On 22 March Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, will discuss progress of the European Union's migration agenda with local and regional politicians, many of whom host refugees and new arrivals from the Middle East and North Africa. The migration debate kicks off the European Committee of the Regions' plenary session in Brussels that will also focus on the EU's possible enlargement to the Western Balkans. Johannes Hahn, the EU's Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiation, will participate in the debate.
Migration in Europe: EU must show more unity and give more support to local authorities (22 March)
The European Union's efforts to work with cities and regions in Greece, Italy and other border countries remain inadequate, an opinion drafted by Dimitrios Kalogeropoulos (EL/EPP) argues. He draws particular attention on the intense pressure on islands, and calls for exploring the possibility of "transferring responsibility for examining asylum applications from national to EU level". The CoR adopted an opinion on the European Agenda on Migration in 2015. Since then, it has adopted recommendations for reform of the common European asylum system , legal migration , and the integration of immigrants.
Before the opinion is adopted, Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos , two-time mayor of Athens and former member of the CoR, will discuss the state of the EU migration agenda with CoR members. Laura Thompson , Deputy Director-General of the International Organisation for Migration, Anila Noor, a refugee and member of the European Migrant Advisory Board, and Elisabeth Bartke from the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, will also join the debate on migration trends, experiences of refugees, and efforts to integrate new arrivals in Europe.
The need for local reform: EU enlargement to the Western Balkans (22 March)
European Commissioner Johannes Hahn will discuss the progress of Western Balkan countries have made towards EU membership and the importance of local and regional government reform. These are also the principal themes of an opinion drafted by Franz Schausberger (AT/EPP), representative of Salzburg. The draft focuses on readying local and public administrations as "absolutely essential" for the success of integration. Around 70% of EU legislation requires action by regions and cities. The opinion warns of "a shift towards more autocratic forms of government and centralisation" and says that EU "must be stronger and more stable" as a result of enlargement to the Western Balkans.
The future EU budget and cohesion policy (23 March)
EU local leaders will discuss their position on the EU long term budget after 2020 with the European Parliament's co-rapporteur, Jan Olbrycht (EPP/PL). The CoR is working to shape the future EU cohesion policy highlighting the 'cost of non-cohesion', with the opinion by Mieczysław Struk (PL/EPP), Marshal of Pomerania. The CoR is also focused on improving the impact of the European Social Fund – the EU's main instrument to support employment, education and social inclusion policies – with proposals included in the opinion prepared by the President of the Umbria Region and Chair of the CoR PES Group, Catiuscia Marini. How to support structural reforms in the context of the forthcoming Eurozone's reform will be the challenge addressed by the opinion prepared by Olga Zrihen (BE/PES), member of the Parliament of Wallonia.
Participatory democracy: reform of the European Citizens' Initiative (23 March)
CoR members will debate the European Commission's proposal to reform the European Citizen's Initiative, a transnational tool of participatory democracy created in 2012 to allow one million EU citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies. After six years of existence and only a few successful ECIs leading to EU legislation action, the instrument has been increasingly criticised for being too restrictive and burdensome for campaigners. In an opinion prepared by Luc Van den Brande, Brande (BE/EPP), Member of the Management Board of the Flanders-Europe Liaison Agency, the CoR welcomes major improvement to the ECI's usability, but argues that the Commission missed a great opportunity to transform it into an effective EU agenda-setting tool in the hands of citizens
Other opinions to be adopted:
Where : Paul Henri Spaak building – Hemicycle, European Parliament
When : 22 March, 2.30pm-9pm – 23 March, 9am-1pm