Regions & Cities of Europe No. 90

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EUROPEAN UNION
ISSN 1681-3235
Committee of the Regions
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
representa
Special Feature
Boosting Jobs and Growth
Michel Lebrun
Jean-Claude Juncker
Laimdota Straujuma
Nº 90 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2015
Investment Plan for Europe
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1
15
4
Editorial
Michel Lebrun
European Year for Development
2015: The European Year for Development
Special feature
Investment Plan for Europe
2
17
13
Our guest
Jean-Claude Juncker
18
23
Interview with Markus Töns
Latvian Presidency of the Council of the EU
Ukraine has started out on its long
road to Europe
Brief News and Events
www.cor.europa.eu
Regions & Cities of Europe — N° 90
Tel. +32 222822211
Director of Publication: Laurent Thieule
Editor-in-Chief: Branislav Stanicek
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Nº 90 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2015
EDITORIAL
We need to boost investment
without creating additional debt
Michel Lebrun (BE/EPP), President of the Committee of the Regions
2
014 proved to be a crucial yet difficult year
for the European Union and its citizens.
The crisis and persistently high levels of
unemployment, compounded by fears related immigration, terrorism and instability to the East,
has caused an understandable sense of political
mistrust among many citizens. But as the new European Commission and Parliament entered into
force in November last year, 2014 should be considered a turning point for Europe offering some
level of hope and expectation. The appointment of
Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European
Commission marked a new step in the EU construction having been the first to ever take the role
following the European elections. The reaction to
the heinous terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo in
Paris saw a show of force and unity in defence of
European values in Paris as I joined the march of
solidarity alongside many citizens and EU leaders.
The Commission has published its blueprint for
its term in office. The key measures, such as the
EUR 315 billion Investment Plan are discussed
in this issue. Firstly, we need to boost investment
without creating additional public debt. This is the
new Commission’s commitment for re-launching
Europe, and this will also be our commitment,
the challenge facing the cities and regions in
2015. The Structural Funds for 2014-2020 are a
key instrument for moving forward and investing
in viable projects. In some Member States, in
particular in Southern Europe and in Central
and Eastern Europe, European funds represent
between 80-90% of all public investment. Local
and regional authorities are directly involved in
managing these funds and today one of our main
concerns is the question of co-financing. We can
only welcome the agreement that investment in
our future should not be counted as part of the
debt, and more flexibility under the Stability and
Growth Pact, while keeping in mind importance
of fiscal responsibility.
Of late, there has been a huge increase in projects
suitable to be co-financed by the Investment
Plan. By the end of 2014 Member States had
presented around 2000 projects worth over EUR
1300 billion. Awash with new Investment Plan
finances, one can ask: which projects offer the best
value for the public? The winners will be projects
with clear European added value and those which
represent long-term viable investments with
a degree of economic sustainability. A danger
that we should avoid is that the new Fund will
support a patchwork of projects with too many
political, regulatory or economic risks. As stated
by President Juncker himself, “The Fund will
finance riskier investments that would not have
happened otherwise”. In other words, with EUR
21 billion guaranteed and financed from the EU
budget and the European Investment Bank, public
money will be financing high-risk projects that, on
purely economic criteria, would probably never be
realised, by means of a scheme with a high leverage
ratio of 1:15. In this way, the new Fund shouldn’t
repeat the original sin that lay behind the financial
crisis: too much leverage and over-investment
in economically unsustainable projects, thus
delaying the process of restoring public finances
and deleveraging which started in 2007-2008.
“The lesson of fiscal responsibility
is one of the key lessons learnt
from the current crisis. How we can
reconcile this requirement with the
need for investment and economic
growth? The critical factor is the
efficiency of spending – to ensure
that public ‘spending’ is a real
‘investment’, to get more for each
euro spent.”
With this in mind, we shall continue to promote
fiscal responsibility. What does this mean for
our cities and regions? The crisis started not only
with financial leveraging within private sector,
in particular banking and construction, but also
with the leveraging of budgets at national, local
and regional levels. But debt remains debt, and
somebody has to pay the bill. The lesson of fiscal
responsibility is one of the key lessons learnt
from the current crisis. How we can reconcile
this requirement with the need for investment
and economic growth? The critical factor is the
efficiency of spending – to ensure that public
“spending” is a real “investment”, to get more for
each euro spent. The responsible way is to keep
budgets and fiscal policies in balance so as not to
penalise the needs of future generations. This is why
we need to respect the philosophy of the Stability
and Growth Pact. With slow demographic growth
and GDP advancing at an annual rate of around
1%-plus, additional debt could create too heavy a
burden for our children and jeopardise our future.
Furthermore, it will increase internal political and
social instability, as we can observe today, mainly
in Greece, but also in Italy and Spain, the UK
and some countries of Central Europe, where new
populist and eurosceptic political movements are
emerging.
There is clearly a need to accelerate structural
reforms. As stressed recently by the European
Parliament’s paper on “Mapping the Cost of
Non-Europe, 2014-19”, Europe is locked into real
inefficiencies which penalise both companies and
citizens. We have to unlock our full potential, the
economic growth that will be a basis for our social
cohesion. For example, we do not yet have a real
internal digital market, and people are penalised by
additional telephone costs when travelling abroad.
The answer is to work harder in the direction
announced by President Juncker for 2015.
Beyond the challenging environment, I believe we
will succeed and maintain the pace of progress in
European integration. This is the way to cut the
ground away from social unrest and stagnation and
fight euro scepticism and populism. I hope that, in
collaboration with all members of the Committee,
our new ideas and fresh energy will help us to
emerge from the crisis stronger and more resilient.
To this end, we will continue to improve our
communication with citizens; our last Citizens’
Dialogue “Europe in my City”, held on 23 January
in Santander, Spain, was a great success. From
our debate it was clear that people expect from
the Union more concrete actions and measures
to improve living standards and wellbeing, in
particular social and family policies that improve
education, healthcare and decrease inequalities. In
2015, with the new term of office of the European
Committee of the Regions for the next five years,
we will work harder, together with other European
institutions, Member States, regions and cities, to
improve the living standards of our populations.
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
1
OUR GUEST
Interview with Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission
Europe must boost investment,
promote fiscal responsibility
and accelerate structural reforms
J
ean-Claude Juncker, former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, became the new President of the European Commission on 1 November 2014. We
met him shortly after he presented his new EUR 315 billion Investment Plan that aims to boost the European economy over the next three years.
Here he gives his views on the future cooperation with European regions and cities and offers insight about the Commission’s Work Programme
for 2015. He argues that “reforms, both at European and national level, and fiscal responsibility are needed to unlock investment, growth and job
creation”.
Interview by Branislav Stanicek
You have presented a new investment
plan and 28 Member States have
proposed 2000 projects worth over EUR
1300 billion. However, we are still in a
time where sovereign states, local and
regional authorities, the private sector
and households, are struggling to balance
their budgets. How would you reconcile this
need for fiscal responsibility and the need
for additional investments?
There is no contradiction between these. Remember the virtuous triangle I presented when tabling
the EUR 315 billion Investment Plan: we need to
boost investment, promote fiscal responsibility
and accelerate structural reforms. We need these
three pillars. Reforms, both at European and national level, and fiscal responsibility are needed to
unlock investment, growth and job creation.
We needed to act fast because our public resources
are stretched. We also needed a solution that attracts investment without creating public debt –
this is what I had committed to. What we need
is not more public money, but the smart use of it,
geared to unlocking investment. The Commission
has put up EUR 8 billion from the EU budget.
This backs up a EUR 16 billion guarantee given
to the Fund from the EU budget which will be
topped up by another EUR 5 billion from the EIB.
With this EUR 21 billion reserve, the EIB can give
out fresh financing loans of EUR 63 billion. And
2
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
the EIB will not be acting alone: with its Triple A
rating, it will be financing the riskier parts of projects worth 315 billion, meaning private investors
will be pitching in the remaining EUR 252 billion.
Thanks to the European Council on 18 December
which endorsed all elements and the timing of the
Investment Offensive we can now get started on
setting up the Fund swiftly. Importantly, it will
finance riskier investments, that would not have
“The new Investment Plan will
finance riskier investments,
that would not have happened
otherwise, and this is why it will
particularly benefit countries that
have been most hit by the crisis.’”
happened otherwise, and this is why it will particularly benefit countries that have been most hit
by the crisis. Public expenditure should be used for
what it is best at doing: funding our schools and
welfare systems, not servicing our debt.
The list of potential funding projects published by
the Task force on Investments contains over 2000
examples. Obviously, not all of these are new, strategic and economically viable. Nevertheless, there
are many interesting examples – like infrastructure for energy connections in Finland, Poland and
the Baltic States, reform of school infrastructure
in Italy or modernisation of regional hospitals in
Belgium, to mention just a few examples.
In terms of financing, Commissioner Corina
Creţu said that cohesion policy will make a
significant contribution to the plan. What
role will European cohesion policy and
the already agreed Multiannual Financial
Framework (MFF) play? Some suggest
that the MFF will need to be reviewed to
implement the plan. Do you share this view?
The investment plan comes on top of existing financing programmes at EU and national level. It
is about increasing investments in our common
future. The necessary re-allocated appropriations
will come not from cohesion policy but from the
Connecting Europe Facility (EUR 3.3bn) and Horizon 2020 (EUR 2.7bn) as well as from the EU
budget reserve (EUR 2bn). Of course, this does
not mean that the money is lost. On the contrary,
the European Fund for Strategic Investment offers significantly increased possibilities to invest in
Europe’s infrastructure, as well as for research and
innovation purposes. The impact of investments
through the European Fund for Strategic Investment will be more significant than under the current programmes.
To be clear: in cohesion policy, national allocations and the EUR 10 billion earmarked from the
Cohesion Fund for the Connecting Europe Facility will not be touched. But as a complement to
the new Fund and on top of the EUR 315 billion
being mobilised, Member States are encouraged
to increase the use of innovative financial instruments in the form of loans, equity and guarantees,
instead of traditional grants in the context of the
European Structural and Investment Funds. The
Commission would like to see the overall amount
doubled compared to the 2007-2013 period. Just
by doubling the current use of innovative financial
instruments, you can significantly increase the
impact on the ground in terms of mobilisation of
additional investments available at national and
regional levels.
Overall, the reformed cohesion policy will be an
important complement to the investment offensive. The increased focus of cohesion policy in the
period 2014-2020 on key areas will maximise investment in SME support, research, innovation,
digital and low-carbon economy. And as the increased use of financial instruments in the form of
loans, equity and guarantees, instead of traditional
grants, is already allowed for in the reformed cohesion policy 2014-2020, we do not even need to
reopen the Multiannual Financial Framework.
Reopening the Multiannual Financial Framework
would lead to significant delays in implementing
the Investment Plan. Europe has no time to lose.
Some people have voiced the need for more
flexibility in the application of the Stability
and Growth Plan, particularly as regards cofinancing of the Structural Funds and also
in relation to your plan. What do you think
about these proposals?
The Commission has already stated its intention to take a favourable position towards capital
contributions to the European Fund for Strategic
Investments when it comes to assessing public finances under the Stability and Growth Pact. The
European Council of 18 December took note of
this approach. We will come forward with detailed
guidance on this in January.
What progress has been made as regards
rolling out the new investment plan? You
have announced that you intend to start
projects in 2015...
The plan has been designed with urgency in mind.
To set up the Fund we need one legal act, to be
adopted in co-decision. The Commission will put
forward a proposal on 13 January 2015 and we
count on the support of the Parliament and the
Council for a swift adoption so that the Fund is
fully operational by the middle of next year. In order to start delivering on the ground as rapidly as
possible, the European Investment Bank has con-
“Local and regional authorities
will be instrumental in the
implementation and the success
of the plan.”
firmed that it will start certain activities using its
own funds in early 2015.
How would you like to involve local and
regional authorities in the implementation
of your plan?
Local and regional authorities will be instrumental
in the implementation and the success of the plan.
In fact, the Commission has proposed a number
of implementation options for local and regional
authorities in order to encourage and optimise
their use of financial instruments under cohesion
policy. We are ready to support regional and local
authorities and to guide their choice.
In many cases the lack of private investment
– especially in less developed areas – is due
to factors that are not strictly financial,
such as public procurements rules, limited
transparency, corruption or weakness in
government. How do you hope to ensure
that these areas benefit from the plan?
This is very true. There is much liquidity in the financial system that is currently underutilised. For
this reason the Investment Plan is not only about
mobilising funding but also about creating the
right investment conditions through the right regulatory conditions. While there will be no sectoral
or geographic pre-allocations or ‘quotas’, technical
assistance will be stepped up so that project promoters and relevant authorities in all countries are
able to present viable projects. These efforts will be
accompanied by practical proposals to improve the
investment environment by removing regulatory
barriers in our single market.
In addition my colleague Corina Creţu, the EU’s
regional policy commissioner has set out to look
at the underlying dynamics of very poor regions
and regions with consistently low growth rates in
order to find ways to reverse this trend. It has not
gone unnoticed that social and economic develop-
ments in a number of less developed countries and
regions appear to be going in the wrong direction.
One of Ms Creţu’s first acts as Commissioner for
regional policy was to instruct DG Regional and
Urban Policy to set up an internal task force to
look at the issue of low absorption of European
Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund
monies in certain Member States for the 20072013 programmes.
Finally, in addition to the investment plan,
what are your key policy initiatives for
2015 to tackle challenges related to the
internal market, especially the integration
of Europe’s energy and digital markets?
Only a few weeks ago, the Commission adopted its
Work Programme for 2015 which sets out the 18
initiatives that we will tackle as a matter of priority
in the New Year. We will table an ambitious Digital Single Market package to create the conditions
for a vibrant digital economy and society. We will
also take steps towards a European Energy Union
to ensure energy security, integrate national energy markets, reduce energy demand in Europe and
promote green technology.
We also plan to deepen our economic integration
which is very important for the stability of the
eurozone. This will be matched by plans to create a Capital Markets Union, diversify sources of
financing for the economy, reduce fragmentation
in capital markets and make Europe more attractive for investors from third countries. A fairer approach to taxation is something citizens rightly feel
strongly about. At the December European Council, European leaders agreed that there is an urgent
need to step up the fight against tax avoidance and
aggressive tax planning, both at the global and EU
levels. The European Commission will therefore
present a proposal on the automatic exchange of
information on tax rulings in the EU in the first
half of 2015. And we will kickstart work on the
Common Consolidated Cooperate Tax Base.
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
3
SPECIAL FEATURE
Investment Plan for Europe
Boosting Jobs and Growth
4
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
Nº 90 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2015
T
he Investment Plan will unlock public and private investments in the real economy of at least EUR 315 billion over the next
three years (2015-2017). The challenge is to break the vicious circle of under-confidence and under-investment at a time when
public resources are scarce even though liquidity exists in financial institutions and on the bank accounts of individuals and
corporations, ready to be used. The Investment Plan foresees a smart mobilisation of public and private sources of finance − where
every euro of public money is used to generate additional private investment, without creating new debt. To provide this additional
financing and to target projects of strategic and societal importance, a new European Fund for Strategic Investments is being set up
based on a proposal by the European Commission on 13 January 2015. The EFSI is a major step toward job creation and growth in the
European economy.
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
5
SPECIAL FEATURE
Juncker 315bn Plan:
We need to act fast
L
ast December, the 28 countries of the EU submitted 2000 investment proposals worth a total of EUR 1300 billion. This is a first step of the
European investment offensive. According to the Commission task force, the projects achievable within three years would amount to EUR 500
billion.
O
n 9 December, for the first time in more
than five years, finance ministers meeting
in Brussels did not discuss savings measures, bailouts or painful reforms, but investments
and the future: a novelty, and the first merit of the
Juncker investment plan presented by the European Commission president on 26 November. He
has proposed that a European Fund for Strategic
Investments (EFSI) be set up with EUR 21 billion
in funding from the Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB), with a view to raising
a total of EUR 315 billion in public and private
investment.
Asked to comment on the initiative, ministers said
that “old Europe” still had a few ideas. In as little as
two months, the task force instructed by ministers
to identify potential investments has identified no
fewer than 2 000 projects worth some EUR 1 300
billion in the medium term, including new airport
terminals, renovation of secondary schools, flood
management systems, renovation of buildings’
energy systems, internet infrastructure, support
for research clusters and high-speed rail links.
Italy targeting EUR 81 billion
Obviously, the proposals will need to be sorted,
checked and assessed. Brussels has proposed three
key criteria: the projects should have a chance
of profitability, be useful, and reflect European
priorities (energy, digital, research, etc.). Above
all, they must be capable of being implemented
quickly in order to have an impact on the economic
recovery. The task force estimates that the projects
submitted to it could be worth EUR 500 billion in
investment over the next three years (the duration
of the Juncker plan). Added to this are some EUR
200 billion in projects long promoted by the
European Commission, which are the “missing
links” in Europe’s infrastructure.
6
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
Looking towards 2017, Italy has submitted EUR
81 billion in projects, the United Kingdom EUR
63 billion, Spain EUR 52 billion, France EUR 48
billion and Germany EUR 28 billion. The list is
not final but is a starting point for the pipeline of
“Brussels would like to see the first
selected projects get under way
in June 2015. But the Member
States must give the green light,
and the opinion of ministers
is a first test.”
projects that the Commission and the European
Investment Bank would like to create. The
projects would be organised with the support of
EIB experts and listed on a website that all private
investors could consult.
Brussels would like to see the first selected projects
get under way in June 2015. But first the Member
States must give the green light, and the opinion
of ministers is a first test. The French finance
minister, Michel Sapin, underlined in Brussels
yesterday that the project was a good idea but that
the initial funding should be increased.
However, France is not yet ready to respond to
Jean-Claude Juncker’s call for states to contribute
to the EFSI, with the promise that this would
not be taken into account when calculating their
budget deficit. “This is not a definitive ‘no’, but,
like Germany, we believe that the focus should be
on the projects – if they are sound, the funding
will follow”. If necessary, France could always raise
money to boost the fund, he said.
Conference on the Investment Plan for Europe
On 15 April 2015 the Committee of the Regions will bring together EU policy makers and
regional and local representatives to assess the Investment Plan from a local and regional
perspective. Political leaders and investment experts will discuss in Brussels three main
questions:
• Is the Investment Plan for Europe an answer to the needs at local and regional level?
What is its potential to support growth and jobs in Europe’s regions and cities?
• What role can regions and cities play in the roll-out of the Investment Plan?
• How to guarantee and improve the own investment capacity of regional and local
authorities in times of austerity?
Backbone of the Investment Plan is a joint strategy of the European Commission and the
European Investment Bank to mobilise EUR 315 billion for additional investments in 20152017. The Investment Plan explicitly mentions the role regional authorities should play,
not only in identifying, supporting or managing the investment projects, but also in the
two other strands of the Plan: making finance reach the real economy and improving the
investment environment.
A preliminary conference programme and online registration form will be available by
mid-February on the CoR website www.cor.europa.eu
Nº 90 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2015
France: focusing on innovation and digital
By Fréderic Schaeffer
W
hile 40% relate to innovation and digitalisation, Paris is also counting on Europe to modernise its rail network and finance a plan for the
suburbs.
M
uch less than the United Kingdom and
Italy but much more than Germany and
almost as much as Spain, the list sent to
Brussels by the French government in preparation
for the Juncker plan comprises 32 projects that
could amount to some EUR 48 billion in investment between 2015 and 2017.
Digitalisation, innovation, transport, energy and
education – the five priorities set in advance by the
task force – are all addressed. But France stands
out in its emphasis on innovation and digital: these
two priorities account for 40% of the total value of
France’s projects, compared with an average of 20%
of all contributions from the 28 Member States,
Paris points out. It includes support for investment
in new generation pilot plants (at an estimated
cost of EUR 15 billion) and the project for “largescale” digitalisation “in Europe of terminals and
educational content” (EUR 6 billion).
The French list also highlights a number of crosscutting programmes rather than a multitude of
specific projects. It includes, for example, energyefficiency improvements to buildings and loan
schemes for SMEs that invest in robotics (EUR
1 billion). The final principle highlighted is that
the selected projects should be shovel-ready. Many
of the projects listed by Paris could begin in 2015.
“While France has put greater
emphasis on support for business
investment, infrastructure projects
are not ignored.”
While France has put greater emphasis on support
for business investment, infrastructure projects
are not ignored. Other projects include the Val de
Saône gas pipeline (estimated investment of EUR
700 million for 2015-2017), the Charles de Gaulle
express rail link (EUR 300 million over three years
starting now), the express Grand Paris Express
metro upgrade, and the extension of RER line E
to la Défense (Eole project). France also seeks to
use the Juncker plan to finance the renovation of
its railway network linking northern Europe with
Spain, and the upgrading of the Serqueux-Gisors
freight line to create an alternative freight route
serving the port at Le Havre. In terms of maritime
infrastructure, the extension of the port of Calais
is included on the list.
Furthermore, Paris wants Europe to finance a
broad urban regeneration programme totalling an
estimated EUR 5 billion in investment between
now and 2017 (EUR 25 billion over ten years). “25%
of the projects are ready but cannot be financed
immediately”, the government in Paris explains.
The aim of the project is to “regenerate 200 of the
most run-down working-class areas”, according to
the document. However, it should be noted that
the list submitted to Brussels is “indicative” and
for “illustrative purposes”. “Not all the projects
submitted will be financed, while finance may be
requested for projects not yet on the list”. Moreover,
a number of important projects are not included
on the list, either because they already receive EIB
funding (hospitals) or “because European funding
is already being seriously considered” (The North
Seine canal and Lyon-Turin rail connection).
Poland: 250 projects worth EUR 130 billion
By Julia Rokicka
E
uropean finance ministers met on 9 December 2014 in Brussels to present their national projects for the Juncker Plan, the European
Commission’s investment plan. A special task force chaired by the European Investment Bank (EBI) and the European Commission (EC), set up
earlier this year to identify possible investment projects, has published a list of projects that could be funded under the EC Investment Plan.
T
he 28 Member States submitted 2000 projects with a total value of EUR 1300 billion;
however, it is expected that around EUR
500 billion will actually be allocated. “This type of
list allows us to plan more carefully what is actually worth doing in Europe,” explained the Polish
finance minister, Mateusz Szczurek. Poland has
identified more than 250 projects with a total value
of over EUR 130 billion, and investment promotion stimulating economic growth in Europe is one
of Poland’s priorities. Nevertheless, “the list has
not been closed because new projects could still
appear; equally, this does not mean that they will
all be implemented”, said Mr Szczurek.
The largest group of Polish proposals entailed
projects in the transport sector (EUR 63.9 billion),
energy (EUR 33.5 billion), social infrastructure
(EUR 16 billion) and natural resources and
the environment (EUR 13.3 billion). Poland
submitted projects for the digital economy and
ICT amounting to EUR 6 billion. Szczurek said
that “It is also an incentive for structural change,
which can help attract private capital and private
investment.”
In addition, the European Commission has
prepared its own list of proposals, with around 120
projects already submitted by Poland, for a total
value of around EUR 60 billion. The vast majority
of projects on this list are for the transport sector
(over EUR 48 billion), along with projects in
the energy sector, social infrastructure, health
and education. However, the actual number of
Mateusz Szczurek, Polish Finance Minister
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
7
SPECIAL FEATURE
investment projects that can be implemented as
well as the financing arrangements will be settled
during the legislative process. It has not yet been
decided whether the projects identified by the task
force will be considered in the Juncker package.
After verification, it will make a significant
contribution to the project pipeline created by the
European Commission under the Investment Plan
for Europe. Moreover, the list will probably also be
open for new projects.
force, including economic viability, contribution
to improvement in the functioning of the single
market and creation of the basis for sustainable
growth in Europe.
Projects submitted by the Member States and the
Commission could be carried out in the next few
years. They have to meet the criteria set by the task
Polish CoR members comment on the Juncker Plan
“The Investment Plan presented by the president of the
European Commission on the creation of the European
Strategic Investment Fund is an important and muchneeded initiative. I welcome this proposal with interest
and trust that the financial guarantees it sets out will
provide for the implementation of investments in such
important areas as energy, transport and broadband
Internet. However, it is vital that the adopted action
plan remains in line with the objectives of Cohesion
Policy, whose final shape is currently being negotiated
at operational programme level. While supporting
the use of all the planned instruments, I would like to
point out that in the case of financial instruments, any
decision regarding their application should be based
on the actual needs of Member States, not only on
percentage values set in the past”.
Marshal Witold Stępień
“The Investment Plan prepared by Jean-Claude
Juncker, the president of the European Commission,
may be seen in a positive light, at least as far as the idea
itself is concerned. It should, however, be noted that the
level of resources provided for under the plan is too low
given the needs identified in sectors key for increasing
competitiveness. The value of the projects put forward
by the Polish government for implementation under
the Investment Plan alone accounts for over one
third of the planned resources. Nevertheless, it should
be stressed that implementing the plan in line with
Juncker’s proposal could create 1.3 million new jobs in
the EU’s Member States”.
Marshal Adam Jarubas
“All action taken to increase investment or fight
unemployment is valuable in my opinion. The
objectives of the Juncker package are beneficial for
both Poland and the Pomorskie Voivodship; however,
it is worth noting that the success of the whole plan
will depend on the extent to which private enterprises
can get involved. Additional funds will help to attract
private capital in areas which we also consider to be a
priority such as education or transport infrastructure.
I hope that they will make it possible to focus action on
those areas where it is most needed”.
“Given the slowdown of the European economy, there
is a need for new investment. Our mission – and
indeed our duty – is to support the economy. We are
pleased that the European Commission plan will seek
to trigger private investment, rather than to burden our
public finances with the whole process. Priority areas
for investment: infrastructure, especially broadband
and energy networks, transport infrastructure in
industrial centres, education, research and innovation,
renewable energy and SMEs and mid cap companies
– all of these areas are of interest for Małopolska. We
are now waiting for an opportunity for the regional
authorities to have their say regarding the list of key
projects funded under the EFIS. The aim of the
programme is to give local and regional authorities
the responsibility for choosing the best investments
themselves. It is important that this valuable idea is
properly understood and carried forward for use in all
areas and levels of the EU’s activities”.
Marshal Marek Sowa
Marshal Mieczysław Struk
Regions and cities play vital role
in driving Europe’s growth agenda
Michael Schneider (DE/EPP), President of the EPP Group
I
greatly welcome the Juncker Commission’s proposal for an Investment Plan for Europe, which
recognises the key role of local and regional authorities in its implementation and which views
these authorities as important partners in boosting investment for jobs and growth in Europe. It
is widely understood that Europe urgently needs
a stimulus geared towards economic recovery, job
creation, long-term growth and competitiveness.
As representatives of European regions and mu-
8
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
nicipalities, we wish to cooperate closely with the
EU institutions, in particular with the European
Commission and the European Investment Bank,
on implementing this plan, without generating
further public debt. Perhaps it could also become
a model for the European Structural and Investment Funds, under which national co-financing
would be exempt from the deficit calculations of
the Stability and Growth Pact. We would welcome an assessment by the European Commis-
sion of this possibility. We should ensure that this
investment plan forms the start of a broader EU
investment strategy that ties in with the revision of
the Europe 2020 strategy and which is combined
with removing regulatory burdens. High-quality
implementation and continuation of the necessary
structural reforms should also take precedence
over speed when providing European funds. Only
high-quality public investment can constitute a
real stimulus.
Nº 90 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2015
Financial weight of Juncker Plan
may seem disappointing
Karl-Heinz Lambertz (BE/PES), President of the PES Group
T
he Juncker plan has more than one merit.
The first is that it shows that the European
Commission acknowledges the current high
level of under-investment at both public and private level. It remains to be seen whether this acknowledgement will also represent a shift in terms
of ideology and action by the new Commission. Its
second merit is that it has become President Juncker’s flagship project, to which he has attached his
political credibility. Building on EUR 21 billion
drawn from the EU budget and voluntary contributions from Member States, the Juncker plan
may also mark the beginning of an autonomous investment policy for the EU, cleansed of the poison
of the “fair return”, whereby Member States seek
to recover with one hand what they paid into the
EU budget with the other.
Finally, the Commission’s proposal that public
investment supporting projects under the
European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI)
should be excluded from deficit calculations is
a step towards the CoR’s call for national cofinancing of the Structural Funds also to be
“The financial weight of the
Juncker plan may, however,
seem disappointing, particularly
in comparison with the EUR 25
billion of outstanding Commission
payments for structural funds
projects!”
excluded from those calculations. The financial
weight of the Juncker plan may, however, seem
disappointing, particularly in comparison with
the EUR 25 billion of outstanding Commission
payments for structural funds projects! At the
same time, it would be dangerous to be obsessed
with the figure of EUR 315 billion and an overly
quantitative approach towards the expected
leverage effects. The Juncker plan should indeed
avoid windfall effects, i.e. the financing of a priori
profitable projects that are already in the pipeline.
The EFSI should intervene where traditional
financial actors would be reluctant to get involved
and take a risk. It should also trigger investment in
regions where the multiplier effect of investments
may be below 1:15 due to a less developed private
sector. What really counts in the end is not so much
the amount of capital that has been mobilised, but
rather the effects of the plan on the real economy
in terms of jobs and sustainable growth.
Limit public deficit and activate private funds
Bas Verkerk (NL/ALDE), President of the ALDE Group
I
n order to overcome the economic crisis and to
stimulate economic growth, it is clear that Europe needs investment. However, the financial
resources that this entails cannot be supplied solely by the public sector, since it is necessary – and
right – for public authorities to limit their deficits.
It is therefore crucial that we activate private funding and put the largely dormant savings in Europe
to work.
The Investment Plan for Europe is a good initiative,
but it is questionable whether it will have the
desired impact. The entire plan is underwritten by
the EU budget, with an expected leverage ratio of
1:15. Whilst this ratio has proven to be correct for
small projects, it is doubtful whether the same can
be guaranteed on such a large scale and throughout
the EU, particularly since some regions lack
a sufficiently robust private sector that could
contribute additional financing. To increase the
amount of funding available, ALDE is calling on
each Member State to participate in the initiative
and provide additional funding or guarantees.
Regarding the projects to be funded, we have
four priorities: first, it is important that all
projects have real European added value and help
to make the economy grow. This would be the
case for investments in cross-border transport
infrastructure, the digital economy or energy grids,
as well as support to small companies. Secondly,
whilst we undoubtedly need large projects, small
projects that are implemented at local or regional
level are just as important. Thirdly, when selecting
projects we should make use of existing project
lists such as the Action Plans of the macro-regional
strategies. Finally, we should not forget that these
investments are not grants, but loans that need to
be paid back. This means that each project must be
profitable in the medium and long term. If all these
priorities can be taken into account, it is likely that
the Investment Plan will have tangible effects in
the EU, effects that most citizens will be able to
feel in their daily lives.
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
9
SPECIAL FEATURE
Investment package must be accessible
to all local and regional authorities
Uno Silberg (EE/EA), President of the EA Group
T
he new EUR 315 billion EU investment
package is a very welcome development as
it is an opportunity to create jobs, stimulate
growth across the European Union. What is very
important is that it does not only focuses on large
scale projects but it also to examines and promotes
smaller projects which would make the funds more
accessible for local and regional authorities.
Often investments from the private sector are
focussed where the returns on investments are
higher and there is a danger that most of the
investment would go to centres of population and
cities. There needs to be a clear focus on rural areas
and in particular leveraging the financing of CAP
Pillar II with loans from the European Investment
Bank. There is also scope to have a clear focus on
new and emerging technologies such as tidal wave
“What is very important is that it
does not only focuses
on large scale projects but it also
to examines and promotes smaller
projects which would make
the funds more accessible for local
and regional authorities.”
power which not only reduces energy dependence
but can also create local sustainable jobs.
The European Alliance Group members have
been at the forefront of the CoR political views on
investments via the opinions of Witold Krochmal’s
on Long-term financing of the European economy
and Rhodri Glyn Thomas’ on Synergies between
private investment and public funding at local and
regional levels. But what is needed is a vision of
how this investment package can be used by local
and regional government and more importantly
that they have direct access to the projects so that
finally we can see a ‘real’ growth in jobs across the
EU.
It remains unclear if the Juncker Plan
can deliver
Cllr Gordon Keymer (UK/ECR), President of the ECR Group
T
he end of last year saw the unveiling of the
long-awaited EU investment plan that is
aimed to boost growth and jobs. The goal
is a very important one but it remains unclear if
the plan can deliver. Questions remain over how
we will avoid a situation of privatising the profits
and nationalising the losses. Furthermore, questions also remain over how projects will be identified and how bottom-up this process will be. For
effective targeting of finances and identification of
10
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
programmes, local and regional authorities must
be fully consulted and involved in the process.
“Questions remain over how we
will avoid a situation of privatising
the profits and nationalising the
losses.”
I would like to welcome strongly the aspect of the
plan that focuses on cutting red tape. Red tape is
a major bottleneck to growth and must be cut. In
identifying these bottle necks, local and regional
authorities must be given the opportunity to
identify the burdens they see from implementing
most of the decisions taken at the EU level.
Nº 90 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2015
Will the Juncker investment
package succeed?
T
he announcement by Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, of his new investment package and the European Fund for
Strategic Investments (EFSI) has reinvigorated the debate about the role of government in financing public services. Following the European
Parliamentary elections in 2014, new politicians and commissioners taking their seats in Brussels are looking at a European landscape where
the economic situation is moribund, with high levels of public and private debt and a lack of growth.
E
conomists will distinguish between the
situations in different Member States, with
some like the UK showing signs of growth
in the private sector, and others like Germany continuing to see stable costs of sovereign debt. Regardless of the national circumstances, the need to
get the European economy going again is of importance to all. The risk of stagnation and Eurozone
deflation poses a risk to the economies of nations
not in the zone, and the development of a functional single market requires a levelling up of the
economic playing field. The issue of immigration,
such a significant factor in the European elections,
is a publicly visible symptom of this issue – a single market with free movement of people naturally
leads to economic migration, but for many people,
opportunities close to home would be preferable.
So the question is, will the Juncker package deliver
for Europe?
Nationalising the debt and risk
The first challenge is likely to be moving the
debate to a shared understanding of what we
mean by ‘investment’ after decades of left-wing
politicians describing all forms of public spending
as ‘investment’. By prioritising infrastructure,
Juncker clearly buys the argument that putting
money into public works generates private profit
that can then be taxed, bringing about a real
return to the taxpayer who currently faces huge
levels of government debt. The practical reality of
this will require a rigorous business-like approach
to project funding and the decision to make the
fund one that seeks to lever in private finance is
helpful provided governments do not subsequently
underwrite the risks associated with the projects.
Nationalising the debt and risk is essentially just
socialist redistribution by another name and
financially disastrous, as many EU Member States’
economies are currently finding having pursued
this line for financing many activities already.
The second challenge is going to be ensuring that
as the project pipeline develops and the assistance
programme kicks in, that we do not fall into the
Cllr David Simmonds (UK/ECR), David Leader of Hillingdon London Borough Council
trap of seeing EFSI as an extra-national subsidy for
unviable national projects. Good intentions at EU
“The first challenge is likely to be
moving the debate to a shared
understanding of what we mean
by ‘investment’ after decades of
left-wing politicians describing
all forms of public spending as
‘investment’.”
profits are made by accountants, consultants and
lawyers at the expense of taxpayers but no-one else
is key.
Europe remains the largest and wealthiest
economic bloc in the work. The risk is that in the
absence of growth, we fall to taxing diminishing
wealth in order to prop up unsustainable levels
of public spending. This short term solution, so
favoured by the left, is inevitably doomed - as
the saying goes, ‘the trouble with socialism is
that eventually you run out of someone else’s
money’. With the Juncker plan due to be in
action by 2015, we need to ensure that it is based
in sound finances.
level risk being translated at national, regional or
local level into seeing EFSI as simply an alternative
source of borrowing that will ultimately fall to
the taxpayer rather than generating a real return.
Ensuring that the bureaucracy around the funds
does not lead into a confusion of red tape where
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
11
POLICY ANALYSIS
New opportunities under the EU’s
economic governance framework
I
n its Strategic agenda for the Union in times of change of June 2014 the European Council warned that “public disenchantment with politics
has grown”, expressed its concern about insufficient growth and stated that “unemployment is still our highest concern – especially for young
people – and inequalities are on the rise”. Equipping our societies for the future and fostering confidence must therefore be “the first purpose
of the Union’s work over the coming years”.
F
ollowing up on this assessment, the new EU
legislature is putting strong emphasis on better policy coordination, increased involvement of relevant stakeholders and simplification
to mobilise synergies, knowledge and ownership in
relation to the Union’s fresh effort to boost growth
and jobs. Unlike its predecessors, the Annual
Growth Survey (AGS) for 2015 sets only three
priorities, strictly linked to each other: investment,
focusing on the Commission’s Investment Plan,
structural reforms and fiscal consolidation. To increase effectiveness, transparency and simplification, the work programme of the European Commission for 2015 includes a list of initiatives to be
dropped, a list that was drafted under the responsibility of the Commission’s First Vice-President,
who presides over the review of existing legislation.
In 2015, other policy processes will generate
synergies in the same direction:
- following the Partnership Agreements with
the 28 Member States, the adoption of
the Operational Programmes of the ESIF
2014-2020 will launch a new phase of EUsupported investment focused on the Europe
2020 goals and targets;
- the mid-term review of the Europe 2020
strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive
growth will come to an end in FebruaryMarch, when the Commission will publish its
proposals for a revised strategy in 2015-2020,
before the Spring European Council endorses
them at the end of March.
Recommendations and proposals
To ensure more effective implementation – and
increased ownership – of Europe 2020, the
Committee of the Regions’ Athens Declaration
(March 2014) calls for the revised strategy to be
given a genuine territorial dimension by:
12
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
-
-
building on EU regions’ and cities’ differential
growth and employment potential, by setting
varying regional goals and targets;
involving local and regional authorities as
partners in the design of the National Reform
Programmes, whose implementation should
be underwritten by multi-level governance
agreements.
To this end, the Declaration puts forward the
following recommendations:
1. setting different regional objectives and
targets;
2. designing and delivering National Reform
Programmes in partnership between all levels
of government;
3. making multi-level governance the standard
approach;
4. aligning the European Semester with longerterm Europe 2020 goals and investment
needs;
5. using the Europe 2020 Flagship Initiatives for
enhanced policy coordination;
6. mobilising funding for long-term investment,
to ensure better spending;
7. strengthening administrative capacity for
more effective implementation.
In December 2014, the Steering Committee of
the CoR’s Europe 2020 Monitoring Platform
translated these recommendations into 20
concrete proposals, included in the Blueprint for a
revised Europe 2020 strategy.
Making the most of the 2015 Semester
The 2015 European Semester started in November
2014 with the publication of the 2015 Annual
Growth Survey, which states that “national
and regional authorities have a key role to play
in promoting the necessary structural reforms,
exercising fiscal responsibility and boosting
investment in support of jobs and growth”.
The AGS for 2015 proposes a streamlining
and reinforcement of the European Semester.
In particular, the early publication of a single
economic assessment per Member State, in
March, will favour broader involvement of all
relevant stakeholders in providing input to the
Commission before it issues the Country-Specific
Recommendations. Much emphasis is also being
placed on the opening up of the process, to increase
the legitimacy of the Semester and ownership of
the strategy.
Regrettably, while praising the role of LRAs in
promoting investment at regional level, the AGS
still does not see local and regional authorities
as partners in the design and implementation
of the National Reform Programmes, and does
not encourage any broadening of multi-level
governance in their implementation. Moreover,
while stressing the role of the ESIF 2014-2020, the
AGS does not clarify how the Member States and
regions most in need of public investment could
avoid cutting the national co-funding of the ESIF
if the latter is counted in calculating SGP-related
expenditure ceilings.
All in all, the Annual Growth Survey for 2015
is a step in the right direction, towards better
acknowledging the key role of local and regional
authorities in investment and change in the
European Union, also to increase ownership of
the whole Semester process. These are promising
signs for shifting the Europe 2020 strategy focus
from purely fiscal consolidation towards more
long-term investment and greater ownership at all
levels.
Nº 90 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2015
LATVIAN PRESIDENCY OF THE COUNCIL OF THE EU
A plea to work together for a better
future for all
I
n the first half of 2015, we will assume the Presidency of the EU Council – a role that implies
a high level of responsibility. During our first
ten years of membership to the EU, both Latvia
and the EU have undergone positive changes and
overcome difficult challenges. Nevertheless, EU
citizens continue to enjoy freedoms that many in
the rest of the world want to replicate and are ready
to give their lives for.
It is true that many in Europe still experience the
consequences of the crisis but the EU’s economy is
gradually recovering. To sustain this momentum,
the EU needs to find the best ways to promote
growth, to fully exploit the potential of the emerging digital economy and engage actively in world
affairs. That cannot be done without investment
in crucial infrastructure and without a continued
commitment to reforms aimed at reaching the
Europe 2020 strategy goals. A close cooperation
of all EU member states and institutions is a precondition to sustainable growth. This includes the
Committee of Regions, which is the institution
that brings EU affairs closer to our citizens.
In doing so we want to secure that our outreach
is as wide as possible when making decisions of
concern to EU citizens. Furthermore, to increase
growth and reduce disparities across the EU, we
need public-private partnerships at both national
and local levels that contribute to creation of jobs
and reduce social exclusion. We cannot advance
without investment in infrastructure and without
sustainable and efficient energy supply, where regional and local authorities have a key role. During
the Latvian Presidency, the EU Member States
and institutions will be reviewing the Europe 2020
strategy for growth and jobs. The Committee of
Regions that represents the EU’s local and regional
authorities has always played an important role in
the implementation of this important EU strategy
for economic recovery and employment.
The Latvian Presidency wishes
to contribute to the digital single market
Local and regional authorities are important not
only for economic development, but for the key
role they play in preserving cultural heritage,
knowledge building and transfer, communication
Laimdota Straujuma, Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia
and innovation. To ensure the widest possible participation in activities addressing economic and societal issues, we need to make use of digital tools in
overcoming the geographic distance separating EU
citizens. The Latvian Presidency wishes to contribute to the digital single market, while focusing
on internet security and reliability. Ensuring the
involvement of different groups of various ages is
key for creating long-term competitiveness.
The development of a Digital Single Market also
includes measures for removing barriers to crossborder online trade and measures that focus on
protecting consumer and privacy rights online.
Furthermore, through the debate on the next stage
for eGovernment Action Plan, we want to address
easier and faster access to public administrations,
the use of open processes and promotion of digital
skills for all. To face economic, social and global
challenges, we must become digital by default,
that is, to include digital aspects and solutions in
all policy areas and initiatives where it is possible.
This also cannot be done without active involvement of the local and regional authorities.
Responses to global challenges shall be made at
the EU and national levels and also locally. Some
regional and local authorities have already become
active players in cross-border relations. The importance of regional cooperation is growing. Consequently, cooperation between EU countries, the
EU’s strategic partners and its neighbours is unthinkable without cooperation at the regional and
local level. This provides a much better exchange
of information at the political, administrative,
business and community levels.
Because of the knowledge its members have to the
challenges that the Europeans face in their daily
lives, the Committee of Regions has always been
very successful in ensuring a link between the EU
institutions and regions. When drafting opinions on the European Commission proposals, the
Committee of Regions provides feedback from the
final beneficiaries, the EU citizens, to the decision
makers at the EU level. This continuous dialogue
has enabled decisions and adoption of laws in a way
that is more efficient. The Latvian Presidency of
EU Council will therefore work closely with the
Committee of the Regions on our common objective, that is, increased welfare of EU citizens.
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
13
LATVIAN PRESIDENCY OF THE COUNCIL OF THE EU
Priorities of the Latvian Presidency
L
atvia has taken over the post of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) for the first semester of 2015. In this role, it will
ensure that the Council of the EU facilitates accomplishment of the ambitions set out in two strategic documents: the Strategic Agenda for
the Union in Times of Change adopted at the European Council in June 2014 and the Agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change
announced by the President of the European Commission. The Presidency has chosen three priority areas to contribute to this process: Competitive
Europe, Digital Europe and Engaged Europe.
COMPETITIVE EUROPE
The Presidency’s priority is to create more jobs
and revive economic growth. Based on our own
experience we know that this is possible by
becoming more competitive through efficient
structural reforms, which are supported by
growth stimulating investment measures. Hence
we commit to fast-track procedures in the Council
on the Investment plan for Europe aimed at
unlocking public and private investments in the
real economy. We will also continue work on
the reduction of administrative obstacles and
continued development of the Single Market in
order to increase entrepreneurial activity. This will
allow us to truly benefit from the multiplication
effect of investment.
The Presidency will ensure implementation of
the streamlined European Semester based on
the goals of the renewed Europe 2020 strategy.
Latvia will work towards increasing the quality
of discussions in the Council, securing proper
involvement of all of Member States, and urging
the involvement of other stakeholders and national
parliaments in the discussions on Country Specific
Recommendations.
The Presidency will prioritise the work on the
fully functioning Single Market by moving ahead
on the remaining Single Market Act II proposals.
Our guiding principle will be ensuring the four
freedoms. We will work towards the reduction
of barriers, including administrative ones, by
promoting the principle of Better Regulation and
using competitiveness proofing in a wider extent.
Now is the right time for the Energy Union to
become a reality. We need to have an Energy policy
in the EU that is built on solidarity, trust and
security. The EU needs a more integrated energy
infrastructure grid and better governance, where
in particular regional governance has not been
fully exploited across the Europe. The Presidency
will enhance the competitiveness of EU industry
and related service sectors. For this purpose,
it will facilitate discussion on roadmap for the
implementation of the Industrial Renaissance.
14
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
Latvian Presidency
of the Council of the
European Union
DIGITAL EUROPE
Another of the Presidency’s priorities is the
development of a true digital Europe. In order to
create new areas for growth and new jobs we should
seize the opportunities provided by information
and communication technologies. The Presidency,
among others, will focus on building a stronger
and more coherent data protection framework.
Safety in digital environment will be moved to the
forefront.
The Presidency will devote particular attention in
advancing consensus on the post-2015 activities
by facilitating discussions on the Digital Single
Market strategy. The Presidency will also seek
an overall compromise on the Telecoms single
market. We will need to find a balanced solution
on roaming and work on network neutrality. Our
guiding principle will be to find a balance between
high quality of services and a reasonable cost for
EU citizens. In order to advance the digitalisation
of Europe we must become digital by default. The
Presidency will highlight discussions on digital
skills and the next steps regarding promotion of
eGovernment.
ENGAGED EUROPE
Europe has the responsibility to remain engaged
on global issues. With conflicts on the EU’s
doorstep the situation in our neighbourhood
is as challenging as ever. The European
Neighbourhood Policy review and the Eastern
Partnership dimension in particular should be
strengthened, while maintaining a strong focus on
the Southern Neighbourhood. During the Riga
Eastern Partnership Summit we should send a
strong signal that neighbourhood policy remains
a policy priority.
EU’s engagement also includes a commitment
towards strengthening the transatlantic
partnership, notably by advancing the
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,
and enhancing relations towards other strategic
partners. Similarly the Presidency looks forward
to conclusion of EU-Canada Comprehensive
Economic and Trade Agreement, and advancement
of EU- Japan negotiations.
The Latvian Presidency looks forward to the
review of the EU Central Asia Strategy through
enhanced discussions on security, border
management, energy supplies, and education
exchange, while addressing also the interests of the
civil society and human rights.
The year 2015 is also the European Year
of Development, the focus of which is the
negotiations on post-2015 framework, including
new Sustainable Development Goals. We will
specifically highlight gender equality and women’s
empowerment. In parallel to the aforementioned
issues, the Presidency will remain committed to
move forward with the enlargement policy as well
as to tackle institutional issues where necessary
and within the existing treaties.
Nº 90 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2015
EUROPEAN YEAR FOR DEVELOPMENT
2015: The European Year
for Development
W
ith a view to achieving the objectives adopted at Rio in 2000 and with the conclusion of United Nations discussions on development
objectives for the coming fifteen years, as well as the recent international negotiations on climate change and the Conference of the
Parties (COP) in Paris, 2015 is likely to be a historic year for development. It is against this background that the European Union decided
to designate 2015 the European Year for Development (EY2015). Thus for the first time in its history, the EU has chosen an external policy as the
theme for the European Year.
By Bernard Chane Kune
W
ith this decision, which the Committee
of the Regions has promoted and supported from the outset, the EU as one of
the world’s most prosperous regions is confirming
its wish to be a global player that does not forget
to support the most disadvantaged. The choice of
the European Year for 2015 is also a paradoxical
one for the European Union as the main provider
of global development aid. On the one hand, a
clear majority – over two thirds – of Europe’s citizens believe that combating poverty in developing
countries should be an EU priority, and even more
– almost 85% – think that it is important to help
people in developing countries. On the other hand,
only a minority of these same citizens are aware of
the objectives and thrust of policies pursued, and
less than one in six has heard of the Millennium
Development Goals, which have guided development policies over the past fifteen years.
Our world, our dignity, our future
With the catchphrase Our world, our dignity,
our future, the European Year for Development
2015 has three aims: firstly to raise awareness
and inform Europe’s citizens about development
cooperation, secondly to encourage debate and
direct participation of citizens, and thirdly to bring
about a change in mentality and behaviour so
that people are more aware of development policy
issues.
The Committee of the Regions, whose political
priorities include supporting the role of local
and regional authorities in external relations and
development cooperation, will be taking part in the
EY2015 campaign. The Committee has adopted a
number of opinions on the role and place of LRAs
in development policy, for instance its opinion on
Local authorities: actors for development (CdR
312/2008), responding to the EU’s first reference
document, which was issued in 2008 to underline
the importance of local and regional authorities
in the EU’s development policy, or the opinion
adopted in 2013 on the European Commission
communication Empowering Local Authorities
in partner countries for enhanced governance
and more effective development outcomes
(COM(2013) 280 final). Further to a resolution
adopted in April 2013, the CoR is now drawing
up an opinion on the European Commission
communication A decent life for all: ending
poverty and giving the world a sustainable future,
in conjunction with the discussions about the
international post-2015 development agenda. This
opinion will be presented at the plenary session
during the first half of 2015.
As part of the 2015 European Year for Development
campaign, the CoR plans to highlight the many,
diverse and often crucial contributions from LRAs
on general or sectoral development policies. It
wishes in particular to promote the local activities
conducted by LRAs across the European Union.
The CoR is therefore asking LRAs to take part
in the debate on development policy, and to step
up their communication, particularly addressing
young people, on development policy and local
initiatives. In this connection, the CoR notes
that it is available to support local activities
and suggests that the LRAs should promote
their initiatives relating to EY2015 both on the
European decentralised cooperation portal and
on the official EU site of the European Year for
Development 2015.
Fourth Assises of Decentralised Cooperation
In addition, the Committee of the Regions will be
co-organising the Fourth Assises of Decentralised
Cooperation for Development together with the
European Commission on 1 and 2 June 2015,
which will bring together in Brussels almost one
thousand representatives of EU local and regional
authorities and from developing countries to
engage in political dialogue. The Assises will be
a major contribution to the European Year for
Development.
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
15
President Lebrun: Local and regional
authorities can tackle global poverty
by offering aid adapted to the needs
of communities
T
he President of the European Committee of the Regions, Michel Lebrun, joined EU leaders including President of the European Commission,
Jean-Claude Juncker, and the Prime Minister of Latvia, Laimdota Straujuma, for the launch of the European Year for Development in Riga,
Latvia. During his speech he stressed the importance of local and regional government in not only raising awareness among citizens of the
importance of development aid, but how they can share knowledge to make aid more efficient and effective.
Opening ceremony of the European Year for Development (EYD) 2015. The event entitled “Our world, our dignity, our future” was hosted by the first Latvian Presidency of the Council of the EU. Laimdota
Straujuma, Seamus Jeffreson, Henri Malosse, Jean-Claude Juncker, Federica Mogherini, and Michel Lebrun, President of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), observing one minute of silence
as a tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack at the headquarters of the French satirical weekly newspaper “Charlie Hebdo” in Paris (from left to right).
“W
ith the EU committed to spending EUR 51.2 bn on development
aid between 2014-2020 reaching
some 150 countries worldwide, the EU is the largest provider of aid in the world. We should never
forget that many European regions and cities are
heavily involved using their financial, technical and
human resources. There is a need to increase European public awareness and we want to make sure
that regional and local authorities working on the
ground get the strongest possible support”, stated
President Lebrun.
16
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
He further reminded the audience that local and
regional authorities were among the first to deal
with problems such as hunger, poverty, health
and access to water or global environmental
challenges such as climate change. European local
and regional authorities, he added, can help tackle
global poverty offering aid adapted to the needs of
local communities and so strengthen the capacity
of their counterparts in developing countries.
Michel Lebrun therefore called on other EU
leaders to develop a strategy that involves all levels
of government, “because only if we all are working
together closely we can face this challenge more
effectively”.
The CoR will host a number of events including
the Fourth European Assises of Decentralised
Co-operation , in partnership with the European
Commission, in June 2015. This major event held
every two years brings local and regional authorities
from the EU and developing countries, as well
as representatives from the EU institutions and
Member States, together to promote sustainable
development policy to consider the vital role of
local authorities.
Nº 90 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2015
Interview with Markus Töns, Member of the Landtag of North RhineWestphalia and rapporteur on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment
Partnership (TTIP)
We must get away from the idea that
Europe is the ‘good cop’ and America
the ‘bad cop’
What is the background to this own-initiative
opinion of the CoR on the Transatlantic
Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)?
The TTIP will have major implications for cities
and regions and it is now important for the CoR to
discuss it. So far, the Commission has not involved
the Committee of the Regions in its deliberations.
This in itself gives the Committee good reason to
set out its positions, expectations and any concerns
in relation to the TTIP.
Why is the TTIP important for cities and
regions? And what are your concerns?
My first question is what implications the TTIP
has for individual citizens. My initial impression
is that opinion on the TTIP is polarised. This
is because people are very aware that Europe is
more than a purely economic community. The EU
sees itself as a community of values, representing
shared values such as promotion of social equality, combating social exclusion and improving the
quality of the environment. So people ask whether
this trade and investment agreement between the
EU and the United States really helps to underpin these values. I believe that many citizens have
concerns.
And how would you respond to those
concerns?
You know, I am very fond of the cinema, especially
French films. But that doesn’t mean I only see
things in black and white. We must get away from
the idea that Europe is the “good cop” and America
the “bad cop”. That is why I tend to take the position of “yes, but” on these negotiations. I say yes
to deeper trade, yes to dismantling tariffs, yes to
transparency. And definitely yes to a trust-based
partnership with the United States. But not at any
cost: not at the cost of hard-won standards and certainly not at the cost of cohesion in our societies.
What would you not accept?
I will name just a couple of points here, things
that are relevant to the cities and regions. To begin
with, the issue of maintaining the constitutional
system of local authorities in the sphere of public
services: we absolutely must ensure that local authorities retain their freedom to deliver, organise
and finance public services. Another issue is that
there should be no lowering of standards, e.g. in
relation to labour law or consumer protection.
And it is also important that there should not be
any special arrangements for investor-state dispute
settlement, or ISDS. There seems to be no point
in such arrangements between two fully developed
systems based on the rule of law. In short: the
TTIP may open up opportunities for economic
growth in Europe, but we must not on any account
sacrifice our achievements in Europe on the altar
of free trade.
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
17
Ukraine has started out on its long
road to Europe
Jacek Protas (PL/EPP), Marshal of Warmińsko-Mazurskie Voivode
I
n the past months we have celebrated the 10th
anniversary of the 2004 EU enlargement and
taken part in the European Parliament elections. For Poland this year was even more important, as we commemorated the changes of 1989,
which contributed to the democratisation of public life not only in our homeland, but also in other
countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The
Polish experience of implementing structural reforms has proved, among other things, that local
and regional authorities are influential actors who
face key challenges.
This knowledge can be of great value for Ukraine,
which has started on its arduous road towards a
united Europe. Since the involvement of regions
and cities is crucial for developing democratic processes, Ukraine should start the decentralisation
of power by strengthening local self-government.
I believe this ambitious goal could be achieved
by joint work between the EU Member and the
Ukrainian authorities. Projects currently run by
Warmia and Mazury (e.g. study visits of health
specialists from my region and Rivne Oblast) are
good examples of the importance of interregional
cooperation.
The ratification of the Association Agreement
with the European Union and the victory of proEuropean politicians in the recent elections have
shown that Ukraine is ready for change. However, in view of the current situation in Eastern
Europe, Ukraine cannot be left alone in the battle
for a better future. We must be particularly united
and strong, otherwise the EU will lose Ukraine
forever.
Ukraine’s President and Prime Minister were among those
who attended the rally that had as its slogan “I am Volnovakha,”
in memory of the 13 passengers who died near the city
of Volnovakha after their bus was hit by artillery shelling
on 13 January 2015.
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News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
Nº 90 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2015
RAPPORTEURS HAVE THEIR SAY
I
n this column, members of the Committee of the Regions explain what motivates them to take on the role of as a rapporteur. The following
op-eds cover a diverse range of topics from multilevel governance and fundamental rights to company restructuring.
Multilevel protection of the rule
of law and EU fundamental rights
Luc Van den Brande (NL/EPP), former President of the CoR
T
he European Commission, with the support
of the EP and the Council, has decided to establish A new EU Framework to strengthen
the Rule of Law, and rightly, since the rule of law
is one of the three pillars of any democratic system,
together with democracy and human rights. The
new framework is based on the premise that the
rule of law is the backbone of any modern constitutional democracy and one of the founding principles stemming from the common constitutional
traditions of all the Member States, and as such
one of the main values upon which the Union – as
an area of freedom, security and justice – is based.
The aim is to deal with threats to the rule of law
before TEU Article 7 comes into effect.
The CoR has already published a number of opinions on key aspects of this issue. This own-initiative opinion examines the various dimensions as
a whole and for the first time establishes a bridge
between the principles of the rule of law on the one
hand and multilevel governance on the other. This
system that was developed in stages will make it
possible to move from a “top-down” approach towards a more inclusive model where all levels of
government are actively responsible together with
players in society.
Potential violations of fundamental rights must
be more broadly conceived, reflecting a systematic political will to also implement the rule of law
in a positive way. Local and regional authorities
(LRAs) are on the front line in facing the challenges and problems that arise in many fields, and they
are particularly valuable in terms of their expertise
and their focus on results. Together with civil society players, LRAs are essential partners not only in
protecting the modern state governed by the rule of
law but also in working actively and strategically to
shape it, via their own policy initiatives. This obviously concerns specific citizens’ rights, but equally
intercultural relations in a pluralistic society and
socio-economic development, and education,
health and welfare systems.
Our opinion firstly offers a number of specific policy recommendations for local and regional authorities: including the general public in the debate and
raising awareness, embedding this in the activities
of civil society organisations, guaranteeing training and support for those concerned, and setting
up information points and an early-warning system
through which information is passed on to national and EU authorities. But recommendations are
also made for the Committee of the Regions itself:
possible introduction of a task force and reporting
point, conducting of a general European awareness-raising campaign, drawing up a covenant with
cities and regions, and lastly drawing up a common
strategy based on a “tripartite entente” with the
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the
Council of Europe and the Agency for Fundamental Rights.
A European area of fundamental social rights will
thus be created founded on multilevel governance
and horizontal interconnections, with the development of a really dynamic and integrated policy.
Extending geographical indication
protection to non-agricultural products
Marialuisa Coppola (IT/EPP), Regional Councillor and Minister, Veneto Region
F
ollowing discussion by the Committee of the
Regions’ ECOS Commission, the CoR opinion on Extending geographical indication
protection to non-agricultural products drafted by
Marialuisa Coppola (regional councillor and minister, Veneto Region) is scheduled for adoption in
February. The draft opinion comes in response to
a European Commission Green Paper (and respective consultation). It confirms the EU’s keen interest in protecting local products and advocates the
launch of a fully fledged legislative process in the
field.
The draft opinion highlights various reasons for
supporting an extension of certification of origin.
As has proven the case with foodstuffs, geographical indications are an important factor in protecting jobs and property rights, as well as an effective deterrent to relocation and anti-competitive
practices. Moreover, by providing an incentive for
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RAPPORTEURS HAVE THEIR SAY
increasing local production, they could boost the
competitiveness of regions whose development is
below the EU average. The opinion also points out
the potential benefits for consumers, who would
have a clearer indication of product authenticity,
and the positive impact on conserving the artistic and cultural heritage of the areas concerned.
In contrast to the system for foodstuffs, however,
the opinion advocates a simpler protection regime
using easily recognisable labels in the language of
origin and/or English, avoiding a proliferation of
labels which could cause confusion.
CoR president Michel Lebrun has already expressed his support. Given the proposal’s strong
regional dimension and the competences of the
Committee of the Regions, the CoR trusts that the
EU’s local and regional authorities will be actively
involved in subsequent steps, which should see the
tabling of a full-scale legislative proposal.
The future of European cultural heritage
György Gémesi (HU/EPP), Mayor of Gödöllö
C
ultural heritage creates significant economic
and social wealth, which directly benefits
Europe’s regions, cities and municipalities.
Despite it also being a cornerstone of local, regional, national and European identity, in an opinion
for the EU Committee of the Regions entitled “Towards an integrated approach to cultural heritage
for Europe”, György Gémesi, Mayor of Gödöllő
(Hungary), emphasises that insufficient value is
attached to cultural heritage.
According to the rapporteur, “Our common task
is to respond to the challenges with a strategic, ho-
listic and integrated approach and as a means of
achieving genuine cooperation between the different areas of Europe’s cultural heritage. The sustainable development of cultural heritage should
have positive repercussions in the short, medium
and long term and bring about improvements to
the economic situation and quality of life in the
regions concerned.”
Mr Gémesi points out that cultural heritage can
help shape the profiles of municipalities and regions and can contribute significantly to achieving
the Europe 2020 strategy goals and strengthening
social cohesion. He underlines the key role played
by cross-border and town-twinning schemes in
promoting a mutual, interactive and experiencebased understanding of local and regional cultural
heritage and of its diversity, through the active involvement of the public. Mr Gémesi also considers
it important for thematic cultural heritage cooperation schemes to be set up and implemented in
urban and rural municipalities, and for all stakeholders to be encouraged to play an active part in
the decision-making process, in order to promote
effective participatory governance
EU Strategic Framework on Health
and Safety at Work 2014-2020
Mauro D’Attis (IT/EPP), Municipal Councillor of Brindisi
I
t is vital to continue to play a leading role in
promoting high standards for working conditions both in the EU and worldwide, supporting
business growth and competitiveness by ensuring
health and safety at work in times of crisis.
This is a primary objective of the CoR opinion on
the new EU strategic framework for 2014-2020.
The opinion offers practical proposals for cutting
red tape and simplifying existing legislation, encouraging SMEs, risk assessment, social dialogue,
and reducing variations in legislation and implementation in the EU market. It aims at a new view
of European governance on health and safety at
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News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
work, strengthening strategic and operational integration between the various competent EU and
national institutions.
The opinion’s central proposal concerns the establishment of a European board responsible for
defining, coordinating and developing health and
safety at work issues, partly in order to play a more
effective role as a point of reference for Member
States implementing EU legislation.
The new Board should take the organisational
form of a network, coordinating and generating
synergies between the various competences which
are currently scattered across many national and
European bodies (notably EU-OSHA and Eurofound), whose remits and functions need to be
reconfigured.
The opinion also stresses the need to develop a “culture of prevention” (with initiatives at school and
during apprenticeships, occupational training and
lifelong learning) alongside a genuine, up-to-date
“business culture” based on the belief that quality
in people is a determining factor in the quality of
industrial processes and products.
Nº 90 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2015
Resource efficiency opportunities
in the building sector
Csaba Borboly (RO/EPP), President of Harghita County Council
C
saba Borboly has drawn up an opinion on
sustainable buildings, having been appointed rapporteur by the Committee of the Regions’ Commission for the Environment, Climate
Change and Energy (ENVE), at its meeting of
19 June in Brussels. Mr Borboly is the President
of Harghita County Council (Romania) and has,
since 2012, been a member of the Committee of
the Regions, where he is active in both the ENVE
Commission and the Commission for Education,
Youth, Culture and Research (EDUC). The draft
opinion was adopted by the ENVE Commission
at its meeting of 11 December in Brussels and is
due to be discussed in plenary during the first half
of 2015.
The overall aim of the Commission’s initiative on
sustainable buildings is to reduce the environmen-
tal impact of buildings by improving resource efficiency, thereby increasing competition between
construction companies. It is therefore essential to
improve the general understanding of the use of resources, to draw the public’s attention to buildings’
impact on the environment, to carry out campaigns
to raise awareness and to boost demand for ecobuildings in the private sector, among designers
and within public institutions. The opinion highlights the programmes based on the traditional local architecture of Harghita County, while using
new technologies and approaches, and emphasises
the potential for the use of conventional and renewable construction materials, particularly wood.
Before drafting his opinion, the rapporteur held
a number of talks, in particular with Harghita
County’s architects and civil engineers, to ensure
that the challenges faced at the local and regional
level are taken fully into account at the EU level.
Mr Borboly then continued his consultations in
Brussels, firstly with the members of the European
Economic and Social Committee (EESC), an EU
advisory body, and subsequently with representatives of the European Commission’s DG Environment (ENV) and DG Enterprise and Industry
(ENTR). László Csák, the rapporteur’s expert,
also took part in these meetings. A consultation
meeting on the matter was then held on 23 October at the Committee of the Regions’ building, with
representatives of the EU institutions, stakeholder
organisations and relevant European regions and
governments and on 20 November, the rapporteur
also met Eduardas Kazakevicius, representing the
European Commission’s Directorate-General for
Climate Action.
Procurement rules can be an instrument
to shape local policy
Rob Jonkman (NL/ECR), Councillor of Opsterland municipality
T
he new ECR Group member Rob Jonkman, Councillor of Opsterland municipality in Netherlands, has a vast knowledge in the area of on state
aid and public procurement. In the past couple of years Mr Jonkman represented all Dutch municipalities during the negotiations on the
EU procurement directives. At the moment he is a member of the Board of Europa Decentraal, a knowledge centre for local and regional
governments in the field of procurement and state aid. He combines this role with the internal market portfolio for which he is responsible in the
national association of municipalities.
O
nce regarded as the domain of legal specialists, public procurement is of growing importance for politicians too. “Procurement
rules are not merely about purchasing goods and
services, but can also be an instrument to shape
local policy on sustainability, innovation and social policy” notes Mr Jonkman. With the growing
influence of EU policy on local politics, it is important to keep an eye on the balance of power.
Mr Jonkman sees an important role for the ECR
Group in this respect, especially regarding the
principle of subsidiarity. “EU rules on procurement
have to leave enough room for public authorities
and companies to close the contracts they need and
take into account local circumstances. We do not
need unnecessary details on EU level that will only
cause red tape” said Mr Jonkman.
Simplification and reduction of administrative
burdens were key messages for Mr Jonkman during the negotiations of the public procurement
directives. “We tried to bring companies and municipalities back at the heart of public procurement
policy, instead of lawyers. This will also remain
our focus during the implementation process next
year. National gold-plating in this perspective will
be unacceptable”, stated Mr Jonkman.
Mr Jonkman will use his experience on public procurement to participate in the ECR Group work
on other internal market dossiers. Mr Jonkman
concluded that “it is important to take part in the
European debate at an early stage. The EU institutions do not know the reality on the ground. We
are the level closest to companies and citizens and
can add that dimension to the European debate.”
REGIONS AND CITIES OF EUROPE
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RAPPORTEURS HAVE THEIR SAY
Macroeconomic conditionality
does not work
Bernard Soulage (FR/PES), Vice-President of the Rhône-Alpes region for Europe
O
n 30 July 2014, the Commission issued
a communication setting out the rules
for implementing the principle of macroeconomic conditionality for cohesion policy. The
Committee of the Regions had already voiced its
strong opposition to this principle, pointing out
that it penalises regions which are not responsible
for the national level’s macroeconomic errors and
that it amounts to sanctioning regions in difficulty.
In his opinion, Bernard Soulage, vice-president of
the Rhône-Alpes region for Europe who, in that
capacity, negotiated his region’s operational pro-
grammes with the European Commission, sought
to share his experience which shows that macroeconomic conditionality does not work. Firstly, it
undermines the very principle of cohesion policy
which is to programme long-term investments.
The communication is casting doubt on regional
investments, and this runs completely counter to
the objectives set by this policy. Furthermore, having taken part in the negotiations with the European Commission, Mr Soulage firmly believes that
renegotiating the programmes will be counterproductive, ineffective and a heavy burden on all levels
of administration.
Lastly, along with the COTER commission, he
considers that macroeconomic conditionality is
not the right answer to Europeans’ expectations:
it unacceptably sidelines the European Parliament’s democratic control and weakens economic
recovery and the investments which Europe sorely
needs. Macroeconomic conditionality is the wrong
response to the crisis: cutting public deficits has
never created growth, whereas investments lay the
groundwork for it.
Challenges created by
a company restructuring
Pavel Branda (CZ/ECR), Deputy Mayor of Radlo
P
avel Branda, Deputy Mayor of Radlo in Czech Republic, is the Committee of the Regions rapporteur on “EU Quality Framework for anticipation
of change and restructuring”, which looks at the practices for anticipating company restructuring and minimising their impact on workers
and social conditions. Mr Branda underlined the importance of providing LRAs with the right resources to facilitate the transition of young
people from education into employment, given that local authorities in particular often have a role as service providers in education and training.
He also underlined the importance of cross-border labour mobility for jobs and growth.
T
he European Commission has proposed
best practices to reduce the social impact
of company restructuring. Specific measures include continuing mapping of jobs and skills
needs and measures for individual employees, such
as training, career counselling and assistance to
facilitate professional transition. It also includes
the involvement of external actors at an early stage,
such as public authorities, universities and supply
chain. Furthermore, it includes making full use
of EU Structural Funds like the European Social
Funds and the European Globalisation adjustment
Fund in relevant regions in order to promote job
creation and inclusive transitions in the period of
restructuring.
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News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
The Commission will monitor the application of
the Quality Framework, which is voluntary, and
will report by 2016 on whether further action is
necessary in this area, including a possible legislative proposal. Mr Branda underlined that “the
Commission should cooperate with all interested
stakeholders when evaluating the Quality Framework implementation.” “Local and regional authorities can help facilitate the right balance being
achieved in the labour market between supply and
demand. They can do this through education and
training and making mobility easier” noted Mr
Branda. On education and training, Mr Branda
explained that “local and regional authorities often
provide education and training service and in turn,
can help ensure that the education and training
system matches the needs of the labour market.”
On the topic of mobility, Mr Brand explained
that “mobility can help balance supply and demand. There is often a greater demand in certain
regions for specific type of skills depending. Different regions often specialise in different sectors
and different industries. As local and regional authorities, we must try to reduce barriers to mobility
and facilitate the exchange of information on job
opportunities among ourselves. True cross-border
labour mobility is crucial for inclusive and sustainable growth and job creation.”
Nº 90 – JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2015
BRIEF NEWS AND EVENTS
Annabelle Jaeger: UN climate
deal in Lima – “another
missed opportunity”
Annabelle Jaeger
The Committee of the Regions has welcomed the
international climate deal struck during the UN
talks in Peru. Annabelle Jaeger, member of the
Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regional council and
representing the Committee within the EU’s delegation in Lima, warned however that, though it
was a step forward, a far greater level of ambition
was needed to stop temperatures rising by more
than 2°C when the major climate talks are held in
Paris next year. She also described the last minute
decision to delete the reference to local government
as “another missed opportunity”.
The five-page text agreed on 14 December 2014 –
known as the Lima Call for Climate Action – was
finally adopted by all negotiating parties during
the UN Conference (COP 20) and for the first
time commits rising economies and rich countries
to take action on climate change. On behalf of the
Committee – the EU’s assembly of local and regional governments – Annabelle Jaeger had taken
part in a series of events and worked within the
EU delegation to shape an international agreement ahead of the UN Paris climate change talks
in 2015. Commenting on the outcome, Ms Jaeger
said, “We are relieved that some form of agreement
was reached. It does pave the way for countries to
set out how they will contribute and an agreement
was reached on the very basic criteria that can be
deemed just about acceptable. Nevertheless, it
can’t be said that it has set the bar high in terms
of ambition in tackling climate change and it is not
nearly enough to stop temperatures rising above
the danger mark of 2°C”.
The potential lack of transparency of the contributions each country will make in tackling climate
change was also a cause for concern, “As an international community we must all share the burden,
but that requires transparency to allow comparisons to be made, to target those needing support
and to evaluate how far we have come. The UN-
FCCC will publish a report evaluating country
contributions just in time for the Paris talks – if
the report says the numbers do not add up it will
be near to impossible to persuade nations to upscale their contribution in time for an agreement
to be reached by the end of next year”, Ms Jaeger
remarked.
Ms Jaeger also expressed disappointment as the
two weeks of negotiations had watered down the
text removing references to the role of local governments, “For cities and regions we began with
high hopes: the initial draft explicitly stated that
national governments must support us by offering the right regulatory framework and financial
investment. However, the final outcome has left
a bitter pill to swallow: after intense negotiations
the text was removed having been rejected by some
countries”.
The Committee, working alongside other organisations such as Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), had hoped that local governments
would be formally recognised as “governmental
organisations”. Following the UN Conference
local governments will continue to be treated as
“observers”, “non-governmental stakeholders” and
now “experts”, which does not recognise their key
role in democratic policy making, implementation
of mitigation policies, risk reduction and resilience
building.
Final COTER meeting under
the chairmanship of Marek
Woźniak
Marek Woźniak
Mr Woźniak was elected Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy’s chairman in September
2012. The commission is crucial from the point of
view of regional development. He served at a critical juncture - the planning and negotiation by the
European institutions of the EU budget for 20142020 and the shaping of the future cohesion policy.
During the commission meeting, the chairman
thanked members for their fruitful contribution,
over a number of years, towards consolidating the
position of cohesion policy among other EU policies. It is thanks to the active steps taken by the
COTER Commission, and hence the entire Committee of the Regions, that the cohesion policy has
retained a key role as an investment tool in the new
programming period, supporting growth and jobs
in regions and cities and strengthening the position of local and regional authorities in implementing EU funds.
During the commission meeting, the chairman
summarised the active contribution of the COTER Commission as a whole. He underlined that
during the past two and a half years, “the COTER
commission has produced 26 opinions on various
dossiers under its main remits: economic, social
and territorial cohesion, the Structural Funds,
urban policy, territorial cooperation and macroregions, and transport and trans-European transport networks”.
Mr Woźniak has repeatedly set forth the position
of the European local and regional authorities on
this matter during inter-institutional negotiations
on the Structural Funds. He has produced two
crucial opinions on behalf of the Committee of the
Regions. In the first of these, on the common strategic framework (adopted in late 2012), he called,
among other things, for greater decentralisation
at regional and local level in the management of
funds. He also pointed out that the common strategic framework funds have a pivotal role to play
in implementing the Europe 2020 strategy and
investments to reduce differences in development
between Member States and regions, and within
individual regions. However, in the resolution on
the legislative package on Cohesion Policy post2013, Mr Woźniak strongly opposed the planned
funding cuts to this policy. He stressed that EU
funds boost competitiveness across the EU, not
least by eliminating territorial imbalances between
and within EU regions, especially in times of crisis.
Of all the Committee of the Regions’ commissions, COTER enjoys the most effective cooperation with the European Parliament, especially
with MEPs sitting on the Committee on Regional
Development (REGI). The initiative of holding
annual joint meetings between the COTER Commission and the REGI Committee has continued,
enabling views to be exchanged and consensus to
be built. In recent years, the joint meeting has been
chaired, on the CoR side, by Mr Woźniak and, for
the European Parliament, by Danuta Huebner,
and since 2014 by Iskra Mihaylowa from Bulgaria.
Mr Woźniak had also met with the new CoR
secretary-general, Jiří Buriánek, to discuss, among
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BRIEF NEWS AND EVENTS
other things, the preparations for the Committee
of the Regions’ new term-of-office, and the CoR’s
participation in the European regional forum to be
held in Krakow in April next year. The COTER
Commission will shortly draw up an opinion on
the regulation on the European Fund for Strategic
Investments (i.e. the central part of the “Juncker
plan”), which is expected to be published by the
European Commission in January.
and civil justice systems make it difficult for victims to seek help and unintentionally wear them
down. Victims are often required to travel from
location to location to seek services and have to tell
their story over and over again.
senting the EPP Group in the European Parliament’s social media strategy, Lada Jurica said “We
have moved away from saying to showing”. This
shift was appreciated by participants who encouraged other EU institutions to learn from this example.
The main conclusion of the event was that the EU
needs to translate its policies and activities into stories that can be accessible for citizens. As Luc Van
den Brande, the Vice-President of the Committee
of the Regions said “they want to see, feel and touch
the real added value of Europe at the local level.”
Several speakers highlighted that EU regional, research and innovation policies contain wealth of
potential stories.
EPP Winter University
Family Justice Centres
conference
YFactor Conference
Joseph Daul
The high-level conference organised by Family
Justice Centres in Europe in partnership with the
Committee of the Regions, its president Michel
Lebrun, the European Commission’s DG Justice
Unit “Gender Equality” and the Elisan network,
took place on 14 January at the Committee of the
Regions’ building in Brussels. The Family Justice
Centres, funded by the European Daphne III programme, provide a combination of services and interventions from a single location to help victims
and offenders break the cycle of violence and develop healthy relationships.
This model has been identified as a best practice in
domestic violence intervention and prevention services by the US Department of Justice and is being
implemented in a number of European cities such
as Warsaw, Berlin, Milan, Antwerp, Tilburg and
Venlo. “This is an effective and efficient family violence prevention project, bringing together a network of public and private partnerships - a unique
experience in Italy”, said Siria Trezzi, Mayor of
Cinisello Balsamo in Italy. According to Sylvie
Carrega, Deputy Mayor of Marseille and President
of the Elisan network, “Access to help through integrated responses in a single place is often the most
effective approach to tackling violence.”
Each year, law enforcement agencies around the
world respond to incidents of domestic violence.
What is most alarming is that only 25% of cases are
estimated to be reported. There are many reasons
why victims fail to report, including love, fear, religious beliefs, threats, lack of resources, or simply
not knowing that help is available. Most criminal
24
News from the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives
Approximately 50 journalists and media experts
gathered in Brussels on 10-11 December for the
ninth edition of the EPP Group in the Committee of the Regions’ Winter University. Entitled
“Putting people back at the heart of EU media and
communication”, the meeting focused on creating
networks between the European institutions in
Brussels, EU member states, cities and local and regional media. Under the slogan “Believe in People”,
the meeting followed on from the EPP pre-election
campaign and aimed to put people’s abilities and
aspirations at the centre of political storytelling.
Participants debated the communication aspects
of the European election campaign and the process
to appoint Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the
European Commission. Welcoming the development, EPP President, Joseph Daul said “the politicization of the European campaign through the
Spitzenkandidaten procedure helped. It gave a face
to the different policy options and helped make
the debate more interesting for citizens and the
media”. This point of view was shared by the group
of journalists, who were represented by Federico:
“This time it was different. You could see the different candidates and the human faces behind the
campaign.” Local and regional events, including the
Poznan Summit, were also welcomed for bringing
the campaign closer to citizens.
However, President Daul and the EPP Group in
the Committee of the Regions President, Michael
Schneider, agreed that having the best election
campaign is not enough. “Our main work must
concentrate on communicating about concrete European issues that are closer to citizens and which
impact on their lives every day” he said. Lambert
Van Nistelrooij MEP, echoed this notion in a session dedicated to best practices in communication,
putting his electoral success down to continuous
“image building”, which translated into trust. Pre-
Cries of ‘What is happening to Europe?’ are beginning to burst through all across Europe, as young
people from Porto to Poznan contemplate their
not so rosy-looking future. Some find themselves
without work, whilst others question why they
should even bother to vote, because they don’t feel
represented or simply feel disillusioned by a system,
which they may ultimately believe in, but which
they feel is unravelling towards self-destruction.
The Committee of the Regions aims to help unfurl
some of the key questions being raised by Europe’s
young people of Europe’s cities and regions and put
youth back at the centre of the debate. On 5 February, young people, CoR members and EU decision makers from across Europe will congregate
at the Committee of the Regions for the YFactor
conference. Their goal will be to discuss the main
concerns of Europe’s youth and present proposals
to the new European Commission President, JeanClaude Juncker, thus putting youth firmly on the
EU agenda.
The participants will be divided into three main
thematic groups with additional input from youth
across Europe through social media channels. The
groups will discuss Youth [Un]employment, EU
Citizenship and Sustainable Growth and Development. Panel discussions with MEPs, academia
and young leaders will prompt dialogue and World
Cafés will generate proposals, which will be voted upon in a General Assembly and will then be
presented to Tibor Navracsics, Europea Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.
Young people want to be involved in a debate that
concerns them and co-create with decision makers representing their interests. YFactor aims to
get the ball rolling and set the record straight for
President Juncker’s new mandate.
Citizens’ Dialogue
in Santander
On 23 January, the Committee of the Regions, the
city of Santander and the FEMP (Spanish Federa-
tion of Municipalities and Provinces) held an event
entitled Citizens’ Dialogue – “Europe in my City”,
in Santander, Spain. The panel addressed a variety
of questions, such as: How can European policies
influence daily life at local level? How can we reconnect citizens to the European project? What is
the role of local and regional authorities in boosting local economic development through EU cohesion policy and the new European investment plan?
How can we work to make the best use of the EUR
28.6 billion that the European Union will invest in
Spain under its Cohesion Policy?
The debate, which was open to members of the
public (students, local stakeholders, media), members of local government, members of the FEMP
and of the Spanish Network of Smart Cities
(SNSC), was attended by the President of the CoR,
Michel Lebrun, the Mayor of Santander, President
of FEMP and member of the CoR, Iñigo de la
Serna, the Minister for Economic Affairs, Taxation and Employment of the Autonomous Community of Cantabria, and member of the CoR,
Cristina Mazas, and the Vice President of the
European Investment Bank (EIB), Román Escolano. Representatives from different spheres were
invited to take the floor and included the Spanish
Government’s Ministry of Economy and Competi-
tiveness, the Region of Cantabria, the European
Commission and the European Parliament. Mario
Campolargo, Director of DG Connect at the European Commission led a panel focus discussion on
smart urban innovation, with contributions from:
Alfonso García Alonso, Mayor of Barakaldo, and
Francisco Javier León de la Riva, Mayor of Valladolid and CoR member.
The debate was followed by two technical sessions,
which provided an opportunity to discuss EU projects for dynamic and smart urban innovation and
to present the 2014-2020 programming period of
the European Structural and Investment Funds
in Spain, looking at concrete and tangible ambitions and results. Focus was also given to the new
Juncker plan for investment. This meeting follows
on from the European Commission’s adoption of
the Partnership Agreement with Spain in October
2014, concerning the Structural Funds and European investment for 2014-2020. This agreement
sets out the broad guidelines for the 2014-2020
programming period and establishes the intended
uses of the EUR 28.6 billion which the European
Union will be injecting into Spain’s economy.
“My Region, My Future” schools competition
The European Alliance group organised Primary Schools Art competition
brought out the creative side of young children across Europe in the last few
months of 2014. The theme of this competition was “My Region, My Future”, and the children’s ages ranged from 6-12 years old. Each child was also
asked to describe their artwork. The full range of artworks can be seen on
www.ea.cor.europa.eu
Maja Biechowska (12 years), Gdynia, Poland
I love my region, I love Gdynia, I love the sea. I hope that in the future my home
town will be more modern, but also green and unpolluted. We will gain power
from the sun and from the wind.
Edita Kentošová (10 years), Vranov nad Toplou, Slovakia
I live in Vranov nad Toplou in Slovakia. I’m looking at my town from above and
I am happy that this is my home. I was born here, I have my parents, grandparents and friends here. I wouldn’t change it for anything!
Markus Alliku (11 years), Illuka, Estonia
I would like to live in a very busy place, a big city in Estonia. My future is connected with football. I do not want to change my homeland and the style of
life. I love sport, I love football and I like to be a famous football player in the
future.
The European Entrepreneurial Region Award 2016
The European Entrepreneurial Region (EER) Award is an initiative of the Committee of the Regions promoting the implementation of the Small
Business Act for Europe (SBA) at local and regional level. The EER scheme identifies and rewards EU regions which show an outstanding and
innovative entrepreneurial policy strategy, irrespective of their size, wealth and competences. The regions with the most credible, forward-thinking
and promising vision plan are granted the label “European Entrepreneurial Region” (EER) for a specific year. The EER label has been set up in
partnership with the European Commission and is supported by EU level stakeholders such as UEAPME, Eurochambres and Social Economy Europe.
Up to three territories will be awarded the EER Award label for the year 2016.
The deadline for the submission of applications is 16 March 2015.
More information: [email protected]
www.facebook.com/committee.of.the.regions
@EU_CoR
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