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European Semester: Better output with local and regional input  
A Code of Conduct for a structured and ongoing involvement of local and regional authorities in the European Semester is the aim of a draft opinion by Rob Jonkmann (NL/ECR) adopted by the commission for economic policy (ECON) of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR).
The European Semester is the main tool for economic and fiscal policy coordination at EU level, during which Member States align their budgetary and economic policies with the recommendations agreed at EU level. While publishing the 2017 Country Reports, the European Commission calls Members States to explain how regional and local authorities were involved in the elaboration and implementation of reforms, recognising the need of more ownership on the local and regional level.
This is a step in the right direction, according to CoR president Markku Markkula: "40 per cent of the 2016 country-specific recommendations (CSRs) could not be fully implemented without the active role of the local and regional authorities. This includes areas such as improving the investment climate or making healthcare systems more efficient. Let us not forget that the obstacles to investment often have their roots and consequentially their solutions at the local and regional level. Involving them from the beginning of the process makes sense. The approach of the European Commission to call upon Member States to explain how LRAs have been involved is welcomed, but this can only be a first step. The success of the European Semester, including the uptake of the recommendations, depends on an increased ownership on the ground".
The European Parliament explicitly endorsed the CoR proposal of a Code of Conduct in its Resolution on the 2016 European Semester. Alfred Sant (MT/S&D), Member of the European Parliament, added: "Very often the European Semester process fails to recognise that many of the policy measures envisaged concern issues related to specific territorial objectives and, therefore, their successful implementation directly depends on regional and local authorities. In order to make the European Semester more effective, these sub-national authorities should be structurally involved in the process of review and policy formulation. However, a "one size fits all approach" would not be feasible because of the diversity of competences, traditions and resources in Member States. National governments in full dialogue with their sub-national authorities should devise their own consultative and participatory processes."
"Looking at the example of the 2015 CSRs we see that the European Semester is not delivering with 48% of the CSRs showing "no" or only "limited progress" in implementation and only about 4% showing "substantial progress ", said CoR rapporteur Rob Jonkman (NL/ECR), Member of the Executive Council of Opsterland. He is calling for a Code of Conduct as a basic requirement to be fulfilled by all relevant levels of government and implemented by the Member States following their constitutional layouts and sharing of competencies. His draft opinion proposes that the Code's basic structure includes a first section analysing year-to-year developments at sub-national level and a second section addressing the role of local and regional authorities in a context of partnership between different levels of government.
"For a sound territorial basis we need to enrich the Annual Growth Survey, National Reform Programmes and Country-Specific Recommendations with territorial trends and impact of EU policies. We also need to define standing arrangements to give local and regional authorities the opportunity to take part in the preparation, review and implementation of the reforms and programmes. The code of conduct should form part of the overall effort for a more streamlined and less complex Semester. As local and regional governments we already provide data and input to the Commission for the ESI Funds. This existing data can be used to improve the linkages between EU policies and investment agenda", said Rob Jonkman.
Experience and established processes from the European Code of Conduct on partnership in the framework of cohesion policy's ESI Funds can help to avoid unnecessary administrative burdens. The CoR contributes by providing territorial analyses of the Semester's main documents and political assessments at the beginning and the end of the Semester, similarly to the European Parliament.
The final opinion will be adopted by all members of the CoR in their plenary session on 11-12 May 2017.
Since 2010 the European Semester has been the main tool for economic and fiscal policy coordination between the EU and its Member States. It starts every year in November when the Annual Growth Survey (AGS) is published by the European Commission. The AGS provides general guidelines for Member States' National Reform Programmes (NRP) and Stability or Convergence Programmes which are submitted in the spring. This forms the basis for country-specific recommendations (CSR) issued by the EC in May/June, covering all relevant policy areas – fiscal, macro-economic and structural reforms – which are then adopted by the ECOFIN Council in July after extensive consultation and endorsement by the European Council.
Carmen Schmidle
Tel. +32 (0)2 282 2366
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