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Insufficient involvement of regions and cities in delivering the national recovery plans puts their effectiveness at risk  
​ Representatives of Europe's local and regional authorities have again voiced their concerns over the lack of sub-national involvement in the implementation, further planning and evaluation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plans. In an opinion drafted by Rob Jonkman (NL/ECR), Alderman of the municipality of Opsterland, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) underlines that local and regional authorities are responsible for more than half of public investment in the EU and that the objectives of the EU's €750 billion recovery package Next Generation EU can't be reached without their involvement. The opinion was adopted by the CoR's Commission for Economic Policy (ECON) on Wednesday following a debate with Maarten Verwey, European Commission's Director-General for Economic and Financial Affairs (ECFIN). 

CoR rapporteur Rob Jonkman (NL/ECR) said: " The economic and social recovery, as well as the green and digital transitions can only succeed if local and regional authorities are directly involved in preparing and implementing the National Recovery and Resilience Plans. The picture of the level of cities and regions' involvement in preparing the national plans varies widely among Member States. Therefore, there is a need for greater ownership and structural involvement of local and regional authorities in the Member States, only this way the national plans can be implemented successfully ."

Concretely, the CoR opinion asks the European Commission to clearly define the role of local and regional authorities in the implementation, further planning and evaluation of the recovery plans in the agreements with Member States. It warns that a too centralised approach leads to territorial differences being overlooked, putting regions that were already lagging behind in their development before the outbreak of the pandemic at risk of an even greater development gap. It also highlights the need to improve coordination between the national recovery plans and cohesion policy funding, as well as with other EU programmes. The long-term target should be a thorough reform of the European semester with a code of conduct for the involvement of local and regional authorities.

ECFIN Director-General Maarten Verwey recalled that the aim of the Recovery and Resilience Facility is to mitigate the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and make European economies more sustainable, resilient and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the green and digital transitions. In this regard, he highlighted the wide range of opportunities it provides to local communities and stressed that the European Commission is encouraging the Member States to strengthen the local and regional authorities' involvement.

Mr Jonkman's opinion builds on the discussions at the first High-Level Forum on Regional Recovery and Resilience​​, which was organised by the European Committee of the Regions and the Slovenian Presidency of the EU Council in Lipica (Slovenia) last week. Participants underlined the need to timely deliver recovery investments on the ground and to avoid delays and overlapping among EU policies. During the Forum, EU Commissioner for Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, underlined the CoR's " constructive engagement in shaping the final design of the RRF" and the vital importance of a strong partnership among the different levels of governments in the forthcoming phase. " Local and regional authorities will be key to make national recovery plans a reality and we will continue to encourage Member States to effectively involve them" he said.

The Committee has provided a first assessment of national recovery plans' preparation and will present its findings on the impact of the pandemic on regional and local communities in the EU Annual Local and Regional Barometer 2021, to be presented on 12 October during the 19th European Week of Regions and Cities.

ECON members also adopted two other opinions at Wednesday's meeting. These, as well as Mr Jonkman's opinion, will be discussed at the CoR plenary session on 1-3 December:

  • Updating the 2020 New Industrial Strategy​: The opinion drafted by Jeannette Baljeu (NL/Renew Europe), Member of the Council of the Province of Zuid-Holland, stresses the need for an inclusive industrial strategy that supports the green and digital transitions, creates value across European regions and builds on the regional ecosystem approach.
  • ​European Commission Report on Competition Policy 2020 : The opinion drafted by Tadeusz Truskolaski (PL/EA), Mayor of Białystok, underlines that ensuring level playing field is a prerequisite for functioning Single Market and that any Covid-19 related aid must be granted only to businesses that are experiencing the immediate financial impact of the pandemic.

Lauri Ouvinen
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