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Quality of regulations depends on local input  

The European Union's debate on its future should result in deeper and more systematic collaboration with local and regional authorities, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) said on 1 December in recommendations that likewise called for direct consultation with the public to become a greater part of the life of the Union. The CoR, which brings together governors, mayors and councillors from across the EU, underlined the need for a regional perspective to become standard by suggesting that, whenever the EU chooses not to make an assessment of the impact of legislation on regions, it should be obliged to provide a public explanation.

The recommendations, which cover the full process of policy-making from agenda-setting to implementation and evaluation, were adopted hours after French President Emmanuel Macron told members of the European Committee of the Regions that regions are "the beating heart of European democracy" and said, referring to local administrations, that "those who are doing things need to be shaping rules as well". The CoR's recommendations – contained both in an opinion dedicated to 'better regulation' and in a resolution on the European Commission's work programme for 2022 – elaborate on the Committee's long-standing case for regions and cities to have more influence over policies that they are obliged to implement. The recommendations call, for example, for the Commission to highlight the variety of impact that legislation might have on regions and to involve regional parliaments more closely in policymaking when an early-warning system indicates specific challenges for regions.

The CoR's rapporteur on better regulation – Piero Mauro Zanin (IT/EPP), President of the Regional Council of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a regional parliament with legislative powers – said: "Democratically elected local and regional authorities still have a limited influence on the shaping of the EU legislation they are required to implement: both they and the CoR must be given a bigger role in a system that should be based on multilevel governance. The involvement of local and regional authorities has the potential to be pivotal in creating more transparent EU laws, keeping the level of administrative burdens to a minimum. 'Better regulation' means high-quality legislation: by creating added value and favouring citizens', enterprises' and stakeholders' participation in the process, it could be the driving force of EU recovery and growth."

Mr Zanin's report also urged the EU to make greater use of the proximity that local and regional authorities enjoy to citizens, which gives them a "capacity of capturing, mediating and relaying citizens' concerns". The EU should, in addition, develop a permanent mechanism to enable to citizens to engage in EU affairs.

To contribute to the Conference on the Future of Europe, the CoR has been working with local and regional authorities to hold citizens' panels on issues of central concern to the EU. The CoR's wish to bring citizens' panels to the fore was evident in the CoR's plenary, where representatives from these panels joined former European Council President Herman Van Rompuy in a debate with CoR members on the Conference on the Future of Europe.

The European Commission has in recent years made and acted on commitments to reduce and simplify legislation and to improve transparency. The CoR endorsed the European Commission's initiatives, citing in particular the contribution of the Fit for Future Platform created to guide efforts to simplify EU laws and to reduce related unnecessary costs, and the Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and "Doing Less More Efficiently". It also supported the introduction of a 'do no significant harm' approach to policymaking, a principle that, notably, underpins the EU's Green Deal, whose purpose is to make the EU carbon-neutral by 2050. However, Mr Zanin's report and the CoR resolution emphasised that the efforts made so far full significantly short of the quality of collaboration needed. The Committee faulted the European Commission for failing to adequately take into account the challenges faced by specific regions when drafting legislation. It said that any 'territorially blind' approach – caused, for example, by an absence of sub-national data and lack of sub-national analysis – risked having "an adverse and enduring impact on the Union as a whole, on the spirit of cohesion between territories and on the lives of individuals".

The CoR has itself tried to improve the quality of policy-making by piloting a project to harvest feedback on EU legislation. The Network of Regional Hubs – or RegHubs – project has so far resulted in reports on the merits and flaws of EU legislation on cross-border health care, agricultural support, air quality and public procurement, and it is now an integral element in the EU's better-regulation agenda and in the Fit for Future Platform. Mr Zanin's opinion said the feedback mechanism could be used more widely and developed further.

Among specific innovations that the CoR said it would like to see is the possibility of regions being able to join negotiations between the European Commission, European Parliament and EU member states on dossiers that most fundamentally affect regions.

Contact:

Andrew Gardner

Tel +32 2 282 2429

andrew.gardner@cor.europa.eu


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