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EU cities and regions pave the way to localise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)  

Mayor Ričardas Malinauskas (LT/PES) hosts the 23rd meeting of the Commission for Economic Policy and Conference on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
in the Lithuanian town of Druskininkai

The Commission for Economic Policy (ECON) of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) assembled over 60 elected politicians from across the EU in the Lithuanian town of Druskininkai. Participants discussed the revision of the EU's tax policy, the need to foster European industry's global competitiveness and the challenges and opportunities that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent at the local and regional level. Ahead of the European elections in May and with rising concerns over political fragmentation and the outcome of Brexit, cities and regions still stand as change agents that connect global challenges with local realities in order to deliver a better Europe for all citizens.

Opening the conference 'Sustainable Development Goals at local level: How cities and regions contribute to sustainable economic growth', Ričardas Malinauskas (LT/PES), Mayor of Druskininkai and President of the Association of Local Authorities in Lithuania, said: “Our town is an example of economic and social revival based on a sustainable development model. Since 1794, Druskininkai has been a popular health resort destination due to its vast amount of natural mineral water sources. Following a large participative approach, we are proud that the sustainable business plan launched in 2000 has reversed tourism decline to reach 340,000 visitors in 2018." The conference included presentations on the challenges and future directions on delivering SDGs in Lithuania and Latvia.

During the ECON Commission meeting, Members unanimously adopted a draft opinion on the 'Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): a basis for a long-term EU strategy for a sustainable Europe by 2030'. The opinion is the CoR's response to the European Commission's Reflection Paper 'Sustainable Europe by 2030' released in January 2019.

Rapporteur Arnoldas Abramavičius (LT/EPP), member of the Zarasai District Municipal Council and Head of the Lithuanian delegation to the CoR said: Given that 65% of the 169 targets included in the 17 SDGs cannot be reached without the involvement of local and regional authorities (UN), we are indisputable players in this regard. While we welcome the EC's reflection paper, it is now time to define a European overarching strategy with specific targets and timelines by 2030 in which we include clear milestones and a monitoring process that includes regionally differentiated targets to achieve SDGs on the ground. We call on EU institutions and Member States to align the European Semester and the future cohesion policy to 'localise SDGs', including a legally binding code of conduct on partnership as to ensure that cohesion investments target local realities and challenges." The opinion is to be adopted at the forthcoming CoR's Plenary Session next 26-27 June, when Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness is expected to be present.

The CoR's recommendations are built on a recent survey conducted together with the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). More than 90% of the 400 respondents are in favour of a European long-term strategy to mainstream SDGs within all policies. 58% have reported that they are currently working to implement SDGs and have already defined performance indicators.

Members adopted the draft opinion 'Towards a more efficient and democratic decision making in EU tax policy'. Rapporteur and Mayor of Coulaines, Christophe Rouillon (FR/PES), said: “Taxation should not become the weak link of European integration. We must ensure a fair tax competition that is aligned to our common economic area including the rules of the internal market, state aids and macro-economic governance. Tax fairness and abusive tax practices by multinational companies must be tackled as a primary source of social justice. Only tax revenues which are fully and effectively collected will allow us to provide our citizens with quality public services, from education to health, affordable housing and public transport." The EU's assembly of local and regional representatives is assessing a proposal to shift tax decision-making from unanimity to qualified majority voting. The opinion is to be adopted next plenary session 26-27 June 2019.

On industrial policy, Members adopted the draft opinion 'A place-based approach to EU industrial policy'. Rapporteur Jeannette Baljeu (NL/ALDE), Member of the Council of the Province of Zuid-Holland said: “Only a place-based approach to industrial policy that is focused on smart specialisation can strengthen value chains and Europe's industrial competitiveness at a global scale. We call on the post-2020 programming period to reinforce local and regional ecosystems, as well as inter-regional and cross-border networks and clusters.  We must incentivise new public-private partnerships to accelerate technological innovation and education to support new skills in the digitalisation of our industry." The opinion is to be adopted next plenary session 26-27 June 2019.

Background:

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) is the EU's assembly of local and regional elected representatives through which cities and regions contribute to EU legislation and policy-making. The Lithuanian delegation of the CoR is composed of nine members and nine alternates. Click here to access the full list of Lithuanian Members to the CoR.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 25 September 2015 with a set of objectives to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda, the '2030 Agenda'. Each of the 17 goals has specific targets (169 targets in total) to be achieved by 2030.

 Read here the key findings on of the CoR – OECD survey on implementing SDGs

 European Commission Factsheet: Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030 (January 2019)

 European Commission Reflection paper: Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030 (January 2019)

 Contact: David Crous | david.crous@cor.europa.eu  | +32 (0) 470 88 10 37