Karl-Heinz Lambertz, a Belgian socialist, today took office as President of the European Committee of the Regions, the voice of regional and local authorities across the European Union. He will lead the political EU assembly for the next two and half years.
President Lambertz , a long-time leader of the German-speaking Community in Belgium and representing the Community in the Belgian senate, was elected by members of the European Committee of the Regions on 12 July and succeeds Markku Markkula (FI/EPP). Mr Markkula, chairman of Espoo city council, now becomes the First Vice-President of the CoR.
Outlining his political objectives , President Lambertz said: "Europe will only emerge from the crisis it if we prove that we can achieve results led by a common vision. I am convinced that if we are to bring Brussels closer to the communities it serves, if Europe is to rebuild trust it has lost over the years, it must start by taking action in its regions and cities. This is why I'm determined to increase the standing of our Committee in the European Union and ensure it becomes the place where all regions and cities can come to share their voice"
President Lambertz, a member of the CoR since 2001 and former President of the Party of European Socialists group in the CoR, highlighted the importance of maintaining and modernising the EU's regional-development policy – its cohesion policy – as well as the importance of strengthening solidarity. "We need to build a social Europe that is united across its regions and cities. Under my Presidency, and with the tough EU budget negotiations about to start, I will continue to argue for a strong and more visible EU cohesion policy. Scaling it back, diluting it, making it conditional, makes really no sense. A Union without cohesion policy is not the Europe we can accept", he remarked.
President Lambertz began his career as an academic in the Law department of the Catholic University of Louvain-La-Neuve (UCL) in the mid-1970s, but left for a career in politics in 1981, when he became a member of the parliament of Belgium's German-speaking Community. He became Minister-President of the Community in 1999, a post that he held until May 2014 when he became President of its Parliament.
He is also Vice-President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, of which he has been a member since 2000. The Congress is the local and regional government wing of Europe's guardian of fundamental rights and brings together representatives of regions and cities from 47 countries, including Russia and Turkey.