CoR President and the Presidents of six European territorial associations met on 4 December online to discuss the challenges ahead of the year 2021 for the European Union from the point of view of local and regional governments and issued a political Declaration in which they address their priorities. They also reiterated their steady commitment to help people and communities suffering the heavy social, health and economic consequences of the pandemic and to offer quality public services, sustainable local economies and a liveable environment.
Key messages of the Declaration are:
- Economic recovery will only be achievable if local and regional governments have a central role in their design and delivery.
- The Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and the European Recovery Instrument ("Next Generation EU") should be adopted by the Members States with no delay so that recovery can start.
- Cohesion is our fundamental value and it must become the compass of all EU policies to guarantee that no people and no places are left behind.
- Regions, cities and municipalities should be given direct access to funds to deliver local green projects and support the objective of creating a carbon-neutral EU by 2050.
- The Conference on the Future of Europe (the Conference) should kick-off as soon as possible with input from local and regional level focussed on policy areas with a strong territorial impact.
- The Conference should lead to a revision of the governance of the EU to move towards a three-dimensional Europe where all levels of governance – European, national, regional and local – work together on an equal footing.
CoR President Apostolos Tzitzikostas stated: "We call on Member States to swiftly adopt the next MFF and Next Generation EU to allow regions and cities to quickly access the much needed funds and lead Europe's recovery locally. Europe's recovery after the pandemic will succeed only with the help and the support of its regional and local authorities. 300 regions and 90,000 municipalities are the EU’s democratic foundations and its safety net. They help bring Europe closer to its citizens. Let's acknowledge that, today, two-dimensional Europe has reached its limits. We need a three-dimensional Europe with all levels - EU, national, regional and local - working together, for the people".
Magnus Berntsson, President of the Assembly of European Regions (AER) said: "Local and regional authorities have been on the frontline in responding to this crisis. For a resilient recovery across Europe, they need to have a key role in all efforts to stimulate the economy and ensure a liveable and healthy future – both in big cities and rural regions."
Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR) said: "The recent adoption by EU Member States of the European Territorial Agenda 2030 is a clear sign of awareness by national governments about the role and potentiality of a stronger participation of local and regional authorities in European governance, and this approach should be followed at the Conference on the Future of Europe and in the reconstruction period. On the other hand, if (cross-)border regions have become laboratories of European integration during decades, now they can be perfect laboratories for European reconstruction".
Dario Nardella, President of EUROCITIES said: “Now is no time for national vetoes on the EU budget - even an additional month can spell disaster for cities ability to recover from this pandemic. Let's ensure the recovery efforts focus on people, for a green, just and digital recovery. This should include strengthening and localising our democracy by engaging people through the Conference on the Future of Europe.”
Cees Loggen, President of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) said: “Regions are already providing a massive contribution to achieving the EU objectives on climate and digital. More than 80 billion euros of ESIF funding have been spent in these two areas since 2014. Regions therefore ought to play a major role in the design and delivery of EU Recovery plans in light of the required focus on digital and climate".
Christoph Schnaudigel, Co-President of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) said: “The Conference is the moment for Europe to demonstrate its ability to help citizens achieve their aspirations, and improve the conditions in which they live and work. European associations of local and regional governments should have a seat at the table to articulate the needs of our territories. This is crucial for local governments, which are particularly close to the citizens, in order to be heard and to bring their interests into the conference debate.”
Gustavo Matos, President of the Conference of the Regional Legislative Assemblies of the European Union (CALRE) said: “Any problem affecting an EU region must be seen as a matter for the whole of Europe and must be approached with a sense of solidarity and shared responsibility, at all levels of governance, European, National and regional. Regional services play the role of “quick response” at any emergence situation, so regions must have also a central role in recovery measures design and delivery”.
This declaration is one contribution to the European Work programme 2021. It will be followed by the vote of a resolution on the EC 2021 work programme at the CoR Plenary and a debate with European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič on 10 December.
The CoR as well as associations representing the interests of local and regional governments also continue working together to influence EU decision-making through the Fit4Future platform and RegHubs 2.0 network.