The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) today hosted a hearing of the Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and "Doing Less More Efficiently", providing an opportunity for the Task Force members to listen to the views of national and regional parliaments, and other local and regional stakeholders, on the key issues within the Task Force remit. Representatives of national and regional parliaments urged Task Force members to come out with proposals to ensure they are better associated to EU decision-making.
Opening the hearing, CoR President Karl-Heinz Lambertz said: "The CoR agrees that the EU should work more efficiently, for example by finding the right level of 'legislative density'. We suggest a permanent evaluation of what the EU should and should not do on the basis of an EU added value check through the whole policy cycle. What we need is a subsidiarity check in the initial phase of legislation but also in a later phase as well, during the interplay between the Commission, Parliament and Council".
The Chair of the Task Force, Commission's First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, pointed out: "Some are concerned about 'doing less more efficiently'. In my view, this is not deregulation. I do not support deregulation. I support Better Regulation. It is about exploring whether some policies are no longer useful, or can be better designed, delivered more efficiently or allow more flexibility for national, regional or local authorities".
The Lisbon Treaty has given national parliaments a direct role in assessing compliance of EU draft legislation with subsidiarity. The EU's subsidiarity control mechanism allows national parliaments to object to Commission proposals within eight weeks of their publication on the grounds of subsidiarity breach. This mechanism also allows for national parliaments to seek the views of regional parliaments with legislative powers.
National and regional parliaments' representative raised some of the difficulties in making this mechanism fully functional, in particular the eight week deadline which they consider too short. They also pointed to the lack of connection, in some instances, between regional bodies and the central government level when it comes to political scrutiny of EU decision-making.
Members of the Task Force were therefore asked to examine how national and regional parliaments could be given more effective channels and greater means to influence EU decision making, without having to revise the EU treaties. In response to these comments, CoR members participating in the Task Force put forward the recommendations they would like to see included in the Task Force's final report.
Michael Schneider (EPP/DE), Representative of the Land of Saxony-Anhalt to the German Federal Government and president of the EPP Group at the CoR, said: "There is a fear in many parts of Europe that decisions are not taken close enough to people: this is what subsidiarity is all about. The work of this Task Force confirms the need to have more consultations and partnerships between EU, national and regional authorities. As EU legislation affects us locally, we are proposing territorial impact assessments and more training at the level of local and regional authorities so they can be kept informed of relevant developments at the EU level".
François Decoster (ALDE/FR), Mayor of Saint-Omer and Vice-chair of the CoR Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External affairs, echoed a similar view: "Many local and regional politicians are very much committed to the EU, but there are also many of them who perceive the EU as being overly complex. This is why I have been campaigning for an 'Erasmus for local and regional representatives' in the form of a training and exchange programme on European policies. The nomination of "EU correspondents" in each municipal council, as is the case in Austria, could also be very useful to better spread EU information on the ground".
Some participants to the hearing also acknowledged progress made in involving the regional level in the EU policy-making process, but called for a greater role of the CoR, in particular by making CoR opinions binding in specific policy areas, such as EU cohesion policy.
European Commission President Juncker created a Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and "Doing Less More Efficiently" in November 2017 as a follow-up to the White Paper on the Future of Europe and his State of the Union address.
Under the chairmanship of the Commission's First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, the Task Force is composed of three members from the national Parliaments and three members from the CoR – the European Parliament having declined to participate. The CoR is represented on the Task Force by its President Karl-Heinz Lambertz, the President of the CoR Subsidiarity Steering Group and EPP President, Michael Schneider, and CIVEX First Vice-President, François Decoster.
The Task Force is responsible for making recommendations on how to better apply the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality in the work of the EU, identifying policy areas where decision-making could be devolved or returned to Member States, and finding ways to better involve regional and local authorities in EU policy making and delivery.
Information about the Task Force, discussion papers, papers prepared by Task Force members and inputs from stakeholders can be found at the dedicated European Commission's website of the Task Force.
The Task Force is meeting on a monthly basis from January to July 2018. It will present its findings in the form of a written report to President Juncker by 15 July 2018. The Commission has indicated it will follow this up by presenting a policy Communication in the autumn this year.
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