Committee of the Regions to move up another gear in consulting citizens on “Reflecting on Europe” throughout the EU
Ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty and in the context of growing disaffection toward the European project, EU's cities and regions have pledged to shoulder their share to achieve greater involvement of the citizens in shaping a new path for the Union. Following a debate on Europe's future with a delegation of 200 young Europeans, members of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) today adopted a resolution marking the launch of an extensive citizens' consultation process on "Reflecting on Europe" throughout the EU. The outcome of this wide-ranging initiative will feed into the CoR's contribution to the upcoming political discussions on the future of the Union.
Opening the debate in plenary session, CoR President Markkula stressed that, " In todays challenging times, anniversaries such as the 60 years of the Rome Treaty and the 25 years of the Maastricht Treaty should be an opportunity to have an honest debate about Europe. But the time has come to go beyond talking and listening: we have to act. We want action and we want it now. This is what people, including the younger generations, want from Europe and what we wanted to signal with today's 'youth amendment'. We need a European Union where citizens feel their voice really counts and individuals feel safe to follow their dreams. We want to rebuild a European Union for and with the citizens ".
Thanks to a close cooperation with the European Youth Forum and the Model European parliament , today's debate on the future of Europe greatly benefitted from the ideas and opinions of about 200 young Europeans who actively took part to the plenary work. Their participation follows up from the "youth citizens' dialogue" on "how to rebuild trust in the EU with the help of regions and cities" that was organised during the Youth Opinion Festival ( YO!Fest ) on 7 February in Maastricht with CoR's representatives from all political parties.
As part of its contribution to the wider political reflection on the future of the EU, CoR members adopted a resolution endorsing the idea of launching an extensive consultation process of "Reflecting on Europe", mostly in the form of citizens' dialogues and town hall debates at local level, to collect citizens' concerns and make these voices heard at EU level. This "bottom-up" exercise has become even more relevant following a formal request from European Council President Tusk to the CoR to send its position on its “Reflections on Europe” through the voice of cities and regions. The CoR position, whose adoption is planned in 2018, will draw from the consultation's outcome and will be prepared by CoR President Markkula and First Vice-President Lambertz.
Mr Lambertz was eager to emphasise that " Special expectations are attached to special occasions, such as this year's anniversaries of the Rome and Maastricht Treaties. Europe is going through particularly hard times, facing a multitude of crises. We need to transform current scepticism into hope and this is a mission in which we, as local and regional representatives close to the citizens, can make a valuable contribution. This resolution shouldn’t be another document that gets lost in digital files. It should trigger a process of reflection about the future of Europe that leads to concrete results ".
In their resolution, EU's local and regional leaders also call for:
· a Europe able to restore citizens' confidence in the European project;
· a Union that provides effective and prompt solutions to the major common challenges that cities, regions and states cannot tackle by themselves, such as increasing EU's competitiveness, strengthening cohesion, securing a safe space for all, addressing the migrants and refugees' crisis, tackling climate change, combatting unemployment and fighting against terrorism;
· a Europe which recognises the importance of ensuring young people's specific needs and open dialogue between peoples of all generations.
The CoR initiative to consult the European citizens about Europe directly at the grassroots has already been up and running, with 27 local events on "Let's talk about Europe" having been organised by the CoR, its members and local and regional partners, in 13 EU countries in 2016, with an overall participation of over 3,200 citizens.
This exercise will be intensified throughout 2017 with about 70 local events to be further organised across all the Member States.
The Committee is also encouraging regional and local councils to hold their own debates, including in their own institutional bodies, to further ensure that citizens' are heard during this time of reflection.
More information on the CoR initiative on "Reflecting on Europe" .
Photos from the plenary session can be downloaded for free from our Flickr gallery .
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