ISSN 1681-3235
EUROPEAN UNION
Committee of the Regions
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
Summit in Athens
“We contribute to sustainable regional and urban development
in the EU”, interview with Werner Hoyer, president of the EIB
Mid-term review of the Europe 2020 strategy
Nº 86 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2014
European Recovery: Local Solutions
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1
Editorial
9 Digital society challenges to be tackled in
the near future
6
10 Espoo Innovation Garden – Locallycreated project ready for global outreach
2
Ioannis Sgouros: A strong Europe – a Europe
of regions and cities
Interview with Werner Hoyer,
president of the European Investment Bank
18 Rapporteurs have their say
11 Resource efficient Europe flagship
initiative
22 Brief News and Events
12 The challenges of the Youth on the Move
flagship initiative
24
13 Industry is the lynchpin of Europe’s
economic recovery
6 A Presidency of hope
14 The Agenda for New Skills and Jobs in
the Regions
7
15 Help for socially disadvantaged and
disabled people is a priority for the
Bratislava Region
4
European Elections 2014
Former Committee members drive regional
policy at the European Parliamen
16 Policy Analysis
Europe 2020: Mid-term results,
expectations and policy
recommendations
Europe 2020 Strategy mid-term review
Interview with Michel Delebarre, chairman of
the CoR’s Europe 2020 Platform
Special Feature: Summit in Athens
www.cor.europa.eu
Regions & Cities of Europe — N° 86
Director of Publication: Laurent Thieule
Editor-in-Chief: Branislav Stanicek
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© European Union, 2014
Printed in Belgium
Nº 86 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2014
EDITORIAL
Summit in Athens is taking place
at a historical moment for the
future of Europe
THHE 7 AND 8 MARCH 2014 REPRESENT ANOTHER HISTORIC MOMENT FOR THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS. THE 6TH
EUROPEAN SUMMIT OF REGIONS AND CITIES WILL TAKE PLACE IN ATHENS AT A KEY POLITICAL JUNCTURE FOR THE FUTURE
OF EUROPE. THE SUMMIT WILL BE HELD SOME WEEKS BEFORE THE NEW ELECTIONS TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND
O
CONSEQUENTLY A NEW COLLEGE OF COMMISSIONERS WILL BE APPOINTED. FURTHERMORE, THE SUMMIT WILL BE ORGANISED
CO
ON THE EVE OF THE SPRING EUROPEAN COUNCIL, WHICH IS USUALLY DEVOTED TO THE EU’S ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS.
O
Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso (ES/EPP), President of the Committee of the Regions
F
or that reason, the objectives of the summit
are to take stock of the economic recovery of
regions and cities and the progress of the European job creation strategy, and to debate the future of the Union. In particular, the aim of the first
summit session is to contribute to the assessment
of Europe’s strategy for growth and jobs from a local and regional perspective, including the specific
concerns at political level in Greece. The second
summit session, with the high-level debate about
the future of Europe, will contribute to the EU
discourse by addressing the subject of public opinion in Greece and in the rest of Europe.
I welcome the fact that the Committee can count
on the substantial support of the Greek Delegation and in particular the president of the Region
of Attica. I am personally convinced that we have
to explain why “more Europe” is the solution and
why its supporters are best placed to offer solutions to the current difficult situation. Specific
steps will be taken to guarantee the link with the
on-going political and socio-economic debates in
Greece and to give a broad, public visibility to the
outcome of the summit.
Once the ‘Athens Declaration’ is adopted, the
Committee of the Regions will present its recommendations for reviewing the Europe 2020
strategy to the European Council President. This
meeting will take place only a few days ahead of the
Spring European Council of 20-21 March 2014.
The debate with President Herman Van Rompuy
will allow the CoR’s leadership to present the Athens Summit proposals and clarify in what ways the
Europe 2020 Strategy’s overall architecture can be
revised in order for Europe’s sustainable, smart
and inclusive growth strategy to better deliver results in Europe’s regions and cities.
more than a piece of paper: it represents a vision
for the future bringing to Ukrainians a prospect of
stability, peace, democracy, solidarity and respect
for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
In particular, the Committee of the Regions would
like to see the multi-level governance and ownership of the strategy strengthened. The thematic
focus and financing of the Strategy will also be
discussed. Finally, following a series of seven
conferences held throughout 2013, the Committee will present its assessment of the added value
of the Europe 2020 Flagships and a collection of
best practices for meeting Europe 2020 targets at
the regional and local level. Clearly, it is already a
success that the Committee has managed to persuade the European Council President to put the
revision of Europe 2020 strategy at the top of the
European Council agenda.
For that reason, I headed a delegation of representatives of all the CoR political groups to carry out
a fact-finding mission and to make contacts with
Ukrainians who had been demonstrating since
November to demand closer ties with the EU.
We also met with the Ukrainian members of the
Conference of the Regional and Local Authorities
for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP) as well
as representatives of Ukrainian regions and cities’
associations to express support to the Ukrainian
local and regional authorities who wish to deepen
partnership with their counterparts from the European Union.
Once EU leaders have provided strategic political
direction as to how the Strategy will need to be
revised, our Committee will further strengthen
its cooperation with the European Commission in
order to ensure its views are reflected in the Commission’s eventual proposals on the review. This
cooperation will of course continue with the new
European Commission, but also with the European Parliament and the Council after the May 2014
European Parliament elections.
As the critical events in Ukraine unfold, we need
to keep open all channels from all levels of government for dialogue, including local and regional
authorities, encouraging the central government
to achieve its declared objective of European integration and reiterating that the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is still possible. If the right
conditions are in place, we continue to believe that
the Agreement would provide the best possible
foundation for a free, modern, prosperous and
democratic Ukraine.
Last but not least, the Committee of the Regions
has also proven that it is an institution close to
those who believe in the European project. For
many people in Ukraine, European integration is
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
1
INTERVIEW
Werner Hoyer, president of the European Investment Bank
We contribute to sustainable regional
and urban development in the EU
WE MET WERNER HOYER, PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN INVESTMENT BANK (EIB), TO TALK ABOUT THE CURRENT
CHALLENGES AND THE WAYS IN WHICH THE EIB IS SUPPORTING ECONOMIC RECOVERY IN OUR CITIES AND REGIONS.
PRESIDENT HOYER STRESSED THAT THE EIB, AS THE EUROPEAN UNION’S NON-PROFIT LONG-TERM LENDING INSTITUTION ESTABLISHED IN 1958 UNDER THE TREATY OF ROME, WAS A “POLICY-DRIVEN BANK” WHOSE SHAREHOLDERS WERE
THE EU’S MEMBER STATES. AS A TRULY “EU BANK”, IT USES ITS FINANCING OPERATIONS TO BRING ABOUT “EUROPEAN
INTEGRATION AND SOCIAL COHESION”. IN 2013, AS A RESULT OF THE CAPITAL INJECTION BY MEMBER STATES, THE EIB
STEPPED UP ITS LENDING ACTIVITIES BY AROUND 40% TO NEARLY EUR 70 BILLION IN SUPPORT OF ECONOMIC GROWTH
AND JOB CREATION IN EUROPE. “THE EIB – AS AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE EUROPEAN CRISIS RESPONSE – WILL ALSO
CONTINUE ON ITS COUNTER-CYCLICAL AND GROWTH-ENHANCING COURSE.”
What are the European Investment Bank’s
priorities in supporting economic recovery
and job creation?
its counter-cyclical and growth-enhancing course.
This year we expect lending to once again reach
almost EUR 70 billion.
Let me first highlight the fact that the European
Investment Bank, which is really an EU Bank,
made a deliberate U-turn in 2013 by moving from
a pro-cyclical to a clearly counter-cyclical course in
order to help overcome the crisis in Europe. This
was made possible by our shareholders, the 28 EU
Member States, which decided to substantially
strengthen our capital base by paying in an extra
EUR 10 billion – new capital that we used to boost
our financing operations.
But we also have to start looking beyond the current crisis. On a personal note, I believe that investment in research, development and innovation
remains the cornerstone for growth in Europe. Eu-
As a result of the capital injection, we stepped
up our lending activities in 2013 by around 40%
to nearly EUR 70 billion in support of economic
growth and job creation in Europe. In particular,
we secured access to long-term financing for small
and medium-sized businesses. As an additional
response to the crisis, we expanded our toolkit
and rolled out some brand new, mostly guaranteeoriented products such as the first Trade Finance
Facility in Greece and the Project Bond Initiative.
After almost two years of recession, we are now seeing signs of recovery in Europe. But we should not
be complacent. The consequences of the crisis are
likely to continue to constrain economic growth
for some time. Thus the EIB, as an integral part
of the European crisis response, will continue on
2
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
In 2013, the EIB made a deliberate
U-turn by moving from a procyclical to a clearly counter-cyclical
course in order to help overcome
the crisis in Europe.
rope’s future wealth will depend on how successful
we are as innovators, which means how quickly we
convert ideas into products and services. This is
where we need to step up our efforts, and the EU
Bank, with its long history of supporting R&D
and innovation in Europe, is ready to do so.
How is the EIB helping regions and cities to
correct social and economic imbalances?
“Economic and Social Cohesion” is one of the EIB’s
primary lending objectives. In recent years we have
increased our involvement and cooperation with
the European Commission, giving particular emphasis to Cohesion Policy in the 2007-2013 programming period. By complementing EU grants
through the provision of loans, structured finance,
and financial and technical advisory services, we
contribute to sustainable regional and urban development in the EU.
A key instrument in support of EU Cohesion
Policy is the Structural Programme Loan (SPL),
which co-finances priority investments with
EU Structural Funds in Member States and regions. In particular, we are helping those Member
States subject to severe austerity measures, such
as Greece, by providing enhanced technical assistance. This significantly improves the implementation of projects on the ground, making SPL an
important instrument to counteract the crisis.
Building on the Structural Programme Loan portfolio of over EUR 19 billion to date (in relation to
the 2007-2013 programming period), we have approved 29 national and regional SPL operations in
recent years. Let me emphasise here that this EUR
19 billion in lending has contributed to the implementation of investment programmes – supported
by EU grants – with a total project cost of EUR
195 billion. The success and, indeed, the necessity
of the Structural Programme Loans are further
demonstrated by the high demand from the Member States in the 2014-2020 financing period.
Nº 86 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2014
Werner Hoyer has been president of the European Investment Bank and chairman of its board of directors since January 2012. Prior to this appointment, Werner Hoyer was a member of the Bundestag for more than 20 years. From 2009 to 2011, he served at the German Foreign Office as Minister of
State (deputy minister) responsible for political and security affairs, European affairs, United Nations and arms control and was also commissioner for
Franco-German cooperation. Dr Hoyer had previously held the position of deputy foreign minister and Minister for EU affairs from 1994 to 1998. He
is a longstanding member of Germany’s Free Democratic Party (FDP) and at various times has served as its deputy chairman and foreign affairs spokesman, security policy spokesman and whip. He has held the position of president of the European Liberal Democratic Reform Party (ELDR) in Brussels.
Prior to his political career, Werner Hoyer occupied a number of academic posts. He was director of the economics and information department at the
Carl Duisberg Society and associate lecturer and senior research assistant at the University of Cologne, where he obtained a doctorate in economics.
Furthermore, the Bank supports the Territorial and
Urban Agenda by financing programmes and projects at regional and municipal level. We have approved over 300 operations representing some EUR
55 billion for 2007-2013. This has contributed to
a total investment of EUR 175 billion. The capacity to finance both large and small investments, often complex multi-sector investment projects, on a
long-term and competitive basis, allows us to apply
an integrated and thus highly efficient approach to
meeting the needs of the EU’s cities and regions.
One of the key issues in many regions
is youth unemployment. Are there any
specific tools to tackle this issue?
In July 2013 we launched a dedicated youth employment scheme called “Skills and Jobs – Investing for
Youth”. This scheme aims to complement the EU’s
Youth Employment Initiative – notably its main instrument, the Youth Guarantee – as well as initiatives at Member State and regional level.
The scheme has two pillars: the “Investment in
Skills” component addresses job-related skills
gaps and mismatches and focuses on investment in
training. The “Jobs for Youth” component is aimed
at the recruitment of young people by SMEs by
providing companies with better access to finance.
I am very proud to tell you that the initial commitment of EUR 6 billion for 2013 was significantly
exceeded. In just six months the EU Bank provid-
In just six months the EIB provided
loans of almost EUR 9.1 billion to
tackle youth unemployment. This
is a major success.
vocational training as well as support for student
loan schemes. Under the “Jobs for Youth” pillar,
loans to SMEs and young entrepreneurs in regions
where youth unemployment rates exceed 25%
reached almost EUR 4.6 billion. We estimate that
these loans contributed to the creation of about 50
000 jobs for young people.
Given the success of our youth employment
scheme, we are going to extend our financial support in this area. In 2014 we expect to make available at least another EUR 6 billion to fight youth
unemployment because we just cannot afford, either economically or socially, to lose the younger
generation.
ed almost EUR 9.1 billion in loans to tackle youth
unemployment. This is a major success.
EUR 4.5 billion was earmarked for financing under the “Investments in Skills” pillar; projects included infrastructure for secondary education and
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
3
ATHENS
6th EUROPEAN
SUMMIT
OF
REGIONS
AND CITIES
7-8|3|2014
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Summit in Athens
European Recovery: Local Solutions
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SPRING EUROPEAN COUNCIL AND A FEW MONTHS AHEAD OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS, POLITICIANS, EXPERTS AND
OPINION-LEADERS FROM ACROSS EUROPE MEET IN ATHENS FOR THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS’ 6TH EUROPEAN SUMMIT OF REGIONS AND CITIES.
THE OBJECTIVE OF THIS SIXTH EDITION IS TO TAKE STOCK OF EFFORTS MADE AT EUROPEAN, NATIONAL, REGIONAL AND LOCAL LEVEL TO DELIVER JOB-RICH
RECOVERY. THE SUMMIT WILL FOCUS ON HOW TO IMPROVE EU GOVERNANCE, OFFERING A TIMELY OPPORTUNITY FOR SUBSTANTIAL DIALOGUE AMONG ALL PARTNERS,
AND WHAT DEFINES SUCCESSFUL COOPERATION BETWEEN THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTOR. IT IS ALSO AN OPPORTUNITY FOR A HIGH-LEVEL DEBATE AMONG EUROPEAN
POLITICAL LEADERS ON THE 2014 EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS.
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5
SPECIAL FEATURE | Summit in Athens
ATHENS
6th EUROPEAN
SUMMIT
OF
REGIONS
AND CITIES
7-8|3|2014
A strong Europe – a Europe of regions and cities
It is now evident that the crisis facing us in Europe
is not just an economic one. It is above all political
and clearly institutional. Never before has public
disenchantment and scepticism with regard to EU
machinations been so intense. Europe must also
reach a major decision to change policy direction,
change, in other words, its way of thinking and acting, so as to rebuild people’s trust and confidence.
Initial evidence of this will be provided by our
strategic choices for Europe 2020. Do we want a
Europe founded on social solidarity and employment or a Europe marked by austerity, poverty and
social exclusion?
The Greek delegation hopes that this summit will
make a substantial contribution to deepening the
dialogue, so as to provide a convincing response to
the above issues.
Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso (ES/EPP), President of the CoR with Ioannis Sgouros (EL/PES), Governor of the Region of Attica
I
t is with a sense of real honour and great pleasure that my country and the region of Attica is
hosting the 6th European Summit of Regions
and Cities in Athens. This summit coincides
with the 20th anniversary of the founding of
the Committee of the Regions and also with the
Greek Presidency of the Council of the European
Union.
At this especially critical time, we are invited to
re-examine the role of the CoR and also of selfgovernment in economic growth, innovation and
social welfare. The prolonged recession facing the
Member States, unprecedented unemployment,
poverty and social exclusion among ever broader
swathes of society is a state of affairs that is generating new challenges for self-government.
The summit takes place as Greece’s newly-established elected regional authorities complete their
first term. In the three and half years or so since
the system came into operation, the 13 Greek regions have made a significant contribution towards
regional development. For those of us still finding
our feet, the summit presents a major opportunity
to reinforce these new institutions and multilevel
governance in Greece.
The message for Europe’s future must be one of
political stability, growth and employment for all.
A Presidency of hope
Dimitris Kalogeropoulos
(EL/EPP),
Secretary-General,
Decentralised
Administration of Attica
T
he Greek presidency of the European Union
in the first half of 2014 is not a crisis presidency. It is a presidency of hope and optimism, not just for Greece as it emerges from the
deep crisis of the past few years, but for Europe
as a whole, our larger shared homeland, which is
taking firm steps to avoid the aftermath of the repeated shocks that have struck all the world’s major economies.
6
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
In its daily struggle to get on top of the crisis, Greece
has found a steadfast and constant ally in the European Union. This has been not just in terms of the
financial aid provided through the programmes that
came on stream from 2010, but also of promoting
EU resources and co-funded projects, whose launch
and implementation made it possible for Greece to
avoid getting stuck, while also continuing to be engaged with a changing Europe.
A series of joint projects were launched in the
country’s largest region, Attica, which is home to
about half of Greece’s active population, and in the
municipalities for which we are responsible.
An example is the National Contingency Reserve
operational programme, an integrated action plan
to support entrepreneurship, businesses and their
employees through advisory and training meas-
ures, as well as promoting employment in regions
that are feeling the effects of the economic crisis.
There is also the Human Resources Development
operational programme, which provides comprehensive services to the homeless and people suffering from or at risk of poverty, with the aim of
empowering vulnerable social groups through
psychosocial support measures and underpinning
the fight against poverty and social exclusion for a
large proportion of the population affected by the
economic crisis.
Greece has pulled through. And that is our message to people in other European countries. Together we are getting to the other side, leaving this
crisis behind us. And we have learnt the lessons of
the events that led to this situation so that history
does not repeat itself.
ATHENS
6thNº
EUROPEAN
86
– JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2014
SUMMIT
OF
REGIONS
AND CITIES
7-8|3|2014
Summit in Athens
Europe 2020 strategy mid-term
review
W
E HAVE ALMOST REACHED THE HALF-WAY POINT OF THE EUROPE 2020 STRATEGY FOR SMART, SUSTAINABLE AND INCLUSIVE GROWTH, WHICH WAS
EU’S MEMBER STATES IN JUNE 2010. ITS IMPLEMENTATION IS THE JOINT RESPONSIBILITY OF ALL LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT,
HELPING TO ENSURE THE EU’S FUTURE, MAINTAIN EUROPE’S SOCIAL MODEL AND OUR SOCIAL MARKET ECONOMY. THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION
HAS SCHEDULED A MID-TERM REVIEW OF THE STRATEGY FOR 2014. AS PART OF ITS CONTRIBUTION TO THIS REVIEW, THE COMMITTEE BUREAU DECIDED
IN SEPTEMBER 2012 TO DRAW UP A ROADMAP FOR THE MID-TERM ASSESSMENT OF THE STRATEGY, CULMINATING IN THE PRESENTATION OF A REPORT AND
POLITICAL DECLARATION AT THE ATHENS SUMMIT IN MARCH 2014.
ENDORSED BY THE
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
7
SPECIAL FEATURE | Summit in Athens
ATHENS
6th EUROPEAN
SUMMIT
OF
REGIONS
AND CITIES
7-8|3|2014
Progress made on Europe 2020 is below
expectations
Interview with Michel Delebarre, chairman of the CoR’s Europe 2020 Platform
THE EVIDENCE GATHERED BY THE COR CONFIRMS THAT THE STRATEGY HAS SUCCEEDED IN ENCOURAGING MANY LOCAL AND REGIONAL AUTHORITIES TO SET MORE
AMBITIOUS POLICY GOALS; HOWEVER, THE PROGRESS MADE ON EUROPE 2020 IS BELOW EXPECTATIONS. ALTHOUGH IT HAS PROVEN DIFFICULT TO INCREASE EMPLOYMENT RATES AND OTHER GROWTH INDICATORS DURING WHAT HAS BEEN THE WORST CRISIS IN LIVING MEMORY, THE ASSESSMENT CARRIED OUT BY THE COR
HIGHLIGHTS THE NEED TO RETHINK EUROPE 2020 AND TO PROVIDE IT WITH A TERRITORIAL DIMENSION, BETTER GOVERNANCE – INVOLVING THE VARIOUS LEVELS
OF GOVERNMENT WORKING TOGETHER IN PARTNERSHIP WITH ONE ANOTHER – AS WELL AS ADEQUATE FUNDING. “REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE” HAS PREPARED
THIS SPECIAL FEATURE WHICH WILL PRESENT THE COMMITTEE’S VIEWS ON THE MID-TERM REVIEW ALONG WITH ITS RECOMMENDATIONS AND PROVIDE A PLATFORM
FOR THE COR’S MEMBERS, MAINLY THE EUROPE 2020 STRATEGY PLATFORM CHAIRMAN, MICHEL DELEBARRE, TO OUTLINE THE KEY CHALLENGES THAT LIE AHEAD.
whether adjustment is needed. What are the main
weaknesses of the Europe 2020 strategy which
need to be remedied?
Michel Delebarre (FR/PES),
Chairman of the CoR’s Europe 2020
Platform
What is the added value at this stage of the
Europe 2020 strategy from the perspective
of local and regional authorities in the
European Union?
The Europe 2020 strategy already has the advantage of existing in a crisis context. This is moreover a crisis with asymmetric regional impacts, as
the economists would say. Given the differences in
the way the EU Member States and the European
institutions analyse the crisis, this is quite an important factor.
Finally, the Europe 2020 strategy was a reference
framework for stronger earmarking of the Structural Funds from 2014. The pyramid of Europe 2020
priorities will determine the range of possible Structural Fund investments. Of course, it is still too early
to take stock of the situation in this respect.
However, the essential added value of the Strategy
for local and regional authorities may have less to
do with its specific procedures than with an element of “soft power”, i.e. the fact that it has given
local and regional authorities a European approach
for framing their own development strategies. In
my opinion, this is particularly relevant to sustainable development. One example which springs to
mind is the strategic approach adopted by my region of Nord-Pas de Calais to try to anticipate the
“Third Industrial Revolution”.
The Europe 2020 strategy will be subject to a
mid-term review. The European Commission taking up office in January 2015 will have to decide
8
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
The first question will be to decide whether this is
a review or revision. However, let’s be realistic - in
the past mid-term reviews, whether of the Lisbon
strategy or the 2007-2014 budget programming
period, did not bring about any revolutions. Nevertheless, I feel that there is scope for substantial
revision.
In terms of governance, the Europe 2020 strategy
should be more inclusive and democratic, not just
at European level but also at the level of Member State procedures. The European Parliament
should play a more decisive role, and local and
regional authorities should also be more closely
involved. This involvement should come ahead of
country-specific recommendations, which should
not be left up to a handful of officials at the end
of a corridor in some Commission building. I also
think that some of the Strategy’s instruments
should be revised. For example, this applies to the
Flagship Initiatives, which at this stage appear to
lack stability, as declarations of intention without
actually providing a specific and traceable framework for action.
That said, merely reforming governance will not
be sufficient to get ordinary Europeans on board.
Even those who are well-informed on European
issues are easily confused by European national
strategies and pacts with targets set in the relatively distant future. We need to know how to
present these in a straightforward way, so that we
can show that the European Union has a coherent
framework for economic, social and environmental
action, and that the EU’s general approach is not
based on arbitrary decisions behind closed doors at
the European Council.
How can local and regional authorities and
the EU contribute to a revision of the Europe
2020 strategy? And how is this contribution
influenced by differing constitutional
arrangements (federal, centralised and
decentralised states)?
The Europe 2020 strategy is designed to have an
impact on the ground, particularly in combination
with European funding programmes. Local and
regional authorities are a litmus test for this impact. In view of this, their contribution is essential,
and in my opinion it should not be contingent on
the division of powers in the respective Member
States. This would be to take an excessively legalistic view of a situation which in any case is constantly changing in the different Member States,
not least in my own.
How is the CoR supporting the mid-term
review of the Strategy, and what role will
the CoR’s Europe 2020 monitoring platform
play?
At the initiative of President Valcárcel, the CoR
has made the mid-term review of the Europe 2020
strategy its top priority for 2014. Consensus on
this priority transcends political differences. Implementation is based on massive political and analytical efforts in advance of the positions adopted
by the other European institutions, which in the
first half of 2014 will have other concerns.
The CoR is the institution representing EU local
and regional government in European decisionmaking processes, but we realise that we are only
353 members representing some 100 000 local and
regional authorities in Europe. We want to get the
maximum analyses and specific experience from
our dedicated Europe 2020 Strategy platform. We
have had around 1100 replies to our questionnaire
on the Europe 2020 strategy, which in my opinion
means that we cannot be overlooked in terms of
representativeness.
ATHENS
6th EUROPEAN
SUMMIT
OF
REGIONS
AND CITIES
Nº 86 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2014
7-8|3|2014
Digital society challenges to be tackled
in the near future
We stressed the need to recognise the role that regional and local authorities
play in supporting the Digital Agenda Flagship initiative
Anton Rombouts (NL/EPP),
Mayor of the City
of ‘s Hertogenbosch
I
nformation and Communication Technologies
are a key factor for improving coordination and
cooperation in various fields between European
authorities at all levels, European citizens and private entities. In terms of governance, it is the local and regional authorities that are the closest to
ordinary people; they are responsible for providing
the most important services affecting the welfare
of their citizens in such areas as healthcare, education, public order, data protection, cyber security
and social services.
Local and regional authority involvement in the
Digital Agenda fosters innovation and competitiveness through tailored solutions, including
broadband roll-out, digital economy, e-inclusion
and e-government. In addition, this involvement
should also be seen in the broader context of the
European funding provided for Digital Agenda
initiatives. The CoR is convinced that substantial
budgetary support will be essential in the coming
years.
be given priority support under the new Horizon
2020 programme, as was the case under the research Framework Programme in the previous
budget period. Lastly, we welcome the opportunities provided through the European Investment
Bank, which aims to increase its loans for broadband infrastructure to EUR 2 billion euro and
which has explicitly emphasised the important
role for the local and regional level in this type of
growth-oriented investment.
We share the European Parliament’s concerns
about the Council’s decision to reduce the budget
for digital infrastructure and services under the
Connecting Europe Facility, from EUR 9.2 billion to just EUR 1 billion, and we urge that the
resources needed for digital investments be guaranteed under the European Structural and Investment Funds, preferably at a significantly higher
level than the EUR 14 billion allocated between
2007 and 2013. We also call for ICT innovation to
The CoR considers that the Digital Agenda is a
successful strategy for achieving a flourishing digital economy by 2020. It outlines the policies and
actions needed to maximise the benefit of the digital revolution for all. The implementation of the
Digital Agenda is dependent on the right level of
ambition and commitment at EU, national, regional and local level, which will empower Europe to
build a new economic model based on knowledge,
a sustainable economy and high employment.
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
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Espoo Innovation Garden – Locally-created
project ready for global outreach
The bench-learning Espoo Innovation Garden in Finland is creating new
openings for European success.
Markku Markkula (FI/EPP),
Member of the Espoo City Council
I
nvestment in infrastructure and buildings
amounting to 5 billion euros has been earmarked
for education, research, businesses and housing in
this area over the next ten years.
Large-scale social challenges are typically extremely complex in nature. The key to success is to be
found in discussions about new opportunities and
research in multi-dimensional co-creation teams
and networks – both regional and global. For this,
boosting regional renewal capital – at the level of
real life change management –is critical to success:
creativity, innovation and confidence to innovate
and reform are crucial for local and regional decision-makers.
Drivers of change are most often universities with
nearby businesses. They are challenged to create
new learning and research environments with a
new, open, innovation working culture. One excellent case illustrating how theory translates into
practice is Aalto University in Finland and its collaboration with public and private players.
The Espoo Innovation Garden – a five km2 area
with the Aalto University Campus at its core– is a
living community with 110 nationalities, 5 000 research scientists, over 800 companies, 16 000 students, and 43 000 residents. A great deal more is
on the way, with plans and commitments to invest
5 billion euros on infrastructure and buildings for
education, research, businesses and housing in this
area over the next ten years. The driver of change
for success is its entrepreneurial mind-set.
The CoR has stated several times that EU needs
pioneering regions which commit to creating new
innovation eco-systems. Summing up the key outcomes of the CoR Innovation Union Conference
on 27 November 2013, this means modernising
Triple Helix collaboration and concepts based on
the following:
1. Innovation communities operate as eco-systems
through systemic value networking in a world
without borders;
2. Innovation processes are strongly based on demand-driven user orientation and customers as
crucial players in innovation;
3. Innovation strategies focus on catalysing open
innovation and encouraging individuals and
communities to move towards entrepreneurial
discovery and effective use of digitalised services;
4. Innovation is accelerated through partnerships experimenting and carrying out rapid prototyping.
10
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
For this, regions need Smart Specialisation strategies as economic agendas for change. This RIS3
is above all an on-going dynamic, evolutionary
process. When finalised, the Espoo Innovation
Garden will be a living example of the Europe
2020 strategy being implemented at local level.
The Triple Helix concept
comprises three basic
elements:
(1) A more prominent role for the
university in innovation, on a par
with industry and government in a
knowledge–based society;
(2) Movement toward collaborative
relationships among the three
major institutional spheres, in which
innovation policy is increasingly an
outcome of interaction rather than a
prescription from government;
(3) In addition to fulfilling their traditional
functions, each institutional sphere
also “takes the role of the other”,
performing new roles as well as their
traditional function. Institutions taking
non-traditional roles are viewed as a
major potential source of innovation in
innovation. Initially, industry operates
in the Triple Helix as the locus of
production, government as the source
of contractual relations that guarantee
stable interactions and exchange,
and the university as a source of new
knowledge and technology, the
generative principle of knowledgebased economies. The increased
importance of knowledge and the
role of the university in “incubating”
technology-based firms have given
it a more prominent place in the
institutional firmament.
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Resource efficient Europe
Linda Gillham (UK/EA),
Member of Runnymede
Borough Council
T
he Europe 2020 Strategy, which was approved by the EU and the Member States
in 2010, was meant to be the EU’s primary
tool for boosting Europe’s economic performance
and improving sustainable development by 2020.
Four years after its launch, it is now time to revise
the Strategy, which is widely recognised as having
failed to fully deliver on several of its flagship objectives.
In addition, the Europe 2020 Strategy is considered to be an abstract policy by most EU citizens,
particularly in the UK. The EU needs to use clear
and simple language if it is to explain its strategies to its citizens. ‘Clarity’ and ‘action’ should be
the new buzzwords for 2014. As the EU budget
represents only 2% of total public spending in the
EU, the necessary resources cannot come from
the EU alone. Member States have failed to make
full use of EU funding to spur on the long-term
investments that are so badly needed to rekindle
economic growth. The lack of ownership and the
setting of targets using a top down approach, with
scant regard for the role of regions and cities and
their unique understanding of what is best for
their local area, has helped make this strategy even
less credible in the eyes of our citizens.
If only the strategy could be reviewed to make it
more citizen friendly and take the form of a true
partnership model in which the regions and local
governments are fully engaged, we would surely see
a different picture in 2020.
Sustainable growth in Europe
There has been some progress on Resource Efficient Europe, the flagship initiative seen as instrumental for achieving a range of EU objectives, particularly in the area of energy and climate. Among
others, these objectives include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, making the Union more resilient to future rises in global energy prices, ensuring
the more sustainable use of natural resources and
a shift towards a low-carbon economy in Europe.
However, despite limited progress in the EU’s environmental performance following an increase in
investment in green innovation and the take up of
renewable energy sources, the EU is still far from
achieving most of its key target objectives.
If economic growth and employment has become
something of a taboo subject for the EU, this is
even more so the case for the targets that were set
in the areas of education, research and innovation,
poverty reduction, youth and industrial policy.
The economic crisis has wreaked havoc across the
EU with record levels of unemployment, particularly among young people in Europe. As with the
Lisbon strategy, I feel that the EU may be unable
to meet the expectations that we originally set out
to achieve. We need to look not only at the objectives of the EU 2020 targets and the amount of
investment needed; the Member States should
cooperate more closely with Local and Regional
Authorities as they can help to create the right environment for growth and jobs at local level and in
a more targeted manner. There is a certain reluctance for such devolved responsibility but I believe
it to be of key importance.
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The challenges of the Youth on the Move
Alin Adrian Nica (RO/ALDE),
Mayor of Dudestii Noi
W
ith the help of the Europe 2020
Monitoring Platform, the Committee of
the Regions (CoR) carried out a survey
to evaluate the success of the “Youth on the Move”
flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy
from 26 September 2012 to 5 November 2012.
The majority of respondents witnessed a rise in
youth unemployment and a decline or stagnation
in youth employment. In addition, many respondents believe that the changing nature of the labour
market means there is a need to rethink the skills
and experiences taught at school, to prepare young
people more for the transition from school to work,
to provide more specialised training and continued
career advice, to increase young people’s mobility
and to take action to reach out to marginalised
young people i.e. those who are not catered for by
conventional employment agencies due to socioeconomic reasons, migration or other factors. The
overwhelming sentiment among respondents was
therefore that all three aims of the Youth on the
Move initiative are relevant.
Given the overall growing concerns about youth
employment and the widespread recognition that
an active labour market for young people generates
multiple benefits for all age groups, all respondents stated that their city or region was engaged
in programmes promoting objectives such as job
creation, skills development and matching, mobility, etc. The approaches taken are very diverse and
tailored to the specific needs and characteristics of
each city or region.
The ongoing economic crisis playing out throughout the EU, particularly in Greece, Spain, and
Portugal, is having a significant adverse impact on
young people today, as reflected in youth unemployment rates, which have risen in virtually all respondents’ localities. Peripheral regions, especially
island areas, have suffered more than central, more
affluent regions.
Globalisation and systemic changes in the labour
market mean that there is a need to rethink education at secondary and tertiary levels, along with
vocational training and life-long learning opportunities. If they are to succeed, young people today
must choose their field of study or work with great
care and be prepared to be flexible, motivated and
active in continuing to develop their knowledge
and skills base. Mobility is an important means
through which young people can broaden their
skills and gain valuable experience. Migration for
employment purposes is more prevalent now than
it has been in the recent past; however, it is worth
bearing in mind that it can also have negative effects for those regions that lose skilled workers.
Early school leaving
Early school leaving is one of the strongest inverse
predictors for job prospects. The completion of
full-time education is essential for accessing the
job market, particularly in the case of disadvantaged young people, who experience additional
forms of exclusion and discrimination. The initiative addresses key problems and is useful as it
views the different aims and strategies in tandem
and not as isolated issues. Indeed, the survey shows
just how interrelated the issues of education, youth
employment, mobility and life-long learning are.
As regards the actions and policies developed as
part of the Youth on the Move initiative, cooperation between different tiers of government is critical because the EU and national governments can
and should set the broader parameters of policy
whereas the details of their implementation and
adaptation to local circumstances are most effectively carried out by local authorities. Equally, local and regional authorities need to communicate
back to the national and EU levels about what
works and what does not.
Funding for the actions under the Youth on the
Move initiative is diverse but should continue to
mobilise local, national and EU funds. The EU
Structural Funds, in particular the European
Social Fund, are critical, especially for resourcestrapped countries and regions. It is important to
monitor the Youth on the Move initiative and the
national targets are widely considered to be adequate although there are a few important exceptions: the outermost regions may require adjustments as may a number of rural areas that have
been hardest hit by economic and systemic shifts
in the types and availability of jobs; this is also true
for the labour force.
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News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
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Industry is the lynchpin of Europe’s economic
recovery
Claude Gewerc (FR/PES),
President of Picardy
Regional Council
A
s well as weakening the European Union’s
productive capacity, the current crisis has
also widened inequalities within the EU
and raised increasing and legitimate concerns
about relocations, social dumping and the lack
of competitiveness of Europe’s businesses. Since
2008, Europe has lost more than three million jobs
in the manufacturing sector alone.
Yet, with a market of over 500 million people, a
trained and skilled workforce, the second most important global currency and innovative businesses,
Europe has what it takes to get the economy going again. Our industry, which employs thirty five
million women and men, indubitably represents
the “engine” of our economy.
For some time now, I have been calling for the EU
to establish an integrated industrial policy, with a
strong local and regional dimension. We need to
take steps not only to encourage innovation and
investment and improve access to financing and
markets but also to develop skills and training to
keep pace with structural changes and anticipate
future job requirements. With this in mind, the
Picardy Region has now been running its “Industrial Spring” event for almost ten years, with
significant success in achieving its goal of changing young people’s attitudes to jobs and careers in
industry.
European level coordination on industrial issues
could help to close the competitiveness gap between the European Union and the other great
world powers and enable us to hold our own more
effectively on the world stage. The next International Climate Conference is to be held in Paris in
2015 and it will be vital for Europe’s regions to be
represented there. The success of the negotiations
will, in my view, depend on whether the European
partners manage beforehand to agree on an ambitious agenda for industry.
Industrial policy and manufacturing
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The Agenda for New Skills and Jobs
in the regions
to help meet the target of 75% employment among
people of working age (aged 20 to 64) by 2020.
Pavel Branda (CZ/ECR),
Deputy Mayor of Rádlo
A
s an economic area, the European Union
has been aware for many years that it needs
to reinvigorate the dynamism and competitiveness of its economy. Unfortunately, the Treaty
of Lisbon, adopted in 2000, failed to live up to its
ambitions and care is being taken with the recently
adopted Europe 2020 strategy to get things right.
The Committee of the Regions constantly reiterates the point that the local and regional levels
need to be involved in the strategy at every stage
if tangible results are to be achieved. This applies
not least to the successful implementation of one of
the EU2020’s flagship initiatives, the Agenda for
New Skills and Jobs, which was launched in 2010
The main EU instrument for implementing particular measures is the European Social Fund (ESF).
Between 2007 and 2013, the Czech Republic used
ESF funding from three operational programmes
focussing on human resources and jobs, education
and adaptability. This made a potential EUR 3.8
billion available to Czech applicants.
Since 2007 Liberec Region has
been conducting a campaign to
foster education in science and
technology disciplines.
These programmes are also used by the regions. I
am from Liberec Region, which occupies a rather
special location, neighbouring both Poland and
Germany. This is a region with a very strong indus-
trial tradition whose economy has seen dramatic
transformation in recent decades. The traditional
textile sector has ceded to new branches, especially
the automotive industry. However, the region has
long contended with a shortage of skilled labour in
some trades.
In a bid to reverse this unfortunate state of affairs,
since 2007 Liberec Region has been conducting a
campaign to foster education in science and technology disciplines. To this end, the region has its
own grant programme to encourage vocational
training in shortage disciplines. Liberec Region
uses projects supported from the ESF to encourage
pupils at primary and secondary schools to study
the trades needed. Among the initiatives organised
are “projects days”, where primary school pupils are
able to use the practical classrooms, laboratories
and workshops of secondary schools and find out
about different disciplines. Various leisure time
activities are starting to be offered where people
can improve their skills. Trips to industrial heritage sites and exhibitions are organised, and in-service training centres are being set up for teachers.
The region’s unique border location also provides
scope for collaboration between companies and
educational institutions. Liberec Region is playing
an active part in the cross-border cooperation that
has now been going on for more than twenty years
in the Neisse-Nisa-Nysa Euroregion. The academic coordination centre in the Euroregion orchestrates cooperation between higher education
institutions in the three neighbouring countries
(joint academic boards, student exchanges, shared
academic journal, etc.). There is even a co-run
Neisse University, where students study in a different country each year. Chambers of commerce
also work together, there are contact centres for
businesses, and cross-border prizes for innovation
are awarded regularly.
Liberec Region concludes from its own experience
that the most important task is the matching of
the demands of the labour market (employers) and
the supply of skilled labour. This will not happen
by itself: it needs the active commitment of all the
key partners, including companies. And it needs
the regional authorities, above all, to play a coordinating role. The crucial thing for border regions,
however, is to capitalise on the potential of crossborder education and the cross-border labour market to ensure that frontiers are not a barrier but an
opportunity.
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News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
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Help for socially disadvantaged and disabled
people is a priority for the Bratislava Region
Pavol Frešo (SK/EPP),
President of the Bratislava
Self-Governing Region
T
he Bratislava Region provides social services
to make life easier for severely disabled people; and help those in difficult circumstances and demonstrate that such people are valued
and can be integrated into society. The Bratislava
Region runs 15 social services facilities for various
target groups. The oldest of these is the adult Social Care Centre (SCC) in Báhoň, which has been
in operation for almost 80 years. A number of institutions celebrated anniversaries in recent years,
including the Karol Matulay SCC, Slovakia’s first
day centre for mentally handicapped children (30th
anniversary in 2012), Sibírska SCC (25th anniversary), Hestia SCC (20th anniversary) and the
Integra SCC for adults and children (20th anniversary). This year, Rača SCC will also celebrate
its 20th anniversary. Javorinská SCC for adults
and children, founded in 1969, is another of the
oldest facilities in Central Europe. The fact that
these institutions have been in operation for many
years shows that we are carrying on a tradition.
The Bratislava Region also supports a number of
organisations and projects that focus on social services and aid to residents.
the “2012-2015 National Action Plan for the
Transition from Institutional to Community
Care in the Social Services System”, adopted by
the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Families, which is based on the Europe 2020 strategy
and the European Commission’s European Disability Strategy 2010-2020. The “Quality Requirements for Social Services of the Bratislava
Region” adopted by the Bratislava regional council constitute a further significant step towards
improving the quality of social services. This is
the first, and so far only, such document produced by a Slovak region.
In addition, the region has broadened and improved the quality of its social services by opening five sheltered housing centres, which allow
disabled people to live as independently as possible and greatly improve their quality of life when
compared to traditional institutional care. The
Bratislava Region is also thereby implementing
The Bratislava Region also organises its own
events, such as the Regional Olympic Games for
senior citizens from institutions run by the region
and by the City of Bratislava. The aim of the event
is to provide senior citizens with a light-hearted
opportunity to take part in sport, get exercise and
have fun at the same time.
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
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POLICY ANALYSIS
Europe 2020: Mid-term results,
expectations and policy
recommendations
REGARDLESS OF THE DIFFERENCES THAT EXIST IN TERMS OF THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL MAKE-UP OR THE COMPETENCES AND RESOURCES AT THEIR DISPOSAL, THE EU’S
LOCAL AND REGIONAL AUTHORITIES UNDOUBTEDLY PLAY A KEY ROLE IN MANY OF THE POLICY AREAS COVERED BY THE EUROPE 2020 STRATEGY, BE IT INNOVATION,
EDUCATION, SOCIAL PROTECTION, ENVIRONMENT RELATED POLICIES OR OTHERS. THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE 1059 PARTICIPANTS IN THE LATEST COR CONSULTATION
STATED THAT EUROPE 2020 HAD HELPED THEM TO IMPROVE THE WAY IN WHICH THEY SET THEIR PRIORITIES ALLOWING THEM TO MAKE MEASURABLE PROGRESS.
LRAS ACROSS EUROPE HAVE BEEN KEEN TO ADOPT A LONG-TERM VISION FOR EUROPEAN GROWTH AND NOT ONLY TO APPLY SHORT-TERM ANTI-CRISIS MEASURES.
F
lagship Initiatives have encouraged many respondents to adopt policy programs that are
specifically in line with their goals. LRAs have
found them to be both useful and relevant and this
has been reflected in both the policies and actions
adopted locally and the information provided by
LRAs in response to the CoR’s surveys. The strategy has created a framework for stimulation, inspiration, participation and for the exchange of ideas.
In some cases, LRAs have adopted governance
systems involving the participation of stakeholders, including in the area of target-setting, as well as
forms of vertical coordination between the different
levels of government. Other region and cities meanwhile would appear to feel less involved and seem
to have adopted a more distant approach towards
Europe 2020. They consider it to be an abstract
policy which sets unrealistic targets. This is due to a
combination of factors such as a lack of vertical coordination between all levels of government, policy
cycles and budgets, a lack of resources or administrative capabilities and others.
Progress towards the Europe
2020 targets is below
expectations
The evidence gathered by the CoR shows that
progress towards the Europe 2020 targets set at
EU and national level is below expectations. The
Europe 2020 indicators, monitored by Eurostat,
confirm the findings of the CoR’s reports, highlighting that the existing gaps between regions
have widened even further. However, major problems with obtaining complete and timely data at
regional level have meant that it has been particularly difficult to analyse this situation in any detail.
16
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
The economic crisis has taken a heavy toll on the
EU’s regions. The gaps that exist between them in
terms of levels of GDP and employment have widened dramatically, reversing the convergence trend
of previous years, while sub-national budgets have
undergone dramatic cuts, mainly at the expense of
public investments. It has proven difficult to improve employment rates and other Europe 2020
target indicators during what has been the worst
crisis for decades.
However, there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that there are also other reasons for Europe
2020’s unsatisfactory progress so far. The CoR’s
assessment pinpoints the weaknesses of the strategy’s ‘territorially blind’ approach to policy design,
which ignores the strengths, weaknesses and specific development opportunities of Europe’s regions. This approach risks jeopardising the chances of the Europe 2020 objectives being achieved
which could, in turn, increase regional disparities,
aggravate territorial vulnerabilities further and
reduce to an unsatisfactory level the number of
investments that are so necessary for supporting
long-term growth, thereby undermining the required sense of commitment to, and ‘ownership’
of, the Europe 2020 strategy.
Strategy needs better
vertical coordination
between all levels of
government
The Europe 2020 targets are often considered to
be unrealistic yet the opposite is true: the targets
aim to set relevant and credible challenges thereby
enabling them to play an effective role in terms of
stimulating, monitoring and assessing action.
To achieve this aim, the targets should vary between regions and should be set in partnership
involving all levels of government, mixing a topdown and a bottom-up approach.
The annual cycle of EU economic governance
(European Semester) should follow the same principle. To tap into the potential of place-based approaches, National Reform Programmes (NRPs)
should be designed, implemented, monitored and
assessed by all levels of government and other
relevant stakeholders based on a partnership approach. Against the background of the worst
economic crisis in living memory, the European
Semesters from 2011 to 2014 have focused on the
short-term need for fiscal consolidation. Europe
2020’s longer term goals of smart, sustainable and
inclusive growth must remain at the top of the
agenda in the European Semester.
Long-term funding
approach and more effective
spending
The investments needed to support the strategy
require a long-term funding approach and more
effective spending. The EU budget plays a vital
structuring role, primarily through the cohesion
policy instruments. As public money alone will not
suffice, innovative solutions should be identified to
mobilise private funds, including through the increasing involvement of the EIB. If they are to play
a frontline role, LRAs must improve their capability to spend more effectively, doing more with less
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The Europe 2020 strategy could benefit
from a combination of bottom-up and
top-down planning and target setting
48
%
37
%
1
2
%
12
%
%
Fully agree
Substancially agree
Agree to a limited extent
Do not agree at all
as well as handling new financial instruments in
an efficient way.
The quality of public administration is crucial in
this sense and, more broadly speaking, for ensuring a territorially differentiated approach to the
Europe 2020 strategy. Multi-level governance relies on the skills, competences, experiences and
knowledge of the different levels of government,
and the LRAs must assume their responsibilities in this process. Therefore, rethinking Europe
2020 based on a mix of top-down and bottom-up
planning involves strengthening administrative
capabilities and placing this issue at the very top
of the EU’s policy agenda. The LRAs need to be
supported in their efforts to improve their administrative capabilities, the lack of which hits those
regions that are lagging behind the hardest.
The CoR Bureau’s political declaration, and the
accompanying mid-term assessment report that
will be discussed and adopted during the Athens
Summit, are intended to spearhead an in-depth
debate, involving all stakeholders, on how to pursue the objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, building on the differentiated assets
of Europe’s cities and regions.
We expect the European Commission to publish
a new Communication on the Europe 2020 midterm review in March which will be discussed at
the spring European Council. We hope that Europe’s policy makers will take account of the CoR’s
recommendations on how to renew the Europe
2020 Strategy and ensure its long-term success,
EU’s economic growth and social cohesion.
No answer
Youth employment and education
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
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RAPPORTEURS HAVE THEIR SAY
IN THIS REGULAR COLUMN, MEMBERS TO THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGION WRITE IN THEIR OWN WORDS WHAT MOTIVATES THEM TO TAKE ON THE ROLE OF
RAPPORTEUR FOR THE POLICY AREA THAT THEY ARE WRITING THEIR OPINION. THE FOLLOWING EIGHT OP-EDS FOCUS ON A DIVERSE NUMBER OF TOPICS FROM WASTE
SHIPPING REGULATIONS TO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A EUROPEAN PUBLIC PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE.
European Long Term
Investment Funds
Simone Beissel (LU/ALDE), Chair of the CoR’s Commission for Economic and Social Policy and municipal council of the City of Luxembourg
T
he idea behind European Long Term Investment Funds – ELTIFs – is to create an investment fund for long-term investments, for
example in infrastructure projects. The Committee
of the Regions would like ELTIFs to become an attractive tool for financing investments in European
regions, in areas such as energy, transport, communications infrastructure, industrial service facilities,
housing, and climate change and eco-innovation facilities. In many regions, public investment is decreasing,
making private investment more necessary than ever,
but it remains difficult to attract funds. A clear and
harmonised legal framework on ELTIFs, for example,
could be a major step forward, although it must under
no circumstances replace the transfer of national government funding to sub-national authorities. This is
partly why the ECOS commission decided to draft an
opinion on this rather complex financial topic.
Another reason why ELTIFs are important is that
they are intended to be an attractive investment for
pension funds. In some Member States, local and regional authorities operate their own pension funds,
which might be interested in channelling some longterm investments into ELTIFs. The main message
in the opinion is that the CoR broadly welcomes the
Commission’s proposal on ELTIFs, even though
some rather technical changes are proposed. This is
in line with the previous CoR opinion on the Commission’s Green Paper on the long-term financing
of the European economy. The CoR also points out
that ELTIFs could make a major contribution to
the Europe 2020 strategy, as smart, sustainable and
inclusive growth can be promoted by investment in
long-term assets.
The draft opinion also points to the benefits of a
harmonised market in long-term investment funds.
Currently, small Member States such as Luxembourg and Estonia suffer in particular from the
fragmented capital market. ELTIFs must strike a
balance between attracting and generating demand
for long-term investment while ensuring choice for
investors. The CoR also points out, however, that
differences in Member States’ tax-regimes could be
an obstacle to pooling capital in ELTIFs, especially
where cross-border projects are concerned.
We are urging the Commission to set alert
thresholds for social issues
Jean-Louis Destans (FR/PES), President of Eure General Council
T
o date, the European Commission has tackled tensions in the Euro area purely from an
economic and monetary point of view. This
approach should be consolidated in future by taking better account of the social inequalities and
imbalances which have been affecting our fellow
citizens badly. This is in any case the thrust of the
Commission’s proposals and the reason we believe
that they are essentially going in the right direction. The conclusions of the last European Council meeting have nevertheless prompted us to be on
our guard. In the opinion on the social dimension
of economic and monetary union, European local
and regional authorities have had the opportunity
to point out that it is through governance and eco-
18
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
nomic policy coordination processes that this social dimension should be secured.
Although the Commission is therefore making
significant progress by recommending that a social scoreboard be drawn up, there are two levels
on which this proposal can be improved: The first
concerns the list of indicators to be selected. As it
stands, it is too restrictive, and we propose to add
to it. The second regards the use to be made of the
scoreboard. We believe that it must serve as much
more than just a statistical tool and should provide
a launch pad for policy action. That is why we are
asking the Commission to set social alert thresholds, as has been done for debt and public deficits,
but this time with a difference: in the social domain, exceeding the threshold would not automatically trigger sanctions, rather, a mechanism should
be used to encourage convergence.
Lastly, there is the recurrent issue of economic
stabilisers, which the Commission only outlines
in sketchy terms. These are however specific
tools that other currency areas, such as the United States, have developed and must therefore be
looked at carefully. That is why we are calling for a
green paper on the subject.
Nº 86 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2014
Three climate targets
for 2030
Sirpa Hertell (FI/EPP), Vice-chair of Espoo City Council
C
limate change and energy policy are major
challenges for Europe. Together we need to
look for ways in which regions and their residents and businesses can together chart a course
towards a more sustainable future.
As I was drawing up my opinion, I spoke to representatives of the Commission and the Parliament
and met with a number of civil society representatives. We all share a desire to limit the rise in the
average temperature to no more than 2°C above
pre-industrial levels, and to achieve this we need
to set a binding target to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions to 50% of 1990 levels. I also propose that
we adopt binding targets for renewable energy and
energy-efficiency. A decision on the principles of
burden sharing should account for particular national environmental and economic circumstances.
In early January a joint meeting of two of the European Parliament’s committees backed a motion
calling for the EU to set three climate targets. I
am pleased that our discussions have borne fruit
and that the Parliament’s committees underlined
in their own statement the importance of the local level in climate measures. It is very unfortunate
that there is no mention in the Green Paper of the
importance of local and regional authorities or of
the measures they have already taken in terms of
climate and energy issues.
I am concerned about the lack of options when it
comes to funding for local and regional authorities,
which the economic crisis appears to have made
worse. The protracted crisis and globalisation put
efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change at
risk. In my opinion I call on the Commission to
support and encourage the local level and the Member States to achieve the targets that have been set,
not least by using its funding programmes. A large
number of cities in Europe have worked effectively
and on their own initiative to restrain climate
change.
Concentrating on the broader picture generally
yields better results nationally than excessively
detailed instructions. It ensures maximum costefficiency, the best measures and the right schedule, which means the most effective toolkit. The
best way to ensure public confidence in EU policymaking is to avoid overly prescriptive guidelines.
Waste
Shipping Regulations
Paula Baker (UK/ALDE), Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council
I
used to think that “Waste Tourism” was what
people like me did on their foreign holidays –
dragging their family to look at interesting recycling centres they went past and stopping to take
photographs of innovative waste bin in the local
camp site! No, “Waste Tourism” is really a much
darker reality, where containers of dangerous
materials are moved from port to port until they
can slip out of the EU, unnoticed. They are illegal
waste shipments, probably destined to be ripped
apart by children on a beach in West Africa, with
little training and no safety equipment. A few of
the precious resources these materials contain are
saved, the rest are likely to be burnt, in the open,
polluting the air, water and soil in the area.
It shouldn’t happen. We have Waste Shipment Regulations that should prevent it. But they do not work
as they are meant to. So the Commission is proposing to amend them, building on guidance from the
IMPEL network. Since starting this rapporteurship
I have met many stakeholders and have learnt just
how devious waste criminals can be. I have met the
European Parliament rapporteur, Mr Bart Staes,
and with him made a visit to Antwerp Port.
We had a very good discussion with staff from
Customs, the Belgian Federal Environment service, the Flanders Department of Environment,
the Brussels Institute for Management of the Environment and a Magistrate from Antwerp Public
Prosecutor. Then we looked at some containers.
One was thought to be suspect as it was described
as “household goods” en route to Africa, but a gas
tester detected the presence of a vehicle inside the
container. So it was opened. It contained a van with
very strange “household goods”, it had 10 computer
monitors and four broken exercise bikes visible.
Another container was opened, also “household
goods”, also going to Africa. This one contained
a van, several lorry tyres and a fridge. Loads like
this have to be unloaded at the shipper’s expense, so
that the contents can be tested to see if they really
are “goods” or are in fact illegal waste.
The visit to Antwerp underlined how important
it is to make our waste shipment regulations work
properly. The amendments that the Commission
is proposing will help to do that by introducing an
obligation to prepare and publish waste shipment
inspection plans based on a risk assessment of specific waste streams and intelligence based data. I also
believe that the Commission should create a code
conversion table between customs codes and waste
codes and create a platform for effective cooperation
between Member States. The opinion recommends
amendments to the text proposed by the Commission to introduce these measures and to require publication of the outcome of inspections.
Finally, for all our peace of minds, I think every
waste authority should report to their residents on
the end destination of our waste and recycling, to
give us confidence that we are not contributing to
the pollution of developing countries.
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
19
RAPPORTEURS HAVE THEIR SAY
New European
forestry strategy
Spyros Spyridon (EL/EPP), Regional Councillor, Attica
A
t the Committee of the Regions’ recent plenary session I had the opportunity to introduce its draft opinion on the new strategy
for forests and the forestry sector unveiled by the
EU Commission in September 2013. The adoption of this opinion marks an important step, giving the CoR an opportunity to contribute to the
ongoing debate on comprehensive forest management based on sustainability and public wellbeing.
40% of the EU’s land area is covered by forests, a
percentage that is currently on the rise. Forests
have always been important from an economic and
social perspective. It is worth mentioning that forest biomass accounts for 50% of energy produced
from renewable sources in the EU, and it has been
estimated that the forestry sector provides around
3 500 000 jobs.
The main reason for overhauling the 1998 forest
strategy is that we are in danger of disturbing the
harmonious relationship that has always existed
between man and forest, a relationship that marries economic activity and care and protection for
the forest. By way of example, the amount of wood
to be used in the immediate future purely for energy purposes will be equivalent to today’s entire
output. This forecast needs to be given careful
consideration in view of its implications (for forest
ecology and wood production sustainability). The
new forest strategy seeks to safeguard biodiversity,
productivity and adequate regeneration of our forests both locally and globally.
My aim in this opinion, which is the fruit of wideranging consultations and research and incorporates apposite comments made by my colleagues,
is to speak for local authorities the length and the
breadth of the EU. On a more detailed note, we
point to the key role of local and regional authorities in shaping and implementing the forest strategy; we call for multi-fund support for the relevant
2014-2020 policies; we highlight the dangers, such
as illegal logging and poaching, which are on the
increase as a result of the protracted recession; we
call for a level playing field for small and mediumsized enterprises vis-a-vis larger companies and,
finally, we emphasise the importance of public information campaigns and a cultural shift in order
to make society more aware of the many and varied
benefits that forests have to offer.
Through broad dissemination of this opinion and
awareness-raising initiatives in local communities,
it is my hope that the Committee of the Regions
will be able to make a positive contribution to the
effective implementation of the new forestry strategy in the EU.
The European
Public Prosecutor’s Office
Holger Poppenhäger (DE/PES), Chairman of the German delegation in the CoR and Justice Minister of Thüringen
I
n my capacity as Committee of the Regions rapporteur, I feel that the proposal for a Regulation to establish a European Public Prosecutor’s
Office (EPPO) is positive and worthy of support.
Due to serious barriers to prosecution of financial
crime, especially subsidy fraud, money laundering
and tax evasion, numerous investigations in Europe get nowhere, thus affecting the EU’s financial
capacity. A final discussion on the opinion on the
proposal for a European Public Prosecutor’s Office
will take place in the Committee of the Regions
on 30 January 2014. In these discussions I will argue that the Commission’s proposal is a necessary
European instrument for penal investigation, and
I will call for it to be supported. According to EU
Member States, some EUR 500 million of subsi-
20
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
dies and similar funding is embezzled; however,
this could be just the tip of the iceberg. It is therefore vital to prosecute such crimes without delay,
so that unduly awarded funding can be recovered.
Statistics suggest that just 42.3% of these cases can
be prosecuted at national level.
Arguments by some Member States that establishing a European Public Prosecutor’s Office is
unnecessary and among other things could violate
the subsidiarity principle are unfounded. It is true
that European anti-fraud agency OLAF can detect
such crimes and forward the results of its investigations to Member States with a recommendation to
prosecute. However, not all countries follow this
up effectively enough. I believe that the EU’s pro-
posal goes in the right direction, although it is likely there will be resistance from some countries. It
should also be pointed out that there is widespread
support in both the EP’s conservative and socialist
political groups.
However, many questions will still have to be addressed during the forthcoming legislative procedure. To a large extent, investigative powers are described in general terms, and these could come into
conflict with national legislation. It is important
to ensure that defence and prosecution are on an
equal footing, at the same time as ensuring effective
legal protection from EPPO decisions. Most likely,
future discussions will not be about “whether”, but
“how”.
Nº 86 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2014
The sustainable future
of inland waterway transport
Brian Meaney (IE/EA), Clare County Council and Mid-West Regional Authority
I
n many respects inland waterway transport in
Europe is the Cinderella of transport modes.
Its potential to provide for sustainable transport options in Europe has been undervalued.
The facts are simple, on average, a gallon of fuel,
allows one ton of cargo to be shipped 59 miles by
truck, 202 miles by rail and 514 miles by barge.
While these are US statistics the reality is still
the same in Europe. The goal of improving engine performance embodied in the “Naiades II
package”, can only but improve these transport
efficiency statistics.
and important ecosystems. So unlike other modes,
inland waterway transport must ensure a sustainable balance between its activities and the other
The Committee of the Regions highlights that inland waterways not only serve transport needs but
are also significant regional assets in terms of water
supply, energy generation, recreation and tourism
uses of the waterway. This is an important context
within which the sector operates and for which local and regional authorities have a direct interest
and key responsibility.
So unlike other modes, inland
waterway transport must ensure
a sustainable balance between its
activities and the other uses of the
waterway.
The role of regions in land-use and transportation
policy is important, especially in how spatial planning significantly influences transport demand,
transport movements and in helping to make multi-modal transport a more attractive option. Waterways and inland ports are key infrastructures
for regional economic development and we have a
direct interest and role in maximising the best and
most efficient use of our waterways.
Local and Regional Authorities take
the lead in addressing health inequalities
Constance Hanniffy (IE/EPP), Offaly County Council and Midland Regional Authority
T
he regrettable extent of continuing health
inequalities across the EU is outlined in the
Commission’s report on Health Inequalities
- a striking example being the 19 year difference in
healthy life years between citizens of Slovakia and
Sweden. However differences exist as much within regions and Member States as between them.
Equally, the range of factors that affect health socio-economic disadvantage, the policies and actions of authorities at all levels, the choices we make
as individuals as well as biological and geographical
factors are well-documented.
Our local and regional authorities play key roles in
the direct provision of public health services while
other functions and policies, such as in employment,
housing, transport, land-use planning, the environment, education and public safety ensure that they
are key actors in tackling health inequalities.
In the opinion, I emphasise that inequalities cannot be reduced by the health sector alone, rather, it
requires action by all those whose work promotes
health and wellbeing through coordinated planning - the Health in All Policies approach. Fostering a culture of multi-level governance is a consistent
theme of the Committee of the Regions and this is
particularly appropriate to reducing health inequalities. I encourage the introduction and implementation of overarching intersectoral strategies as reducing health inequalities will require commitment
from the many relevant departments such as health,
social protection, education, transport, energy and
so on and from the different levels of governance.
The inclusion of health-related actions across a diverse range of EU programmes further encourages
higher-level intersectoral strategies so that the maximum benefits for improved health outcomes can be
gained from the resources available.
Across the EU, there are impressive examples of
such strategies and programmes at the local and
regional level but I firmly believe that strong political and organisational leadership is needed
to drive this agenda; and this is where we, as political leaders, can make the difference in our own
communities.
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
21
BRIEF NEWS AND EVENTS
CoR President in German
Bundesrat
CoR President Valcárcel Siso in the German Bundesrat
“As the EU faces one of the gravest crises in its
history, the return of subsidiarity into the Eurosceptic debate could be an opportunity to help secure better EU legislation.” This was the opening
message of Committee of the Regions president,
Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso, at the 6th Subsidiarity
Conference co organised with the German Bundesrat in Berlin in December 2013.
President Valcárcel Siso highlighted the risks if
the discussion fails to look to the future: “Subsidiarity will remain a dead letter if all the stakeholders involved act independently and on their own.
Together, we can constructively put subsidiarity at
the centre of the debate for better governance in
Europe with collaborative thinking that benefits
people on the ground.” The CoR president gave
his views on the ongoing debate in some Member
States about the review of the EU competences:
“Subsidiarity is not simply about less legislation
at EU level: it is about getting legislation in at the
right level, as close as possible to citizens. Now
more than ever, we need a Europe that is ever closer
to grassroots concerns.”
The need to harness public support for a constructive approach to subsidiarity was also underlined
by the president of the Bundesrat, Stephan Weil:
“Citizens’ trust in Europe and the European idea
must be strengthened again actively” he said, adding that: “Even in a bigger, more united Europe,
issues that can best be addressed locally, should be
addressed locally.”
The chair of the CoR Subsidiarity Monitoring
Network, Michael Schneider (EPP/DE), who is
the Saxony-Anhalt Envoy to the Federal Government and a member of the Bundesrat, outlined
the institutional function of the Committee and
its commitment to subsidiarity: “The Lisbon
Treaty gave the CoR more responsibility here as
it can now bring an action before the EU Court of
Justice on grounds of subsidiarity. But it is much
more important for the CoR to provide input into
22
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
European decision-making early, long before the
final judicial stage. Moreover, we are seeking to
foster shared responsibility among European, national, regional and local institutions for ensuring
the correct application of the subsidiarity and proportionality principles so as to put in place a truly
Europe-wide subsidiarity culture.”
The debate then turned to the role of national
and regional parliaments, mainly in relation to
the Subsidiarity Early Warning System that gives
them the opportunity to oppose to EU draft legislation on the grounds of infringement of the
subsidiarity principle. The two recent cases where
this system came into play – the Monti II Regulation and the proposal to create a European Public
Prosecutor’s Office – provided an opportunity to
critically assess the arrangements and to propose
improvements, ranging from an extension of the
eight-week deadline for national parliaments to react, to the lowering of the thresholds for triggering
the mechanism and the inclusion of non-legislative
initiatives in the scrutiny.
CoR supports Ukraine’s EU
integration
CoR President Valcárcel Siso gives interview in Maidan Square, Kiev
On 22 January, leading a delegation of members of
the Committee of the Regions in Kiev, CoR President Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso has strongly condemned the escalation of violence and expressed
sympathy to the families of the victims. Meeting with
civil society representatives from Maidan Square, he
voiced support to the Ukrainian people in their fight
for freedom and human rights. “The EU is on the
side of democracy and freedom. There is no room for
exceptions”, stressed President Valcárcel Siso.
Referring to the government’s decision to abandon
political and free-trade agreements with the EU last
November, President Valcárcel said: “For many people in Ukraine, European integration is more than a
commercial agreement or a simple piece of paper: it
represents a vision for the future, a project offering
Ukrainians a perspective of stability, peace, democracy, solidarity and respect for their rights and free-
doms”, adding that “Given the current events and
protests, the Ukrainian civil society needs the support of the European Union now more than ever.
We need to keep all channels of dialogue open at all
levels of government, encouraging Ukraine’s government to achieve its declared objective of European
integration and reiterating that the EU-Ukraine
Association Agreement is still possible”.
The CoR delegation, composed of Arnoldas
Abramavičius (LT/EPP), Mayor of Zarasai District
Municipality, Mick Antoniw (PES/UK), Member
of the National Assembly for Wales, Dr. István
Sértő Radics (ALDE/HU), Mayor of Uszka, Uno
Siberg (EA/EE), Member of Kose Rural Municipality Council, and Daiva Matoniene (ECR/LT),
Deputy Mayor of Šiauliai, also met with Ukrainian members of the Conference of the Regional
and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership
(CORLEAP), as well as representatives of Ukrainian regions and cities’ associations. The delegation
recalled the conclusions of the last Eastern Partnership Summit held in Vilnius which provide a platform for cooperation between local and regional
authorities and explicitly recognise the role of local
democracy in the EU’s Eastern Partnership.
EPP Study visit of the
European institutions
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prospects and in need of some answers? Would you
like to witness EU decision-making and the relevance of regional actors first-hand before casting
your vote in the 2014 European Elections?
Then why not apply for a 2-day study visit of the
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Deadline for applications: 7 March 2014
Hosted by the European People’s Party Group
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For more information, please visit www.epp.cor.
europa.eu or contact [email protected]
Nº 86 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2014
In addition to the Secondary Schools Competition, the European Alliance group also organises
an annual Primary Schools Competition in which
pupils produce paintings about topics related to
their region and Europe. More information is
available at: www.ea.cor.europa.eu.
EA Secondary Schools
Competition
image and prestige of a place. This is why we need
an integrated approach to supporting the cultural
and creative sectors.”
Conference on “Culture and
Creativity”
The European Alliance group is launching its Secondary Schools Competition. This year, the competition’s theme is the 2014 campaign on reconciling work and family life.
For the ninth year in a row, the European Alliance group at the Committee of the Regions is
launching a competition aimed at secondary
school students. In 2014, the competition will
be open to secondary schools from eight Member States: Belgium, Ireland, Estonia, Lithuania,
Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.
Participating students will complete a multiple
choice quiz testing their knowledge of the European Union and write an essay on the 2014 campaign
on reconciling work and family life. The two most
successful students from each participating school
will have the opportunity to come to Brussels during the Committee of the Regions’ June plenary
session, meet CoR members and the Committee
president and find out more about Brussels, not
just as the administrative seat of the European
Union but also as a city with an interesting history
and culture.
In the past nine years, more than 200 secondary
school students from all over Europe have had the
opportunity to come to Brussels through this competition, see first-hand how the European institutions work and make many new friends of the same
age from other European countries.
In light of new EU funding opportunities for the
period of 2014-2020, the Committee of the Regions hosted a conference on “Culture and Creativity”. Held from 29 to 30 January 2014, the purpose
of the conference was to stress how investing in
the cultural and creative sector must be part of the
EU’s response to the financial and economic crisis,
and therefore called for a long-term vision for Europe closely linked to culture and creativity. More
than 200 participants, including policy-makers
from all levels of government, cultural associations, artists and designers, shared success stories
from the field and examined their impact on local
development.
Against the background the launch of the new
Creative Europe programme, CoR First VicePresident, Mercedes Bresso (IT/PSE), emphasised the growth potential of culture and creativity for cities and regions: “Cultural investment
makes a fundamental contribution to economic
attractiveness, hence growth and employment, of
cities and regions.” In the keynote speech of the
closing session, Androulla Vassiliou, European
Commissioner in charge of Education, Culture,
Multilingualism and Youth, emphasised how
much the impact of the cultural and creative sectors on regions and cities goes beyond economic
benefits: “Culture promotes the creativity of societies, shapes the unique identity of cities and regions, enhances the quality of life and enriches the
Mercedes Bresso, CoR First Vice-President, Karen Coleman,
broadcaster, and Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner
The event facilitated ‘creative networking’ with
representatives of selected projects from different
cultural and creative institutions, organisations
and networks as well as information sessions on
the ‘Creative Europe’ programme.
The conference was combined with a cultural
event ‘Las Minas Flamenco Tour’ from Spain in
the Albert Hall, Brussels. Las Minas started its
world tour in 2014 showcasing flamenco as a best
practice on how a cultural event could foster local
economic development.
AGENDA
Conference on “For a Europe of regions and cities: the view of young people”
1 April
CoR plenary session
2-3 April
Inter-institutional Open Doors Day
17 May
Conference on “The state of Europe’s sub-national public finances”
24 June
CoR plenary session
26-27 June
12th OPEN DAYS-European Week of Regions and Cities
6-9 October
CoR plenary session
7-8 October
5th European Conference on Public Communication (EuroPCom)
15-16 October
Conference on “Governing a multi-level Europe”
2 December
CoR plenary session
3-4 December
Brussels, Belgium
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
23
WWW.EUROPARL.EU
#EP2014
European Elections 2014
Former Committee members drive regional policy at the European Parliament
WITH THE EUROPEAN ELECTIONS APPROACHING AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS’ 20TH ANNIVERSARY JUST AROUND THE CORNER, WE THOUGHT IT WOULD
BE INTERESTING TO MEET SOME OF THOSE MEPS WHO HAVE ALSO BEEN MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE IN THE PAST. WE TALKED TO THEM ABOUT THEIR LOCAL
EXPERIENCE AND HOW THEIR LOCAL ROOTS ARE HELPING THEM TO FORGE NEW REGIONAL POLICY IN THEIR LEGISLATIVE WORK TODAY AND TO ENSURE BETTER
COOPERATION BETWEEN THE TWO INSTITUTIONS.
T
his May, the people of Europe will be electing
new members to the European Parliament
in EU wide direct elections, an event which
will also mark the Committee of the Regions 20th
anniversary. Despite the European Parliament’s
rather modest beginnings as the Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community
(ECSC), it now enjoys significant legislative, budgetary and supervisory powers and, thanks to the
co-decision procedure, acts as part of a joint legislature with the Council in many policy areas. The
European Parliamentary Assembly’s first plenary
session on 19 March 1958 saw the election of the
former French prime minister and foreign minister, Robert Schuman, as its president. The parliamentary term was fixed at five years. MEPs come
from many different backgrounds and include
former members of national parliaments as well
as ministers. We wanted to speak to those MEPs
who have also been members of the Committee
of the Regions. They shared with us their experiences of local and regional politics and spoke about
how this grass-roots experience has helped them to
become more efficient European legislators.
24
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
due to receive EUR 20.5 billion in EU funds during
the new programme period 2014–2020. It was therefore crucial to prepare efficient programmes and legislation to help cities and regions to spend European
funds more effectively.
Oldrich Vlasák MEP, vice-president of the European Parliament
Czech Conservative Oldrich Vlasák MEP, vice-president of the European Parliament, executive president
of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions and former member of the Committee said that
“more than ever, the traditional drivers of economic
growth are giving way to a knowledge-based economy. Cities are the focal points for this transformation
as they concentrate not only most of the wealth but
also most of the problems – hence they need to be
supported.” He also stressed that a knowledge of local
and regional politics helped MEPs to understand the
complex issue of regional policy, territorial and urban
development more closely. The Czech Republic was
Jan Olbrycht MEP, vice-chair of the European Parliament’s
Committee on Regional Development (REGI)
This view was also echoed by Jan Olbrycht (PL/
EPP) MEP, vice-chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Regional Development
(REGI). MEP Olbrycht gained his first political
experience at local level as mayor and member of
Cieszyn municipal council in the early 1990s. In
Nº 86 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2014
Local experience is the foundation
of politics in the sense that
participation at a local level instills
a strong sense of affinity with
the people whom one ultimately
represents.
Claudette Abela Baldacchino, MEP
On 19 March 1958, the European Parliamentary Assembly – which would
later become the European Parliament – elected Robert Schuman as its first
President. In his first speech as head of the institution, the man who delivered
the famous Declaration of 9 May 1950, the founding act behind the European
adventure, highlighted the changes made to the way in which the European
Parliament would work following the entry into force of the Treaties signed in
Rome in March 1957. Speaking on the issue of electing the Assembly’s members
by universal suffrage, Robert Schuman announced that direct elections “could
become a matter of real urgency within two years.” In the event, Europe would
have to wait until 1979 for the first direct elections to the European Parliament.
Europe’s ‘Founding Fathers’, Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet
later years he would become Marshal of the Silesian Voivodeship. “The active involvement of the
EU’s cities is vital for the future success of Europe
and its programmes and policies such as the Europe 2020 strategy” noted Olbrycht, adding that
European regions defined their urban policy and
contributed to the achievement of the objectives of
the Europe 2020 strategy.
Jo Leinen MEP, former minister of the Environment for the State
of Saarland
In Germany, we spoke with Jo Leinen, former minister of the Environment for the State of Saarland
(1985–1994) and Member of Saarland’s Landtag
until 1999. Jo Leinen, who has also worked as a
municipal councillor in Püttlingen, noted that all
European environmental initiatives have a direct
impact at local and regional level. “When we draft
our legislative proposals we have to reflect and anticipate their impact on the daily life of people in
our cities and regions. I therefore believe that my
experience in local and regional politics is also very
useful today in my work as a Member of the European Parliament,” she said.
For MEP Claudette Abela Baldacchino from Malta,
who is also a former member of the Committee of the
Regions, local experience represents the very foundation of politics in the sense that participation at local
level instills a strong sense of affinity with the people
whom one ultimately represents. She noted that people in Malta live in rather small communities which
meant that people tend to know each other well. She
feels that this is an advantage since it allows politicians, at all levels, to be close to the citizens and to
truly understand their needs. “Even at a European
level we cannot forget that we are representing our
constituencies in Member States in their complex di-
versity,” she said. “Every day, when I walk through the
crowded streets of Brussels or when I have meetings
in the European Parliament, I recall that my roots
are in Malta, and that I am representing the Maltese
citizens.” Claudette Abela Baldacchino felt that both
institutions, the European Parliament as well as the
Committee of the Regions were aware of these realities and that they would continue to work closer together for the benefit of all.
The active involvement of the EU’s
cities is vital for the future success
of Europe and its programmes and
policies such as the Europe 2020
strategy.
Jan Olbrycht, MEP
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
The Europe 2020 Monitoring Platform
is available online
The CoR’s Europe 2020 Monitoring Platform, a group
of over 170 cities and regions from the 28 EU Member
states, monitors how Europe 2020 is implemented
on the ground, promoting the exchange of good
practices.
http://portal.cor.europa.eu/europe2020
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