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EU regional and local leaders assess the local dimension of sustainable development, economic recovery and Single Market  

​​​The European Committee of the Regions' commission for Economic Policy (ECON) has adopted draft opinions on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals, the review report on the Recovery and Resilience Facility as well as on the Single Market Emergency Instrument. On the same day, 7 December, a group of Czech glass producers also presented to ECON members crystal glasses from Bohemia, as an example of regional craft excellence that could be better protected through a new EU framework for geographical indications of industrial and craft products. The CoR has been calling since 2015 for the creation of the new system, which is built on a successful model used for agriculture and food.

In a draft opinion, ECON members urged the European Commission to boost and accelerate action on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure their successful and timely implementation leading to a fairer, greener and more prosperous future. The recommendations reflect deep concern on the part of cities and regions about a reversal of progress in implementation of the SDGs in the EU and by the need to accelerate the recovery on the ground. The Goals were set by United Nations for the years until 2030, but the COVID-19 crisis, climate change and growing geopolitical tensions are putting at risk the chances of achieving the targets. The ECON commission's recommendations therefore argue that SDGs should be better integrated into the European Semester and better harnessed to the EU recovery, notably in the National Recovery and Resilience Plans which Members States submitted under the €724 billion Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF).

The rapporteur Ricardo Rio (PT/EPP), Mayor of Braga, said: " Cities and regions are committed to the Sustainable Development Goals and its importance for a sustainable recovery and long-term sustainable growth. That is why the European Committee of the Regions is reinforcing the need of its achievement all across the European Union. "

Progress in the implementation of the RRF was the focus of the opinion drafted by Rob Jonkman (NL/EPP), alderman of the municipality of Opsterland, which was also adopted by ECON members. Local leaders criticised the review report on the Recovery and Resilience Facility, published in July by the European Commission, calling it a “missed opportunity”. They regretted that no qualitative analyses are included in the report and urged Member States and the Commission to transform the current centralised governance into a multi-level implementation approach, which fully involves local and regional authorities to effectively deliver RRF investments.

The rapporteur, Rob Jonkman, said: The RRF is considered the cornerstone of the European Union's forward-looking strategy, as National Recovery and Resilience Plans set the investment and reform agenda to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth for years to come. Local and regional authorities have important competences in the six pillars of the RRF, from green transition, digital transformation to economic and territorial cohesion and competitiveness. Cities' and regions’ involvement in the further implementation is therefore a matter not only of logic and fairness, but also necessary for the RRF to effectively achieve its stated objectives. We need partnership and multi-level cooperation, not centralisation.”

ECON members also unanimously adopted a draft opinion welcoming the EU Commission’s proposal for an emergency instrument for the Single Market. Local and regional authorities face the consequences of crises that affect the Single Market and are often responsible for implementing mitigating measures. Regions and cities should therefore contribute to the shaping of Single Market policies, and particularly to a robust overall EU preparedness and response framework that complements existing and planned rules.

Muhterem Aras (DE/Greens), rapporteur of the opinion and President of the Landtag of Baden-Württemberg, said: " EU rules need to reflect the realities of people and businesses in regions, cities and communities and prevent border closures in the case of future crises. The Single Market Emergency Instrument should better involve the local and regional level and needs to ensure the freedom of movement and open EU borders through coherence with other EU regulations. Thus, the SMEI should have partial priority over the Schengen Borders Code in order to avoid long traffic jams at borders hindering the free movement of people and goods, as seen during the covid-19 pandemic ."

The three opinions are scheduled to be adopted during the CoR's plenary session in February 2023.

During the meeting, Elio Di Rupo (BE/PES), Minister-President of the Wallonia Region, was appointed as rapporteur on the reform of the EU economic governance framework.

A group of Czech glass producers from the “Crystal Valley” also presented to local leaders crystal glasses from Bohemia, as an example of regional craft excellence that could be protected through the new EU framework for geographical indications of industrial and craft products. In October 2021 and October 2022, the Committee adopted two opinions drafted by Martine Pinville (FR/PES), member of the regional council of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, advocating for the creation of the new system of geographical indications that would strengthen the legal protection of local heritage, help combat counterfeiting and create and maintain jobs which are crucial for regional economies.

Background:

According to the OECD, 65% of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be achieved without the involvement of local and regional authorities. Therefore, cities and regions cited in the EU Annual SDGs monitoring report underlined the importance of involving significant data and good practice from the local and regional level, to showcase cities' and regions' efforts to implement SDGs. To accelerate efforts to achieve SDGs on the ground and provide a framework for regions to monitor them in their territory, the CoR has voiced its support for a pilot project launched by the Joint Research Center on 29 November called “Monitoring the SDGs in the EU regions - Filling the data gaps - REGIONS2030" .

The exhibition of crystal glass hosted by the CoR upon invitation of Pavel Branda (CZ/ECR), Deputy Mayor of Rádlo, featured a variety of glassware, but also a handmade Christmas tree decorations made of blown glass beads, which was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists) in 2020 at the proposal of the Czech Republic.

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