In a resolution adopted at its plenary session on Thursday, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) recalled that the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality are the best way to ensure effective and efficient decision making reflects the real needs of citizens.
Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the European Committee of the Regions said: "Europe must act as close as possible to the citizens, led by the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. This does not mean less Europe: it means more Europe with better governance so every decision directly improves citizens' lives. Local and regional governments must be given a stronger role in EU decision-making in the areas that fall under their competences - such as education, health, environment and cohesion policy – so it responds to citizens' needs. To win back people's trust we must also promote our European values through education and through a permanent two-way dialogue with them''.
The plenary session saw an exchange between the CoR's members and members of the Conference of the Future of Europe plenary working group on European Democracy, namely;
Reinhold Lopatka, Member of the National Council of Austria: "The Conference on the Future of Europe is the opportunity to reactivate the early warning mechanism that can assess the added value of EU laws and hence the implementation of the subsidiarity principle. This would allow national and regional parliaments to take back ownership on the EU decision making process."
Sandro Gozi, Member of the European Parliament: "The Conference on the Future of Europe can be the starting point of the establishment of a new European political sphere. Transnational lists for the European Parliament elections can contribute to this. New ways of interaction with citizens also need to be sought in order to have participative democracy complementing representative democracy. Here the local and regional level that is closest to the people has an animator's role to play".
Arnoldas Pranckevičius, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania: "All levels of governance need to be exploited to restore people's trust in the European Union and in democracy. In particular the local and regional level can contribute to this aim, because they know people's concerns best".
Wepke Kingma, Netherlands’ Envoy for the Conference on the Future of Europe: "A survey by a renowned Dutch polling agency shows that the Dutch citizens are keen to be better informed about the EU. Education and independent media can play an important role here. Transparency is key to make the EU better understood. The final report of the Conference on the Future of Europe has to take into account citizens’ recommendations and to foresee concrete follow-up actions".
Key recommendations of the resolution include:
- CoR to be gradually upgraded from an advisory body to a co-deciding body of the European Union on key policies areas with territorial impact;
- CoR should be granted access to trilogues and related documents, provided that it has delivered an opinion on the proposal in question under Article 307 TFEU; demands that the CoR is given the ability to propose compromises to the co-legislators;
- CoR considers that breaches of the rule of law principle must result in suspension of payments or financial corrections, and that in the event of such measures, those beneficiaries of EU funding including local and regional authorities not responsible for the breaches of the rule of law should continue to receive financial support from the Member State concerned;
- Clear institutional involvement of local and regional authorities in the design and implementation of climate, energy and environmental policies, for direct access to EU funding, the minimisation of bureaucratic obstacles, and for coordinated programmes across all levels of governance and, in particular, the investment plans in support of the European Green Deal and the Recovery and Resilience Plans;
- Conference on the Future of Europe to be considered as a starting point for a fully empowering democratic process at European, national, regional and local level; CoR reiterates the need for a continuous, genuinely inclusive, transparent, decentralised, geographically and politically balanced debate on the future of the European Union
The CoR will present its final contribution to the Conference on the Future of Europe at the 9th European Summit of Regions and Cities in Marseille on 3-4 March.
European democracy is the topic that has received the most contributions from citizens on the multilingual digital platform of the Conference on the Future of Europe. The key questions raised cover everything from the institutional functioning of the EU to the fight against disinformation and the protection of fundamental rights. The role of the working group on European democracy, chaired by MEP Manfred Weber (DE/EPP), is to analyse these citizens' recommendations and assess them in relation to the current institutional framework and its eventual reform. The CoR, represented by four delegates in the WG, is in charge of leading the discussion on the subtopic of subsidiarity, together with a representative from national parliaments.
The CoR promotes and implements the subsidiarity principle through its legislative and political work, as well as through initiatives and networks such as the Subsidiarity Monitoring Network and Network of Regional Hubs - the regional hubs review EU policy implementation, and participation in the European Commission Fit4Future Platform
Delegation of local and regional elected representatives to the Conference plenary.
Interim report on CoR citizens' dialogues