The European Committee of the Regions' (CoR) commission for Natural Resources (NAT) met on 19 May to discuss the role of cities and regions in the resilience of critical entities. Through a draft opinion adopted by the commission, members stressed the need to consult local and regional authorities in this field and called on EU institutions to include the CoR in the new European Critical Entities Resilience Group. A draft opinion on the New Consumer Agenda was also adopted during the meeting.
Critical infrastructures such as bridges, ports and dams, which ensure the proper functioning of the energy and transport sectors, as well as the resilience of the entities operating them, are essential for the functioning of our societies and economy. Therefore, the NAT commission welcomed the European Commission's initiative to create a Critical Entities Resilience Group, composed of representatives of the Member States and of the Commission itself. The creation of the group, which was included in the new directive proposal put forward by the Commission in December 2020, aims at evaluating resilience strategies of critical entities and promoting the exchange of best practices in research, development and the identification of both cross-border and cross-sectoral dependencies.
Local and regional authorities are the ones that better know the territory and have major responsibilities with regard to protecting the area in which these infrastructures are located. Hence, the CoR is proposing to be part of the Critical Entities Resilience Group as an observer, representing the concerns of local and regional authorities and contributing with its own wealth of expertise and knowledge built up on the ground.
Mario Guarente (IT/ECR), Mayor of Potenza and rapporteur of the opinion on the Resilience of Critical Entities, stated that "it is imperative that critical infrastructures are adequately protected against a wide spectrum of threats, be they natural or man-made, unintentional or with malicious intent. To this end, critical entities must be resilient wherever and whenever disruptions appear. In this regard, communication and information on risks should be promoted amongst local administrations and inhabitants of the territories concerned, and attention must be paid to the current condition of the existing physical infrastructures in order to either define adequate upgrading programs or new constructions. Local and regional authorities have a central role in drawing up resilience strategies and need to be involved."
During a separate debate on the draft opinion on the New Consumer Agenda, members discussed the importance of protecting consumers' rights. Consumer protection tools must take full account of the major challenges facing the European economy, such as the COVID-19 crisis, the green transition, digital transformation, globalisation and the emerging specific needs of certain vulnerable consumers. Members agreed that providing transparent and clear information on the durability, reparability and social and environmental footprints of products is crucial to allow consumers to take informed and conscious choices. Local and regional authorities, in cooperation with consumer organizations and local businesses, have a relevant role to play.
Alexia Bertrand (BE/Renew Europe), Member of the Parliament of Brussels-Capital Region and rapporteur of the draft opinion on the New Consumer Agenda, said: "consumer protection is one of the European policies that is most directly relevant for citizens. The European common market has however undergone many fundamental transitions and faces many challenges such as the recent pandemic. This forces us to rethink consumer protection. We have to better implement consumer rights. Europeans deserve the best consumer protection in the world".
Both draft opinions were adopted during the meeting and will stand for final adoption during the plenary session in July and October 2021, respectively.
During the meeting, NAT commission members discussed the EU action plan for organic farming, presented by Uroš Brežan (SL/Greens) and the Europe's Beating Cancer Plan, by the rapporteur Birgitta Sacrédeus (SE/EPP). Two more debates also took place during the meeting featuring NAT members sharing their concerns. Francisco Celso González González (ES/PES), Minister for Finance of the Regional Government of La Rioja spoke about the impact of COVID crisis on the wine sector, calling on the EU institutions to step in to avert the disaster. Stavros Arnaoutakis (EL/PES), governor of Crete Region stressed the importance of tourism for local economy and called on the EU legislators to overcome the impasse in negotiations on the Green Digital Certificate. Together with the Chair, Ulrika Landergren (SV/Renew) he encouraged the Members – as well as the citizens – to get vaccinated to win the fight against COVID-19.
Berta López Domènech
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