President Tzitzikostas:"COVID-19 exposed the need for Europe to be
better prepared, coordinated and equipped, giving regional and local
authorities direct access to EU funds"
Local and regional leaders
have backed European Commission proposals which would give the EU an additional €2bn
of funds to be able to directly respond to future crises. Drawing lessons from
the COVID-19 pandemic during a debate with the EU's Commissioner for crisis
management, Janez Lenarčič, members of the European Committee of the Regions
also called for new rules to let regions and cities have direct EU support
during times of emergency.
Members of the European Committee of the Regions – the EU's political assembly of local and regional leaders - welcomed the efforts taken by the European Commission in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. It further gave its support to recent proposals to strengthen RescEU – which is part of the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism – that gives the EU emergency resources such as planes and medical equipment to help communities hit by crises.
The President of the Committee, Apostolos Tzitzikostas, said: "The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the need for the EU to be better prepared, coordinated and equipped. The EU needs reinforced resources and competencies so it can act faster during times of crisis. The European Commission's proposal for an extra €2bn extra for RescEU is not a nicety but a necessity. It must be a permanent EU fund and not a one-off reserve. Structural changes must also be introduced to let local and regional governments on the frontline have direct access to EU funds and support when crisis hits. We stand ready to work with the European Commission to strengthen the resilience in our regions, cities and villages across Europe"
Janez Lenarčič, the EU's Commissioner in charge of Crisis Management, said during the Committee's plenary debate: "Regional and local actors are crucial in emergencies mostly being the first responders while also playing a key role in carrying out prevention actions. In this respect, cooperation between the Commission and the European Committee of the Regions is essential. For me as the Commissioner for Crisis Management, it is important to hear the voice of the European Committee of the Regions when we present a new legislative proposal in the field of civil protection. New laws on EU civil protection namely have an impact on regional and local levels, largely bearing the brunt of such high-impact crises, as we can witness with COVID-19 pandemic".
The European Committee of the Regions in March launched an online Exchange Platform which enables local and regional governments to share best practises in responding the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as assess the EU's response. It also proposed for the establishment of an EU Health Emergency Mechanism to help cities and regions hire additional medical staff, buy more medical devices, support intensive care services, and provide sanitation tools and material to hospitals and schools, which has been largely been taken into account in the EU's recovery plans.
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