Today's signature is an important step in our shared effort to bridge the gap between the European Union and our people living in regions, cities and villages. The European Committee of the Regions stands ready to sign the
Declaration on behalf of all 1 million locally and regionally elected leaders and to join forces with all EU institutions, with the national, regional and local authorities across Europe, and with relevant stakeholders from the business sector and the civil society.
I welcome the clear reference in the Joint Declaration to the involvement of the regional parliaments and local authorities, as well as to our European Committee of the Regions in the overall process. In addition to our political debates, our Committee will organise Local Dialogues directly with citizens or through regional and local actors on the ground, in order to ensure that the Conference goes far beyond Europe’s capital cities and reaches every corner of the Union.
We will provide feedback via our representatives in the Executive Board and in the Conference Plenary. In addition, our internal political work will be supported by a
High-Level Group on Democracy chaired by the former President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy, and composed of seven men and women.
Let us all remember that the Conference on the Future of Europe is not an objective per se, although it could be a good tool and opportunity. Our aim must be to honestly engage with people, and in particular with the young people, in our regions, cities and villages who wish to share their views on how democracy delivers on the ground whilst coping with the 21st century climate and digital challenges. Only as a second step based on our citizens’ input, should we look into how to modernise and strengthen the EU's democratic architecture.
Our position is clear: we must avoid at all costs a “beauty contest” between the Brussels institutions. Another ''cosmetic'' exercise based on a top down approach will have the opposite result and will fuel the anti-European propaganda of euro-sceptics and populists.
The Conference must allow an honest reflection through a profound democratisation process that eventually brings the EU closer to people. We want less institutional complexity and more democratic representation of people’s trust via their vote in the European, national, regional and local elections. More than 1 million regional and local elected politicians across Europe play a vital role in setting a dynamic and positive agenda with our citizens based on their real needs, because local and regional authorities are the closest and most trusted level of government.
We must reinforce our common House of European Democracy by empowering our people with the right tools to strengthen its roof – the EU - its walls – our Member States - and its foundations - regions, cities and villages. We must seize this opportunity to respond to the real needs of the people.