In an important step towards enhancing transatlantic cooperation at the sub-national level, a president of the US National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has for the first time addressed a plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR).
Vasco Alves Cordeiro, President of the European Committee of the Regions, said: "The European Union and the United States of America are two key players in the international community. Our institutional and political relations, on different levels of governance, are deeply intertwined. This exchange allows to bring sub-national entities together, and this is important because we need to think and to act together on the global stage, promoting and implementing cooperation between our institutions. Many municipalities in Europe have strong bonds with the United States. It is important to strengthen those ties between local communities that share same principles, concerns and values. Some of the biggest challenges our democracies are facing can be addressed if we go local. To make the voice of state, regional and local governments heard is at the heart of the Committee of the Regions' mission as well as the work of the National Conference of State Legislature. European cities and regions expressed that they want to intensify the dialogue and seize opportunities for future cooperation and be in close contact regarding our democratic challenges."
Robin Vos, President of the US National Conference of State Legislatures and Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker, spoke to members of the CoR on 6 July in a debate on the role of sub-national governments in the European Union and United States in tackling current challenges. His participation was intended to identify shared objectives and policy priorities on which the two organisations could further cooperate. Both bodies recognise the significance of sub-national governance in tackling complex issues on their continents and globally, and believe that sub-national governments could contribute more to the EU-U.S. partnership.
President Vos said: "Creative policy solutions most often start in state and local governments in both the United States and in Europe. Strengthening the bonds between the National Conference of State Legislatures and the European Committee of the Regions will allow for increasing cooperation in an interdependent world. Today’s meeting was an important first step in identifying common problems to find solutions everyone on both continents can benefit from."
The NCSL, founded in 1975, tracks, participates in and influences U.S. legislation that impacts all 50 US states commonwealths, territories, and the District of Columbia and offers technical and policy advice to legislators and staff. The European Committee of the Regions, which was established by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993, is a European Union institution that provides local and regional politicians from the EU's 27 member states with an opportunity to shape EU policies and a platform for dialogue and cooperation.
Patrick Molinoz (France / Party of European Socialists), vice-president of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region and chairman of the CoR commission for external affairs, said: "At a time when democracy is endangered by social media, fake news and conspiracy theories among other things, elected officials at regional and local level have a major responsibility to defend our democratic values and systems. A better knowledge of our policies, of the way we implement them on each side of the Atlantic, can thus only be beneficial."
Subjects discussed during the meeting revolved around the role of sub-national governments in the U.S. and EU systems, and on the need to develop transatlantic collaboration between municipalities, European regions and U.S. states to tackle current challenges.
The CoR and NCSL plan to continue their collaboration, focusing on a flexible format of cooperation. This could include political exchanges, training sessions, and capacity-building seminars to enhance coordination and leverage their collective influence. The cooperation between the CoR and NCSL aligns with the broader EU-US agenda for global change, which emphasises the pursuit of common interests, collaboration on health, climate, technology, and democratic values.
Tel. +32 2 282 2502