ECR News - 17th edition

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ECR News European Committee of the Regions | 17th edition


Doing less more efficiently: Achieving a more focused EU budget


The European Commission presented the long-awaited proposal for the EU budget for the next seven-year period of 2021-2027 on 2 May 2018. The ECR Group in the CoR supports efforts to crate a leaner EU budget but feels that the areas for cuts have not always been correctly identified. The Group has raised its concerns about centralisation of the budget and introducing cuts in areas of added value.

A LEANER EU BUDGET FIT FOR PURPOSE A more focused EU budget 3 Time to reform the EU’s Cohesion Policy 3 Regions cannot be victims of their own success 4 UK’S DEPARTURE FROM THE EU ECR Group meeting in London UK-Ireland border Northern European ports

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LOCALISM Bringing more powers back to regions and cities 8 Liberal Convention in Madrid 9 The Commission Task Force on Subsidiarity 10 Baku Summit 10

Conservative and reformist local and regional politicians call for structured cooperation after Brexit

CLIMATE ACTION AND DISASTER RESILIENCE Responding to disasters 12 Visiting the European Green Capital 13 Citizens’ dialogue on natural disasters 14 Space technologies and energy management 15 EXTERNAL ACTION Irish experience put to use in Libya EU enlargement & the Western Balkans Enlargement Day Bringing Eastern countries closer to the EU Migration in Central-Eastern Europe

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CURRENT CHALLENGES Diversity is our greatest strength Digital revolution for all

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ECR Group Members

MEMBERS ACTIVITIES Presentation of Podkarpackie region 21 Euronews debate with Pavel Branda 22 ECR Member elected to the Hungarian Parliament 22 EVENTS Localism conference Global cooperation on climate action

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ECR Group Secretariat Committee of the Regions

ECR Group Members from the UK and other 27 EU Member States met in London to discuss their future cooperation after the UK leaves the EU. Our local and regional politicians exchanged good practices with the private sector and had meetings at 10 Downing Street.

EU needs to do more to help prevent and respond to disasters The EU should give local communities and governments a greater role in its emergency response to disasters, the European Committee of the Regions said in recommendations adopted on 16 May that also insisted that attention to the prevention of disasters still needs to be increased. The rapporteur for the opinion was ECR Member Adam Banaszak. Adam Banaszak and EU Commissioner Christos Stylianides

Rue Belliard/Belliardstraat, 101 1040 Bruxelles/Brussel

Tel: +32 2 282 2375 Fax: +32 2 282 2287

EDITORIAL This newsletter is coming out at a time when we are all slowly winding down the current 2015-2019 legislative mandate and already thinking about the priorities for the next 2019-2024 mandate. There are many burning local and regional issues that have an EU angle and many EU issues that require a local and regional perspective. These range from the kind of funding we get from the EU for our local and regional projects to the way that we can sell and buy public services. As the ECR Group, we have made our views on the need for the EU to do less but to do it more efficiently. We have made the case for an EU that focuses on areas where EU intervention can bring real added-value. It is in this spirit that we have given our recommendations on what the future EU budget should look like. It is also in this spirit that we have underlined the type of reforms we would like to see in the way the EU addresses things like the development disparities between the richest and poorest regions, climate action, the development of our food and agricultural sectors and the way it addresses the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters that know no borders.

Neva Sadikoglu-Novaky

In this edition of the newsletter, you will find articles focusing on the recent Commission proposals and on the reforms needed for



ECR President Rob Jonkman

Our vision for a more bottom-up EU guided by the principle of localism and euro-realism is one that reflects the philosophical evolution of the centre-right philosophy of free market value, free nations and free individuals. Local government is an important cornerstone of any democracy. As Hayek said, “nowhere has democracy ever worked well without a great measure of local selfgovernment.” The way forward towards a sustainable, smart and inclusive EU is one where individuals are empowered to make decisions and that institutions keep them-

Rob Jonkman, President of the ECR Group, European Committee of the Regions

the future of the EU. You will find an article outlining the kind of EU budget we would like to see and the changes needed to the Multiannual Financial Framework proposed by the Commission. You will also find articles on our Group’s views on the future EU Cohesion Policy and the reforms needed to improve it. Furthermore, you will find examples of the sharing of best-practices that takes place between EU and neighbouring local and regional authorities as well as gaining insight into what local and regional authorities would like the EU-UK relationship to look like after the UK leaves the EU.

an article outlining how the EU can better uphold subsidiarity in one of its most recent proposals. The Commission is proposing the creation of a reserve at European level (rescEU) of civil protection capabilities such as aerial forest fighting planes, special water pumps, urban search and rescue and field hospitals and emergency medical teams. Some local, regional and national authorities have been raising serious subsidiarity concerns with the proposal. In our newsletter, Adam Banaszak explains how the Commission’s proposal needs to be fine-tuned to address these subsidiarity concerns.

The subject of subsidiarity, proportionality and doing less more efficiently is currently taking centre stage in the EU as we head towards a new 2019-2024 legislative term. The Commission has set-up a Task Force on this subject and is due to publish its findings latter this year. In this newsletter you will find

Our Group is due to hold its annual Localism conference this year in the form of a Summit in Milan, Italy. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you wish to attend the Summit.

selves in check by only intervening when absolutely necessary. This can be kept in check through subsidiarity and proportionality monitoring procedures and this monitoring needs to be stepped up in the future. I hope you enjoy reading this newsletter, which outlines the work we are doing as centre-right local and regional politicians to help achieve a reformed EU that better serves its citizens.

Neva Sadikoglu-Novaky, Secretary General of the ECR Group, European Committee of the Regions

A LEANER EU BUDGET FIT FOR PURPOSE “Doing less more efficiently. EU budget should focus more on areas where EU action is really needed”, says ECR Group President Rob Jonkman The European Commission presented the long-awaited proposal for the EU budget for the next seven-year period of 2021-2027 on 2 May 2018. Titled “A Modern Budget for a Union that Protects, Empowers and Defends”, the proposal was unveiled against the backdrop of the UK’s departure from the EU as well as of global challenges ranging from climate change to migration. The proposed budget amounts to some €1,279 billion in total and it introduces cuts to both the agricultural and cohesion policies while reinforcing centralisation of management and spending of EU funds. The ECR Group in the CoR supports efforts to create a leaner EU budget but feels that the areas for cuts have not always been correctly identified. The Group has raised its concerns about centralisation of the budget and introducing cuts in areas of added value. The Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF), if approved in its current state, will introduce a cut of up to 10% to the EU’s Cohesion Policy. The policy aims to help the EU achieve its treaty obligation of decreasing the development gap between regions. This cut represents, in 2018 prices, €35 billion. Such a move would be unprecedented as it would, for the first time, decrease the EU’s Cohesion Policy’s proportion on the overall EU spending below 30%. Meanwhile, the Commission is proposing to increase the amount of money the EU spends on its external action around the globe, which in many cases represents a duplication of national efforts and has come under scrutiny over whose pocket the money ends up in. The European Commission argues that its proposed cuts to the EU’s Cohesion Policy are necessary both due to lower revenues resulting from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and emergence of new challenges, which put pressure on the budget’s expenditure.

“There is a clear need to reform the EU’s budget. This should not, however, be at the expense of projects at home that bring added-value. The EU should not be putting more into external action at the expense of domestic projects valued by taxpayers” said ECR Group’s economic policy spokesperson Rob Jonkman (Alderman in Opsterland in the Netherlands).

structural reforms, in particular through the proposed Reform Support Programme. This would lead to further centralisation of spending and would, along with other measures, diminish the importance of local and regional authorities. It is therefore important to reinforce the principle of subsidiarity and the need for decisions to be made at the closest level to citizens.

During the May plenary session at the European Committee of the Regions, Rob Jonkman raised the concerns of the ECR Group with the EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger, who is responsible for drafting the EU budget. In his intervention, Mr Jonkman stressed that “the EU should focus on delivering value for taxpayers’ money without further centralisation of spending. The budget’s priorities therefore must be in areas where the EU can bring added value.” He added that the EU needed ‘good management’ which did not equate ‘centralised management’.

Moreover, Mr Jonkman warned against the proposed link between EU funds and the rule of law that would allow the EU to suspend, reduce or restrict access to EU funding to a Member State when the Commission judged the rule of law not to be upheld. He explained that “we would be mixing apples and pears. Issues like rule of law are handled by national government whereas a key beneficiary of EU Funds like Cohesion Policy are local and regional authorities. Trying to use Cohesion Policy as a stick would only jeopardise the goal encoded in the EU treaties of achieving territorial cohesion”.

The ECR Group also expressed its concerns about the alignment of Cohesion Policy with

Now is the time to reform and improve the EU’s Cohesion Policy says Oldřich Vlasák The European Committee of the Region’s (CoR) Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy (COTER) held a meeting on 6-7 June in Bulgaria, the country currently presiding over the Council of the EU. Bringing together representatives and elected officials from the EU Member States, the meeting took place against the backdrop of the publication of the EU’s budget proposal for the period 2021-2027, as well as sectoral legislation on the future of the EU’s Cohesion Policy. This was a crucial meeting, as the CoR, the voice of local and regional authorities (LRAs) in the EU, will play an important role in providing expertise during the legislative

process. Members of the COTER Commission had a chance to exchange views with the European Commission’s representative, Mr Von Breska from DG REGIO, responsible

for drafting the proposals that will determine the future of cohesion spending. During the meeting ECR Vice-President Oldřich Vlasák (Councillor of the City of Hra-


dec Králové in the Czech Republic), COTER’s Deputy-Coordinator of the ECR Group, underlined the importance of local and regional authorities in administering Cohesion Policy and called for more simplified rules so as to lower the administrative burdens. He also noted that while the Czech Republic remains, under the new proposals, one of the main beneficiaries of the EU’s Cohesion Policy, the country’s allocation will be decreased significantly – by a quarter. This is partly due to its successful economic performance. Mr Vlasák welcomed the success of the Czech Republic. He warned, however, against unfair redistribution of funds among EU Member States, which could give the impression that countries that do their homework and

achieve better economic results get penalised. “Success in the EU should be rewarded,” he added. Furthermore, in order to ensure better delivery of EU funds and to match spending with priorities, national authorities should be able to enjoy greater flexibility”. “Member States should be allowed to move funds between programmes that they consider most beneficial to their citizens,” he concluded. The EU budget, as well as the particular legislation on Cohesion Policy, will now have to be agreed on by the EU Member States, as well as by the European Parliament. While the European Commission and some Member States, such as Germany, would like the negotiations on the budget to be wrapped

ECR Vice-President Oldřich Vlasák

up before the EU Parliamentary elections in early 2019, it seems unlikely that the different positions will be aligned in such a short time.

Marshal Władysław Ortyl: Regions cannot be victims of their own success “Polish regions are narrowing the wealth gap with their Western European counterparts, but we cannot be victims of our own success when it comes to allocation of EU funds. We are still significantly lagging behind Western Europe. Given the fact that over half of our national public investment between 2014 and 2017 came from EU funds, it is clear that we do require continuous support”, said Marshal of Podkarpackie region Władysław Ortyl, commenting on the Multiannual Financial Framework proposals unveiled on May 2. “Recent proposals of the European Commission on the next EU budget are not going in the right direction. They decrease funding for Polish regions and increase the level of centralisation. If adopted as they stand, they would slow down economic convergence in Europe”, commented the Marshal. The ECR Member noted that the Commission’s proposals put countries in CentralEastern Europe such as Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Baltic countries in a very difficult situation as they would lose more funds in relative terms than most other Member

States. According to Marshal Ortyl, “drastic spending cuts would heavily affect projects that are and will be ongoing” and which “do need time to deliver the intended results”. Marshal Ortyl has also pointed to another worrying tendency in Commission’s MFF proposals, namely centralisation. “The funds need to be as close to beneficiaries as possible. Time and time again, these funds in Brussels and these projects that have to be applied for in Brussels are so distant and inaccessible that the bar appears to have been set at a higher level in terms of re-

ECR Group Member Władysław Ortyl participating in the PAP debate



quirements, innovation and standards. The new proposals only reinforce this trend”. In many EU countries, including Poland, there are already clear difficulties in acquiring funding under programmes managed from Brussels, such as the LIFE financial instrument. In Marshal Ortyl’s opinion, the centralisation of funding is largely to blame. As he pointed out during a debate organised by the Polish Press Agency at the European Parliament in March, “As a rule, the further funds are from beneficiaries, the harder it is to acquire them.”

Marshal Władysław Ortyl and Corina Crețu, EU Commissioner for Regional Policy

UK’S DEPARTURE FROM THE EU Conservative and reformist local and regional politicians call for structured cooperation after Brexit Conservative local government and devolved administration from the UK met with their counterparts from other European countries to discuss their future cooperation after the UK leaves the EU. The European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Committee of the Regions held its external group meeting in London on the 4th of June. The local and regional politicians met at the Local Government Association (LGA) premises to discuss areas where structured cooperation will be needed at the local and regional level. Group members met private sector and had meetings at 10 Downing Street. “The UK and EU will continue to be key strategic partners even after the UK leaves the EU. We face many common global challenges ranging from digitalization to climate change and addressing these requires not only national but also local action. We need to continue working together at the local and regional level in a structured way to share best practices and continue promoting greater localism and free market values”, said ECR CoR Group President Rob Jonkman (Alderman in Opsterland, the Netherlands).

ECR Group meeting in London

Cllr David Simmonds (leader of the LGA Conservative Group) underlined that “local authorities exercise powers in the EU in a way that they do not in the UK. In the EU, local and regional authorities are formally consulted when laws are being prepared. We [in the UK] need to ensure that UK local government maintains its positive influence for efficient and effective government in areas currently with the EU. We also need to devolve some of the powers coming back to local government so that local challenges can be addressed through local solutions.” In a panel co-organised with the think tank Localis, President of the Polish region of

Cllr Keith Prince speaking at the ECR Group meeting

Podkarpackie Władysław Ortyl and Mayor of the Italian city of Morazzone Matteo Bianchi presented examples of localism from

ECR Group Members visiting 10 Downing Street


their respective countries. In its second panel, bringing together London Assembly Member Keith Prince and private sector representatives, Members of the Group looked at the case study of digitalization and how cities like London are using technologies to deliver public services. Among the issues under discussion was how the future cooperation could be structured in the European Committee of the Re-

gions, the EU’s political assembly bringing together 350 local and regional politicians from EU Member States. The UK currently has 24 Members in the CoR represented in four out of five political groupings. “Given that the UK will continue to pay into the EU budget until 2020, it would be good if we could continue to have our seats in the European Committee of the Regions. We need to avoid taxation without repre-

sentation,” said Vice-President of the ECR CoR Group Cllr Joe Cooney (Member of the Pendle Council, leader of UK delegation in the ECR). The UK will cease to be a member of the EU after 29 March 2019. The EU has structured relations with a number of third countries. It remains to be seen what form of cooperation UK and EU will have post-2019.

CoR leadership visits Irish Parliament and UK-Ireland boder ECR Group Vice-President Adam Banaszak attended the fact-finding mission of the CoR’s political leadership in Ireland and Northern Ireland on 23 May led by the President of the CoR. During the visit, the CoR delegation met Ireland’s Minister for European Affairs Helen McEntee TD, members of the Irish Parliament’s Committee on European Union Affairs, representatives of the regional assemblies of Ireland and Northern Irish local Councillors. The meetings showed that on the ground, citizens are deeply concerned by the possible negative consequences of the UK’s withdrawal and what it might mean for the peace agreement.

ECR Vice-President Adam Banaszak (first from the left) with CoR high-level delegation in Newry, Northern Ireland

The European Committee of the Regions has been providing input and evidence to the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator on the local and regional impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The leadership of the CoR, it’s Conference of Presidents, have been lead-

ing the work of the CoR in this area. In addition to travelling to different parts of the UK and meeting with representatives of UK’s devolved administrations and local authorities, the CoP decided to look at the Irish border and visit both Ireland and Northern

Adam Banaszak meeting Ireland’s Minister for European Affairs



Ireland upon receiving an invitation from Ireland’s national parliament and Northern Ireland Local Government Association. The fact-finding mission focused on the implications of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on the peace process, business and cross-border cooperation. Representatives of the five political groups met Irish national and local politicians as well as Ireland’s Europe Minister in Dublin, Ireland following which they met Northern Irish local government in Newry, Northern Ireland. The fact -finding mission showed how citizens on both sides of the UK and Ireland border are keen to see the UK’s withdrawal generate as minimal a change as possible to the current flow of goods and services taking place. “The meetings demonstrated importance of achieving an ambitious agreement” that enables a genuine and continuous partnership after the UK ceases

to be a member of the EU”, said ECR Member Adam Banaszak (Deputy Chairman of Kujawsko-Pomorskie region in Poland and ECR Group Vice-President).

Underlining the wider European context, Adam Banaszak said “thousands of people migrated from my region to the island of Ireland. They settled down, established families, and contributed massively to the local

economies. I would like to see a new form of ambitious cooperation agreed as soon as possible between the UK and the EU so that these people do not need to feel uncertain about their future”.

The impact of Brexit on Northern European ports: Mayor Vytautas Kanevičius calls for stronger local links to mitigate negative effects ECR Group Member Vytautas Kanevičius (Mayor of Kazlų Rūda in Lithuania) visited the Belgian port of Zeebrugge on 26 April this year to investigate the impact of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union on port cities in Northern Europe. Visiting the North Sea port, our Lithuanian Member underlined the need to review business models and maintain close relations between local authorities in order to mitigate possible negative consequences of Brexit. “Brexit will hit each and every one of the EU Member States – some more, some less, but the withdrawal of such a huge state from the Union will be painful overall”. Mr Kanevičius emphasised that it was therefore of paramount importance to establish close cooperation between local authorities and stakeholders who currently had strong business ties with the United Kingdom. “It is important to fundamentally review business development strategies in order to mitigate the economic impact of Brexit.

Zeebrugge port, Belgium

This also applies to the seaport of Klaipeda in Lithuania”, Mr. Kanevičius explained. Klaipeda is the largest seaport in Lithuania. It serves as a port of call for both cruise and freight ships. Lithuanian-UK trade links

are strong: the UK is Lithuania’s sixth largest trade partner and trade with the UK accounts for 6% of Lithuania’s trade with the EU. Among Lithuania’s main exports are furniture, wood, timber, textiles and food. Ports in northern Europe are likely to be affected by the uncertainties Brexit may cause, and the port of Zeebrugge could be the worst hit of all, since more than 45% of its trade is UK related. It is estimated that 5,000 jobs in the Belgian port are directly linked to trade with the UK trade. The Managing Director of the port of Zeebrugge, Joachim Coens, talking about the expected impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on the port of Zeebrugge, said he remained optimistic that trade between the EU and the UK via Zeebrugge would continue after the withdrawal. However, both he and Mr Kanevičius agreed that more clarity about the transition period and future relations was needed.

ECR’s Vytautas Kanevičius (first from the right) visiting the Zeebrugge port


LOCALISM Local and regional leaders discuss bringing more powers back from Brussels to regions and cities On 16 May and in the context of the 129th plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions, the ECR Group held a meeting of its Policy Group on Subsidiarity and Localism. The meeting looked at the reform needed for the EU to do less more efficiently and brought together experts and practitioners from different fields, institutions and countries. During the meeting, local and regional leaders underlined their desire to see more powers come to cities and regions and less powers concentrated in Brussels. a successful exercise if national governments themselves overregulate. “In the UK the government tends to goldplate EU legislation, which has a direct impact on SMEs. Goldplating the General Data Protection Regulation is one example. It affected both the industry and consumers negatively.”

Meeting of the Policy Group on Subsidiarity and Localism

The ECR subsidiarity event consisted of a panel discussion featuring speakers such as Daniele Nicolai from Italy’s Artisans and Small Business Association (CGIA), Professor Klemens H. Fischer from Austria’s Permanent Representation to the EU, and ECR MEP Amjad Bashir from the United Kingdom. The meeting took place amid the ongoing work of the European Commission looking at areas where it can do less more efficiently. The Commission set-up a Task Force on subsidiarity, proportionality and doing less more efficiently’ on 14 November 2017. The findings are due to be presented in September as part of the Commission President’s State of the Union speech. In light of this ongoing work and the build-up to September when the European Parliament will need to provide a response to the Commission findings, the panel looked at concrete areas where matters dealt with at the EU level could be re-delegated or definitively



returned to the Member States and their regions. A set of specific examples of devolution and of the current debates ongoing in the UK was offered by Amjad Bashir MEP, who represents the region of Yorkshire in the north of England. Yorkshire is considering, in light of previous similar initiatives in Manchester and Liverpool, power devolution in the form of directly elected mayors. “Such a move would be important because where the local level politicians have power, they can represent the people better. Such elected officials could, for instance, drive inward investment into the cities and regions”, Mr Bashir underlined. Commenting on the UK case, ECR VicePresident Cllr Joe Cooney (Member of Lancashire County Council and Pendle Borough Council, UK) added that bringing powers back to the Member States would not be

The issue of subsidiarity is also taken very seriously by the upcoming Austrian Presidency of the EU Council. Prof. Fischer, representing the Austrian government, noted that the new Austrian Chancellor supported the idea of decisions being taken as close to the citizen as possible. “The Austrian Presidency [of the Council of the EU] will carefully look at all proposals [from the European Commission] and the first question it will ask is whether these proposals are in line with the principle of subsidiarity”, Prof. Fischer affirmed. He noted that the emphasis of the EU Commission’s Task Force on Subsidiarity needed to be on bringing power back to local and regional governments. Mr Nicolai explained how his organisation (Artisans and Small Business Association) had played a central role in preparations for the referendum on autonomy held in the Veneto region in October 2017. They had run a referendum analysis in a number of areas, including health, education, environment and relations with the EU. The question they had been trying to answer was: how is it that some areas in Italy have more competences than others and that they are more efficient? Is the recipe for success linked to the idea of “using less but more efficiently”. Referring to the Italian example, ECR Matteo Bianchi (Mayor of Morazzone and Member of the Italian Parliament) considered the issue of subsidiarity to be vital for the devel-

opment of Europe’s regions. “The European Committee of the Regions needs to help local and regional government become more directly responsible for the management of various programmes. Devolution is about devolving powers not only from Brussels to capitals, but also from capitals to regions and local authorities. One concrete example is Cohesion Policy. I am worried

that managing it centrally from Rome and other capitals will not bring us the desired results.” The Policy Group on Subsidiarity and Localism was set up in 2015 by the ECR Group in the European Committee of the Regions and the European Parliament. The main objectives of the Policy Group are to pool

the local, regional, national and EU expertise of the ECR political family to help ensure that decisions are taken at the lowest practicable level. The Policy Group has been responsible for considering the cost and impact of centralising decisions in Brussels, providing recommendations on interinstitutional planning and anticipating future milestones.

ECR President speaks at the Liberal Convention in Madrid The ECR Group in the CoR organised a localism panel at the 2 June Liberal Convention that took place in Madrid, Spain. The convention was a global gathering of free market and libertarian think tanks, hosted by the New Direction foundation. “The importance of a bottom-up system that does not infringe on liberties is crucial for the future of Europe”, underlined ECR President Rob Jonkman (Alderman in Opsterland in the Netherlands) when participating in the debate on localism. The conference took place in the Spanish capital of Madrid and ahead of the 2019 European elections, brought together leading free marketeers to discuss a global agenda for strengthening and developing free markets. The event also aimed to inspire a new generation of free market supporters.

societies wealthier, freer, happier and more efficient. Local and regional representatives are the best problem-solvers and the most trusted level of government by citizens. That is why as the ECR Group we are so keen to promote the need to take decisions at the lowest practical level.”

“Central governments and EU institutions often suffer from a deficit, both fiscal and democratic. Localism helps to overcome these challenges. When combined with the free-market capitalist system, it makes

Participating in the debate on localism, apart from Mr Jonkman, were Radosław Fogiel (Chair of the European Young Conservatives, Member of the Masovian Regional Assembly in Poland); Maru Pardal (Secre-

tary General of the Youth of the European People’s Party) and Daniel Martinez (Leader of Spain’s Libertarian Party). The discussion was moderated by Neva Sadikoglu-Novaky, Secretary General of the ECR Group in the European Committee of the Regions. The Convention was hosted in Madrid, Europe’s fifth largest city. Madrid provided a fitting location for such a wide-reaching summit, as it serves as a continental bridge to the Americas, and a crossroads between the north, south, east and west of Europe.


Subsidiarity Task Force: ECR’s Roberto Ciambetti calls for closer involvement of national and regional parliaments in EU decision-making The European Committee of the Regions has hosted a hearing of the Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and “Doing Less More Efficiently”, providing an opportunity for the members of the Task Force to listen to the views of national and regional parliaments on the key issues within its remit. ECR Member Roberto Ciambetti (President of the Regional Council of Veneto in Italy) urged the Task Force members to come up with specific proposals which would increase the participation of regional and national parliaments in decision-making at EU level. During the Task Force meeting on 28 May, Mr Ciambetti underlined that currently neither national nor regional parliaments are happy with how subsidiarity monitoring is working in the EU. “To begin with, the time available to national parliaments and regional parliaments to give their opinion on EU legislation is too short. It should be increased from the current 8 weeks to at least 12 weeks. The EU needs to introduce a “green card” (which would encourage the Commission to submit legislative proposals) and a “red card” (which would grant the power of veto, with the appropriate quorum). This would help increase the involvement of national parliaments and regional parliaments in the pre-legislative phase of the EU’s decision-making process and enable us to achieve a more bottom-up system”, said the ECR Member from Veneto. Mr Ciambetti also called for territorial impact assessments to be strengthened and made more credible through the use of more micro-level regional data, both by strengthening the EU’s applied research programme (European Spatial Planning Observation Network) and by investing in the work of the Joint Research Centre,

which currently deals more with macro-level analysis, but fails to establish the possible impact of a policy based on the characteristics of a particular territory. “Data collection at regional level is challenging and requires resources, but the resulting territorial impact assessment would be a valuable source of information for the whole EU. An accurate and high quality impact assessment is also fundamental in providing factbased evidence when calculating European added value”. The President of Veneto Regional Council also proposed creating a separate consultation procedure between the Commission, national parliaments and local and regional authorities and distinguishing them from those aimed at other stakeholders. “It is necessary to create a proper multilevel negotiating system, through which the competent and democratically elected levels of government can work together. It is through such a system that we can achieve the most democratic and representative results”, concluded Mr Ciambetti. The European Commission created a Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and

ECR Member Roberto Ciambetti

“Doing Less More Efficiently” in November 2017. Under the chairmanship of the Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, the Task Force includes three members from national parliaments and three members from the CoR. The Task Force has been asked to make recommendations on how to better apply the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality in the work of the EU. It has also been asked to identify policy areas where decision-making could be devolved or returned to the Member States, and find ways of better involving regional and local authorities in EU policy-making and delivery. The Task Force is meeting on a monthly basis from January to July 2018. It will present its findings in the form of a written report to President Juncker by 15 July 2018. The Commission has indicated that it will follow this up by presenting a policy communication in the autumn of this year.

Baku summit: Building a shared future ECR Members Matteo Bianchi (Mayor of Morazzone and Member of Italian Parliament) and Juraj Droba (Chairman of Bratislava SelfGoverning Region) spoke at the Baku Summit in Azerbaijan on 8-9 June in the localism panel. The panel looked at how localism can help improve the economy and governance of a locality. It also looked at the kind of local action required by current global issues and challenges. The panellists underlined that in the current multi-level governance system, each government has a role to play and that in order to be effective, the system needs to be bottom-up. The Baku Summit was organised by the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe. It brought together leaders from politics, business, government, academia and



the not-for-profit sector from across Europe and the world, in order to shape the debate on our shared future. The Summit explored the topics of the digital economy, economic

freedom, connectivity through transportation, education transformation, local governance and energy security .

The localism and governance panel was featured as the closing panel discussion. The panellists were Mr Matteo Bianchi, Mr Juraj Droba, Mr Elmar Valiyev (Mayor of Ganja city in Azerbaijan) and Mr Max Rangeley (Ediyor at the Cobden Centre). The panel was moderated by Ms Neva-Sadikoglu-Novaky (Secretary-General of the ECR Group in the European Committee of the Regions). Localism is a founding principle of the ECR Group in the European Committee of the Regions and is featured in the founding documents of the ACRE family; it is featured in the Reykjavik Declaration of ACRE and the Prague Deceleration of the ECR Group in the European Parliament. Localism is the idea that in governance, decisions should be taken at the lowest practicable level, by the individual where possible and by national authorities in preference to supranational bodies. According to Mr Droba, reshaping the EU and its neighbouring countries into entities that truly work for the citizens will only happen if political activity is conducted at the lowest meaningful level. “Localism prevents governments from making decision which do not reflect people’s wishes. The further away from the citizens decisions are made, the less they reflect people’s preferences”, explained Mr Droba.

ECR Member Matteo Bianchi speaking at the Summit

Matteo Bianchi MP agreed that a localist approach is the best way to achieve economic development. To illustrate his case, he used the example of Northern Italy: “Coming from Lombardy, I see that public spending is much more efficient when decisions are taken close to the citizens instead of being taken in Rome or in Brussels. Studies show that if all public services in Italy were run as efficiently as in my region, Italy would save four billion EUR a year”. The Mayor of Ganja explained that local government is one of the cornerstones of

Azerbaijan’s constitutional system. Under President Aliyev, Azerbaijan has also taken strong measures to decentralise, including referenda in 2009 and 2016 that voted to increase local governance through the introduction, and then empowerment, of municipalities. Max Rangley underlined the economic argument in favour of greater localism and explained how global trends like the digital revolution and the digital economy can revolutionise local governance.

Baku Summit


CLIMATE ACTION AND DISASTER RESILIENCE EU needs to do more to prepare for increasing natural disasters The European Union should give local communities and governments a greater role in its emergency response to disasters, the European Committee of the Regions said in recommendations adopted on 16 May that also insisted that attention to the prevention of disasters still needs to be increased. The rapporteur for the opinion was ECR Member Adam Banaszak. EU-level action must be focused on coordination and supporting the actions of Member States and their local and regional authorities rather than centralising competences at EU level, the EU’s assembly for local and regional politicians also argued, underlining that local community action is often the fastest and most effective way of limiting the damage caused by a disaster.

both inside and outside the EU – but concerns about its ability to provide EU Member States with the aid they need, or to provide it quickly enough, prompted the European Commission to propose a reform in November 2017.

The recommendations on the Review of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism were drawn up by ECR Group Member Adam Banaszak, Vice-President of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Regional Assembly. Mr Banaszak said: “Disasters know no borders and their frequency and intensity is increasing. We therefore need to step up our efforts in coordinating response and preventative action. I am concerned though that the EU is not focusing enough on preventative action and on local community responses. Our infrastructure needs to be able to better withstand the negative effects of disasters. Given that almost all of the first responses to disasters in Europe are led by the local community, we need to work more with local volunteer groups.” The CoR’s opinion also noted that, in many cases, the local and regional levels of government have more knowledge about risks than do national government or the European Commission. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism, whose current legal framework dates to January 2014, has two basic objectives. First, it helps strengthen cooperation between the EU and participating countries. Second, it aims to facilitate coordination in the field of civil protection in order to improve the effectiveness of systems for preventing, preparing for and responding to natural and man-made disasters. The Civil Protection Mechanism has been used extensively since its creation in 2001 – a total of 56 times in 2016 and 2017,



ECR rapporteur Adam Banaszak with EU Commissioner Christos Stylianides responsible for humanitarian aid and crisis management

Mr Banaszak welcomed a proposal by the Commission to create a European-level reserve for civil protection capabilities (rescEU), as recognition that some natural disasters overwhelm the capabilities of national authorities. The Commission is proposing the creation of a reserve at European level of civil protection capabilities such as aerial forest fighting planes, special water pumps, urban search and rescue and field hospitals and emergency medical teams. This is budgeted for in the new MFF. However, some Member States and some local and regional authorities have expressed subsidiarity concerns with the Commission’s proposal noting it goes further than the powers in the EU has in the area of civil protection. The Treaties state that the EU can only act to support, coordinate or supplement the action of its Member States. Some are concerns that

the proposal means giving the EU its own resources and or new competences beyond the limits set in the Treaties. “In the CoR document we highlighted some of the concerns of local and regional authorities that the Commission’s proposal breaches the principle of subsidiarity. We noted with regret that the Commission proposal is not accompanied by an impact assessment, which has resulted in the Commission failing to deliver alternative options. As the CoR, we stated that to ensure compliance with subsidiarity, the purpose and task of “rescEU” needs to be pursued in a manner that maintains the core responsibility at Member State level while at the same time facilitating the increase of interaction among affected Member States and local and regional authorities. I also believe that the decision on deployment should not lie solely in the hands of the Commission who do not know the terrain in question. National authorities need to have a say in command and control,” said Mr Banaszak. The CoR also underlined that, while response assistance is crucial, the focus must increasingly be on resilience to future disasters. It says that improving the EU Civil Protection Mechanism should be viewed as an integral part of activities aimed at dealing with the consequences of climate change. Specifically, it called for greater synergies between the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, and the “Making Cities Resilient” campaign of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. Many countries have been affected in recent years by climate change and by social, environmental and economic disasters, whether natural or man-made. In 2017, 200 people died as a result of natural disasters in Europe. The economic costs are also considerable: in 2016, the continent of Europe saw losses of almost EUR 10 billion.

Visiting the European Green Capital - By Cllr Linda Robinson (Member of Wychavon District Council in the United Kingdom and ECR Group Deputy Coordinator in the Commission for Environment, Climate Change and Energy) On the 13th April selected members from the CoR’s ENVE commission attended an interesting and varied study visit to Nijmegen in the Netherlands. Members were to be provided with the opportunity to see and compare with our own experiences environmentally friendly solutions used in wind, industrial and river parks. Nijmegen is the European Green Capital for 2018 and we soon began to see why. Our day started with a walk through the city centre to the Town hall. The lack of vehicles was immediately noticeable as the central area is only for bikes and public transport. This made it much quieter and free flowing with no air pollution or congestion. I had never observed a bicycle rush hour before but it was very efficient!

bine which was fascinating. This windpark

We passed by what appeared to be several historic and striking buildings including the Town Hall and were surprised to discover that they had all been painstakingly rebuilt after the entire historic centre was destroyed following mistaken bombardment by allied forces in World War 2. Reconstruction has continued until as recently as the early 1980’s. We were welcomed by the mayor of Nijmegen Hubert Bruis and the Regional Minister of the Province of Gelderland Michiel Scheffer. We then travelled by bus (all 250 local buses use biogas) to the windpark at Nijmegan –Betuwe where we had the unique experience of climbing up into a working wind tur-

able region which can be more locally in-

Visit to the Nijmegen River Park

is a co-operative with a total investment of 14.9million euro. 2 million euro was raised by 1,013 citizen shareholders who receive a return on their investments. The local energy company can receive wind power, there is a fund for renewable energy projects plus a fund for communities around the wind farm. This in turn contributes to a sustain-

dependent in its energy supply and stimulates the regional economy. Since 2016 four turbines have been in operation providing enough power for 7,100 households and a fifth is in the pipeline raising this to 8,900. We were reminded that without the active involvement of citizens and local return of benefits the energy transition is impossible! Next stop was across the river Waal to Arnhem where we visited the IKPW industrial park. This old site which had become very dilapidated has been transformed by its owners using clever and imaginative conversion of the old buildings. It now hosts many modern companies with an emphasis on green technology such as multi charging solutions for electric vehicles and a clean mobility centre.

Cllr Linda Robinson visiting the Wind Park in Nijmegen

The sun came out which was a bonus and we moved on to a tour of the impressive flood alleviation scheme on the River Waal and the creation of the Nijmegan river park. The sharp bend in the river previously made it difficult for water to drain from the area. In 1993 & 1995 250,000 people had to be


evacuated from their homes. The bottle neck needed a radical solution so the dyke at the north bank was moved 350 mtrs. inland. Work began in 2011 and was completed in 2016 and focussed on dredging an extra ancillary channel which could lower water levels by 35cms at peak river levels.

Additionally river levels can be raised in times of drought to ensure free movement of commercial traffic along this key waterway. This created a new island which serves as a public park for citizens where they can bathe safely and enjoy the beaches. New residential developments are also planned.

Our day finished at the newly opened city museum at Bastel where panoramic views of the city, river and its new park were enjoyed. Thanks were given to our hosts for a memorable and enlightening day.

Citizens’ dialogue on counteracting natural disasters Efforts to build resilience to disasters were the focus of a conference held by the European Committee of the Regions and the administration of the KujawskoPomorskie Region on 22 May at the Marshal’s Office in Toruń, Poland. During this event, Paweł Grzybowski – a Member of the ECR Group and Mayor of Rypin – and Rosalind Cook of the United Nations signed a document formalising Rypin’s accession to the UN’s disaster readiness campaign. Citizens’ dialogues are an essential feature of the “Reflecting on Europe” campaign launched by the European Committee of the Regions. The “Citizens’ dialogue: building resilience to disasters” conference held in Toruń aimed to examine the new United Nations framework for disaster risk reduction, and the new European system in this field, from a local and regional perspective. Mayor Paweł Grzybowski emphasised that the venue and subject of the meeting were not coincidental. “In August last year our region was hit by a powerful storm, which caused considerable damage. We

Citizens Dialogue in Toruń

asked the European Commission for help from the EU Solidarity Fund in covering part of the cost and we greatly appreciate the assistance received. At the same time, by holding conferences such as today’s, we want to show that, while receiving outside help, we are also making every effort to be as well prepared for disasters as possible.”

Mayor Paweł Grzybowski (first on the right) receiving the certificate of Rypin’s commitment to disaster resilience



The topic of the Toruń citizens’ dialogue is linked to the fact that Rypin and the Kujawsko-Pomorskie region have been awarded certification by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) as part of their “Making Cities Resilient” campaign. This campaign aims to help improve disaster response – including by means of education and investment in adequate safeguards and by collaborating with partners, with the main focus being on the exchange of knowledge and experience. Rypin is one of the first towns in the region to join this undertaking. “I view Rypin’s accession to the UN campaign to build resilient cities as an obligation towards our residents: as a local authority, we are making every effort to constantly improve our capacities in terms of preventing and mitigating the effects of natural disasters. For this to be fully possible, we need the support of residents, NGOs, the uniformed services and academia, as well as national authorities and inter-

national organisations such as the EU and the UN,” concluded Mr Grzybowski. Representatives of local authorities, the security services, the scientific community and regional institutions, as well as the scouts, took part in the conference. The meeting also heard about the activities of the “Salutaris” local government asso-

ciation, which was set up on the initiative of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie region. This association of local authorities, which has been operational for five years, has a solidarity fund – a resource that provides rapid, oneoff, financial aid to municipalities and counties affected by disasters. The organisation currently includes 54 local authorities from the region, and the provincial authority.

Members of the ECR Group have been actively involved for many years in the work of the European Committee of the Regions to improve emergency disaster response. Mr Adam Banaszak (Vice-President of Kujawsko-Pomorskie Regional Assembly) is the rapporteur of the European Committee of the Regions for the review of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

How space technologies improve sustainable energy management How can space technologies contribute to Europe’s energy transition? To what extent can satellite applications enable more sustainable energy management systems? In what ways can satellite applications support cities and regions in the daily management of urban services? These are some of the questions addressed by our Member Daiva Matonienė (Member of Šiauliai City Council in Lithuania) at a workshop co-organised by the European Committee of the Regions, the European Space Agency and Eurisy, a nonprofit organisation which aims to make satellite services and space applications more accessible to public bodies and businesses. businesses to further develop space industry public-private partnerships.”

ECR Group Member Daiva Matonienė

With a particular focus on local and regional needs, the workshop held on 6 June assessed the possible contributions of space assets in responding to the needs of the energy sector and discussed best practices to make space-based data and services available to potential users operating in the energy sector.

Decarbonising the economy by 2050 will require huge efforts by energy companies and policy-makers to achieve the goals of cutting greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring competitive and secure energy supplies. Ms Matonienė and other CoR Members consider that facilitating synergies between the energy and space sectors is crucial in order to reach our climate and energy targets, both at EU and at international level.

The event was also the occasion to showcase specific applications of space technologies. Participants presented space assets helping to secure energy systems and support energy operators. The event was part of the EU Sustainable Energy Week 2018. Every year the European Commission’s Directorate General for Energy organises the event dedicated to renewables and efficient energy use in Europe. This year’s main theme was “clean energy for all Europeans”.

The event was chaired by ECR Group Member Daiva Matonienė, former Vice Minister of Environment of Lithuania and current CoR spokesperson on renewable energy and the internal energy market in electricity. In her opening speech, Daiva Matonienė said: “Space technologies can play a great role in reaching the EU’s energy and climate objectives but its potential must be maximised through innovative mechanisms that attract private investments. Space policy needs to be solidly based on a long-term strategy. Success will be ours if public authorities of all levels closely cooperate with

Daiva Matonienė and representatives of the European Space Agency and Eurisy


EXTERNAL ACTION Irish local government share best practices with Libyan counterparts ECR Group Member Arnold Hatch (Alderman of Armagh City, Banbridge, Craigavon Borough Council) shared his experience of peacebuilding on the island of Ireland with 180 young leaders from across the lines of conflict in Libya, as part of an initiative to encourage younger Libyans to develop community-building projects in their home cities.

Nicosia Initiative meeting in Tunis

The four-day event, which was held in Tunis on 2-5 April, was one of three workshops on peace-building. They were the latest result of a two-year effort by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) to establish cooperation between Libyan cities and European cities and regions, and to pool international expertise, experience and good will to help provide crucial public services in Libyan cities. The workshops reflect a broad collective effort: the CoR has driven the political and institutional collaboration, the content was developed by the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP), the workshops were organised by UNICEF, and the funder was the Italian government. “Hope – that is the principal message from the island of Ireland,” said Arnold Hatch, who is also the President of Northern Ireland Local Government Association. “In our case, after decades of conflict, the removal of articles 2&3 of the Irish Constitution and some corruption in the form of smuggling, it has been possible to overcome issues by talking with all sides. It is hard work. But the hard work that brings peace is also work that makes our communities stronger and that makes life better for young people. Our communities are strong when civil so-



ciety is strong, when there are sports clubs, youth clubs and cultural organisations that reach the young, when young people have an opportunity to learn, develop their skills, gain experience, and shape their world.” The 180 participants, who were aged 1825, came from the Union of Libyan Youth, universities and civil-society networks and have been encouraged to think and develop ideas that could be applied in their communities. They came primarily from the eight cities with which the CoR has been working most closely under the “Nicosia

Initiative” – Tripoli, Benghazi, Ghariyan, Tobruk, Sebha, Sirte, Zintan, and Zliten – but also from other populous areas, such as Misrata and Jufra. The Nicosia Initiative is the CoR’s capacitybuilding project aimed at strengthening Libyan local authorities. It matches the needs of Libyan municipalities with support available from European cities and regions. It aims to improve the living conditions of Libyan citizens, by strengthening public services and administrative capacity at the local level.

From left to right: Alderman Arnold Hatch, AbdelRahman Gandour (UN Special Representative for Libya) and Cllr Jerry Lundy

EU enlargement and the Western Balkans Speaking on behalf of the ECR Group during the CoR’s March plenary session, Cllr David Simmonds (Deputy Leader of the London Borough of Hillingdon) called on EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn to create procedures which would mean that a single individual Member State would not be able to obstruct the membership talks. “My Group would like to see a clause included in the agreement with Western Balkan countries in order to ensure that new Member States will not be in a position to veto the accession of other candidates willing to join the EU if they fulfil all conditions for entry”, said Cllr Simmonds. Since all 28 EU governments must agree to the opening and closing of new chapters in negotiations with prospective members, that effectively gives Croatia a veto over Serbia’s membership, for instance. Cllr Simmonds also underlined to the EU Commissioner responsible for enlargement negotiations that the EU should be solving regional problems before opening its doors to new countries. “For example, this could apply to the legally-binding normalisation agreement that is needed between Serbia

and Kosovo. Such a legally binding agreement should be a precondition for the two countries to join the EU”. In February this year, the European Commission adopted a strategy for “a credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans”. The strategy clearly spells out that the EU is open to further accessions only if individual countries fulfil stringent EU criteria. It also offers some hope to Serbia and Montenegro, which could “potentially” be ready to join the EU by 2025. The ECR Group in the European Committee of the Regions has welcomed the strategy and the commitment shown by the Bulgarian Presidency to providing Balkan countries with a credible enlargement perspective.

Cllr David Simmonds

EU accession an “opportunity for reform” for Balkan cities and regions The possibility of Serbia and Montenegro joining the European Union in 2025 – a conditional target date proposed by the European Commission – should encourage municipal and regional reform across the Western Balkans, our Members agreed on 4 May at the leading annual conference focused on the local and regional dimension of EU accession. ECR Group Members Adam Banaszak (VicePresident of Kujawsko-Pomorskie Regional Assembly in Poland), Matteo Bianchi (Mayor of Morazzone in Italy), Pavel Branda (Deputy Mayor of Rádlo in the Czech Republic), Arnold Hatch (Member of Craigavon Borough Council, UK) and Vytautas Kanevičius (Member of Kazlų Rūda Municipal Council in Lithuania) participated in the Joint Con-

sultative Committee (JCC) and Working Group (WG) meetings organised during Enlargement Day 2018 at CoR headquarters together with the European Commission and the Presidency of the Council of the EU. All of them highlighted that the enlargement process is the EU’s most powerful tool to bring much needed reforms in the EU’s near neighbourhood, including at regional and local levels.

Agreement, namely ‘constructive ambiguity’. The same language is being used between the UK and the EU 27 regarding Brexit when talking about a frictionless border between Eire and Northern Ireland”. Mr Hatch noted that the Commission’s country report reiterates that Serbia has some level of preparation in terms of administrative and judicial reforms and the fight against

Alderman Arnold Hatch who was attending the Enlargement Day JCC on Serbia said: “our difficulties and problems in Northern Ireland are small when compared to those faced between Serbia and Kosovo. The ‘normalization’ process has been stalled since 2013 due to the slow progress on some of the key points in the Brussels Dialogue. Both sides and the European Commission are using words that we are accustomed to in Northern Ireland and the Anglo-Irish Alderman Arnold Hatch

ECR Member Dr Pavel Pranda


corruption and organised crime. However, new laws that have been passed have not always been fully implemented. The Commission is concerned that no progress has been made on freedom of expression. Alderman Hatch concluded that accession to the EU could provide a good incentive for Serbia to address these challenges. On the same day (4 May), Adam Banaszak attended the EU-Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) JCC, where he

exchanged ideas on the involvement of cities and regions in the enlargement process with Ivo Vajgl, MEP and European Parliament rapporteur on the European Commission report on FYROM. ECR Members Matteo Bianchi and Pavel Branda participated in the meetings of the Montenegro JCC and Mayor Vytautas Kanevičius took part in those of the Working Group with Turkey, exchanging best ECR’s Matteo Luigi Bianchi with EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn responsible for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations

practices on fighting corruption and tackling different forms of discrimination.

ECR Member Adam Banaszak (third from the right) with Members of JCC FYROM

The CoR plays an important role in enlargement discussions, building valuable relations with local and regional authorities in candidate and neighbouring countries. Since 2006 the institution has been working with local and regional authorities from countries seeking EU membership, developing structured work programmes with Serbia, Montenegro and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – through joint consultative committees – and less structured dialogues with other countries in the region and with Turkey.

Bringing Eastern countries closer to the EU Two weeks before the European Commission unveiled its long-term funding proposals for the European Union’s foreign policy, ECR Member Pavel Branda together with other local and regional leaders from Eastern Partnership countries outlined their expectations as to the future EU budget. Pavel Branda – ECR Group representative in the Conference of Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP) and Deputy Mayor of Radlo in the Czech Republic – called for more funds to be allocated to cross-border and peopleto-people programmes. “This type of EU programme provides clear value for people in EU and non-EU countries. It removes prejudices, encourages trade and improves our safety. However, such programmes are not easy to formulate. The most important thing is that they are adequately financed and managed in a bottom-up way. Local and regional authorities need to be given ownership of these programmes rather



than see their role marginalised,” said Mr Branda. The European Committee of the Regions, which set up CORLEAP in 2010, also adopted detailed recommendations for national leaders with regard to strengthening civil society in Eastern Partnership countries. Mr Branda pointed to the fact that although it is important that politicians exchange experiences on this topic, it is not enough. In his words: “Political leaders change, local communities stay. Under the umbrella of the Eastern Partnership, the EU needs to prioritise fostering cooperation among universities, schools, disaster relief services and non-governmental organisations.”

ECR Member Pavel Branda

ECR’s Dr Pavel Branda (first from the right) with CORLEAP Members

CORLEAP members who attended the meeting on 29 May included six members of the CoR and five representatives from Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine). The next CORLEAP meeting is

planned for September this year and will take place in the capital of Ukraine. It will be held back-to-back with a meeting of the CoR’s Ukraine Taskforce. The taskforce’s most recent meeting, held in Brussels in March, led to the establishment of five city-

to-city or region-to-region partnerships, managed by the German development agency GIZ and funded by the European Commission’s “ULEAD with Europe” programme for Ukraine.

Paweł Grzybowski to Commissioner Avramopoulos: Countries in Central and Eastern Europe are actively taking part in the EU efforts to meet the challenges of the migration At the March plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions, Paweł Grzybowski – a Member of the ECR Group and Mayor of Rypin in Poland – spoke during the debate with the European Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos. In his statement, he emphasised Central and Eastern European countries’ active efforts to provide humanitarian aid and to easing tensions in Eastern Europe. Mayor Grzybowski mentioned the (in his view) harmful allegations from the European Commission that Poland and other countries in the region had shown a lack of solidarity with those countries most affected by the migration crisis. “First, we should not equate solidarity with participation in the EU’s relocation mechanism. All forms of assistance count. The Polish people, and the Polish government, believe that direct on-site aid is the most effective measure.” In this context, the Mayor underlined the Polish government’s support for the European Investment Bank’s Economic Resilience Initiative. Poland is the largest contributor to this initiative. Paweł Grzybowski also pointed out that the “United Right” (Zjednoczona Prawica) government in Poland had quadrupled hu-

manitarian aid contributions in comparison to the previous ruling coalition (Civic Platform and Polish People’s Party).

ECR Group Member Paweł Grzybowski

Secondly, Mayor Grzybowski urged Commissioner Avramopoulos not to equate solidarity solely with openness to migration from the south. “Remember that the conflict in Ukraine has already claimed more than 10 000 lives. Over 1.5 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced. Since 2014, when the conflict in Ukraine broke out, Poland has taken in around 1.5 million Ukrainian citizens. Some families fled the fighting, others the economic collapse. Many of them have found work and a sense of security in Poland,” he said. The ECR Group Member concluded that countries in Central and Eastern Europe were actively helping non-EU countries.. However, they are doing so in what they consider to be the most effective manner, and in line with society’s expectations.


CURRENT CHALLENGES ​Matteo Bianchi to Commissioner Navracsics: Diversity is our greatest strength Cities and regions reflect Europe’s cultural diversity and are best placed to turn Europe’s cultural heritage into a strategic asset, stressed ECR Member Matteo Luigi Bianchi and other local and regional leaders in a debate with Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport. the words of the Maastricht Treaty ‘united in diversity’ that we can build a Europe that is fit for the future. A Europe that is competitive and representative of all parts of the continent. What we need is a bottomup EU that celebrates our diversity in both light-touch legislation and in cultural acceptance of our differences”. Commissioner Navracsics underlined that the European Commission wants to harness the power of culture to drive economic growth, job creation and social development. ECR Member Matteo Bianchi

Addressing Commissioner Navracsics, ECR Member Matteo Bianchi said: “It is through

This view was supported by Mr Bianchi, who argued that Europe’s diversity brings clear economic and social benefits. “Because Europe’s small communities have diverse backgrounds, the economic benefits of

tourism can be spread more equally within regions and countries rather than concentrated in capitals and big cities. This helps our communities to bridge the rural-urban divide and foster sustainable development. Diversity is Europe’s greatest strength”. In the European Commission’s proposal for the EU’s next Multiannual Financial Framework, existing actions supporting European culture and creativity will be integrated into a new Creative Europe Programme, with a slight budget increase. The Commission also proposes to double the budget for Erasmus+ and reinforce the European Solidarity Corps. These instruments are included in the new Investing in People, Social Cohesion & Values cluster with a total budget of EUR 139.5 billion.

Digital revolution for all Right across the European Union, work is well underway to improve residents’ access to broadband internet. Paweł Grzybowski, the Mayor of Rypin (Poland), is actively participating in this process. In Brussels, he represents the ECR Group on the recently created Broadband Platform, while in Kujawsko-Pomorskie he is working effectively to eliminate internet access “white spots”. “A fast internet connection is crucial to developing local communities’ intellectual potential and competitiveness. That’s why we need to eliminate the internet access ‘white spots’ within the European Union,” said Mr Grzybowski, noting that the most significant problems with access to broadband internet in Poland and other parts of Europe occurred mainly in small communities. Thus the European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions have launched a joint platform to help bring high-speed broadband to all European regions, including rural and sparsely populated areas where there is not enough marketdriven development. “In the region where Rypin is located, aside from the implementation of large infra-



structure projects like ‘Infostrada Kujaw i Pomorza’, which are intended to improve communications and transmission speeds, work still needs to be carried out in smaller towns. In particular, the fibre-optic backbone is in need of further development as there are still widespread shortcomings in this area. Exchanging experiences within the European Committee of the Regions made me realise that similar problems also exist in other countries. We European local and regional elected representatives can pool our experiences of how best to cope with these challenges.” In Brussels, Paweł Grzybowski stressed that in some locations, fibre-optic networks cannot be built or are too expensive. In such cases, LTE (Long Term Evolution) is a

Mayor Paweł Grzybowski

good solution, enabling some locations to be served more easily and at a lower cost.

MEMBERS ACTIVITIES Good food and modern technology – Podkarpackie showcases what it does best in Brussels A Black Hawk helicopter, a sleek-looking, personalised motorbike and plenty of good food – this is Podkarpackie in a nutshell. This was how the Polish region promoted itself at an event hosted by the Polish Permanent Representation to the European Union. The region, whose Marshal is ECR Member Władysław Ortyl, made the most of an invitation from Poland’s representative to the EU, H.E. Andrzej Sadoś. The Polish Permanent Representation in Brussels, or more specifically “Window Polska”, is an important venue for Poland’s diplomacy and political and economic affairs, hosting major initiatives attended by key figures from Polish society. Podkarpackie is the first region in Poland to have been given the chance to use the venue to showcase its economic potential and the opportunities it offers for tourism. There was no shortage of ambassadors, entrepreneurs, representatives of clusters and business organisations, and journalists among those attending the Representation. It was difficult to fit everyone into our welcoming venue in Brussels.

tive of Poland to the European Union, during his welcome address. The theme of the presentations was smart specialisation, which the region of Podkarpackie had included in its regional innovation strategy. Such specialisations include: aerospace, the automotive industry, IT and telecommunications and quality of life. The exhibition naturally showcased the Black Hawk helicopter and a sleek-looking, per-

“Podkarpackie is one of the country’s fastest growing regions, making full use of EU funding to build and develop its economy on the basis of cutting-edge technologies. That is why we want to provide a snapshot of the region here in Brussels today. We would like to welcome you because the people of Podkarpackie are famous for their hospitality,” said the Marshal, Władysław Ortyl, during his presentation. “Today the Representation is hosting the region of Podkarpackie. We will be able to see interesting exhibits on smart specialisation. Podkarpackie is a very interesting and innovative region in terms of European funding,” said Andrzej Sadoś, Permanent Representa-

Marshal Władysław Ortyl and Ambassador Andrzej Sadoś

sonalised motorbike, with the companies G2A and Linetech having their own stands. The Department for Economic Promotion and Cooperation of the Marshal’s Office also had its own impressive stand. “We are delighted that the Podkarpackie region has come to the capital of Europe today and that, together with our entrepreneurs and institutions, we are able to promote our region’s economic potential and tourism opportunities. I hope that the form and scope of the presentations will bear true testimony to the fact that EU funds invested so far in our region have been used fairly and sensibly. I also hope that this will be taken into account when funds are allocated going forward,” the Marshal added. The event was co-financed by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund under the Podkarpackie region’s Regional Operational Programme for 2014-2020.

Presentation of Podkarpackie region in Brussels


30 years of EU Cohesion Policy: Pavel Branda takes part in a live Euronews discussion Pavel Branda, who represents the ECR Group as well as Czech cities and municipalities in the European Union as a Member of the European Committee of the Regions, participated on 21 March in a specially organised Euronews discussion programme. The focus was on the 30th anniversary of Cohesion Policy, the aim of which is to help narrow the gap between Europe’s regions. Other participants in the programme included European Commissioner Corina Creţu, Commissioners who were responsible for Cohesion Policy in the past, Antonio Tajani, the President of the European Parliament, and the Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa. Pavel Branda said “I was asked by the European Commission to talk briefly about our experiences with cross-border cooperation. I spoke about the transformation of our border region, which took place in my lifetime, when borders opened up that had once been almost completely closed, and the European Union began to systematically support cross-border cooperation in our Euroregion. I took examples from the environment, transport accessibility, education and projects fostering contact between people to describe how barriers in the form of borders gradually provided an opportunity to develop our region.” Mr Branda has long endeavoured to ensure that support in Brussels for communication between neighbouring regions continues and is strengthened. In the CoR he chairs the Interregional Group on Cross-Border Cooperation, and he is also Vice-President of the Association of European Border Regions, the largest European association dedicated to the development of cooperation between municipalities.

The key issue at the heart of the debate on the future of the EU’s Cohesion Policy is currently about the continuation and degree of focus we want to put on European Territorial Cooperation, better known as Interreg. Territorial cooperation is one of the two goals of Cohesion Policy and provides a framework for the implementation of joint actions and policy exchanges between national, regional and local actors from different Member States. The overarching objective of European Territorial Cooperation is to promote a harmonious economic, social and territorial development of the Union as a whole. Interreg is built around three strands of cooperation: cross-border (Interreg A), transnational (Interreg B) and interregional (Interreg C). “Territorial cooperation is crucial and this is especially the case for cross-border cooperation. More than one third of EU citizens live and work in Europe’s border regions and these regions are often the least developed areas. Yet, we only dedicate less than 5% of the cohesion budget to these areas. We need a greater focus on

ECR Member Pavel Branda interviewed by Euronews

cross-border cooperation and we need to couple this with efforts to make access to funding simpler,” Mr Branda concluded. The article – written by Mr Filip Trdla – was originally published in Czech language in Liberecky Kraj on 29.03.2018. It was translated into English and modified for the purpose of the newsletter.

ECR Member elected to the Hungarian Parliament ECR Member László Lóránt Keresztes has been elected to the Hungarian Parliament following the national elections that took place on 8 April. Before becoming a Member of the National Assembly, Mr Keresztes had previously been elected as a councillor for Pécs, in 2010 and 2014. Furthermore, he has been an active Member of the ECR Group in the European Committee of the Regions. He served as the ECR Group’s Deputy Coordinator in the CoR’s Commission for Economic Policy as well as the Group’s Spokesperson on smart villages in the Commission for Natural Resources.

Former ECR Group Member Dr László Lóránt Keresztes



In May of this year Mr Keresztes was elected Co-chair of the LMP (“Politics Can Be Different”) political party in Hungary. We would like to offer our congratulations to our fellow Member from Hungary!

EVENTS 2018 Localism conference This year’s localism conference to be organised by our ECR Group in the European Committee of the Regions will focus on the future of Europe and the kind of reforms needed to deliver greater innovation, competitiveness and democratic accountability in Europe. The 2018 localism summit will bring together leading thinkers, movers and shakers from government and business to shape the agenda of the future and advocate a more localism based reform of the European Union. It will be organised in September in the Italian city of Milan.

Duomo cathedral in Milan, Italy

Global cooperation on climate action - going local The ECR Group in the European Committee of the Regions is due to organise an event in Brussels on climate action on 9 October 2018 as part of the 8-11 October European Week of Cities and Regions. This event will look at the importance of international cooperation at the level of cities and regions for climate action goals to be reached. It will look at the opportunities and challenges that addressing climate change presents for local and regional governments. It will also enable the sharing of experiences and ideas for a way forward to accelerate action. The EU is responsible for only 10% of global CO2 emissions and

therefore global cooperation is crucial. This needs to also take place the level of cities and regions as more than 70% of climate change mitigation measures and up to 90% of adaptation measures are undertaken by them. The European Week of Regions and Cities (#EURegionsWeek) is an annual Brusselsbased four-day event during which officials

from regions and cities’ administrations, as well as experts and academics, can exchange good practices and know-how in the field of regional and urban development. It is co-organised by two EU institutions (the CoR and the European Commission’s DG for Regional Policy) and is attended by approximately 6000 participants. Stay tuned for more updates!





Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX)













Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget (COTER)



Commission for Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture (SEDEC)



Commission for the Environment, Climate Change and Energy (ENVE)



Commission for Natural Resources (NAT)






CoR Plenary session and European Week of Cities and Regions


9 - 10 OCTOBER

ECR workshop: Global cooperation on climate action - going local



ARLEM Bureau and Commission meeting









Commission for the Environment, Climate Change and Energy (ENVE)



Commission for Financial and Administrative Affairs (CAFA)



Commission for Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture (SEDEC)



Commission for Natural Resources (NAT)



Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX)






JCC Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia External CoR BUREAU Localism Summit Commission for Financial and Administrative Affairs (CAFA) Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX)

JCC Serbia Commission for Economic Policy (ECON) WG Western Balkans

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