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European Committee of the Regions advocates more political investment in subsidiarity  

Karl-Heinz Lambertz, coordinator of the Subsidiarity Steering Group at the European Committee of the Regions, addressed the Interparliamentary Committee Meeting with National Parliaments on "The EU Subsidiarity Mechanism", which the European Parliament's JURI Committee held in Brussels on 25 April 2022.

Acknowledging that the Early Warning Mechanism on Subsidiarity had been activated only three times since 2009 and that no subsidiarity case had ever been brought before the European Court of Justice, Mr Lambertz considered that the low level of conflict that existed on the issue of subsidiarity actually proved that subsidiarity was generally working well at EU level. "The parameter for measuring the usefulness of subsidiarity should not be the number of cases brought before the Court of Justice, and nor should subsidiarity become an instrument of "power play" between institutions", Mr Lambertz said. He added, "there are few problems of a legal nature related to subsidiarity because, in fact, the Commission is "doing the job" upstream by applying its own, very effective "subsidiarity pre-check", thus limiting the risk of having to "give yellow cards"". Nonetheless, Mr Lambertz considered that there was room for further improvement, and made a plea for more political investment in subsidiarity.

He felt that there was a two-fold political momentum to do so, through the explicit reference to subsidiarity in the German coalition agreement of November 2021 and through the commitment given by French President Macron at the CoR's plenary session in December 2021. President Macron stated that "the much-needed institutional reform that (will result) from the Conference on the Future of Europe (must lead to) a Europe closer to the ground, a Europe of greater subsidiarity, in which our citizens feel that they, together with their local elected representatives, are the real decision-makers".

Mr Lambertz stressed the common thread running through the 39 citizens' recommendations of the Conference on the Future of Europe Citizens' Panel on Democracy for a more inclusive, transparent and understandable European democracy and for a closer Europe. As outlined in the contribution on subsidiarity submitted by the CoR President to the Working Group of the Conference on Democracy, these objectives could only be achieved by involving cities and regions more closely in EU policy-making, thus giving a stronger territorial dimension to European democracy, especially as local and regional authorities implement up to 70% of EU legislation.

Mr Lambertz noted that, to make "active subsidiarity" a reality, the European Committee of the Regions was calling in particular for:

- the closer involvement of national and regional parliaments and local and regional authorities in the drafting and implementation of EU policies;

- the systematic use by the Commission of the "subsidiarity analysis grid" developed by the CoR to assess whether a proposal for legislation complies with the principle of subsidiarity;

- the inclusion of territorial-dimension impact assessments by the Commission, in order to assess the impact of EU legislation on cities and regions;

- the application of subsidiarity also in EU governance processes, such as the European Semester which, according to Mr Lambertz, "raises many more subsidiarity concerns than traditional legislative proposals because of the sometimes questionable European added value of proposals made in a largely intergovernmental framework with little democratic participation".

Mr Lambertz pointed out that, in the event of a Treaty reform, the European Committee of the Regions would advocate giving the principle of proportionality (the question of how to implement EU legislation) the same legal recognition as subsidiarity, as most of the issues raised in subsidiarity consultations were in fact a matter of proportionality, an area in which the CoR had no legal remit.

The CoR subsidiarity coordinator welcomed the recommendation made in a European Parliament study on Controlling Subsidiarity in Today’s EU: the role of the European Parliament and the National Parliaments, to create a unique "Subsidiarity Hub", which would draw together reasoned opinions and contributions, CoR opinions, Commission replies, European Parliament resolutions, etc..

Lastly, Mr Lambertz announced that the CoR would be hosting the 10th Subsidiarity Conference, on 9 September 2022 in Valencia, focusing on the follow-up to the Conference on the Future of Europe and the ambition to draw up a new roadmap for active, inclusive and visible subsidiarity.

Link to the recording of the hearing:

CoR's webpage on subsidiarity (including Mr Lambertz's full speech in French)

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