Under the motto "Cohesion, a common European value", Romania will lead the EU Presidency during a decisive year for the future of our Union. It will be held during discussions on the next EU budget, a year when the next European Parliament is expected to be elected by citizens from 27, not 28, member states. Romania has rightly placed cohesion, competiveness, growth and common values at the heart of its Presidency. We need to rebuild the EU around these priorities, bringing it closer to its citizens. This can only be achieved together, with and from our cities, regions, towns and villages.
We all need to be more vocal about what the EU is and does, demonstrating that European cohesion and prosperity can only be achieved through cooperation. The EU needs to be more responsive to local needs and increase citizen's engagement so concerns are not only heard, but acted upon. Our Committee is working to create a new way to ensure citizens' views directly shape EU decisions in partnership with local and regional governments.
A social, cohesive and inclusive Europe needs investment. Our Committee has fought hard to protect regional investment - cohesion policy and rural development – so every region, rich and poor, can benefit. Cuts and centralising EU funds will hamper the ability of regions and cities to strengthen territorial cooperation, create jobs, promote social inclusion and show the added value of the EU to their communities.
Coupled with sound investment, we need to ensure every EU law improves daily life. We need to strengthen the EU's principle of subsidiarity – where decisions should be taken by those closest to citizens. 70% of all EU laws are delivered by local and regional governments so they need less paper work and more autonomy. They need a greater say in the EU so it delivers. This does not mean less Europe with less legislation, but a more effective Europe with better legislation.
With sufficient funds and effective EU laws, local and regional governments can contribute to tackling climate change. It is cities, regions and towns that are greening our economies cutting air pollution, making our transport sustainable, our homes energy efficient and recycling waste. The fight against climate change will be fought and won in our regions and cities.
These points form the basis of the Summit of Regions and Cities on 14-15 March in Bucharest. Together, with our Romanian Delegation led by President Negoiță, and the Romanian EU Presidency, the Summit – entitled "ReNew Europe" – will demonstrate that regions and cities are at the forefront of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, which should become the EU's over-arching long-term economic model. The Summit's Declaration will be the message of all EU regional and local governments to the EU27 national governments showing that the future of Europe needs its regions and cities, and the regions and cities need Europe. Only together can we create a more united, citizens' Europe.