President Tzitsikostas: "Without the voice of the 1 million local and regional elected politicians the Conference will not succeed"
During a debate with Dubravka Šuica, the European Commission's Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, members of the European Committee of the Regions called for a genuine open, inclusive and democratic consultation that reaches out to all citizens in all regions and cities.
Speaking during the debate, Apostolos Tzitsikostas (EPP), the newly elected President of the European Committee of the Regions and Governor of the Greek Region of Central Macedonia, warned "The Conference on the Future of Europe must be the opportunity to have a genuine discussion with citizens and change the European Union. If it is not to be another disappointment, it must be open and inclusive. If it is top-down, centralised, Brussels-driven and does not actively involve its local and regional leaders, the Conference will fail. Only by coming together, being ambitious and open to change, can we restore trust and build an EU that puts citizens first."
The call came as the Committee – the EU's assembly of local and regional governments – met for the first time in Brussels under its new five-year mandate and adopted a resolution on the Conference on the Future of Europe
Dubravka Šuica, the European Commission's Vice-President for Democracy and Demography stated: “We need to ensure that citizens see the tangible impact and results of the debates, through a feedback mechanism allowing for ideas to translate into clear recommendations which we follow up on. We want to be innovative and stop doing business as usual. We want to abolish the gap between the institutions and the citizens. Local and regional representatives have a crucial role to play."
Ivan Malenica, Croatia's Minister for Public Administration, also spoke during the plenary stating that, "We must get closer to our citizens, listen and provide appropriate answers to their concerns. The Committee of the Regions' expertise at local level and experience in organising citizens' dialogues will make a valuable contribution to this initiative".
Key elements of the Committee's resolution on the conference on the future of Europe are:
- A bottom-up debate on the topics covered by the conference, including, but not limited to: EU institutional aspects and the role of regional and local democracy, environmental and climate challenges, digital transformation, social equality, economy and jobs, and territorial cohesion;
- A higher representation of the Committee's members in the plenary conferences as well as for a participation in the Conference Steering Committee to ensure political and institutional balance between all levels of governance.
- The EU must continue after the Conference to engage directly with its citizens, building on a wealth of experience derived from participatory models to establish a permanent structured mechanism for dialogue at grassroots level;
On 30 January 2020 the Presidents of the three main EU-institutions - Charles Michel, David Sassoli, and Ursula von der Leyen, said that a Joint Declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europe would soon be published, which the Committee agreed to sign.
The Conference on the Future of Europe is due to be launched on 9 May 2020 and is expected to last 2 years.
The Committee has already jointly launched a series of debates with the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies (CALRE) to be held 1 March and 15 May 2020 to contribute to the discussions. So far, 28 from 71 regional parliaments with legislative powers have declared their readiness to take part in the project.
European Commission communication on the Conference on the future of Europe of 22 January 2020
European Parliament resolution on the Conference on the future of Europe of 15 January 2020
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