The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, discussed future of Europe and post-Covid green recovery with European Committee of the Regions' members
The European Committee of the Regions welcomed the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, to its #CoRplenary on 17 March. Charles Michel presented his vision on the role of local and regional authorities in Europe's recovery and democracy. He also exchanged views on Europe's future with the Members of the CoR (watch the recorded debate here). Addressing the expectations of regions and cities to Charles Michel, CoR President Apostolos Tzitzikostas said: ''Over the last twelve months, the COVID-19 pandemic swept across Europe. But throughout these very difficult times, the European Committee of the Regions, never stopped working, neither did the Governors, the Mayors, the Regional and Local Counselors, who have been fighting, every day, on the ground, saving lives, jobs and local businesses. The COVID crisis has highlighted the limits of the current two-dimensional Europe, based only on Member States and Brussels. The Conference on the future of Europe offers a unique opportunity to reinforce our common House of European Democracy but it will mean nothing and will change nothing in people’s lives, if it becomes a contest of "beauty and might" between EU Institutions and National Capitals. It has to be about building a better, more open and less bureaucratic, resilient, sustainable and more effective Europe. We must contribute together to the modernization of the European House of Democracy, were the EU is the protective roof, the Member-States are the strong walls, and the regions, the cities and the villages are its solid foundations''.
President of the European Council Charles Michel said: " As I was myself involved in the local authorities in Wallonia, I know how important is the role regional and local authorities are playing to face the crisis which has been affecting Europe and the world for one year now. They have shown just how much they are part of democracy, because they have been in the frontline of services to our citizens. They have been very active, and have taken concrete action. They have shown that local politicians are entirely legitimate and have their part to play. In all challenges and opportunities that the European Union is facing, be it the protection of values and democracy, the post-Covid green recovery or digitalisation, I see in the local and regional leaders valuable partners with whom the governments have to work more closely. They are the closest to the people, they are pragmatic, engage directly with citizens and know how to mobilise them. They need to be more involved in the recovery plans, because they manage over 30% of the public investment and are key to success. In the framework of the Conference on the Future of Europe, they have the full freedom on how to take part in the debate. I wish to import more of the energy deployed by local and regional authorities on the ground into the European magic''.
CoR First Vice-President Vasco Cordeiro said: "The best way for the Conference on the Future of Europe to be nothing is to try to be everything. It should focus mainly on two areas: how Europe works and on what it should work. In both these two cases the role of local and regional authorities becomes insurmountable. This is true also for Europe’s recovery. It is time to fulfil the Pillar of Social Rights and also to ensure that the general escape clause will continue to apply next year. This is why also the European Committee of the Regions is calling for a golden rule for sustainable investments''. During the debate, CoR Members emphasised the central role regions and cities play to make the European Union's political goals reality. Local authorities work alongside the Union to digitalise rural areas, connecting the most remote island or mountain region, bringing SMEs and schools to the next generation, making territories more resilient. Regions, cities and villages make Europe greener by implementing 70% of all EU legislation and of climate mitigation measures and 90% of climate adaptation policies. Local authorities will continue to contribute to the Conference with the aim to open a clear debate on how to reinforce the democratic architecture of the European Union, so it is able to respond to people's needs on the ground. The CoR launched a High Level Group on European Democracy to support its work in the framework of the Conference.
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