The European Union's enlargement and its capacity to prepare for systemic shocks and to counter foreign interference in its information space were the focuses of attention when the Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX) met on 18 April.
Enlargement, strategic foresight and foreign interference are all subjects of opinions that the European Committee of the Regions will adopt in the coming months.
Members also discussed how the public and private sector are cooperating to help the inclusion of refugees from Ukraine, with contributions from the OECD and Eurochambres, and on how the EU can follow up in the longer term on the lessons about democratic innovation learned from the Conference on the Future of Europe.
Enlargement Package 2022
The CIVEX commission adopted, with some amendments, an assessment of the European Commission's 2022 Communication on EU Enlargement Policy. The draft opinion emphasises the importance of advancing reforms of public administration and building up the capacity of local and regional administrations, noting that 70% of the EU's laws require implementation at the sub-national level. The debate included a number of interventions specifically related to Türkiye, which will hold general elections on 14 May. The opinion does not cover Ukraine and Moldova, which became candidates for EU membership in June 2022.
The rapporteur, Anna Magyar (HU/ECR), member of the County Council of Csongrád Megye, said: "There is a consensus on the EU side that enlargement policy is a strategic instrument that contributes to peace and security in Europe. The current war has only highlighted this approach. The most important task in the current geopolitical situation is for the European Committee of the Regions to contribute to a common reflection on how the enlargement process can be put at the service of the EU's strategic objectives. The added value of the Committee of the Regions is that we can see what the application of EU legislation entails at the local level. This valuable knowledge must be passed on to the candidate countries, and EU institutions must be made aware of the importance of taking into account the experience of regional and local governments when making decisions."
The European Committee of the Regions will on 4-5 May hold its annual Enlargement Days, a conference that brings together local and regional politicians from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Türkiye and – for the first time – Ukraine and Moldova.
Strategic foresight as an instrument of EU governance and better regulation
Members of the commission held a preliminary exchange of views on how strategic foresight – a structured, systemic and collective way to anticipate change – can be used to be used to improve EU governance and regulations. The exchange lays the ground for an opinion that is scheduled for adoption in October. The European Commission has been investing a strategic foresight to build up resilience and capacity to adapt to change, shocks and crises. The CoR's opinion will explore how local and regional authorities and the CoR can contribute to a system of 'anticipatory governance'.
The rapporteur, Piero Mauro Zanin (IT/EPP), President of the Regional Council of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, said: "The dramatic events of the last few years (from the pandemic to Russia's aggression on Ukraine) make clear that applying strategic foresight is a fundamental need for regional and local policy-makers, in order to implement 'future-proof' policies and regulations. Through this opinion, the CoR can strengthen its role and underline how LRAs can adopt a new “anticipatory governance" model, based on the capability to identify and assess the next events and trends since their first “weak signals". The opinion also aims at stressing the importance of strategic foresight as a governance and policy-planning tool, and especially as one of the most essential parts of better regulation. The CoR can moreover promote some ad-hoc educational and training actions, also targeted at LRAs officers, to develop a common mind-set so that all Europe's regions approach foresight consistently, and can effectively share their experiences and best practices."
The role of local and regional authorities in countering foreign information manipulation and interference
The meeting saw an initial debate on an own-initiative report by the European Committee of the Regions on countering foreign interference in the information space. The opinion is being fast-tracked, and will build on recent CoR opinions on European democracy action plan, supporting media, countering disinformation, reinforcing the integrity of elections, and adding hate speech and hate crimes to the list of EU crimes.
The rapporteur, Gustaw Marek Brzezin (PL/EPP), President of Warmińsko-Mazurskie Region, said: "Local and regional media play important role in countering disinformation and therefore they should be supported by local and regional authorities. Only by working together, European, national, local and regional level, we can prevent, detect and expose manipulation of information. We must broaden the knowledge of representatives of local and regional authorities in raising public awareness to the mechanisms of disinformation."
Debates on Ukrainian refugees and the follow-up to the Conference on the wFuture of Europe
The work areas of the CIVEX commission include – among other topics – the EU's institutional affairs, migration, and external affairs. These were topics that were in focus in two separate debates held at the meeting.
A discussion about "New avenues for European democracy: lessons learnt from the Conference on the Future of Europe" considered how to embed participatory democracy into the EU decision-making cycle. The CoR is building on the Conference on the Future of Europe, a year-long exercise in which citizens contributed to debates on the future of Europe, through projects and initiatives that support democratic innovation at the local and regional level and through its consultative works and political debates.
The second thematic debate was on how the public and private sector can cooperate to help the inclusion of refugees,
The second thematic debate was on how the public and private sector can cooperate to help the inclusion of refugees, and will contribute to a study commissioned by the CoR and the OECD. The study, 'Action by sub-national governments to address Ukrainian refugees' needs', will feed into the CoR's Annual Report on the State of Regions and Cities in the European Union, which will be presented in October.
commission meeting can be re-watched
on the event page.