ECR News - 1st edition

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ECR News Committee of the Regions | November 2013

Contents FIRST EXTERNAL MEETING ECR Group first external Group meeting addresses energy security and renewable sources of energy 2

104th PLENARY: OPINIONS A unique chance to make the EU Solidarity Fund more effective


Revising the official controls for food safety and animal and plant health 3

MEMBERS’ ACTIVITIES Hate Crime in Europe – daily reality


Violence against women is violence against society 4

May I welcome you to the first edition of the ECR CoR Group’s newsletter. This extension of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists family to the Committee of the Regions is a historic step for our local communities. It means a better representation of local and regional interests in the EU policy-making process and a more democratic EU. A key issue for the ECR Group in the CoR is energy supply and security. This was the major topic during our Group’s first external meeting in Vilnius on 20 November. Local solutions play an important part in the search for cost effective remedies to a secure and adequate energy supply for all. During this plenary session we will present our Group’s first two draft opinions for adoption by the CoR. Our rapporteur-general Mr Branda (CZ/ECR) will present his draft opinion on the improvements in the European Solidarity Fund, in which he has been able to call on his personal experience of the devastating floods of 2010. The second draft opinion will be presented by Ms Panasiuk (PL/ECR) on official controls in the area of food and feed law and animal and plant welfare, an area in which local and regional authorities have their share of responsibility. I am looking forward to seeing you at this Plenary Session, which I believe will help establish the ECR CoR Group as an increasingly important player in the work of the CoR. Cllr. Gordon Keymer CBE President of the ECR Group in the CoR Leader of Tandridge District Council

ECR Group Secretariat Committee of the Regions

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


The ECR and AECR family continue to grow with new parties joining, and now the creation of a group in the Committee of Regions. The growth of our relatively new political movement shows that there is a growing desire for a radical change in the direction of the European Union. People want to see a more flexible EU that focuses on those areas where it adds value, but interferes less in those areas where it does not.

Already, our political family has been successful in reducing and reprioritising the EU budget; and in promoting open markets, free trade, deregulation, and the Single Market. Our eurorealist and practical approach sees the EU as one means of achieving our goals, but we do not see the creation of a federal Europe as a goal in itself.

should be taken at the level closest to the people. We look forward to seeing that principle put into action in the Committee of the Regions and we hope that – through our new group – we can promote a decentralised European Union where more decisions are made closer to you, and fewer are made in Brussels.

The ECR particularly promotes the principle of subsidiarity: that decisions

Martin Callanan, MEP Leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists group at the European Parliament

FIRST EXTERNAL MEETING ECR Group first external Group meeting addresses energy security and renewable sources of energy ææ By Daiva Matonienė Vice-President of the ECR Group in the Committee of the Regions, Vice-Minister of Environment of Lithuania, Member of Siauliai City Council, Deputy Mayor of Siauliai

Union. Our meeting focused on one of the most important issues for the Baltic region and for the European Union – energy security and renewable sources of energy.

On 20 November, as the European Conservatives and Reformists Group at the Committee of the Regions, we held our first external Group meeting. It was a pleasure to have this meeting in Vilnius, following my invitation and for it to be organised in cooperation with the Association of Local Authorities in Lithuania and the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European

Energy is a key policy area for our Group. The need to ensure competitive, sustainable and secure energy is more pressing than ever in light of the increasing global and EU energy demand. Local and regional authorities can help address this challenge. As local and regional authorities, we must ensure that grass-root solutions are found, which take into account local needs. We also have a lot to offer in ensuring that sustainable energy practices are better developed, supported and shared. Different

104th PLENARY: OPINIONS A unique chance to make the EU Solidarity Fund more effective ææ By Pavel Branda

Since its establishment in 2002, the European Union Solidarity Fund is the EU’s main instrument for responding to major natural disasters that occur in the EU Member States and candidate countries.

Deputy Mayor of Rádlo


Newsletter | December 2013

regions have different energy potentials. We must focus on these and the development of innovative technologies within our regions. We also need to focus on our interconnectivity to ensure security of supply. These points were formally adopted at the end of the meeting in the ECR Group’s Vilnius Declaration. High-level policy-makers, academics and practitioners participated in this event including Ms. Žydrunė Juodkienė, the Lithuanian Vice-Minister of Energy. The participants also listened to video messages by Mr. Oldrich Vlasak MEP, the Vice-President of the European Parliament in charge of relations with the Committee of the Regions, and Mr. Valentinas Mazuronis, the Lithuanian Minister for Environment. The speakers addressed issues such the potential role of local and regional authorities, renewable energy challenges in Lithuania, shale gas extraction and usage perspective and planning of passive housing were addressed.

aiming at simplifying this instrument, making it clearer and reacting faster. I welcome the proposed improvements, such as the clear definitions of disasters and the introduction of advance payments, however I suggest several proposals that would better reflect the reality.

Its resources assist regions and municipalities stricken by disaster. The local and regional authorities represented by the Committee of the Regions must be heard in the process of improving this instrument. The European Commission in its proposed amending regulation introduces changes


The Solidarity Fund is an important instrument which helps the EU countries suffering from various natural disasters since 2002. So far it has been used in 56 cases in 23 EU countries and the amount of assistance overreached 3,5 billion EUR. However, the states, regions, cities and municipalities need a fund which is flexible, with limited bureaucratic processes allowing for flexible answer to actual needs. The

Revising the official controls for food safety and animal and plant health ææ By Ewa Panasiuk Member of Lubelskie Regional Assembly

I propose to combine neighbouring NUTS 3 regions as disasters are often concentrated on specific areas. I also suggest that crossborder regional disasters would be covered by the Fund. Furthermore, I suggest widening of the scope of eligible operations, the renewal of infrastructure not only to the condition it was before the disaster but improved to be more resilient, or relocated.

timing between the disaster and releasing the assistance must be short, the rules transparent and targeted. In this sense I am convinced that the CoR rapporteurs proposal for the opinion to the EU Solidarity Fund is based on practical experience and should be reflected in the work of the institutions responsible for legislative proposals to the EU Solidarity Fund. I believe that the proposal of our colleague, Mayor Pavel

enable the controls to work more effectively. These changes include the simplification of the rules, standardisation of documents and quality assurance, and other related measures The EU legislation provides a set of harmonised rules to prevent, eliminate or reduce the level of health risk, which may arise along the ‘agri-food chain’. It is aimed at guaranteeing the functioning of the internal market, understanding activities related to food, and ensuring its safety for consumption.

Improvements were proposed by the Commission, which will cut red tape and

The Commission’s proposal revises the legislation to overcome the shortcomings in its wording and application. It aims to put in place a robust, transparent and sustainable regulatory framework ‘fit for purpose’. This

The proposed regulation takes into account slowly developing disasters calculating the 10 weeks application deadline from the first action by public authorities, nevertheless there is a need for specific provisions for long-lasting floods. I welcome the proposed administrative procedures that should result in resources arriving approximately 6 months earlier. This would, however, shorten the real time for spending: therefore I suggest prolonging the deadline for the use of the contribution. I will actively present our views as the Committee of the Regions to the other institutions, so that these recommendations are taken on board and so the Fund becomes an even better instrument for demonstrating the EU solidarity.

Branda will be fully respected and heard in the European Parliament. On the example of the rapporteurship to this report we can clearly see the influence the newly created ECR group under the leadership of Cllr Gordon Keymer may have on the EU decision making.

Oldřich Vlasák, MEP Vice-President of the European Parliament

is a simplification and harmonisation that should be warmly welcomed. The harmonisation of legislation will ensure a sufficient level of health and safety for food and feed. It will further ensure free movement of goods on the internal market and the protection of internal market against products not complying with European requirements. I also regard the creation of mechanisms in the area of “administrative assistance” as positive. It will allow national control authorities to cooperate on the crossborder enforcement of rules in a uniform and consistent manner.


It is also important to ensure a multi-level governance approach and the principle of subsidiarity. Control procedures should be adapted at local and regional level to

enable businesses to operate. This should of course be done without prejudice to European food and feed laws.

The Commission’s proposal a way to simplify the overall legislative framework on official controls and a functional tool in this area, which concerns all EU citizens.

and social care services for vulnerable citizens.

hate crime though legislation and policy measures at the national as well as EU level. It was organised by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and jointly hosted with the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

MEMBERS’ ACTIVITIES Violence against women is violence against society ææ By David Simmonds Member of London Borough of Hillingdon

On the 7th of November, 2013 I had the honour of attending an event, which focused on the important issue of combating violence against women. At the event “Violence against women, Violence against society” in Italy, which was jointly organised by the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists, Societa Umanitaria, and Conservatori Social Riformatori, I had the honour of speaking on behalf of the ECR Group at Committee of the Regions. Violence against women in the European Union and across the world is extremely widespread. It is unacceptable that a vast number of women and girls are victims of gender-based violence. The Council of Europe estimates that in Europe alone, 20 % to 25 % of women have suffered physical violence at least once during their lives. During the event in Italy we learnt about how the increasing diversity of European society is bringing new challenges, which local and regional government face every day as the providers of housing, education

The European Union is responding to this important issue by bringing in effective legislation and practical measures on ensuring victims’ rights. The EU focuses on developing measures to eliminate female genital mutilation, co-funds national governments’ awareness-raising activities, and also provides support to NGOs with transnational projects to combat violence against women, children and young people. As local and regional authorities, we must ensure that we continue addressing this issue and upload the lessons we learn from our own local and regional experiences.

Hate Crime in Europe – daily reality ææ By Martin Heatley Member of Warwickshire County Council

Crimes motivated by hatred and prejudice are a daily reality for many European citizens. On 12-13 November I attended a conference “Combating hate crime in the EU” in Vilnius, Lithuania, which aimed to explore effective strategies to combat

We have enshrined the need to respect and promote fundamental rights within our treaties to ensure that the rights the European Union citizens are respected. Nevertheless, the EU-MIDIS survey shows that out of 23 000 members of ethnic minorities surveyed, 18% of Roma and 18% of Sub-Saharan African respondents experience racially motivated crime in the year preceding the survey. Alongside with other striking findings of this research the FRA showed that the fundamental rights need to be better protected. Crimes motivated by racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance or by bias against a person’s disability, sexual orientation or gender identity cause harm not only those targeted but also the European Union as whole. I believe that we at the local and regional level are best situated to help people targeted with hate crime and also become a part of the solution of combating hate crime across the EU. In my home Authority of Warwickshire we are leading the field in assisting abused persons or groups. In 2011/12 we introduced “Safe Places” scheme where anyone can go if they are on fear. We also have a strategy 2013/16 for “Violence Against Women and Girls”. This well organised conference highlighted the fact that much work still needs to be done in this field.