The members of the European Committee of the Regions held a discussion with Herman Van Rompuy, president of the High Level Group on European Democracy, and Renaud Muselier, president of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region, delegated president of the Association of the Regions of France and co-organiser of the European Summit of Regions and Cities.
The Conference on the Future of Europe is a unique opportunity to bring the EU closer to its citizens and to boost their sense of belonging to the European project. Provided that in its conclusions, the European Committee of the Regions is given a coordination and communication role, on behalf of local and regional authorities, in the future European decision-making process.
This was the view of former president of the European Council and president of the CoR High Level Group on European Democracy, Herman Van Rompuy, and Renaud Muselier, president of the South Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region and delegated president of the Regions of France, during a debate on the future of democracy in Europe at the European Committee of the Regions plenary session.
During the debate, there was broad consensus that the Conference on the Future of Europe must be able to show the citizens consulted that their voices have been heard. With 1.17 million locally and regionally elected representatives in the EU, local and regional authorities are the largest level of democratic representation and are closest to citizens. Collectively, they are responsible for half of public investments in the EU and for implementing more than half of EU legislation. If the EU is to increase its democratic legitimacy, it is essential to involve the local and regional level more in the EU decision-making process and to establish a permanent dialogue with citizens for the upcoming discussions after the Conference. The delegation of local and regional elected representatives to the Conference plenary promotes these points at the plenary sessions of the Conference on the Future of Europe. These topics will also be discussed at the European Summit of Regions and Cities in Marseille on 3 and 4 March 2022, just before the closing session of the Conference under the French Presidency of the EU.
Apostolos Tzitzikostas, president of the European Committee of the Regions, president of the Central Macedonia Region in Greece and head of the CoR delegation, stated that: “the Conference on the Future of Europe must commit to taking this unique opportunity to place regions at the heart of the European Union’s future democratic architecture. We want to strengthen multi-level governance in the EU for the implementation of EU legislation. The million local and regional elected representatives across Europe we represent can help restore people’s trust in our democracy”.
Herman Van Rompuy presented the first conclusions of the High Level Group on European Democracy: “the Conference on the Future of Europe is a unique opportunity to bring the existing local dimension of our democracy into the debate. The CoR could play an important role as coordinator, facilitator and communicator in our multi-level governance system. It could also be more involved in the European legislative process, from its preparation to its evaluation. I would also envisage a genuine Team Europe, composed of delegations from all EU parliaments and elected councils, meeting annually or twice a year to discuss the EU’s strategic political agenda and its implementation”. The full report of the HLG’s proposals to strengthen the CoR’s role under the existing Treaty will be adopted in December. It will be up to the CoR to take up the recommendations it wishes and to take them forward at the COFE.
Renaud Muselier, whose region is co-organising the 9th European Summit of Regions and Cities with the CoR, and who is a member of the delegation of local and regional elected representatives to the Conference plenary, said: “at a time when populists are rising and our citizens are losing interest in the public debate, there is an urgent need to make the Conference on the Future of Europe the first act in a fundamental revision of European democratic software. It needs to be more concrete, closer to citizens’ real expectations. To achieve this, Europe must trust us. We, local representatives, are essential for thinking about and building the European democracy of tomorrow! This is the message we will deliver at the 9th Summit of Regions and Cities in Marseille, in the middle of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union. More than ever, Europe’s future must be written with local and regional authorities”.
Igor Senčar, State Secretary for Coordination of International and EU Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister of Slovenia, said: “Europe faces important challenges from the ongoing Covid pandemic to climate change or digital transformation and it is important that we have the Conference on the Future of Europe, even if it was delayed. The Conference is an innovative project that has to focus on European citizens. The CoR’s contributions in plenaries, during local events and on the digital platform are valuable and important for European democracy. I am confident that together we can strengthen our common understanding of what Europe we want in the future.”
The CoR High Level Group on Democracy, which supports the CoR’s contribution to the Conference, will unveil a number of its recommendations at a conference on 3 December onA Europe that empowers, protects and delivers: strengthening European Multi-Level Democracy.
At the 9th European Summit of Regions and Cities in Marseille on 3-4 March, the CoR will present its final contribution to the Conference on the Future of Europe.
A study on The Conference on the Future of Europe: putting local and regional authorities at the heart of European democratic renewal carried out by the London School of Economics at the request of the CoR, proposes different scenarios in which the Conference on the Future of Europe could lead to an improvement and strengthening of the role of cities and regions, as well as the CoR itself, as the institutional representative of cities and regions in the EU decision-making process.
For other examples illustrating the central role of the CoR in making the voice of sub-national governments heard in the development of European democracy and in particular in the context of the Conference on the Future of Europe, see our pages on the Future of Europe – bringing Europe closer to its citizens.
Source: Conference on the Future of Europe: the EU needs to demonstrate concrete results in regions, cities and villages to increase citizens’ trust in our democracy (europa.eu)
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