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Mayors say 'no' to populism and rising Euroscepticism  

Ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, mayors from major cities in Europe met today in Brussels to reaffirm their commitment to Europe's core values of democracy, freedom and equality. EUROCITIES mayors' summit was hosted by CoR President Markku Markkula and was attended by a number of CoR members: Giorgios Kaminis, Mayor of Athens; Paweł Adamowicz, Mayor of Gdansk; Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam; and Renate Brauner, Vienna city councillor. Also present were European Commission Vice-Presidents Frans Timmermans and Jyrki Katainen, Commissioner Corina Crețuand the European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt.

Mayors and politicians representing 36 cities from 15 countries gathered in the headquarters of the EU's assembly of local and regional authorities to discuss how to reverse current populist and Eurosceptic trends in Europe. Their message is clear: a renewed Europe needs genuine partnership between cities and their citizens, the EU's institutions and member states if it is to overcome the disconnect between the European Union and its citizens.

As host of the summit, Markku Markkula, President of the European Committee of the Regions, said: "This mayors' summit is taking place at a crucial time for Europe. We must listen better and engage more with people on the ground, so we can move from talk to action. That's why the members of the European Committee of the Regions are holding town hall citizen's debates in 75 regions and cities throughout 2017 as part of our 'Reflecting on Europe' campaign."

Since its launch in March 2016, the CoR has organised 27 "Let's talk about Europe" events in 13 Member States, involving about 72 CoR members and around 3,200 citizens. The objective is to listen to citizens' questions and priorities and convey them to EU institutions in an upcoming opinion. Seventy-five local events branded "Reflecting on Europe" are in the pipeline for 2017.

Daniël Termont, Mayor of Ghent and President of EUROCITIES, said: "As Europe’s leaders prepare to mark 60 years since the Treaty of Rome, we find ourselves at a turning point in Europe. Let’s see this as an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to Europe’s core values. And most of all, let’s make this about the people that live in Europe. By working with cities, the EU institutions can find new ways to engage citizens and be inspired by our experience on the ground."

Giorgios Kaminis (EL/PES), Mayor of Athens and CoR member, said: "The rise of populism and Euroscepticism is undermining the principles and values on which Europe was built: solidarity, tolerance and democracy. We must not abandon these values as Europe would lose its purpose of existence. The future of Europe, which we discussed today, starts in cities and with citizens."

Paweł Adamowicz (PL/EPP) , Mayor of Gdansk and CoR member, stressed that: "Local authorities are best placed and have the duty to fight populism. We must raise citizens' awareness of the added value of the European project. The European Union is an undeniable good, a guarantee of conflict-free solutions to all sorts of arguments and facilitator of peaceful consensual solutions. Only accurate knowledge of the pros and cons of the EU can create a protective umbrella against populist fake truths."

Ahmed Aboutaleb (NL/PES), Mayor of Rotterdam and CoR member, declared: "Co-creation is not about influencing local policies but about sharing power between city governments and citizens. The best ideas don't come from politicians but from our citizens who know best their local challenges and solutions. That is why I invest in co-design in what I call the 'WE society'. I visit every neighbourhood in my city and talk to residents about their main concerns. These then become my leading priorities. We do that in neighbourhood planning, local policing and participatory budgeting."

European Commission Vice-Presidents Frans Timmermans and Jyrki Katainen, Commissioner Corina Crețu and the European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt addressed the audience, reaffirming their commitment to work with local and regional authorities to take the European integration project out of its impasse.

Click here to download pictures of the event.

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