ECR News - 13th edition

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ECR News European Committee of the Regions | 13th edition



Władysław Ortyl becomes Chairman of Carpathians interregional group


Reforming the EUs Agriculture policy: Hatch’s call for a focus on young farmers supported by Commissioner Hogan

ECR GROUP OPINIONS Reforming the EUs agriculture policy Achieving disaster resilient development Improving the European Semester Paweł Grzybowski: on youth unemployment Reforming Cross-Border Cooperation Daiva Matonienė’s views on renewable energy and the internal electricity market

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ECR rapporteur Arnold Hatch with Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan


Władysław Ortyl hosts the first Citizens’ Dialogue in Poland

LOCALISM Achieving more localist EU Cohesion Policy post-2020 Local councillors debate the future of the EU at ECR meeting ECR workshop signals for decentralisation

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CURRENT CHALLENGES CoR local dialogue on the future of the EU Less regulation and greater empowerment of citizens for a better functioning EU

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ECR members take part in UNFCCC global climate summit in Marrakesh 11 The anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty signing: a moment to reflect and push for new reforms 12

About 500 citizens and representatives of national, local and regional administrations, civil society and businesses attended the first citizens dialogue organised in Poland. The event was hosted by Władysław Ortyl, ECR Group Member and Marshal Władysław Ortyl with Prime Minister Marshal of the Podkarpackie region. Beata Szydło

Paweł Grzybowski to lead report into Europe’s Youth and EU Solidarity Corps

MEMBERS ACTIVITIES UKs exit from the EU 13 Strzyżów ranked first for best use of European funds in Poland 14 The Future of devolved powers to North of England 14 Signing of the CoR-WHO memorandum 15 A new territorial vision to help guide EU policies and spending 16 Sharing experiences with Ukraine and Belarus 16

ECR Group Secretariat Committee of the Regions

Alderman Arnold Hatch, ECR member and Rapporteur for the Commission on Natural Resources’ (NAT) opinion on ‘supporting young European farmers’, saw his work unanimously adopted by members of the European Committee of the Regions during the CoR’s recent plenary session, which was attended by Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.

ECR Rapporteur Paweł Grzybowski

Rue Belliard/Belliardstraat, 101 1040 Bruxelles/Brussel

The ECR Coordinator for the Commission for Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture (SEDEC) has been appointed rapporteur for the CoR opinion on ‘Investing in Europe’s Youth and EU Solidarity Corps’.

Tel: +32 2 282 2257 Fax: +32 2 282 2287

PRESIDENT’S LETTER As the ECR Group, we have been working towards achieving greater localism. The EU is at a cross-road. With Brexit on the one hand and ongoing socio-economic challenges on the other, the Union is undergoing a deep reflection process on its future. For Europe to strive, we will need to be bold in our reforms. We must use this moment as a chance to draw-up a Union that is closer to its citizens by giving them more powers. We do not need a more regulatory Union but we do need a Union that focuses on areas that really do require joint decisions to be taken and leaves the rest to national and local and regional levels of government.

ECR Group President Rob Jonkman with Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło

the different areas in which they are pushing for a reformed, localist EU. As Edmund Burke once said, “if you value something, if you want to preserve it, there will be times when you have to be prepared to reform it and to change.” Alderman Rob Jonkman President of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group European Committee of the Regions European Union

In this edition of our newsletter, you will find examples of our members work and

President of Poland’s Podkarpackie Region Władysław Ortyl becomes Chairman of Carpathians interregional group Władysław Ortyl, Marshal of the Podkarpackie Region of Poland is chairing the new Carpathians interregional group bringing together local and regional politicians from the European Committee of the Regions to address common challenges. Marshal Ortyl, who recently had his membership status to the Committee of the Regions changed from alternate to full member, has led the establishment of a new interregional group on the Carpathians. Commenting on his appointment as a full member of the EU’s Committee of the Regions, Marshal Ortyl said: “I am honoured to

The ECR’s Władysław Ortyl chaired the inaugural Carpathian Intergroup meeting



be continuing my work for the ECR Group as a full member of the European Committee of the Regions. As a new member, I look forward to being more involved in the opinions that all tiers of local and regional government from across the EU prepare on EU legislation. “I look forward to further raising the views of local citizens from my Podkarpackie region in Poland, and treat this nomination as both a privilege and a commitment”, said Marshal Ortyl. Poland has 16 regions called Voivodeship’s, which are presided over by a Marshal. The Podkarpackie region is the region where the Marshal is from the ECR affiliated Law and Justice Party, currently also in national government. “In my work I intend to focus on, among other things, the future of cohesion policy. I find it particularly important to ensure that decisions on how to spend EU funds are taken as close as possible to the citizens and that those funds are spent efficiently.”

Among his initial tasks, Marshal Ortyl participated in the first meeting of the new interregional group ‘Carpathians’, for which he was confirmed as chairman. The group, set up in February 2016, aims to investigate the possibility of creating a Carpathian macroregional strategy in the mountainous region, which stretches west to east from the Czech Republic to Romania, going through Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Poland and the Ukraine. The area is famed for its great beauty and ecological value, as well as the source for a number of major rivers. Developing the region’s economic, cultural and ecological policies through sustainable development is of highest importance, with the interregional group also promising to promote a multilevel governance approach to development of the Carpathian strategy. Marshal Ortyl presented the plans to members at the meeting on 8 December 2016. Other local and regional politicians attending the Carpathian interregional group included Alin Nica, Head of the Romanian national del-

this important mountainous region in Europe.” “By sharing best practices and working together with my colleagues from across seven countries, I believe we can help the region’s economy flourish whilst still protecting its valuable ecology and environment.”

Marshal Ortyl welcoming members at the Carpathian Group’s first conference

egation at the CoR and József Ribányi, Head of the Hungarian national delegation. During the 8 December meeting, other perspectives were offered from an associate of the Carpathian Convention and Harald Egerer from the UN Environment Europe’s Vienna Office. Mr Adrian Ovidiu Teban (Mayor of Cugir in Romania) and Mr Oszkár Seszták (President

of County Council of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg Megye in Hungary) were elected Vice-Chairmen of the Intergroup. Speaking at the meeting, Marshal Ortyl said: “It’s a privilege for me to be opening the first session of the Carpathians as chairman of the CoR’s new interregional group to promote a modern development strategy to strengthen

All present members agreed that in order for the group to strengthen international cooperation in line with the Carpathian Convention, some meetings should take place externally from Brussels in order to involve as many local and regional representatives as possible. A proposal for a meeting in Romania later this year has been made, alongside an already planned meeting in Brussels in March 2017. As one of Europe’s largest mountain ranges, the Carpathian Convention was signed in May 2003 by seven Carpathian states (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Ukraine) to foster the sustainable development of the area.

ECR GROUP OPINIONS Reforming the EUs agriculture policy: Hatch’s call for a focus on young farmers supported by Commissioner Hogan Alderman Arnold Hatch, ECR member and Rapporteur for the Commission on Natural Resources’ (NAT) opinion on ‘supporting young European farmers’, saw his work unanimously adopted by members of the European Committee of the Regions during the CoR’s recent plenary session, which was attended by Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. Councillor Hatch, representing Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council in Northern Ireland, received widespread support across the political spectrum for his own-initiative opinion on the 9 February, which calls for reducing barriers to farming so as to enable more young people to pursue a career in agriculture.

ECR rapporteur Arnold Hatch with Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan

Underlining the importance of focusing on young farmers for the future of urban areas and food security, Mr Hatch said: “Young people are drifting away from farming and the countryside. Today around 72% of citizens in the EU live in urban areas, with this figure

expected to rise to more than 90% in several countries by 2020. We all agree on the importance of rural communities but we are not doing enough to sustain them.” Commissioner Hogan, noting he would very much welcome idea from local and regional politicians on addressing this important issue said: “The farming population is getting older at a rapid rate. For each young farmer – aged 35 years or younger – there are approximately nine farmers older than 55 years. Generational renewal is an issue that goes far beyond a reduction in the average age of farmers in the EU. It is also about empowering a new gen-


eration of highly-qualified young farmers to bring the full benefits of technology to support sustainable farming practices in Europe.” With only 6% of all farms being managed by people under 35 years old, the aging farming workforce across the EU is a substantial problem that needs addressing. The opinion found that for many young people however, farming is an undesirable profession owing to low income, long working hours and lack of infrastructure and resources in rural communities. “We need a healthy agricultural sector for a healthy rural economy but this means reforms of the financial support system for young farmers. The subsidy system should address

both the needs of established and new farmers rather than being tied to land ownership. The current system favours existing farmers, making it more difficult for our youth to enter the sector. We need to invest more in skills, which is where local and regional authorities have a key role to play in offering advice to young farmers on technical, legal and financial matters,” said rapporteur Arnold Hatch. The opinion of the EUs local and regional politicians calls for more initiatives to support entrepreneurship in the sector and promote educational programmes such as Erasmus to young farmers. It also makes recommendations for the CAP subsidies to benefit smaller, family farms, as well as investing more in skills

and training programmes for which local and regional authorities have a key role in offering advice to young farmers on technical, legal and financial matters. Following the adoption, CoR members welcomed Commissioner Hogan for a debate on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), where the Commissioner supported the conclusions drawn in Alderman Hatch’s opinion. The exchange of views was welcome by the Commissioner in light of the forthcoming consultation on the future of CAP post-2020 scheduled to take place later this year.

Achieving disaster resilient development Adam Banaszak (Vice President of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Regional Parliament in Poland) is the Committee of the Regions’ rapporteur on the “Action Plan on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2020: A disaster risk-informed approach for all EU policies”. In Europe and in the world, we are seeing the frequency and the intensity of disasters increase. This is costing lives and is also costing money to tax payers. Between 2002 and 2012, natural disasters caused more than 100 000 deaths annually on average and there is an increasing trend in direct overall economic losses worldwide, with an average annual economic loss of over EUR 100 billion. In 2014, as the CoR we had also taken note that within the EU natural disasters caused 80 000 deaths and EUR 95 billion in economic losses over the last decade. It will not be possible to achieve economic growth that we can sustain in year to come unless our communities and economies are

resilient to disasters. This requires us to conduct risk analysis and increase our resilience to the risk of disasters. So far at the EU level, we have financial tools (the EUs Solidarity Fund) and mechanisms (the EU Civil Protection Mechanism) that target disaster monitoring and response. However, what we are not doing enough of is focusing on preparing for disasters. It is now time to embed the principle of resilience into all EU spending. Currently one third of the EU is spent on the EUs regional policy yet investments do not have to be disaster resilient. In light of the ongoing increase in the number of floods and the fact that it is cheap-

Adam Banaszak

er to build resilient structures than to retro-fit, we have to ensure that all infrastructure built with EU money is disaster resilient. At the EU level, we also need to recognise that disaster resilient development is a necessity to achieving sustainable development. This means that in our new strategies defining the goals behind which we intended to align our Resources, we have to put disaster resilience as a cross-cutting theme. The international Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2020 agreed at the

2013 floods in Somerset, UK



means for Europe and the various instruments that we have is therefore important. At the EU level, we have to recognise that this is a local issue requiring local government to act and take the lead but a coordinated approach is in all of our interests given that disasters do not stop at borders.

1992 wild fire in Kujawsko-Pomorskie region, Poland

UN level is an important international step in recognising the importance of disaster resilient development and the practical steps that each level of government needs to take to achieve this. The new Framework represented a shift away from disaster management to

disaster risk management is an important one that we should be emulating as well. At the EU level, the Commission Staff working document that aims at looking at what this new international voluntary instrument

Earlier this year, the European Commission proposed to introduce the possibility for the EU to be able to finance 100% of a local project in response to major or regional natural disaster. This is a necessary short-term solution to help those devastated areas but the long-term solution is to make our communities less vulnerable to disasters. If we do not act now, we will find ourselves spending more and more on trying to recover from disasters that are occurring more frequently with increased levels of intensity. We must focus on mitigating disaster risks.

Improving the European Semester Rob Jonkman is rapporteur for the Committee of the Regions’ opinion on improving the governance of the European Semester: a code of conduct for the involvement of local and regional authorities. The opinion looks at how the EU tool for coordination economic and fiscal policy coordination can be improved through a more localist approach. is very low. At the beginning of 2016 only 4% of the 2015 country-specific recommendations showed ‘substantial progress’ with 48% showing only ‘limited’ or ‘no progress’ at all. Local and regional authorities have underlined on many occasions that a more bottom-up approach is needed to the European Semester, highlighting that 40 per cent of the 2016 country-specific recommendations could not be fully implemented without the active role of the local and regional authorities.

Rob Jonkman

The European Semester is the main tool for economic and fiscal policy coordination at EU level, during which Member States align their budgetary and economic policies with the recommendations agreed at EU level. The coordination process currently has limited success. The country-specific recommendations, as tailored policy guidance to Member States, are one of the key products under the European Semester yet their implementation

Underlining the need for greater localism, the CoR rapporteur Rob Jonkman said “involving local and regional authorities in the European Semester as partners will not only give them a voice but help better match the goals with the delivery on the ground.” In the annual analysis of the economic and social situation in the Member States published by the Commission on 22 February 2017, the Commission called on Members States to explain how regional and local authorities were involved in the elaboration and implementation of reforms, recognising the need of more ownership on the local and regional level.

“For a sound territorial basis we need to enrich the Semester as a whole (the Annual Growth Survey, National Reform Programmes and Country-Specific Recommendations) with territorial trends and impact of EU policies. We also need to define standing arrangements to give local and regional authorities the opportunity to take part in the preparation, review and implementation of the reforms and programmes. If we adopt a code of conduct that enables a more bottom-up inclusive process then we will also be giving local and regional government a voice in areas that concern them. The recommendations already give details on what we should be doing so we should be given a voice in the process as well,” said rapporteur Rob Jonkman. Underlining that the code of conduct on partnership in the framework of cohesion policy’s ESI Funds could be used an example for a code of conduct for the Semester, Rob Jonkman said “as local and regional governments we already provide data and input to the Commission for the ESI Funds. This existing data can be used to improve the linkages between EU policies and investment agenda.”


Paweł Grzybowski represents EU local and regional government work on youth unemployment The ECR Group’s Coordinator for the Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture (SEDEC) Commission is leading the work of local and regional government within the EU’s Member States on ‘Investing in Europe’s Youth and EU Solidarity Corps’ as rapporteur. Paweł Grzybowski, the Mayor of Rypin, Poland, will look at ways to build a better future for Europe’s young generation through the provision of new work and social opportunities that enhance an individual’s knowledge and skills. Mr Grzybowski said: “I’m honoured to be working on such an important topic like youth engagement for my first opinion as rapporteur for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.” “We, as local and regional authorities in touch with our young citizens, need to make sure we can give them the best start in life. With 57% of the young generation feeling excluded from economic, social and democratic life, we have a big task ahead to improve youth engagement within society. My opinion will therefore look at ways the EU, working with local and regional authorities, can boost the confidence of young people through the provision of work and social opportunities, which will strengthen their knowledge and skillset,” Mr Grzybowski added. Mr Grzybowski’s opinion will also investigate the Commission’s setting up of a Euro-

pean Solidarity Corps, a project to empower young people through volunteering to gain valuable experience within organisations and learn new skills. The initiative aims to equip the youth with more skills through work and volunteering opportunities and therefore will benefit the private sector, creating a more competitive talent pool for them to hire from. “With the vast majority of volunteering taking place at the local level, meeting local needs, the European Solidarity Corps should be used as an opportunity to help integrate our youth into our communities and labour market. It is also an opportunity to help equip our youth with the skills that will enable them to lead our communities in the future” said the rapporteur. The European Solidarity Corps project will help the Commission prepare for the revision of the European Youth Strategy beyond 2018. Through Mr Grzybowski’s opinion, the European Committee will be feeding into discussions on the future of this strategy, ensuring young people can continue to have their voice heard and benefit from EU funding and opportunities.

ECR Rapporteur Paweł Grzybowski

Mr Grzybowski concluded: “by investing and providing them with the tools to shine, I hope this opinion will result in young people being more engaged with their local authorities and the European Union, which will be beneficial for all society.”

Reforming Cross-Border Cooperation: the role of people-to-people and small scale projects Pavel Branda, ECR member and Deputy Mayor of Rádlo Municipality, has been appointed rapporteur for the European Committee of the Regions’ opinion on ‘People-to-people projects and small scale projects in cross-border cooperation programmes’. Mr Pavel Branda has initiated the Committee of the Regions work on small scale projects in the EUs cross-border cooperation programmes. The objective of the opinion for which he is now rapporteur, will be to look at the added-value of people-to-people and small scale projects so as to help guide the debate on the future of the cohesion policy and the review of the EUs crossborder cooperation programme.

“People-to-people projects and small scale projects play an essential role in cross-border cooperation programmes and have contributed greatly to their success. They form a basis upon which further cross-border cooperation in different areas can be developed as they contribute to making contacts across border, normalise relationships between neighbouring regions, building trust among partners and overcoming prejudices. Nevertheless they are being questioned ECR Rapporteur Pavel Branda



as they are not anchored in the cohesion policy regulations,” explained Pavel Branda. The importance of cross-border cooperation is highlighted in the EU treaties in relation to achieving economic, social and territorial cohesion. Article 174 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union stipulates that particular attention should be paid to cross-border regions.

Expanding on the importance of small projects, Pavel Branda said “they are delivered in a decentralised way where local and regional authorities bring the projects closer to the citizens. This is why I strongly believe in promoting the benefits of people-topeople projects, and look forward to providing strong arguments in my opinion on why sustaining this aspect of cross-border cooperation should be secured.”

Mr Branda is also the Chair of the Committee of the Regions’ interregional group on cross-border cooperation. Underlining the importance of cross-border cooperation, the rapporteur underlined that “37 % of citizens in the EU live in cross-border areas along some 38 internal borders.”

Daiva Matonienė representing local and regional government views on renewable energy and the internal electricity market European Conservatives and Reformists Group member Daiva Matonienė, Member of Šiauliai City Municipal Council in Lithuania, will manage the European Committee of the Regions’ work on ‘Renewable energy and internal electricity market’. Ms Matonienė is leading the Committee of the Regions’ work on renewable energy and the internal electricity market in her role as rapporteur on some of the most important elements of the so-called ‘Winter Package’ programme proposed by the European Commission on 30 November 2016. The CoR opinion is based on five mandatory referrals from the European Commission that cover: 1) the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources; 2) common rules for the internal market in electricity; 3) establishing a European Union Agency for the Cooperation of Energy regulators; 4) a revised regulation on the internal market for electricity and; 5) a proposal for a new regulation on risk-preparedness in the electricity sector. According to the Commission, the recast of the renewable energy directives will help ensure the delivery of new renewable energy targets for 2030 set by the European

Council in October 2014. The opinion is thus set to address the main issues associated with the new framework - cost-effectiveness, sustainability and the actual delivery of a share of renewable energy of at least 27% in the EU in 2030. For regulation on a new internal market design, the opinion will consider a range of legislative and non-legislative instruments to help improve the efficiency of the internal electricity market, as well as looking at ways to increase competition and consumer participation, and enhance the link between wholesale and retail markets. Ms Matoniene said “climate change is something that we must aim to address but it is how we go about it that is important. As a Group, we recognise that Member States have different capacities when it comes to renewable energy and we will try to ensure that the opinion remains realistic. I will be aiming to underline the importance for cli-

ECR Rapporteur Daiva Matonienė

mate policy to be realistic, flexible and costefficient.” Ms Matonienė recently saw her opinion on ‘An EU strategy for heating and cooling’ successfully adopted unanimously by CoR members at the 119th plenary session in October 2016. The opinion called for more concrete action to boost sustainable heating and cooling in Europe.

LOCALISM ECR Poland conference: achieving a more localist EU Cohesion Policy post-2020 Members of CoR came together with local and regional politicians and stakeholders in Poland’s Kujawsko-Pomorskie region to engage in a local dialogue over the future of the European Union’s Cohesion Policy. As part of the ECR Group’s ongoing localism work looking at how the principle of empowering local communities can help lead Euro-

pean reform, a conference was organised in in Przysiek, in Poland’s Kujawsko-Pomorskie region on Thursday 17 November 2016. The

event specifically looked at how localism can be used to create an improved European Union post-2020, addressing challenges and


Office of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Regional Council. Discussing the downfalls to the EU’s Cohesion Policy, Jerzy Zająkała said: “The cohesion policy objectives set some decades ago have still not been achieved and recent Eurostat figures show just how much still has to be done to attain the goal of governance.”

The panel for ECR’s localism conference in Przysiek, Poland

identifying opportunities for the future of the EU’s Cohesion Policy.

ing money returns to LRAs more quickly and more efficiently.”

Moderated by Adam Banaszak, Vice-President of Kujawsko-Pomorskie Regional Assembly and leader of the Polish delegation in the ECR Group in the Committee of the Regions, panellists included Jerzy Zająkała (Mayor of Łubianka) and Alderman Gordon Keymer CBE FCA, Patron and former President of the ECR Group.

First adopted by European leaders in June 2010, Europe 2020 is the EUs ten-year growth strategy which aimed to help achieve cohesive development. It sets out five ambitious objectives on the following areas: employment, innovation, education, social cohesion and climate/energy. Member States must adopt each objective into their own national targets.

Chairing the debate, Mr Banaszak said: “the focus for this conference was to look at how the EU’s Cohesion Policy, and importantly the funds that go with it, can be used more effectively to benefit more local people across the EU.” “From the event, it was clear that there is a consensus for local funds to be channelled through to local regions and authorities more effectively. This can be done by cutting red tape and reducing barriers, ensur-

Questions raised at the conference focused on how the idea of localism, one of the ECR Group’s founding principles, can help shape a better, reformed Cohesion Policy that has its focus solely on improving the lives of EU citizens in local regions and authorities. Audience members were then able to hear from representatives of Poland, including the Governor of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie region Mikołaj Bogdanowicz, and Michał Korolko, Director of Economic Development Department and International Cooperation from the

“The EUs cohesion policy should be continued but the Cohesion Policy instruments need to be made simpler, and priority must be given to applying development mechanisms based on a sustainable approach.” As one of the largest beneficiaries of Cohesion Policy, the continuation of the policy after 2020 is fundamental for local and regional authorities in Poland. However, the country believes that funds need to be better tailored to the needs of local communities. Discussing the main outcomes from the event, Adam Banaszak concluded: “It was great to hear from many Polish citizens and representatives from Polish local and national governments today, who all agreed that continuing the Cohesion Policy post-2020 will ensure our communities are further developed and supported.” “However, it is clear from the comments raised today that much work needs to be done to make the cohesion funds more tailored to the needs of local people. I hope the EU will take note of the opinions expressed here today when drafting the new Cohesion Policy.”

Local and regional politicians debate the future of the EU In December 2016, the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the CoR hosted an extraordinary group meeting, attended by ECR Group members, MPs and local and regional politicians from across Europe, discussing the future of the European Union. Separated into two panels, the meeting on Thursday 8 December started with a seminar on ‘Scenarios for the future’, looking at how to change the European Union to make it more accountable and effective in the near future.

Our first panel included ECR Group President Rob Jonkman, ECR Vice-President Oldřich Vlasák, Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe and Italian MP Daniele Capezzone



Chairing the first panel, ECR Group President Alderman Rob Jonkman said: “It is an exciting time to be discussing the EU’s future. Recent referendums and votes in Member States have shown disdain and antipathy towards

the direction in which the EU has been going, sending a strong signal of the need for the EU to change.”

shared by local government representatives from Belgium, Italy, Poland, Northern Ireland, Croatia and the Czech Republic.

“Many of the concerns voiced by citizens’ echo the principles of our Group, namely decisions need to be taken at the local level and involve citizens as much as possible.”

Topics raised included the need for the EU to focus more on facilitating trade deals, a further focus on regionalisation, and calls for the European Committee of the Regions to be able to propose and put forward legislative changes to the European Parliament and European Commission.

Guests for this panel included Daniele Capezzone MP, from the Chambers of Deputies in Italy, who argued the EU “must not be a cage but a means for countries to achieve growth through a free market”. Other speakers included Pieter Cleppe from the think tank Open Europe and Oldřich Vlasák, Vice-President of the ECR Group. For the second session the debate moved to an open forum on the future of the EU, where local and regional government views were

Presiding over proceedings in session two, Cllr Joe Cooney, Vice-President of the ECR CoR Group, said: “Sitting here in Brussels, EU politicians sometimes forget the impact that regional policies and opinions made at the EU level have on our local communities. We need to readdress the communication between the two and improve the relationship between the EU and local communities.”

Commenting on the need to make EU funds more effective and easier to access, Councillor Cooney added: “Local and regional authorities have a crucial role in delivering EU growth targets through funds and support mechanisms agreed at the EU level and financed through national governments. Yet problems with current funding apparatus and unsuccessful implementation of funds have resulted in many local regions and authorities not benefiting from EU regional policy.” “The ECR Group believe that the only way to improve the performance of the EU’s regional policy is by sticking with the principle of subsidiarity and ensuring decisions are taken as close to citizens as possible.”

ECR workshop calls for a decentralised, bottom-up system of EU governance A European Union that puts localism at the heart of its plans for the future was the main message from the ECR Group in the European Committee of the Regions’ debate on the future of the EU and territorial vision. Chaired by Andrew Lewer MEP, the debate on Wednesday 7 December 2016 brought together local and regional politicians with representatives of the EU institutions to discuss ideas and elaborate on future policy that will help shape the future of the EU. With Brexit and the recent Italian referendum putting pressure on the EU to reform, there were plenty of suggestions and considerations raised by attendees, including the need for the decentralising of powers from the EU to national and local governments, with a greater focus on planning for the future. Speaking at the debate, Andrew Lewer MEP said: “The EU is faced with many challenges as a result of recent political changes across Europe. Now is the time to start planning for the future.” “With the second largest economy in the EU leaving, there will be implications to the EU budget. The EU should not have illusions of an increased EU budget in the future, which is why we call for the decentralising of powers to save money and make the EU more effective.”

From left to right: Oldřich Vlasák, Arnold Hatch, Andrew Lewer MEP, Rob Jonkman, Pieter Cleppe

Other points advocated for bottom-up policy making in cohesion policy where the exercise of power is made at the lowest practicable level involving citizens.

them and use their knowledge of their citizens’ needs to create a better functioning EU, particularly in the area of Cohesion Policy.”

As CoR rapporteur for Territorial Vision 2050, ECR Vice-President Oldřich Vlasák argued for a stronger bottom-up approach in future EU policy to achieve more balanced growth and development.

As a member for Northern Ireland, Alderman Arnold Hatch, rapporteur for the CoR opinion on Supporting Young European Farmers, expressed his concern about the impact of Brexit on the agriculture sector in his region, as well as ways to currently improve farming across all Member States.

Mr Vlasák, Councillor of the city of Hradec Králové, said: “Local and regional authorities are best-placed to help configure the future of the European project, so we must involve

“It is clear to me that we face many similar challenges with national, regional and local


authorities in all EU Member States when it comes to agriculture”, Mr Hatch said. “We believe that the agri-food sector should be the focus of targeted proposals on job crea-

tion, growth and investment to ensure that the EU’s agriculture and food industries realise its significant potential and maintains a competitive position on the world market.”

Other guests included Pieter Cleppe, Head of Open Europe in Brussels, who was joined by the ECR Group’s President Rob Jonkman, Alderman of the municipality of Opsterland.

CURRENT CHALLENGES CoR local dialogue on the future of the EU hosted by ECR Member Władysław Ortyl and attended by Polish Prime Minister and CoR President About 500 citizens and representatives of local and regional administrations, civil society and businesses attended the first citizens dialogue organised in Poland. The event was hosted by Władysław Ortyl, ECR Group Member and Marshal of the Podkarpackie region. It was attended by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland and the President of the European Committee of the Regions. “Reflecting on Europe” is an initiative launched by the CoR to offer space for citizens to present their ideas, thoughts and opinions on the European Union and how it affects their regions and cities. The aim is to go local, collect feedback and report back to Brussels to impact the decision-making processes ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome – a development which laid the foundations for the European Union. In this context the Committee co-organised on 4 February a citizen’s dialogue in Podkarpackie in Poland, together with CoR member Władysław Ortyl, and in presence of Beata Szydło, Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, Markku Markkula, President of the CoR, Adam Kwiatkowski, Head of Cabinet of the President of the Republic of Poland, and Jerzy Kwieciński, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Regional Development. Beata Szydło, Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, said: “thanks to the presence of the President of the CoR, we are here today talking about Europe and its future. For Poland there is no doubt that the European Union needs to reform. Europeans must have the feeling that the European Union is for them and deals with issues that are close to their hearts. We need to debate our different views, because this is the essence of democ-



Marshal Władysław Ortyl with Prime Minister Beata Szydło and CoR President Markku Markkula

racy. At the same time we need to look for the best solutions, taking into account the development potential of individual regions and individual countries. Finally, we have to focus on issues that matter most to the people.” Hosting the event in his home region, Marshal Ortyl said: “The voice of local government cannot be left out in the ongoing debate about the future of the EU’s cohesion policy. We want the cohesion policy and the use of the Funds to continue. However, we need to improve and better plan this policy area so as to give sub-national government at all levels a better chance at achieving economic development. The Exhibition and Congress G2A Arena Center, where we met today as well as the Science and Technology Park, the Special Economic Zone and the airport in Jasionka show that we are able to use EU funds effectively and skilfully and the result serves not only Podkarpackie but the whole country”. Discussing the importance of the dialogue, CoR President Markku Markkula said: “We need to exchange ideas to be able to serve all our communities, including the smallest ones. The European Union needs strong re-

gions to help achieve progress and build the kind of Europe citizens want.” In total there will be more than 70 events all over Europe feeding into the Committee’s contribution to the Reflection on the EU series. Statements and conclusions of this debate as well as an online survey carried out during the event will feed into the CoR contribution to the Reflection on the EU.

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło speaking at the event in Podkarpackie

ECR President calls on Commission Vice-President to prioritise less regulation and greater empowerment of citizens for a better functioning EU The EU can achieve better governance in 2017 through greater localism was the message delivered by ECR President Rob Jonkman to European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans during the Committee of the Regions 120th plenary session. The Vice-President was present for the plenary debate to discuss the European Commission’s work programme for 2017 with local and regional government representatives. Intervening during the welcoming speeches of the EU CoR’s plenary session in December 2016, Rob Jonkman outlined the importance of localism being a guiding principle and how it could help reform the EU’s approach to issues such as climate change. Alderman Rob Jonkman said: “Localism means civic empowerment and taking decisions at the level closest to citizens. In our efforts to try to restore trust in the EU and build a new social contract with citizens, we must not fall into the trap of taking more power away from them.” Referring to the Commission proposal for a European Pillar on social rights relating to welfare services being coordinated and potentially harmonised at the EU level, Alderman Jonkman stated that the “ECR is not convinced that the way to achieve equal opportunities in our society is by giving citizens more regulation and more red-tape”. “Instead, we should give citizens a greater voice and create more room for sharing of best practices at local, regional and national levels of governance. We need to regulate less and listen more”, the ECR Group President added.

Arguing that the Commission needed to be more bottom-up in its approach, Alderman Rob Jonkman further warned the Vice President that the EU must treat local government as partners and not stakeholders in the EUs better regulation process. Alderman Jonkman said: “Calling elected government a stakeholder and trying to put them into the same category as nongovernmental organisations is disrespectful to the voters they represent.” The ECR Group President also underlined that there are issues that require coordinated action at the European level as these issues transcend borders. “Climate change and disaster resilience are examples of two issues where we need coordinated action. However, such coordinated EU action must be proportionate to the challenge at hand”, the member stated. Calling for a review and evaluation of all EU binding targets, Alderman Jonkman concluded his address to Vice-President Timmermans by asking for the Commission to conduct a review and evaluate all EU environmental binding targets. “The huge number of derogations and environmental targets has created a convoluted system, leading to further administrative burdens for local and regional administrations. It may look good to have lots of fig-

Alderman Rob Jonkman delivers his message to Vice-President Timmermans at the EU CoR Plenary in December 2016

ures on paper, but in practice it does not work. For local and regional government to successfully tackle climate change and be ambitious on environmental issues, we must reshape and simplify the current system. This is why we advocate for a review of EU binding targets.” The welcome speeches kicked off the European Committee of the Regions’ 120th plenary session, for which ECR Group members were in attendance to vote on a number of opinions, including ‘Collaborative economy and online platforms’ and ‘Reform of the Common European Asylum System’.

ECR members take part in UNFCCC global climate summit in Marrakesh ECR Group in the CoR members Daiva Matonienė, Ilpo Haalisto and Paweł Grzybowski were in attendance for the session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). With the European Committee of the Regions playing a valuable role in the COP 22 discussions as an observer through the EU UN delegation, ECR members had the chance to participate in a variety of events and summits during the Marrakesh conference in November 2016.

Following the successful COP 21 in Paris in 2015 which saw important progress made to tackling climate change, the follow-up conference focused on implementing actions to help achieve the priorities of the Paris Agreement, in relation to significant areas like transparency, adaptation and

mitigation. By hosting the event in the Moroccan capital, the hope was for the forum to help move the Mediterranean region towards a common climate change agenda. One of the events included a meeting of the CoR Commission for Sustainable Develop-


ment of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM), which discussed two reports by CoR rapporteurs; one on cross-border cooperation in the Mediterranean region, and another on energy and climate change in the Mediterranean region. ECR member Paweł Grzybowski, Mayor of Rypin, said: “Cities and regions have a great potential in operationalising the Paris Agreement and leading on action to protect our climate. By the CoR coordinating with organisations like the UNFCCC and encouraging Member States to work together on a regional basis, we can create a coordinated approach to slowing down climate change.” “In order to do so we need bottom-up initiatives, using innovative technologies and respecting local economies. To give you one positive example, in the city of Rypin we recently modernised our heating system. Using cogeneration brought about many benefits to our community such as improving air quality, ensuring security of supply and decreasing the need to buy emission allowances.”

ECR members with the European Committee of the Regions’ delegation at the COP 22 conference in Marrakesh

ARLEM members also had the opportunity to present the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (CoM), in partnership with the European Commission and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), as the largest urban global movement aiming at a transition towards low carbon and climate resilient territories. Now fully operational in Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa and in the Southern part of the Mediterranean, the CoM aims to raise awareness amongst local mayors, councillors and other local representatives of the challenges of climate change and energy transition.

Other events organised by ARLEM saw a meeting on ‘Defining a new global climate governance’, a meeting between the EU delegation at COP 22 and regions and cities to foster dialogue between the two parties and enhance the inclusiveness of the UNFCCC. ARLEM brings together elected representatives of local and regional authorities from the European Union and its Mediterranean partners to provide a platform to promote local democracy, multi-level governance and decentralised cooperation.

The anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty signing: a moment to reflect and push for new reforms ECR Group President Rob Jonkman attended a special ‘EU Summit’ in Maastricht on 9 December 2016, precisely 25 years ago from the commencement of discussions with EU leaders that led to the formation of the Maastricht Treaty. Taking place at the MECC Exhibition and Congress Centre in the Dutch city, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, former European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Committee of the Regions President Markku Markkula were some of the special guests for the summit, a prelude to celebrations that will take place next year to celebrate 25 years since the signing of the Treaty. Speaking from Maastricht, Alderman Rob Jonkman, Member of the Executive Council of Opsterland, said: “the 25 years anniversary of Maastricht Treaty that led to the Committee of the Regions being set-up is an oppor-



Attendees at the special EU Summit in Maastricht in December 2016

tunity for us to reflect on how we can achieve a more bottom-up localist EU. In the last 25 years, Europe has achieved a lot by working together and it is time to adapt and change so that we can continue to achieve positive things in the future.” “The real challenge for the EU is how it intends to better represent citizens on the ground, many of whom feel too far away from the goings on of the European Union. This is why our Group calls for a more bottom-up, localised approach to decision-making that

ensures citizens voices are at the heart of the EU’s future policy proposals.” Since the Treaty’s signing, the EU has widened into new policy areas and enlarged to its current 28 Member-State configuration, as well as form its own currency – the Euro. The Treaty also helped formulate the European Committee of the Regions, established in 1994, which outlined that the Committee would have an ‘advisory role’ serving the interests of citizens in the EU (Article 13/4).

Reflecting at the event, former European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said: “The Treaty of Maastricht was a milestone in the history of the European Union.”

Despite praise, recent events such as Brexit, the Italian referendum and the rise of populism across Europe have increased calls for the EU to reform. With this in mind, Alderman Jonkman concluded: “The input of our

citizens should be brought to the EU by local and regional politicians and should be taken seriously in Brussels. Only if we are prepared to listen and give the citizens a voice, the EU becomes more real for them.”

MEMBERS ACTIVITIES UKs exit from the EU: local and regional government assess consequences and discuss long-term cooperation Local and regional government in the UK and other EU countries are working together to assess the impact of a potential UK exit from the EU and to discuss long-term cooperation. To this end, the political leadership of the CoR went to on a fact-finding mission to the UK meeting Secretary of State David Jones as well as Councillors and representatives of UKs devolved administrations. The CoR also met with Michel Barnier, the EUs chief negotiator in charge of leading the Commission Taskforce for the Preparation and Conduct of the exit Negotiations with the UK, to whom they will be providing input. The European Committee of the Regions’ Conference of President’s has been leading the work of local and regional government in assessing the consequences of a UK exit from the EU as well as considering means for longterm cooperation. In January, the Conference of Presidents composed of the President and Vice-President of the CoR as well as the Presidents of the 5 political groups, met with the EUs Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier and were in London meeting local politicians and representatives of the UKs devolved administrations.

The CoR political leadership also went to London where they attended the annual meeting of the UK delegation to the CoR and met with the Greater London Authority. The ECR Group was represented by Rob Jonkman at the UK delegation meeting and Cllr Harvey Siggs (Somerset County and Mendip District Councils) at the GLA meeting.

The CoR is working with the EUs Chief Negotiator Barnier to provide input from a local and regional government perspective to the negotiations on the UKs exit from the EU. Rob Jonkman, representing the ECR Group at the meeting, underlined that “UK and other European local and regional government will continue to face common challenges that will require a continuation of the sharing of best-practices. We need to ensure that we think of the long-term city-to-city type cooperation needed for Europe’s future.”

The British Secretary of State, David Jones MP also attended the UK delegation meeting where the UK ECR delegation was led by Cllr Joe Cooney (Pendle Borough Council). During the meeting, Cllr David Simmonds (Deputy Chairman of the Local Government Association and Chairman of the Brexit Task and Finnish Group) presented the LGA’s work in addressing the place-based impacts of a UK exit from the EU aimed at building an evidence base to support the exit negotiations. Alderman Arnold Hatch (Armagh City,

Rob Jonkman with Rt Hon David Jones MP (Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union) and Lord Gary Porter (Chairman of the Local Government Association)

Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council) spoke on behalf of the Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh authorities and underlined the importance place-based impacts being taken into account. During the meeting in London the Committee of the Regions’ President, Markku Markkula, stressed that that the CoR will continue to cooperate with the UK’s local and regional government throughout the Brexit negotiations and beyond. “The focus in Brussels is currently on the future of Europe. In that debate, we have to remember that the continent will face common challenges ranging from migration to globalisation and these will require UK and the EU27 to keep working together,” said ECR Group Vice-President and leader of the ECR UK delegation Cllr Joe Cooney.


Strzyżów ranked first for best use of European funds in Poland The district, led by European Conservatives and Reformists member Robert Godek, came first in a Polish ranking for the best use of European funds for social projects under the 2007-2013 financial perspective. Some 314 districts were compared, with the district of Strzyżów coming top for per capita expenditure of PLN (at 435.27), ahead of the district of Pisz in the province of Warmińsko-Mazurskie which had a per capita spending of 322.90 PLN. Speaking about his cities success, Mr Godek, Vice-President of the Polish district association, said: “Coming first in the Polish ranking compiled by the most important Polish local government journal is a huge honour for our authority, the inhabitants of Strzyżów, and the people who work for our institutions.” Compiled by local government magazine Wspólnota (Community), the ranking was based on reports on the implementation of local government budgets compiled by the Polish Ministry of Finance between 2007-2013. Together with academics from the University of Warsaw, the list focused

on funds covering areas such as tourism, education, healthcare, social policy and assistance, and conservation of national heritage. Discussing how his city has managed to come out on top, Mr Godek said: “Focussing on the good use of EU funds was a deliberate choice by the district council and administration in consecutive terms-of-office. It has enabled us to carry out many more tasks than would have been possible.” One of the biggest projects carried out by the Strzyżów district authority has been the construction of a new regional centre for vocational education and modern technology in Dobrzechów. Designed as a modern hub for vocational training, the centre teaches a variety of courses from computer programming to the needs of the aviation industry. The project was carried out under priority 1 – a competitive and innovative economy – of the 2007 to 2013 Regional Operational Programme for the Podkarpackie region, which used funds from the European Regional Development Fund and the district’s own budget. Other investments have seen an extension of a training centre for young people with disabilities, as well as the modernisation of care homes for adults with learning disabilities and chronic mental health conditions.

The new Regional Centre for Vocational Education and New Technologies, one of the projects that has benefited from EU funding

Asked about the district’s plans for the future, Mr Godek added: “Strzyżów is not

ECR member Robert Godek (right) presented with his special diploma

slowing down at all and we will continue to invest because we believe this is what our community needs. We have contracted a number of projects under new financial perspective for the new period, with a significant contribution made from the European Union’s Structural Funds, which we are now starting to implement.” For its success, Strzyżów was honoured at the XIV Local Government Capital and Finance Forum held in Katowice, Poland, between 22-23 September 2016 where Robert Godek and others received special diplomas. Quotes and information have been sampled from Wspólnota, which for 20 years has been following Polish local government and regional authorities, producing articles on legal affairs, public finances and up-to-date information on local government affairs.

Cllr Wallace discusses the Future of devolved powers to North of England with Minister Andrew Percy Cllr Judith Wallace, ECR Group member and Conservative Group Leader at North Tyneside Council, met with the Minister for the Local Growth and the Northern Powerhouse, Andrew Percy M.P. to discuss the future of devolution in the north of England. Andrew represents the constituency of Brigg and Goole, having previously been a local councillor for ten years on Hull City Council. With the Conservative Party presenting policy for devolving powers from national government in Westminster to local regions, the talks were an opportunity for Minister Percy to meet with representatives from local councils in the North of England to speak



about the future of devolution and economic benefits that devolved powers will bring to the area. Councillor Wallace said: “The Conservatives have introduced a policy of devolving

powers from the national government in Westminster to local authorities in England, where local authorities can group together and seek specific powers to improve economic performance, with a directly elected Mayor. Each devolution deal is bespoke, as

different areas have different requirements and views. Several deals have already been finalised. The U.K. was the fastest growing economy in the G7 last year, but some areas could grow faster.” As home to more than 15 million people and one million businesses, the Northern Powerhouse economy was worth an estimated £316 billion in 2015, which gives an idea of the potential of the North to help further boost local people and the overall UK economy. Councillor Wallace added: “There could be a new development corporation to drive forward regeneration of the area, and such corporations have a good track record. In my own area, seven local authorities, all under Labour control, had signed a preliminary deal with the government but then four withdrew unexpectedly in the autumn: the deal was worth an extra £30 million investment each year, to drive economic growth, with further funding if growth was achieved.”

Cllr Judith Wallace and Andrew Percy MP

“It was good to have the opportunity to discuss with the Minister the future of these opportunities to devolve powers from central government to local authorities, to grass roots level”, Mrs Wallace concluded. The New Economy report conducted for the Local Government Association outlines that the evidence for public support for local control of public services is there. Research from Centre for Cities, the LGA and Ipsos MORI finds that the general public is more

likely to trust local authorities (79% of respondents) than central government (11% of respondents) to make decisions about the areas they live in. In the North East, an agreement for Tees Valley has now been reached, with the upcoming mayoral election due to take place in May 2018. It is yet to be seen what kind of an agreement North Tyneside might have.

Adam Banaszak participates in signing of the CoR-WHO memorandum of understanding The ECR’s coordinator for the Commission for Natural Resources (NAT) was involved in the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding between the European Committee of the Regions and the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, focusing on health and wellbeing of EU citizens. Signed in November 2016 in Brussels, the Memorandum seeks to ensure that every human being can enjoy the highest attainable standard of health by the two organisations working together to benefit all EU citizens. The CoR’s Vice-President Karl-Heinz Lambertz and WHO/Europe Regional Director Zsuzsanna Jakab officially signed the agreement which opens a new chapter in collaborative efforts to make Europe’s health policy stronger and better suited to the needs of citizens, with emphasis on local and regional authorities playing a greater role in efforts.

ECR rapporteur Adam Banaszak attends CoR/WHO signing on health and wellbeing

Adam Banaszak, Member of the KujawskoPomorskie Regional Assembly, was invited to attend the ceremony as the CoR’s Rapporteur on ‘The role of local and regional authorities in the implementation of the health strategy 2008-2013’, adopted in 2010. Mr Banaszak said: “I am glad to be here today witnessing the signing of an important agreement between the European Committee of the Regions and the World Health

Organisation. This agreement will make us both stronger to deal with the local health issues that local and regional authorities face in the EU.” The commitment is likely to cover ideas such as making cities and regions more health-conscious places, as well as promoting vaccination campaigns and supporting people’s healthy lifestyles.


A new territorial vision to help guide EU policies and spending Oldřich Vlasák, the CoR rapporteur on territorial vision 2050 met with Iskra Mihaylova MEP, the Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Regional Development to discuss a new territorial vision to help guide EU policies and funds after 2020. The programming period, which sets the annual budgets for 7 year periods outlining the areas and amount that money will be allocated to, currently runs till the year 2020. The EU will need to decide on its policy aims and the funding due to be allocated to these aims. Despite the EUs Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 aiming to reduce disparities between Europe’s regions, strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion, studies have found that the economic divide between regions has not gotten better. The 6th EU Cohesion Report states that “regional disparities have widened during the last few years because the economic crisis has affected regions differently.” Commenting on the need for a territorial vision, Oldřich Vlasák said “we need a new ter-

CoR Rapporteur Oldřich Vlasák discussing with REGI Committee Chair Iskra Mihaylova

ritorial vision that brings the 1999 European Spatial Development Perspective Agreement up to date. Despite one third of the EU budget being spent on trying to reduce disparities between Europe’s regions, disparities between our regions has widened during the last few years. Globalisation has had a varied impact on our cities and regions.

While some have thrived, others have struggled. We need a new strategy to help guide the post-2020 policies and spending. We need a place-based bottom-up approach would help us to correctly identify the challenges and most appropriate public policy tools to address them.”

Sharing experiences with Ukraine and Belarus Dr. Pavel Branda, member of the CoR and the Chairman of the Interregional group on cross-border cooperation, was invited as an expert to the international conference “Intersectoral partnership for border territories development: European experience for Ukraine and Belarus” held on March 17-18, 2017 in Chernihiv, Ukraine. He shared the experience of his Euroregion during the past 25 years of cooperation with the representatives of local authorities and civil society organisations from Cherni-

Dr Pavel Branda

hiv and Gomel regions. In his presentation, he focused on involving civil society in the cross-border cooperation between Ukrain-

ian and Belarusian border regions through a small project fund.

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