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Committee of the Regions (CoR)

Regions need more help from EU in migration crisis, CoR rapporteur tells European Parliament

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François-DECOSTER-MLLocal and regional authorities across the European Union need more financial support from the EU in order to cope with the challenges of hosting large numbers of refugees and migrants, François Decoster (pictured), the Committee of the Region's rapporteur on migration, told the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).

He also voiced his support for the European Union's efforts to find a long-term sustainable asylum and migration system for Europe. "Yesterday's decision by the EU to relocate 120,000 migrants and refugees across the EU is just the start of a process that should lead to a much more stable system that shows solidarity with those in need and with the local communities subject to migratory pressures. We have to come up with a way of managing such situations that is fair to all," said Decoster (ALDE/France).

Cities and regions that "just happen to lie on migratory routes" are having to respond to the crisis at their own expense, said Decoster, who is mayor of St-Omer in north-western France. "Our fellow citizens did not elect us to exercise such a competence because these are tasks that really belong to higher levels of government, but we do so because it is our moral duty to provide humanitarian support," he said.

Decoster welcomed the European Commission's provision of emergency support to some areas, including his region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais. He said, however, that EU national leaders should use today's emergency summit on migration to dedicate far greater sums to the challenges posed by the large number of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe. Decoster said that the costs associated with receiving and integrating migrants and refugees far exceed current commitments by the EU. Local authorities should be given access to more financial support through a larger number of funds, he said.  "In one way or another, either indirectly but often very directly, the current wave of migration is affecting every region in Europe," Decoster said. "The EU's funding system needs to reflect that reality."

Decoster's call for more financial support is also contained in a report authored by him and approved, with amendments, on 14 September by the Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX) of the CoR. The report will be voted on by all members of the CoR at its December plenary of the CoR.

Mayor Decoster was speaking at an inter-parliamentary meeting of the LIBE committee, which had invited local political leaders and members of national parliaments to Brussels for an exchange of opinions on migration. The LIBE committee is currently preparing a report on the situation in the Mediterranean and the EU's approach to migration. Roberta Metsola MEP, the co-rapporteur for the LIBE committee's report, said: "We must also beyond emergency measures and tackle the root causes of migration and adopt a holistic approach that tackles every facet of the issue – and that is what we are trying to do with our bi-partisan report in the European Parliament. This is a global challenge that must be addressed by a worldwide response. Every member state and region must play its part."

During the meeting, Decoster shared with MEPs and national parliamentarians photographs showing the reality of the refugee and migrant situation in the region of Calais. On 18 September, he hosted a study visit by members of the CoR to the region.

Committee of the Regions (CoR)

Over 600 politicians join #EURegionsWeek to debate future of Europe and regional policy

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On 7 October, the European Week of Regions and Cities will kick off its 17th edition in Brussels to discuss how cohesion policy can help to make Europe greener, more inclusive and smarter. Opened by a high-level debate on the future of Europe, the Week will hold nearly 400 events including a high-level conference on the transformation of coal regions. On 8-9 October, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) will also hold its #CoRplenary session with its members debating the future of EU cohesion policy with the European Parliament's Regional Development Chair Younous Omarjee, the future long-term EU budget with Commissioner Oettinger, and the ecological and digital transition with Finland's Minister for European Affairs, Tytti Tuppurainen.
17th European Week of Regions and Cities, 7-10 October, #EURegionsWeek

#EURegionsWeek will once again provide a unique opportunity to better understand how regions and cities are using EU funds to improve citizens' daily life and how cohesion funds are making Europe greener, more inclusive and smarter. The annual conference co-organised by the CoR and European Commission is the largest event on regional development in Europe. This year's edition will gather over 9,000 participants including scholars, public administrators, experts and more than 600 local, regional, national and European politicianswill take part in nearly 400 workshops and debates, exhibitions and networking opportunities about the different aspects of cohesion policy.

Highlights

·         7 October, 2.30pm-4.30pm (Watch live) – Opening session: Regions and cities, pillars of the EU's future

Over 100 young elected politicians will attend the opening session and debate the future of European Union together with Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the European Committee of the Regions, Klara Dobrev, Vice-President of the European Parliament and Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs.

·         8 October, 9am-10.30am, (Watch live) – REGI/COTER meeting on “The state of play of negotiations on the future Cohesion policy beyond 2020"

Members of the CoR and European Parliament will debate the ongoing negotiations on the EU budget 2021-2027 and the cohesion policy package. In this context, EU regions and cities can play a key role in building a strong cohesion policy for the future, by emphasizing the achievements of the policy over the current programming period.

 

·         9 October, 2.30pm-5.00pm, (Watch live) – Coal Regions in Transition High-Level Conference

Cutting dependence on fossil fuels and supporting coal-producing reigons make the clean energy transition vital in the fight against climate change. As well as national support, EU cohesion policy with its shared management will contribute to supporting the regions making the energy transition. During this event, EU ministers, MEPS, regional politicians and other high-level representatives from Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Poland, Romania and Spain will also share their views on how best to support coal regions make the transition to a carbon-free future.

See the dedicated media programme; You can find a full list of the events on the webpage;
You can also download pictures and the recordings of the event for free.

European Committee of the Regions' Plenary Session
7-9 October, #CoRplenary, (Watch live)

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) is the EU's assembly of local and regional leaders representing the interests of cities and regions. The CoRs 350 members will gather in Brussels to debate and adopt a range of opinions on EU legislation and political resolutions.

Highlights:

·         8 October 3.15pm – EU regional development policy beyond 2020: Younous Omarjee (FR/GUE/NGL), Chair of the Committee on Regional Development of the European Parliament (REGI), will join the CoR members to debate the future of regional development in the next financing period beyond 2020.

·         8 October 4.45pm – The future EU budget: By the end of 2019 the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the EU is expected to present compromise figures for the EU's long-term budget 2021-27. EU regions and cities will share their increasing concerns with the EU Budget Commissioner, Günther Oettinger, and adopt a resolution

·         8 October 6pm – EU Matters for Local and Regional Authorities: CoR members will debate Brexit, insular regions and missing transport links in cross border connections

·         9 October 9.30am – Towards a digital and ecological EU: All EU regions and citizens must reap the benefit from the digital and ecological transitions that are shaping our societies. Local and regional representatives will exchange views with Finland's Minister for European Affairs, Tytti Tuppurainen, on how to tackle the digital divide and ensure cohesion and solidarity for all.

You can find the full agenda, documents and draft opinions online.

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Committee of the Regions (CoR)

#COR - Task Force puts local and regional governments at heart of EU law-making

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The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has welcomed a wide-ranging set of recommendations that would give local and regional authorities a greater say, alongside national authorities, on the preparation, adoption and implementation of EU policies, noting that the ideas would benefit citizens, increase EU efficiency and improve politics.
The CoR said that proposals developed by the Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and Doing Less More Efficiently could lead – as the European Commission's First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, has argued – to "a new way of working" that would ensure the EU takes better account of the ideas and concerns of all local and regional authorities. Three of the seven members of the Task Force, which was chaired by Vice-President Timmermans, are members of the CoR – namely, CoR President Karl-Heinz Lambertz, Michael Schneider, President of the CoR's EPP Group, and François Decoster of the CoR's ALDE group. The report includes nine key recommendations to improve EU policy-making.

Karl-Heinz Lambertz, the CoR's President, said: "First Vice-President Timmermans has shown the Commission's pragmatism and openness in developing a new way of working for the EU. This Task Force is about improving the effectiveness of EU policies by developing better teamwork and delivering real EU added value in the lives of our citizens. This report sets out ways to engage all levels of government and has the potential to transform the role of cities and regions in the decision-making process. The proposals are about putting citizens first: making the EU work for them, by reinforcing a bottom-up approach to EU policy-making. To use a football analogy, the Task Force wants a whole new ballgame – instead of just raising red and yellow cards when someone oversteps the mark, the 'active subsidiarity' approach looks to use the potential of both teams to ensure everyone gets a win."

Michael Schneider (DE/EPP), State Secretary for the Land of Saxony-Anhalt, said: "The level of consultation and transparency in the EU decision-making process is greater than in national systems. But we are particularly pleased that the Task Force recommends broader and deeper input by local and regional governments, in line with their shared or exclusive competences as foreseen by their national legislation, diminishing the density of EU legislation, as well as ensuring a clearer added value of EU legislation. If accepted and implemented, these proposals would significantly improve the flow of information from local and regional authorities, and thereby increase their ownership and trust in the European project."

François Decoster (FR/ALDE), Vice-President of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie Regional Council, said: "The Task Force recognises that EU legislation must be more efficient and its added value made more visible by 'upgrading' the involvement of local and regional authorities. Under these proposals, local and regional authorities would be able to provide legislators with a clear assessment of the impact of EU legislation on the ground, have more influence in reviewing existing legislation and developing new laws, and offer a simpler way to ensure flexibility in EU legislation. They would have an opportunity to develop their relations with national parliaments, working together to assess the impact of EU legislation and be involved in the design and delivery of economic reforms."

It is expected that the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, will take the proposals into account during his State of the Union address in September. In October, President Lambertz will elaborate on the value and implications of the Task Force proposals in his second State of the EU Regions and Cities address during the European Week of Regions and Cities. In the same week, President Lambertz and First Vice-President Markku Markkula will present the CoR's opinion "Reflecting on Europe: the voice of local and regional authorities to rebuild trust in the European Union", a report requested by Donald Tusk, President of the European Council.

Background

The Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and Doing Less More Efficiently was established by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in November 2017. He asked the Task Force to look at three issues: (1) the role of local and regional authorities in policymaking and implementation of European Union policies; (2) the role of subsidiarity and proportionality in the work of the Union's institutions and bodies; (3) whether responsibility for particular policies areas should be re-delegated to the Member States.

The Task Force met seven times to discuss the three objectives. On the basis of those discussions, a public hearing and the inputs provided from numerous stakeholders, the Task Force report presents nine recommendations, with implementation actions addressed to national parliaments, national, regional and local authorities, the European Parliament, the Council, the European Committee of the Regions and the European Commission.

Chaired by the European Commission's First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, the Task Force includes three members from the European Committee of the Regions – President Karl-Heinz Lambertz (Belgium), Michael Schneider (Germany) and François Decoster (France) – and three members from national parliaments: Toomas Vitsut (Estonia), Kristian Vigenin (Bulgaria) and Reinhold Lopatka (Austria).

 

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Broadband

#BroadbandPlatform: Cities and regions join forces with Commission to narrow digital divide

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The European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) launched a joint platform today to help high-speed broadband reach all European regions, including rural and sparsely populated areas where there is not enough market-driven development. The first meeting of the Broadband Platform took place in Brussels in the presence of the Digital Economy and Society Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, CoR President Karl-Heinz Lambertz and local and regional politicians from EU member states.
The new platform aims to contribute to the deployment of faster, better and sustainable high-speed broadband in all European regions, working towards eliminating the digital divide due to geographical location or market failure. Topics discussed included governance, policy and technology choices, regulatory framework and financial opportunities. In the inaugural meeting, there was particular focus on the WiFi4EU initiative which aims to provide free wireless connectivity in public spaces everywhere in Europe.

CoR President Karl-Heinz Lambertz said: "High-speed broadband connectivity is a cornerstone of the EU's Digital Single Market and a prerequisite for competiveness at global level, for example in the field of e-commerce. This platform should improve cooperation between European Commission, local and regional authorities, experts and different stakeholders, allowing to identify obstacles for investment in broadband deployment and to develop funding opportunities via EU programmes and innovative public-private partnerships."

Digital Economy and Society Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said: “Broadband coverage can happen only if people on the ground are fully involved. We need the regions on board so to understand what their real investment needs are. We need to understand what obstacles they encounter and how we, the Commission, can help tackling them. The Broadband Platform with the European Committee of the Regions will be instrumental for providing policy-makers with valuable and informed input about the reality on the ground, a bottom-up policy process that will provide European regions with ownership of their connectivity development.”

The Broadband Platform establishes a regular political dialogue between the European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions. Participants, which includes 12 CoR members, will meet twice a year to discuss various topics related to broadband deployment: policy and governance, technology choices, financial sources, regulatory framework.

Kieran McCarthy (IE/EA), member of Cork City Council, who took part in the first meeting, said: "Local and regional authorities foster innovation and competitiveness in the data economy through tailored demand-and-supply-side solutions including broadband roll-out, the digital economy, e-inclusion and e-government. However, disadvantaged regions often have neither the basic infrastructure nor the expertise needed to establish a digital data-driven economy. Through this platform, we are sharing our best practises and providing solutions to help everyone gain access to the European digital single market."

McCarthy led the CoR report on Building a European Data Economy, adopted on Wednesday, which asks the Commission to support local and regional authorities by prioritising the use of EU Structural and Investment Funds for digital infrastructure in all European regions. McCarthy's opinion also highlights the enormous potential of collation of data for local and authorities and businesses in various fields, ranging from health, environment, food security, climate and resource efficiency to energy, intelligent transport systems and smart cities and regions.

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