Olga Zrihen, the vice-president of the Belgian senate and a member of the Walloon parliament, has been chosen by Europe's regions and cities to champion policies that strengthen local economies.
Ms Zrihen's election as head of the economics commission of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) gives her responsibility for guiding the work done by the EU's local and regional politicians to shape EU economic policy, complementing the assembly's efforts to maintain strong EU funding for regions. The CoR has a consultative role in the EU's policymaking.
Ms Zrihen, who has been a member of the CoR since 2015 and served as a member of the European Parliament , said: "The chair of the ECON commission of the European Committee of the Regions has been entrusted to me in the final strait of discussions on a series of very important post-2021 financial programmes – such as InvestEU, programmes to support structural reform and financial stabilisation, and the single-market programme – and the design of a new long-term EU strategy based on the Sustainable Development Goals. On these topics in particular, I pledge to raise the voice of all members of the ECON commission."
Ms Zrihen is herself currently in the process of drafting recommendations on EU support for economic reform and stabilisation, scheduled for adoption in December. She has previously served as rapporteur on the EU's Structural Reform Support Programme and on the Stability and Growth Pact, emphasising the need for flexibility in the EU's rules on public finances and fiscal policies.
Ms Zrihen becomes the second most senior Belgian socialist in the CoR – the assembly's president is currently her socialist colleague from the Belgian senator, Karl-Heinz Lambertz from the German-speaking community. Two of the CoR's five political groups are also led by Belgians: Bart Somers (Open VLD), mayor of Mechelen, is the president of the ALDE group, while Karl Vanlouwe (N-VA), a member of the Flemist parliament, is president of the European Alliance.
Ms Zrihen replaces a French socialist, Michel Delebarre, member of Dunkirk Municipal Council.