrants crisis, responses showed very little support for a tough line and instead expressed their support for a generous approach but based on renewed dialogue with migrants' countries of origin and stronger collaboration with receiving EU countries;
As regards the evolution of EU Cohesion policy, a vast majority of respondents expressed their wish to see the following two pillars be preserved: universality – the policy should benefit to all regions; and priority to the poorer regions;
Asked to list the three keywords coming to mind on how to reinvent EU solidarity, respondents mentioned cooperation, partnership, exchange of good practices, cohesion, knowledge economy, and inclusiveness as top answers;
On the issue on how to improve citizens' sense of belonging to the EU, the emphasis was put on early primary school education, learning languages and the Erasmus exchange programme;
Concerning cities and regions' communication priorities when it comes to the EU, the most dominant answer was the citizens' right to live, work and study across the Union.
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