ECR News - 23rd edition

Page 1

ECR News European Committee of the Regions | 23rd edition


Defeating Coronavirus COVID-19 represents the largest public health crisis in modern European history. Our members led with foresight and prioritised public safety when implementing measures to reduce infections and deaths. While the crisis did not affect every nation, region and locality to the same capacity, our members took actions appropriate to the needs and state of public health in their local communities.



Defeating coronavirus


Re-opening Europe


Bratislava leads




Discussing health


Re-opening local Europe

COVID-19 declaration


Local practices


Exceptional times


A new Marshall Plan?




Circular economy


While the priority in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak has always been the health of our citizens, their economic security is also an issue front and centre for our members. Throughout Europe, our members have implemented measures to allow for the gradual re opening of local economies. It is critical that citizens are able to provide for themselves and their families and our members are working round the clock to strike a balance between maintaining safety of our citizens while also taking their economic and social needs into consideration.

Cross border services


Year of the Rail


Carpathian strategy




JCC Montenegro


Saxony and Upper Silesia


Leading by example


EVENTS 12 European Week


ECR Group Secretariat Committee of the Regions

ECR rapporteurs: New opinions, fresh ideas Jarosław Stawiarski, the President of the Lubelskie region in Poland was appointed rapporteur for the European Committee of Region’s opinion on the “European Year of the Rail”. Mr Stawiarski is a seasoned policy maker, especially in matters concerning infrastructure and cohesion policy. Fellow ECR members, Pavel Branda, the deputy mayor of Rádlo in the Czech Republic, was previously appointed rapporteur for the CoR’s opinion on “Cross-border Public Services”, and Tjisse Stelpstra, a regional minister for the Drenthe province in the Netherlands, was also appointed rapporteur for the opinion “Circular Economy Plan” earlier this year.

Rue Belliard/Belliardstraat, 101 1040 Bruxelles/Brussel

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

CURRENT AFFAIRS Defeating COVID-19 The coronavirus has dominated the news cycle and the priorities of policy makers for the entirety of 2020 year thus far. While our members have taken diverging policies based on various factors, such as the time of initial infection or the severity of coronavirus in their region, they have prioritised the safety of their citizens. Northern Italy became the first region in Europe to suffer widespread infection because of the COVID-19 virus, before it branched out throughout Europe and beyond.

The President of the Žilina region, Erika Jurinová with elderly citizens in 2019

In Northern Italy, our members such as Luca Zaia and Roberto Ciambetti, the President of the Veneto Region and the President of the Veneto Regional Council acted immediately. They commenced mass regional production of protective gear, such as facemasks. They also pushed for mass testing and instituted social distancing measures to stem the tide of infections. In neighbouring regions, such as Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Lombardy, leaders like Massimiliano Fedriga and Matteo Bianchi would go on to implement similar measures, which would in turn be adopted throughout Italy, including by our members who serve in administrative functions in the south or west of Italy. As Italy would go on to suffer the third highest rate of death per one million in Europe (behind Belgium and Spain), our Italian members were comparatively more adamant about instituting more restrictive laws governing social distancing given the grave situation in the country at the time. This included quarantining certain areas within cities as was done by the President of the Abruzzo region and ECR Vice-President, Marco Marsillo. The region of Abruzzo established “red zones” which are districts in towns and cities with a disproportionately higher number of infections. In these zones, prohibitions



on movement, work and socialisation were absolute, as they had to be. These restrictive measures were also present in Sicily, where ECR member Nello Musumeci serves as the President of the region. In Sicily, compulsory registration with a general practitioner had to be completed by anyone who wanted to set foot on the island. As the virus continued to spread outside of Italy and into the rest of Europe, our members acted swiftly yet reviewed the situation carefully before doing so. For example, in Kladno, where ECR member Dan Jiránek serves as Mayor, a strategy of separating the elderly and most vulnerable was adopted. This included scheduling separate opening times for shops to serve older people and accept deliveries, as well as transit services specifically aimed at older and immunocompromised citizens. This strategy was also successfully adopted in the Polish region of Łódzkie. Here, the President of the region, our member, Grzegorz Schreiber oversaw the delivery of food supplies, including traditional Polish dishes, over the Easter weekend. This was incredibly important as the Easter tradition is of great significance to the people of Poland and celebrating in isolation can of course be a trying experience for senior citizens.

While the physical well-being of all citizens, especially the most vulnerable was the main policy priority, Marshal Schreiber understood the social and mental well-being is also not to be neglected. Erika Jurinová, the President of the Žilina region in Slovakia also understood this when she launched the “Letters to Senior Citizens” campaign. In this campaign, volunteers would write corresponding letters to senior citizens in assisted care facilities, who, in the times of quarantine, often struggle with feelings of boredom, loneliness, and abandonment. As the situation varied throughout Europe, the lockdown was comparatively less stringent in some areas that were fortunate

President of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, Massimiliano Fedriga at the beginning of the pandemic

President of the Lubelskie Region, Jarosław Stawiarski poses with a shipment of personal protective equipment

enough to have a lower rate of infection and mortality. In the city of Lappeenranta, where ECR member Ilpo Heltimoinen serves on the city council, the authorities acted quickly to shut down schools (save for those educating young children) and cancelling all sports and public events. In a city so close to an EU external border (30 km from Russia) it was critical to establish social distancing early on. In Denmark, the national government moved

quickly being one of the first to shut down its borders. In the municipality of Ringsted, where ECR member Per Nørhave serves as deputy mayor, early action was taken. A home for the disabled was temporarily transformed into an intermediate care facility for those who have recovered from the coronavirus but still posed a risk of contagion. This was done to alleviate some of the burden that could have ended up befalling hospitals.

While the measures that were in place continue to be gradually relaxed, our members continue to monitor both their regional situation and the greater European situation closely. This has been a small summary and collection of examples taken by our members as it relates to defeating the COVID-19 pandemic. A more detailed description of what actions ECR members took can be found on the ECR and the CoR’s websites.

Reopening local Europe According to data published by the European Commission, the European economy has shrunk by 7.4% so far this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the physical health of citizens and preservation of life has priority, our members are working to minimise the economic losses and to ensure the negative economic consequences are as short-lived as possible.

Jakub Chełstowski, the President of Silesia was one of several ECR members to pass a regional financial stimulus for both the economy and public health

When the various countries across Europe began lockdown measures, our members were quick to identify groups that would be most likely to face financial turmoil and acted promptly in ensuring that when it would be possible to reopen to the economy, they would be in a good position to reopen responsibly. One example of swift regional economic policy took place in the Opsterland region of the Netherlands, where ECR First Vice-President Rob Jonkman serves as Alderman. Here, Mr Jonkman oversaw the suspension of certain taxes and called on the EU to do more to assist both farmers and entrepreneurs of small and medium sized enterprises. On 11 May, Mr Jonkman also awarded medals to students and teachers in Opsterland, who certainly experienced and overcame the logistical difficulties associated with learning while social distancing. Similarly, in the city of Hradec Králové, where ECR Vice-President Oldřich Vlasák of the ECR

serves as a councillor, deepened measures to support local businesses were taken following a month of lockdown. Some of these measures included waiving public space usage fees for businesses for the whole of 2020, an influx of CZK 10 million to support local businesses and the suspension of rent for tenants who were forced to temporarily shut down their business. The city government also created a financial reserve totalling CZK 150 million to be of further assistance through this crisis. In the city of Lappeenranta in Finland, where ECR member Ilpo Heltimoinen serves on the city board, the city announced a series of city-funded grants that include grants for rent reduction and rent exemption. These grants were announced on 6 April and were applicable to businesses with less than 10 employees and will help keep small family run businesses afloat. The region of South Karelia is also taking matters into its own hands. The state union is allocating EUR 230 000 of the province’s voluntary development grant to municipal businesses, education enterprises and local associations. In Poland, many of the regions instituted an anti-crisis shield. This is an economic as well as health care stimulus plan handled at the regional level. The President of the Podkarpackie region, who is also President of the ECR Group at the European Committee of the Regions, Mr Władysław Ortyl, passed an extensive package for the region he governs. The Podkarpackie anticrisis shield, has three main objectives, (1)


A local café in Trentino, Italy. Closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic

President of the Sicily region, Nello Musumeci

purchasing medical and protective equipment; (2) support for companies and entrepreneurs; and (3) job protection. This economic stimulus totalled PLN 330 million. Very similar packages were passed in the Lubelskie region, where ECR member Jarosław Stawiarski, serves as President, as well as in Łódzkie, Silesia, Lower Silesia, and Małopolska where ECR members, Grzegorz Schreiber, Jakub Chełstowski,


Cezary Przybylski and Witold Kozłowski all serve as Presidents, respectfully. Italy, however, has been one of the most devastated countries by the COVID-19 crisis and our Italian members are working to ensure the subsequent economic ramifications are controlled and mitigated. Just as in the rest of Europe, various regions have instituted an economic stimulus plan to help local economies resume. In Sardinia, where ECR member Christian Solinas serves as President, a stimulus plan totalling EUR

120 million to support lower-income families was announced. A similar plan was also developed in Sicily where Nello Musumeci serves as President of the region, EUR 100 million will be allocated to impoverished families in the region. Our members have adopted different strategies and sometimes have slightly different priorities in what they demand from the EU. This only underlines the importance of subsidiarity and localism when it comes to economic policy and job creation.

ECR First Vice-President Rob Jonkman humorously gives awards to primary school teachers while maintaining school distancing in Opsterland

Bratislava leads, Slovakia follows As of 15 May, the amount of daily coronavirus infections within the Bratislava region remained in single figures. There were some days in May with no additional infections. lion with Spain and Italy averaging at 591 and 528 deaths per million as of 18 May.

ECR Vice-President Juraj Droba

Slovakia has a national population of 5.5 million, the timely adoption of the lockdown measures in the country has helped to ensure an exceptionally low number of fatalities, 28 as of 18 May. Slovakia was the country with the lowest number of deaths per one million in Europe, averaging at five deaths per million because of COVID-19. To compare, Belgium had 781 deaths per mil-

Speaking on Slovakia’s success in a radio interview with Radio Sofia, President of the Bratislava region and ECR member, Juraj Droba said: “In our case, the measures started incredibly early on. The first started case of COVID-19 happened on 6 March. Two days later, our regional government in Bratislava, which I lead, decided to close the schools under our jurisdiction. This put a lot of pressure on the national government, which initially criticised us for taking extreme measures, but then followed our example themselves just two days later. There was a domino effect in Slovakia, but it all started with Bratislava.” Mr Droba went on to express confidence in the current efforts to reopen the region following the lockdown. Certain measures have already been relaxed, for instance citizens

are now free to eat outdoors at restaurants. Hairdressers as well as smaller shops are open. Further measures regarding reopening the economy for summer are to also be implemented. Mr Droba commented: “After two months (in lockdown) the economy was on its knees and we needed to move quickly to begin the process of economic recovery.” According to the European Commission, the European economy is expected to shrink by 7.4% in 2020. With this harsh reality in mind, Mr Droba discussed the particularly vulnerable economic sectors in Slovakia such as tourism, food service and culture and what measure can be taken to help these struggling businesses. The President of the Bratislava region noted that while he is generally opposed to state intervention in this (economic) sector, “we are in exceptional times”.

EU POLICY ECR President discusses Covid-19 response with European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety The chairs of the six CoR political groups held online meetings in April, May and June. One of the most active participants during the Conference of Presidents meetings was Marshal Władysław Ortyl, the President of Podkarpackie Region in Poland and the President of the ECR Group in the European Committee of the Regions. The purpose of the meeting in April was to discuss policy options on the local and European level that could be of use in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Prior to the formal beginning of the discussion, Stella Kyriakides, the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety spoke at length about the



actions taken by the European Union in the fight against coronavirus. The Commissioner, who is originally from Cyprus, emphasised

the European priority should be to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. In the subsequent discussion, Mr Ortyl expanded on this point,

Commissoner Stella Kyriakides before the European Parliament

saying that the EU should develop a horizontal approach by creating a European research group, specifically addressing this dilemma. The members of this research group would be representatives of universities, scientific institutions, and European Union institutions.

This conference was also an excellent opportunity to discern and discuss the specific work the European Committee of the Regions has been doing in combatting the coronavirus. Some of these activities include facilitating an online platform for cities and regions to exchange ideas and provide one another with mutually beneficial assistance. The discussion during the online meeting later migrated in the direction of creating an emergency EU health mechanism. Such a mechanism could potentially be beneficial to local and regional authorities that are currently facing shortages regarding medical staffing and health care supplies. Later in the meeting, concerns with respect to the EU budget and post-crisis economic

recovery plan were also discussed with the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the next EU budget. The ECR President underlined the need for an ambitious budget which put Europe’s economic recovery front and centre.

ECR President Władysław Ortyl

ECR Group instrumental in design of COVID-19 declaration, although some concerns remain In the first week of May, the European Committee of the Regions adopted a declaration on the state of the struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic. In this statement, the CoR gives its thoughts regarding the shortcomings and origins in dealing with this crisis, where it believes more can be done and concludes with calling on the European Commission to take a variety of actions. personal protective equipment (PPE) for private companies that are obliged to use it. The ECR Group was also successful in lobbying the CoR to declare that these imports should be exempted from the value added tax and other import duties to a degree that does not put EU producers of PPE in a disadvantaged position while also ensuring regions have as much health care equipment as they require. The ECR Group was heavily involved in the drafting of this statement, as such, many of the ECR points (amendments) were incorporated into the statement. These points include economic relief, such as calling on the Commission to oversee and hasten direct payments for farmers, as well as calling on the Commission to facilitate the import of

The ECR Group’s further amendments included the removal of references to the EU carbon tax and substituted it for a reference to a carbon border tax instead. The motivation for including these amendments was to ensure that EU businesses located in some less developed regions are not faced with additional costs that would make them struggle to compete in already difficult times for business.

While the ECR Group played an influential role in drafting this declaration there were other various policy proposals that were too difficult for the ECR Group to accept. These included a call for centralisation of health, social and economic policy at the EU level. The ECR Group did not support the provision that objected to any freezing or postponing the implementation of any existing EU legislation. Our members believe we need to be flexible during the crisis and some of the potentially more burdensome EU legislation must be reviewed. Considering these reservations, most of the ECR members abstained during the final vote on the adoption of the declaration. The resolution was adopted with 133 votes in favour, 24 abstentions and 16 votes against.

Federico Martegani brings the best practices from his hometown to the EU level On 9 May, during video conference meeting between Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the European Committee of the Regions and Governor of the Central Macedonia region in Greece, and the Italian delegation of the ECR Group at the European Committee of the Regions, Federico Martegani, a municipal councilor in the city of Tradate, explained what initiatives his municipality took to battle the coronavirus under the leadership of Mayor Giusepee Basicialla. In this meeting various national and local approaches in dealing with the coronavi-

rus emergency were discussed at length. At the request of Mr Tzitzikostas, Mr Martegani

presented the experience of the Tradate municipality in battling COVID-19 as “an exam-


ple for the whole of Europe”. Mr Martegani illustrated the best practices adopted by the Mayor, Giuseppe Bascialla, including: “having the courage to take the difficult decision to quarantine entire families that had tested positive for the coronavirus”.

Presidents of the Veneto Regional Council, Matteo Bianchi MP, Marco Marsilio, President of the Abruzzo region, and Daniela Ballico, Mayor of Ciampino, as well as other key conservative Italian policy makers who are also members of the ECR Group.

“In this time of lockdown, it has been both a positive and a moving experience to participate in this virtual European meeting, held exclusively for the Italian representation in the ECR political Group”, commented Mr Martegani. Other Italian participants in the meetings included Roberto Ciambetti,

Mr Martegani offered some concluding thoughts:“to bring the experience from my town to Europe is a great opportunity that I have also used to reiterate my calls for the mayors and presidents of regions to be granted greater autonomy. It is important to draw attention to the high-quality front-

ECR Member Federico Martegani

line work being carried out by local bodies, those which are closest to citizens”.

ECR Group in the CoR’s 196th Bureau meeting: Exceptional times require exceptional measures On Tuesday 19 May, the 196th Bureau meeting of the European Committee of the Regions was held online. The CoR’s Bureau is comprised of members representing the various European political groups and national delegations. It meets before every upcoming plenary session to coordinate the work for commissions and the future plenary session agenda. The ECR Group is represented by Pavel Branda, Roberto Ciambetti, Juraj Droba, Władysław Ortyl and Jarosław Stawiarski in the CoR Bureau.

ECR President, Władysław Ortyl attends the Bureau meeting from his office in Podkarpackie, Poland

The focus of the discussion was firstly on the local and regional approach in dealing with current COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the debate was focused on the CoR’s action plan

in dealing with the pandemic as well as the CoR’s declaration on COVID-19. The ECR Group did not co sign the CoR’s declaration and President of the ECR Group, Władysław Ortyl instead recommended to members to abstain. The rationale was that the coronavirus cannot be used as a pretence for increasing centralisation. Furthermore, the EU should prioritise both the social and economic recovery from the coronavirus ahead of other existing policies that are to be implemented.

ECR Vice-President Mr Juraj Droba elaborated on this opinion while emphasising: “the CoR’s statement on COVID-19 calls on the EU to be granted powers to declare an EU-wide state of emergency”. He asked what would be the purpose of having same measures adopted for cities like Madrid and Bratislava. He also called for greater localism, saying that “we should aim to find tailor made solutions to tackle the crisis, no one size-fits-all solutions”.

Speaking on the matter Mr Ortyl said: “if the coronavirus does not lead to us rethinking of some of the costliest EU policies, such as the Green Deal, what will? Exceptional times require exceptional measures”.

In the grander policy scheme, the ECR Group remained committed to policies that support local empowerment and regional authority, especially when dealing with an issue as diverse and multi faceted as the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new Marshall Plan for Europe? ECR members ask CoR President to prioritise economic aid and recovery On Friday, 8 May, the Italian delegation of the ECR Group in the European Committee of the Regions held a teleconference with the European Committee of the Regions President, Mr Apostolos Tzitzikostas. In the meeting, the plans for a sweeping economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic were discussed. Our local and regional politicians from Italy made the point that it is paramount that small and medium sized enterprises are supported by the EU, as they are the backbone of the local and regional economies that Europeans depend on for their consumer goods, employment, and livelihoods.



Participating in the meeting with the CoR President were our members, Matteo Bianchi MP (Councilor in Morazzone), Roberto Ciambetti (President of the Veneto Regional Council), Mario Guarente (Mayor of Potenza), Michele Pais (President of the Sardinian Regional Council) and Federico Martegani (Councilor in Tradate).

The European Commission estimates that the economic activity of the EU will fall by 7.4% following the end of the coronavirus pandemic. This will most adversely affect industries that require consumers to have a disposable income, among the worst affected will be tourism. Nations like Italy and Greece depend on

Members of the Italian delegation to the CoR in a digital meeting with CoR President, Apostolos Tzitzikostas.

tourism as a vital source of income, not only on a national level but also for their regional and local economies. Our members wanted two goals to be the focus of the EU budget. The first, a strong decentralised cohesion policy and second, a bold economic aid package for small and medium sized enterprises that represent the critical lifeline of national economies. As the Marshall Plan rebuilt Western Europe from the

ruin of the Second World War, a similar spirit of collective action complemented with bold economic aid and interventions is needed to help Europe recover once again. As important as a speedy economic recovery is, Europe must also remain steadfast to its principles of local government and subsidiarity. The head of the Italian delegation in the ECR Group, Matteo Bianchi MP, raised this point. Mr. Bianchi stressed that many observers have focused on

The Marshall Plan helped to rebuild Western Europe

Hungary, while in Italy (and other EU Member States) the powers of the legislature have been weakened with an increased reliance on a more centralised executive for decision making.

ECR GROUP OPINIONS Tjisse Stelpstra and the Circular Economy Action Plan ECR member Tjisse Stelpsta was appointed rapporteur earlier in 2020 to draw up the European Committee of the Region’s opinion on the new Circular Economy Action Plan. The circular economy is one of three priority areas of the EUs’ environmental policy. Mr Stelpstra was appointed to the position of rapporteur by the commission for Environment, Climate Change and Energy (ENVE). construction. There are still more consultations to take place with the European Environmental Bureau and the European Panel Federation.

ECR rapporteur Tjisse Stelpstra

In formulating this opinion document, Mr Stelpstra and his expert, Ms Ingrid Zeegers held a variety of bilateral consultations with relevant stakeholders, policymakers, and environmental experts. This included consultations with political organisations such as the “Urban Agenda Partnership” and “Hesus”, a private firm dedicated to the recycling of waste from

The working document was first discussed at the 3rd Commission meeting of ENVE on 8 and 9 June. Mr Stelpstra and Ms Zeegers were careful to consider all the relevant consultations when completing their working document. They noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, which occurred concurrently to the consultation and drafting process, that the crisis underlines the need for a sustainable and productive economy even during times of trial.

business creation and the support of locally based small to medium sized enterprises. On the consumer side, CEAP advocates for high quality, safe and reusable products that will also create sustainable jobs in local and regional economies. These smaller local economies are key, as they are the main players in waste management, water distribution, agriculture, and other vital sectors. The responsibilities of local and regional politicians cannot be understated as they will also be the primary creators of political mechanisms that will be the key contributing factor to whether the goals set out by CEAP are actually achieved or not.

The working document that serves as a basis for discussion on the draft opinion, in summation, describes the objectives of the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP). This includes sustainable industrial production,

The working document also asks the reader and indeed politicians to entertain a different mind set. For instance, in a proper circular economy, there should be no more “waste”. All materials should be designed either for


industrial re-use or to decompose responsibly into the biosphere. This similar paradigm shift is also undertaken when discussing issues of finance and economics to provide monetary incentives to embrace the sustainability and green goals, especially on a local dimension.

Price signals and the value-added tax are discussed as possible policy tools. To conclude, the rapporteur emphasises that for sustainability and green goals to be met, localism is the key. CEAP cannot be a top-down implementation but a horizontal approach

where good local jobs are produced, fair trade practices are in effect and local economies remain prosperous. This opinion will be adopted by the commission in September before moving on to the plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions this October.

Cross Border Public Services – A key instrument in cohesion policy ECR member Pavel Branda, the deputy Mayor of Rádlo in the Czech Republic and the Vice-President of the Association of European Border Regions, was appointed rapporteur by the European Committee of the Regions for the opinion Cross-Border Public Services. This appointment was made by the commission on Territorial Cohesion Policy and the EU Budget (COTER). European borders and providing healthcare and emergency services to citizens living in border regions.

ECR rapporteur Dr Pavel Branda

Recently the policy analysis memo for this opinion was published on the COTER website. This gives the reader a preliminary look into the structure of this vital opinion and valuable background information into this relevant issue. With 40% of European citizens living and working within border regions, increasing cross border public services is not only a matter of cohesion but also efficiency. In the context of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, Member States hastily closed their borders. This was done instinctively (understandably so), however an opportunity was missed in potentially combining the efforts at the internal

The aforementioned policy analysis memo points to examples of cross-border cooperation and notes how despite these unprecedented times and the obvious obstacles, there have been noted examples of crossborder cooperation proving that the mutual economic interests and altruist desires among border regions makes cooperation possible even in these times. The upcoming opinion by Mr Branda will call on both EU institutions and Member States themselves to foster a culture of cooperation among border regions and to remove obstacles that would prevent local and regional authorities from cooperating amongst each other. The benefits of the European Groupings of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC), which could prove to be the most efficient of the various managerial bodies for cross-border public services in border regions (along with the creation of “cross-border contact points”), will likely also be discussed. This opinion will not only underline externalities, such as environmental effects

which transcend national borders, but will likely also deliberate on the existing interdependence and needs of citizens which can be more adequately met in deepened cooperation. Domains like labour, healthcare and transit are of critical importance to local and regional economies, thus mechanisms like the EGTC can be of tremendous assistance in helping these local authorities transcend obstacles and cooperate on issues of mutual concern. Mr Branda’s exceptional experience as a policy advocate on matters of cross-border cooperation is especially relevant on this opinion. His experience as the Deputy Mayor of Rádlo, which itself lies in a region bordering Poland and Germany, is first-hand experience that proves practical in Cross-Border Public Services. His prior experience as the Vice-President of the Association of European Border Regions makes Mr Branda an exceptionally experienced rapporteur in this policy area. The opinion will be adopted by the COTER commission in November 2020 and will be formally adopted in the upcoming 2021 plenary session of the CoR.

Jarosław Stawiarski appointed CoR rapporteur on the European Year of Rail ECR member, Jarosław Stawiarski who is the President of the Lubelskie region in Poland was appointed the European Committee of the Regions’ rapporteur by the Commission on the Territorial Cohesion Policy and the EU budget (COTER) for the upcoming opinion on European Year of the Rail (2021). The European Commission has previously proposed to make 2021 the “Year of Rail” to help reach some of the environmental goals set by the European Green Deal. The goals of the European Year of Rail aim to accelerate a modal



shift from road-based freight and transit to an increased reliance on rail. The hope is to underline both the economic and ecological benefits of increased rail usage for both passengers and freight forwarders while also identifying the

obstacles to achieving a “Single European Rail Area”. Furthermore, the creation of a greater framework for social and political awareness that could also enable a more optimised use of a larger potential rail sector would be fruitful.

especially as it relates to cohesion policy and infrastructure – Mr Stawiarski accepted the position of rapporteur on this opinion.

ECR rapporteur Jarosław Stawiarski

Earlier in the year, the COTER secretariat proposed drawing up this opinion as a response to this “Year of Rail” referral from the Commission. With this objective in mind, it was determined by the COTER commission that Mr Jarosław Stawiarski was the best fit candidate to exercise the CoR’s influence in this area as a rapporteur for the opinion. This opinion would also enable Mr. Stawiarski to further showcase the CoR’s existing work in cohesion policy and support of infrastructure but would also outline envisaged follow-up actions in the domain of rail policy. Not only due to his extensive governing experience, but also his credentials as a policy maker –

High quality transport links to facilitate better inter-European trade and commerce have always been of high priority for the ECR Group. These rail networks help alleviate economic disparities between Member States and regions, by increasing transit efficiency and creating jobs. This is particularly true in the eastern part of the European Union, and increased rail function there can further the goals of European cohesion policy moreover. Mr Stawiarski will ensure that local and re-

gional authorities will have their interests protected while also representing the interests of Europe’s east where increased rail efficiency is a necessary catalyst for economic growth. Within the context of the European “Year of Rail”, there will be an increase in both awareness and public engagement. There will be a workshop regarding this initiative during the European Week of Regions and Cities that will take place in Brussels from 12-15 October. This will be one of several public outreach programmes and workshops to draw attention to this project and Mr Stawiarski’s work as rapporteur.


A modern high speed intercity “Pendolino” train in Poland

Tomasz Poręba MEP advocates for creating a macro-regional strategy for the Carpathian region ECR Parliamentarian Mr Tomasz Poręba directed a question to the European Commission regarding the initiative to establish a macro-regional strategy for the Carpathian region. This initiative is derived from the CoR’s opinion prepared under the leadership of Marshal Władysław Ortyl, ECR President in the European Committee of the Regions. Mr Poręba MEP cited the CoR’s opinion before the Commission saying the following: “At its 137th plenary session on 4 and 5 December 2019, the European Committee of the Regions adopted an opinion on a Macroregional strategy for the Carpathian region, in which it called on the Commission to support an initiative to establish a new macroregional strategy, focusing on the second largest mountain area on the European continent, the Carpathians”.

Tomasz Poręba MEP with ECR President Władysław Ortyl

The ECR MEP stressed that this CoR opinion is the clear voice of the representatives of local and regional authorities. These local actors underline the need to create a strategy for the Carpathian macro-region which would support the economic development of this area and would benefit the EU on the whole.


Mr Poręba went on to say that the macroregional strategy expanded the discussions regarding the importance of the Carpathian region in EU institutions, which is particularly valuable in the context of the new Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) of 2021-2027. Mr Poręba shared his personal thoughts with the Commission: “In light of the growing importance of territorial cooperation, the inclusion of the Carpathian regions and states in

this joint strategy provides an opportunity to work in concert with the region and carry out activities tailored to the specific needs and priorities of citizens in this vital territory”. It is for these reasons that Tomasz Poręba MEP requested information as to what actions the European Commission and specifically, the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy is taking and intends to take with respect to the initiative. Mr Poręba also reminded the

Commission that the Carpathian macro-region encompasses a large number of regions with the lowest level of economic development in the EU, which, in the context of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, may contribute to hindering the region’s development and exasperate the economic differences between Europe’s regions. Thus the need for the EU to have a responsible and engaging initiative approach with local and regional authorities in the Carpathian macro-region is paramount.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION JCC Montenegro, an exciting new vision On 9 May, Roberto Ciambetti, ECR member and President of the Regional Council of Veneto met with Aleksandar Kašćelan, the Mayor of the former Royal Capital City of Cetinje in Montenegro via teleconference. The two men are the Co-Chairs for the Joint Consultative Committee of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and Montenegro.

Mayor of Cetinje, Aleksander Kašćelan

These talks demonstrated how CoR members are constantly engaged in cooperation with local and regional authorities in EU candidate countries, including Montenegro. The two Co-Chairs exchanged information on the state of the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Ciambetti’s Veneto region was among the first and hardest hit in Europe. In Montenegro, on the other hand, the total number of cases were low and as of 13 May in Cetinje, there have been no confirmed cases. However, both Veneto, like the whole of Italy, and Cetinje, like the whole of Montenegro, have suffered heavy economic losses due to the halt of virtually all economic activities through the lockdown period. National, regional, and local authorities are helping the local businesses, especially small and me-



ECR member and President of the Veneto Regional Council, Roberto Ciambetti

dium sized ones. Both politicians agreed that more help needs to come from the EU.

Regional Council when circumstances allow, an offer Mr Kašćelan heartily accepted.

The two Co-Chairs expanded the discussion by exchanging ideas on common solutions to mitigate the economic impact of the crisis. The tourism sector has been severely affected by the economic crisis and both EU regions and regions within Montenegro will act together to be able to revive both sides of the Adriatic Sea as soon as possible. The topic of discussion then moved toward the draft five-year JCC Montenegro Work Programme and the future of cooperation in general. The Co-Chairs decided to intensify their contacts before the next JCC Montenegro meeting, which will lead to a concentration of joint actions. Mr Ciambetti also invited his Montenegrin counterpart to visit him in the Veneto

This was the first informal meeting between JCC Montenegro Co-Chairs in the new CoR mandate. Normally one meeting of JCC Montenegro is held in the first half of the year in Brussels, which is organised by the European Committee of the Regions as part of its Enlargement Day. Enlargement Day is the main annual EU enlargement event in Brussels. The second annual meeting of the JCC Montenegro takes place in Montenegro in autumn. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic there will be no large in-person conferences in Brussels during the first half of 2020. This makes the meeting between Mr Ciambetti and Mr Kašćelan even more important.

Deepened cooperation between Saxony and Lowered Silesia regions Lower Silesia (Poland) and the Free-State of Saxony (Germany) have helped one another in a rare yet inspiring example of crossborder cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the coronavirus first landed in Europe, cross-border interactions and cooperation between border regions has been more limited. Nevertheless, despite current limitations the regions of Lower Silesia and Saxony have enjoyed a close relationship of mutual medical assistance during this difficult time. On 22 April, 100,000 facemasks for protecting against the coronavirus arrived in Lower Silesia. These masks had been donated to Lower Silesia from its partner region, the Free-State of Saxony in Germany. Of these masks, 50 000 are protective FFP2 masks while 50 000 are surgical masks. As of late April, the Polish national government has made wearing protective facial equipment compulsory outside one’s residence, this assistance from Saxony was greatly appreciated by the President of the Lower Silesia region, Cezary Przybylski. A few days prior, 1 000 protective suits and 2 000 masks also arrived from Saxony. This cooperation between Saxony and Lower Silesia also extends to testing for COVID-19 with labs in Dresden testing sometimes as many as 200 samples from Lower Silesia every day. Over 3 000 medical samples from Polish citizens have been tested for COVID-19 in Germany as of 24 April. This additional analysis from German labs is especially valuable as authorities in Poland can quickly discern when a local health-

President of the Lower Silesia region, Cezary Przybylski inspects a shipment of personal protective equipment

care professional is well enough to resume work, or if he or she must be withdrawn from the work. Furthermore, deepened cooperation between Polish and German labs as well as medical professionals allows for greater coordination and accuracy as it relates to testing for COVID-19 in both countries.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Lower Silesia, and Saxony both enjoyed shared economic interests and grew in their mutual financial interdependence. To see these regions assist one another is not only an example of crossborder cooperation, but European solidarity moreover.

ECR President leads by example Władysław Ortyl, President of the Podkarpackie region in Poland and President of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Committee of the Regions organised a donation of medical equipment to help the people of Italy tackle: “the most dramatic public health crisis in generations.” This donated medical equipment from Podkarpackie region consists of personal protective equipment (PPE) including facemasks, gloves and sanitising as well as hygienic materials that were delivered to the medical staff in the Varese region that serves the needs of the people of the Morazzone municipality and other surrounding communities. The municipality of Morazzone (Varese province, Lombardy region) is where fellow ECR member, Matteo Bianchi serves as a local councillor and former Mayor. In his motivation for donating this equipment, Mr Ortyl cited “fraternal relations

ECR President Władysław Ortyl with personal protective equipment


and solidarity” between European people in fighting the COVID 19 pandemic. In an online meeting on Friday, 8 May, with the European Committee of the Regions President, Apostolos Tzitzikostas, Mr Bi-

anchi emphasised the need for European cooperation and solidarity in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr Bianchi expressed gratitude at Mr Ortyl’s gesture of solidarity and friendship.

Mr Ortyl’s actions are but a small example of this greater cooperation and mutual support that must occur so that all Europeans can emerge from this crisis as healthy, safe, and prosperous as possible.

EVENTS ECR Panel at the European week of Regions and Cities The 18th European week of Regions and Cities will be held from 12-15 October at the European Committee of the Regions. The EWRC remains is the largest Brussels-based event dedicated to regional and local policies. In the context of 2020’s coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event is all the more vital. Every year local and regional policymakers, politicians and advisors congregate to share ideas and solutions. This year, the ECR Group will organise a workshop focusing on reducing air pollution in Europe. Climate Change remains one of the most pressing policy issues of our time. This matter is a vital concern for not only national leaders, but also local politicians. Tackling air pollution is both an environmental and a public health concern that regional governments can work to mitigate. Despite an increased issue prominence and European investments in green technologies, air pollution has not decreased substantially in recent years and according to the World Health Organization, 90% of Europeans living in urban areas are regularly exposed to levels of pollution above WHO standards. The ECR has invited a panel of experts, and regional as well as European level politicians. The panel is expected to include Tjisse Stelpstra, ECR member and a regional minister in the Drenthe

province in the Netherlands, Jakub Chełstowski, ECR member and President of the Silesia region, ECR MEP and member of the ITRE committee at the European Parliament, Lucie Žáčková, the deputy head of unit at DG REGIO and Roberto Ciambetti, ECR member and President of the Veneto Regional Council.

what the role of the European Union should be in reducing air pollution. The ECR Group traditionally organises an annual workshop as part of the EWRC, as this forum is the key event in European regional policy. An excellent debate is anticipated and all those interested are cordially invited to attend.

Our panel, representing diverse regions and perspectives, will evaluate air quality and environmental policy from the perspective of local and regional governments. The discussion will seek to ascertain how local and regional authorities are currently involved in forwarding the goals of the European climate and energy policies. Our panellists will deliberate in what manner local and regional governments have succeeded, where they have fallen short and

Follow us on