The opinion stresses the importance of accessibility of funds for smaller local and regional authorities. For this, concrete measures need to be taken such as pro-active communicating information and 'the right to make mistakes'. In practice this means that the European Commission should provide a short feedback on the application form before the final submission, in order to avoid that it gets withdraws due to formal or administrative mistakes.
Call for cross-border cooperation projects also to be taken into account in the programme, as they promote cooperation between regions and organisations in different Member States and thus a shared sense of European identity.
The opinions asks that a network of Europe Contact Points based on the existing Austrian model be promoted by the European institutions in cooperation with the Member States to inform local politicians of topical European issues and enable them to respond as well as possible to citizens' expectations.
The CoR recommendation was to include specific measures to promote gender equality and combat discrimination and gender-based violence in the Rights and Values Programme. European Commission highlighted the fact that the promotion of equality and rights and the fight against violence are two specific objectives of the proposed Rights and Values programme and proposed a budget for these two specific objectives together, as they are interlinked.
Local and regional authorities must be directly informed of activities in which they may take part, in particular regarding Citizens' participation. In order to raise the awareness and communication activities done centrally by the Commission, a network of national contact points is proposed for the Rights and Values Programme. This should help providing Information and advice to all potential beneficiaries of the programme, including local and regional authorities.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- fully endorses and supports the Commission's objectives for combating violence and the promotion of European rights without discrimination;
- regrets the absence of the term "citizenship" in the title of the fund, although this concept is at the heart of the activities to be undertaken by participants, in particular, as underlined in the Commission's text, against the background of mistrust towards Europe and the rise of extremism;
- asks for an important increase of the budget according to all challenges to face, to all demands of participants and to all expectations;
- stresses the importance of accessibility of the funds for smaller local and regional authorities. It would like to see effective communication established to ensure that all potential applicants are aware of funding opportunities and to allow applicants to receive a short feedback before the final submission of an application form with a "right to a mistake";
- considers that the development of synergies and establishment of new innovative tools will be essential to raise the profile and improve the effectiveness and follow-up of these programmes;
- calls for cross-border cooperation projects also to be taken into account in the programme, as they promote cooperation between regions and organisations in different Member States and thus a shared sense of European identity;
- asks that new innovative forms of action be included in the "citizens' engagement and participation" strand, in particular aimed at local and regional elected representatives, for example with the development of a training and mobility programme, an "Erasmus" for local and regional elected representatives and the development of European Correspondents;
- stresses that, although information and awareness-raising campaigns are essential, they are not sufficient to ensure citizens' participation. Effective instruments to enable citizens' participation must be developed;
- asks for the application of active subsidiarity as recommended by the Subsidiarity Task Force.