The President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), Karl-Heinz Lambertz, delivered today the first-ever "State of the European Union: the View of Regions and Cities" , which was followed by a debate with European Council President Donald Tusk. This new exercise is to be seen in the context of the ongoing political debate on the future of Europe.
President Lambertz's Address ( FR ), which was delivered today in Brussels during the CoR's plenary– made up of elected local and regional representatives from all EU member States – aims to take stock of the current situation of cities and regions in the EU and look ahead to the main challenges for the coming years.
"At the European Committee of the Regions, we view the Union from the ground up, from the perspective of ordinary people, through the eyes of our 350 local and regional elected representatives. This is the perspective we would like to communicate"; said President Lambertz.
" Europe has an increasingly important place in the activities of local and regional leaders. They implement most EU legislation. They build, co-finance and manage European projects. They debate on Europe in their assemblies and with their fellow citizens. Just as the European level influences the local and regional level, the local and regional level should fully be able to exert their influence at the European level ", he further insisted.
European Council President, Donald Tusk, echoed this view, stressing that " Europe's self-confidence and wellbeing depends on the vitality of our cities, regions and municipalities" .
Key Messages of the 2017 State of the Regions Address:
Reconnecting with the citizens: "The commitment of local and regional elected representatives is rewarded by public confidence in local and regional authorities, which is more important than the one given to the EU and its Member States in general. This is a source of considerable pride, because it means that our cities and regions constitute an element of trust in a Union which is sometimes riddled with doubt."
"Our efforts must be guided by two principles: action at the right level, and dialogue with European citizens (…). Since March 2016, we have organised more than 140 public debates in 95 regions."
"I firmly believe that it is by addressing citizens' expectations that suspicion toward Europe will be replaced by a desire for Europe."
The future of cohesion policy: " Cohesion policy makes an essential solidarity-based contribution to consolidating the European Union and is the necessary counterpart to the internal market rules. Its future and Europe's future are interlinked."
" At least three out of four Europeans believe that the EU's regional investment has positive effects for their city and region."
" Our request to the Council is twofold: ensure a strong cohesion policy involving all regions, and guarantee that this policy will receive funding of at least one third of the EU's budget, as it does now."
EU budget and public investment : "The ambition for Europe must be backed by significant resources in order to be credible, particularly by freeing up new own resources."
Migration: "Our identities must communicate peacefully and must constantly be open to the outside rather than closed in on themselves."
"In Catania, in Athens, on the Greek islands and in many other places and countries, local and regional officials have organised the reception of thousands of migrants in very difficult circumstances. (…) Through their courage and their solidarity, they have made the European spirit proud."
Brexit : "Brexit is the failure of a Union based on systems of derogations (…). The Brexit decision will have serious consequences for British and European local communities."
Social Europe : "Security must also mean social security. There are still vast economic and social disparities between Europeans .One in five Europeans lives in a household below the poverty line or in situation of social exclusion. (…) Europeans need a strong social model which protects everyone."
"Europeans need a strong social model which protects everyone. Let us never forget that Europe is rooted in the prospect of better social protection. This is precisely the point of the Social Summit being held in Gothenburg, Sweden, on 17 November, in which our Committee will be involved."
Environment : "The security of European citizens also depends on protecting the environment and biodiversity. Here too, regions and cities are front-line players as are the American states and towns that have bravely decided to implement the objectives of the Paris Agreement despite the irresponsible stance of Donald Trump."
"The fight against climate change is also a priority for us. We have just entered into partnerships with the European Climate Alliance network and with the ICLEI international network."
As part of its contribution to the debate on the future of Europe, the CoR has launched a bottom up initiative called "Reflecting on Europe" consisting of citizens' dialogues and town hall debates involving its 350 members and alternates. This consultation is complemented by a pan-European online survey made of a set of questions on the future of Europe and aimed at collecting citizens' feedback. As a result, the CoR will adopt its vision on the future of Europe from a local and regional perspective in the first semester of 2018. It will hold a "Summit of Europe's Regional and Local Leaders" in the first quarter 2019.
On 9 October, the European Committee of the Regions together with leading associations of EU cities and regions launched a Europe-wide coalition - #CohesionAlliance - calling for the EU budget after 2020 to make cohesion policy stronger, more effective, visible and available for every region in the Union. Local and regional leaders from across Europe, together with Members of the European Parliament, civil society and business associations representatives, are invited to signing up to the Alliance declaration .
Notes to the editors
Every year in October as from this time on, the CoR President will deliver his "State of the EU Regions" address before the CoR plenary. The aim is to take stock of the current situation of EU's cities and regions and look ahead to the main challenges for the following years. The Address is also to be seen as an initial reaction of the CoR to the key proposals unveiled in the European Commission's work programme. The speech is followed by a plenary debate with the CoR members and high level EU representatives.
Reactions from the CoR political groups are available on their respective web pages .
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