Members of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) on 12 July elected Karl-Heinz Lambertz (BE/PES) as their new President for the next two and half years. During their plenary session, CoR members also discussed the regional angle of future research and transport policies in the presence of Commissioners Moedas and Bulc and adopted their position on the Common Agricultural policy after 2020, the EU's energy "Winter Package" as well as on the topics of migration and development.
Karl Heinz Lambertz, CoR president-elect
In his acceptance speech, President-elect Karl-Heinz Lambertz (BE/PES) stressed that the EU needs to listen to citizens and "rethink from the ground" up by giving a greater say to local and regional governments. During his Presidency, the CoR will continue to contribute to the reflection on the EU's future, to fight to protect cohesion policy (click here for Cohesion in Europe: make or break?
- TV debate with EU Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger) and to put special emphasis on reinforcing the CoR's ties with all Europe's cities and regions as well as on strengthening relations across the EU's institutions. Markku Markkula will officially hand over the Presidency to Mr Lambertz on 26 July. Mr Markkula will become the First Vice-President of the CoR.
Low-emission transport & missing transport links
Local and regional authorities in the EU are making transport systems more efficient, promoting the use of low-emission energy for transport and paving the way for zero-emission mobility. But, according to the CoR, they need an improved legal framework and stronger financial support to replace polluting public transport fleets. These concerns were shared by the EU's Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, who, together with local leaders, launched an EU-wide initiative to accelerate the deployment of zero-emissions buses. CoR members also welcomed the European Commission's plans to invest €140m in 13 cross-border transport projects in border areas in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain.
Horizon 2020: future of research and innovation in Europe
Europe needs strong regions with the strength and vision to support research and innovation ecosystems that have a real impact in a globalised world. During the CoR's plenary session, Carlos Moedas, the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, highlighted the role of cities and regions as laboratories of change and joined the call of Europe's cities and regions for a more multidisciplinary, inclusive, open and collaborative research and innovation policies.
Support for SMEs
Better support and an SME-friendly environment featured in the agenda of the plenary in multiple ways. CoR members adopted opinions calling for better regulation for SMEs and for better support for innovative entrepreneurship. Additionally, Central Macedonia, Ile-de-France and Northern and Western Region of Ireland received the European Entrepreneurial Region (EER) 2018 award for outstanding entrepreneurial strategies and visions to boost entrepreneurship within their territories.
Development and migration
The CoR adopted recommendations about how local and regional authorities can establish sustainable-development policies in line with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and the European Consensus on Development. The opinion calls for a collective process, arguing that "centrally managed, top-down policies and programmes" alone will not be enough to ensure that the UN's 17 goals are met by all cities and regions in the EU. On 10-11 July, ahead of the CoR's plenary, the European Commission and the CoR brought together local and regional leaders from four continents to explore experiences and lessons gained from their international cooperation to achieve sustainable development. The event, now known as Regions and Cities for Development, is held every two years. The themes included migration. In its plenary, the CoR called for the EU to help strengthen the administrative capacity of local and regional governments in Africa and the Middle East as a way of reducing migration in the long term.
Local and regional leaders adopted three sets of legislative and policy recommendations on the energy package presented by the European Commission in November 2016. The ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’ package is the main instrument to promote Europe’s transition to sustainable energy, and a critical tool for efforts to revive economic growth and to combat global warming. The package covers energy efficiency, renewable energy, the design of the electricity market, security of electricity supply and governance rules for the Energy Union as well as Ecodesign and a strategy for connected and automated mobility.
The future of the Common Agricultural Policy
The CoR's recommendations on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after 2020 aim to maintain high-quality, sustainable and fairly priced agricultural sector that provides adequately paid jobs in all regions of the European Union, in line with the objective of territorial cohesion. The recommendations are in line with the main outcome of the public consultation on the future of the CAP, which indicates that the policy should continue to be managed at EU level and that its main objectives should be to support farmers and to protect the environment.