In a context of multiplication of crises, EU local and regional leaders debated at the meeting of the European Committee of the Regions' commission for Natural Resources (NAT) on 30 March on how to make regions more resilient in agriculture, health and food systems. They argued that European Union should not only be reacting to crises but also be able to anticipate them by defining vulnerabilities criteria at local and regional level and integrating them into EU policy-making. Health claim labelling on food and alcoholic products was also discussed at the meeting.
Isilda Maria Prazeres Gomes, Mayor of Portimão – Portugal - and Chair of the NAT commission, introduced the meeting by saying: "The pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the energy and food crisis as well as floods, wild fires, earthquake, drought… This is what we have experienced in the last couple of years. And more is to come. Today we launch once again the urgent call to make resilience a priority at local, regional, national and EU level. Time has come to make our agriculture, health systems, rural areas, environment and civil protection more sustainable and better equipped to withstand crises and to learn from them".
The draft opinion "Preparing for and dealing with crises: strengthening the resilience of the Union, its regions and cities" which was adopted at the meeting gives leads to cope with these challenges. The opinion is based on the observation that crises are multiplying and consecutive or overlapping. Hence, the focus of resilience shouldn't be only on disasters and disaster response, but also on identifying vulnerabilities, notably social vulnerabilities. The opinion calls the European Commission to create a regional and local vulnerability scoreboard that would enable local and regional authorities to identify and address the challenges they face and make their communities more resilient. In particular, the reduction of these vulnerabilities could be integrated as a priority axis in the future cohesion policy and the most vulnerable regions could receive additional funding, along the lines of the Just Transition Fund.
Rapporteur Christophe Clergeau (FR/PES), member of the Regional Council of Pays de la Loire, said: "Faced with the proliferation of crises, Europeans need to build a new culture of preparedness and risk management to be able to be prepared for future disasters. The European Union must develop a regional and local vulnerability scoreboard, invest to reduce these vulnerabilities, strengthen healthcare systems and enable young people to have the right attitudes to face crises. It is about crossing the silos to build preparedness to and anticipation of crises across all European policies. To do this, we need a platform where all the European actors concerned can exchange and create the common risk culture that we need".
A common platform to share good practices of intervention and build a common risk culture between European, national, regional and local players could be created by the European Commission (on the model of what already exists for the Smart Specialization).
The opinion was adopted in the NAT commission by unanimity and will be voted at the CoR plenary on 24 May 2023 after a debate with EU Commissioner for crisis management Janez Lenarčič.
The draft opinion on Legislative framework for Sustainable food systems was also adopted. A proposal on a Sustainable Food Systems Framework (FSFS) is one of the flagship initiatives of the Farm to Fork Strategy and the European Commission plans to present it by the end of 2023.The framework will lay down foundations for a more coherent approach to better connect many policy areas that have implications for food while addressing the environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainability.
Rapporteur Joke Schauvliege (BE/EPP), Vice-president of the Flemish Parliament, said: "The European Commission has to establish a multi-stakeholder platform on sustainable food systems, involving the European Committee of the Regions together with other relevant stakeholders and civil society, thus creating a supporting network that would facilitate the transition to more sustainable food systems for European regions and cities while taking into account regional disparities."
This opinion was adopted by a large majority and will be voted at the CoR plenary on 24 May 2023.
Food labelling, including health warnings on alcoholic products, was also debated during the Commission's meeting. Members agreed on the need to provide consumers with appropriate, harmonized and transparent information by improving food and alcoholic beverage labelling so that they can be guided to make informed, responsible choices.
Finally, Nicola Caputo (IT/Renew Europe) was appointed rapporteur of the opinion on risk management and regulation of the market in agriculture. Jesus Gamallo Aller (ES/EPP) was appointed rapporteur on EU Common Fisheries Policy on the ground.
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