ECR News - 10th edition

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ECR News Committee of the Regions | 10th edition

CONTENTS ECR GROUP OPINIONS Oldřich Vlasák on territorial vision for 2050 2

LOCALISM Reforming EU’s Cohesion Policy


REGI-COTER members discuss EU Cohesion Policy with Commissioner Crețu 4 Squaring the circle on EU’s approach to waste management


Monitoring of subsidiarity and an independent scrutiny board


Traffic planning and social responsibility


ECR GROUP EVENTS Building resilience to disasters


Ilpo Haalisto unveils new TEN-T connection plans 11

MEMBERS ACTIVITIES EU Funds in action: Paweł Grzybowski on Rypin’s modernised heating system 13 Daiva Matonienė presents energy efficiency measures


CURRENT EU CHALLENGES Citizens more optimistic about the economy, but majority still do not trust the EU



ECR Group President Cllr Gordon Keymer (second from the left) at the opening session of European week for cities and regions with Commissioner Creţu and Commissioner Moedas

This edition marks the end of the year 2015 and the start of 2016. You will also find examples of our Members work on reforming the EU and articles on the impact that EU policies and EU Funds are having on the ground. The EU continues to face a number of challenges and we need greater localism to overcome them. Approximately 1/3 of EU Funds are dedicated to achieving harmonious development. Yet, sparsely populated and remote areas face continuing challenges. Opinion polls also show that our citizens still do not trust the EU. Europe needs a bottom-up evidence based approach. The article on the Committee of the Regions’ opinion on a territorial vision for the EU, prepared by our Group’s Vice-President Oldřich Vlasák, is a great example of our work on EU reform. The EU’s current growth strategy runs until 2020 and as local and regional authorities, we were consulted by the Council on what the EUs territorial vision for 2050 should be. Under his leadership, local and regional authorities have called for and outlined how EU Funds and programmes can be reformed. This includes the important call for a “place-based” and evidencebased approach to Funds and policy-making. You will also find our proposal on how the EUs transport policy TEN-T can be more inclusive and not leave out parts of Europe. Our Member Ilpo Haalisto explains the need for a Turku to Kirkines highway connection, building on the existing Stockholm-Turku maritime connection. This new corridor, endorsed by the Finnish Foreign Minister during our Group meeting in Turku, would not only cut the time it takes to ship goods to China by half but would also enable the northernmost regions to reap its economic benefits. Furthermore, you will find examples of our joint work with our Group in the European Parliament, other EU institutions and the UN in defending the interest of local communities. Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA President of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group Committee of the Regions, European Union

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ECR GROUP OPINIONS EU policies and funds need to be shaped by local and regional experiences – Europe’s local and regional authorities explain their territorial vision in a report prepared by Oldřich Vlasák During its 115th plenary session, the Committee of the Regions adopted the report on “Territorial Vision 2050: What future?”, prepared by Oldřich Vlasák (CZ/ECR). Welcoming the Luxembourg Presidency efforts to launch a discussion on a Territorial Vision for the year 2050, the report called for a stronger bottom-up approach to EU policies and for existing funds and policies to be streamlined and simplified. “A bottom-up approach would mean shaping EU policies based on local and regional realities. Our local and regional authorities would therefore also have a greater say in the design and management of European projects and policies,” said Mr Vlasák. The report underlines the need for Europe 2020 (EU’s growth strategy) to be shaped bottom-up so that the targets better account for the local implications they have. Mr Vlasák explained that “Europe 2020 is an excessively technocratic and top-down exercise. The targets are in many cases the responsibility of local and regional government yet they are developed with very little contribution from us.” Oldřich Vlasák (on the right)

“We are pleased that the Luxembourg Presidency has got the ball moving and consulted local and regional authorities on this important matter. I am especially pleased to see our opinion and key messages being referred to in the Conclusions of the Informal Ministerial Meetings on Territorial Cohesion and Urban Policy. It is now time for a Europe wide consultation to look concretely at how we can make better use of local and regional data to guide EU policies and help them achieve greater impact” said Mr Vlasák. Mr Vlasák underlined that territorial cohesion remains a challenge and that a stronger bottom-up approach led by local and regional data is needed to help achieve more balanced growth and development. “Article 174 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU sets the overarching objective for the harmonious development of the Union. To



ensure this is achieved, we need to make sure that our regions that already suffer from severe and permanent natural or demographic handicaps such as the northernmost regions with very low population density and island, cross-border and mountain regions are not left behind” said Mr Vlasák. Rapporteur Vlasák’s report highlights that a clear European territorial vision is necessary in order to respond effectively to current and future trends and challenges. This vision should strengthen the territorial dimension in policy-making by using a results-oriented territorial dialogue and the expertise of local and regional authorities to identify and address the key territorial challenges of the European Union. The rapporteur underlined that “we need to use local and regional experiences to shape EU policies. The territorial vision should provide guidance to all EU policies that have a territorial dimension.” The report underlines that a territorial vision needs to be used to help shape the post-2020 period for EU Funds.

To help build policies from the bottom-up, the CoR calls for greater involvement of local and regional authorities and greater investment in data. “We need data from cities and regions to reinforce the territorial approach in policy-making”, said Mr Vlasák. He requested Member States and the European Union to invest in acquiring the missing statistical data and develop simple data collection methods at the lowest administrative level without creating additional administrative burdens. “We really do need to decrease the administrative burden connected with collection of statistical data and reporting” Mr Vlasák emphasised. This is particularly important in those countries where Eurostat territorial units do not really reflect real geographies at local or regional level. Without a complete and evolving picture of the European Union’s regions, it is not possible to create effective policies that address the challenges they face. Furthermore, the Member States and the European Union need to implement Territorial Impact Assessments as a standard practice in the policy-making process. If the

possible asymmetric effects of the EU and national policies are not taken into account, these policies can never be sufficiently efficient or effective, potentially resulting in unwanted effects. The report also draws

attention to the advantages and benefits of applying the place-based approach and collaborative policy-making approach, whose essential elements concern the integration of sectors in a particular territorial

strategy and a results-oriented territorial dialogue. If implemented effectively, the place-based approach makes it possible to value and revive territorial identity and territorial specificities as a unique asset.

Mr Oldřich Vlasák (Councillor of Hradec Králové, Czech Republic/ECR Group Vice-President) is the Committee of the Regions’ rapporteur on “Territorial Vision 2050: What future?”. This opinion was discussed and adopted unanimously at the 3 December Committee of the Regions Plenary Session. Mr Oldřich Vlasák is the former Vice-President of the European Parliament responsible for the European Parliament’s relations with the Committee of the Regions. During his Vice-Presidency, the two institutions concluded a cooperation agreement that outlined areas under which EP-CoR cooperation would be deepened. He was among the first Czech members appointed to the Committee of the Regions as an observer in 2000 prior to being elected as an MEP in 2004. He is now a Member of the Committee of the Regions and Vice-President of the ECR Group in the CoR.

LOCALISM Reforming the EUs Cohesion Policy As part of the European Parliament ECR Group’s Autumn University, organised to generate new ideas for reform, the Subsidiarity and Localism Policy Group held a meeting on the EU’s Cohesion Policy. The meeting, chaired by the Policy Group Chairman Andrew Lewer MEP, illustrated the need to reform the EU’s Cohesion Policy. The panellists underlined that the Cohesion Policy could be made more effective and efficient through a stronger bottom-up results based approach. Panellists included Committee of the Regions ECR Group President Cllr Gordon Keymer, Bob Neill MP, Kosma Złotowski MEP and Cllr Mark Winnington. Andrew Lewer MEP underlined that the EU’s Cohesion Policy, which accounts for around one third of the EU’s budget, needs to be reformed. The Cohesion Policy funding aims to help Member States and regions reach the goals of Europe’s growth strategy “Europe 2020” of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Panellists, all of whom had served in local government, outlined what could be changed in the current Cohesion Policy. The panel emphasised that in order to achieve sustainable economic growth, a

From left to right: Kosma Złotowski MEP, Bob Neill MP, Andrew Lewer MBE MEP, Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA, Cllr Mark Winnington

bottom-up approach to EU governance was needed. “When we talk about EU reform, we need to see it not only as empowering our national parliaments but also as passing powers down to the local level and to our communities” said Andrew Lewer MEP. Bob Neill MP (Member of Parliament for Bromley & Chislehurst, UK and a former local Councillor and CoR Member) explained the positive steps taken towards achieving greater localism in the UK during the 20102015 government when he was Local Government Minister. He also underlined that the localism agenda needed to be pursued further. The Localism Act, introduced in July 2012, empowered local government by introducing the general power of competence for local authorities, the community right to build, planning reforms including the changes to planning enforcement rules and reforms to social housing tenure and council housing finance. It also gave councils more freedom to offer business rate discounts - to help attract firms, investment and jobs.

The importance of coupling a bottom-up localism approach to governance with fiscal devolution was also underlined, with a key conclusion being that local government must be empowered to keep some of the revenues generated locally. Cllr Keymer warned against pursuing a localism agenda without fiscal devolution. “We have to be careful that we do not accept powers if we are not given the budget needed to carry out the tasks out. The answer though is not necessarily to hand more money down. It is also about allowing local government to keep some of the government revenues that comes from our localities,” he said. Cllr Mark Winnington, Cabinet Member for Economy, Environment and Transport in Stafford County Council, also underlined the importance of ensuring local responsibilities are matched with the means to carry them out.


The panel also looked at how the selection of projects could be adjusted to ensure that the money invested generated strong returns and that unviable projects were avoided. “Many projects across Europe have not delivered the economic benefits or success they promised while others are, quite frankly, a waste of money. There is little evidence many of these funds are having a positive effect on the EU economy or are being used to create on-going returns which is where mere spending turns into real investment. Poor performance and missed targets are not being addressed resulting in a huge waste of resources and many missed opportunities,” noted Andrew Lewer MEP. Kosma Złotowski MEP, former Mayor of Bydgoszcz in Poland, gave concrete examples from Poland and underlined the need to ensure that EU Cohesion funding was creating jobs and growth. Cllr Keymer underlined that EU measures, financing arrangements and priorities are

From left to right: Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA, Andrew Lewer MBE MEP, Bob Neill MP

mainly geared towards large cities but that they need to take into account the accumulative impact of small and medium sized towns and cities. “Approximately 56%

of towns and cities in the EU are small and medium in size. We cannot afford to ignore their accumulative impact,” he said.

Andrew Lewer MBE MEP is the former Leader of Derbyshire County and a former Member of the Committee of the Regions. He was elected to the European Parliament in 2014 as the Member of Parliament for the East Midlands in the UK. He is the spokesperson of the ECR Group in the European Parliament on Regional Development and Culture and Education.

MEPs and local and regional politicians discuss how to make the EU Cohesion Policy more effective with Commissioner Creţu Members of the COTER Commission of the Committee of the Regions and the European Parliament’s REGI Committee met with Commissioner Corina Creţu to discuss how the EUs Cohesion Policy could be reformed to deliver local growth and jobs. Members evaluated the implementation of Cohesion Policy in the new programming period of 2014-2020, calling for local and regional authorities to be treated as partners and for greater cooperation with the private sector. Oldřich Vlasák (CoR ECR Group Deputy-Spokesperson on Territorial Cohesion) and Andrew Lewer MEP (EP ECR Group Spokesperson on Regional Development) spoke on behalf of the ECR Groups in the CoR and EP. During a joint meeting of the Committee of the Regions’ Territorial Cohesion (COTER) Commission and the European Parliament’s Regional Development (REGI) Committee, that took place on 13 October, members discussed how the different tiers of government could work together to ensure the successful implementation of the EU’s Cohesion Policy with Commissioner Corina Creţu. Members of the European



Parliament and the Committee of the Regions both underlined that for EU Funds to deliver the necessary results on the ground, rules governing the Funds needed to be further simplified and administrative burdens needed to be cut. A joint REGI-COTER statement was issued outlining these key points. Members of the EP and CoR who work on territorial cohesion and regional development hold a joint meeting once a year. This meeting marked the first one of the current EU legislative mandate.

ECR Groups in the EP and the CoR jointly called for greater localism and a stronger bottom-up approach to EU regional policies. Oldřich Vlasák (Councillor of Hradec Králové, Czech Republic), speaking on behalf of the ECR Group in the Committee of the Regions, underlined the existing challenges in terms of the use of existing EU Funds and called for private sector solutions to be explored. “What I see on the ground is that local and regional authorities are not always able to apply for EU funding as they struggle to match the EU Funds with the necessary funds from their

side. As the EU we need to be aware of this and look into innovative ways to help address it. For instance, we need to take a closer look at if we are making the most of public-private partnerships”, he said. Andrew Lewer MEP (Member of Parliament for East Midlands), speaking on behalf of the ECR Group in the European Parliament, argued that more emphasis is needed on result-oriented regional programmes, which ensure that money is well-invested. He welcomed the Commission’s new High Level Group of Independent Experts on Monitoring Simplification for Beneficiaries of the European Structural and Investment Funds, underlining that simplification should be brought to structures, not only to processes. The High Level Group, set up on 10 July of this year, was established as part of the Commission’s ongoing efforts for better regulation. The Group advises the Commission on simplification and reduction of administrative burden for beneficiaries of the Funds. In the joint REGI-COTER statement that was issued, in addition to supporting the Commission’s ongoing work on simplification and cutting red-tape, members collectively called on the European Commission to closely monitor the application of the part-

Oldřich Vlasák with EU Commissioner Corina Creţu

nership principle in the implementation of the partnership agreements and operational programmes. The partnership principle, encoded in the European Code of Conduct on the Partnership Principle adopted by the Commission in July 2014, set out a common set of standards for improving participation and dialogue with partners including local and regional authorities, responsible for implementation, monitoring and evaluation

of projects financed with the ESIF. Members of REGI and COTER expressed their concerns that the involvement of local and regional authorities in the elaboration of the Partnership Agreements and Operational Programmes did not amount to full partnership in all Member States, as outlined in the European Code of Conduct on Partnership. REGI-COTER members also outlined their intention to join forces and to work closely together towards the “Pact of Amsterdam”, which the upcoming January-June 2016 Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union is hoping to use to launch an EU Urban Agenda. “In light of the increasing urbanisation and given that almost 70% of EU citizens live in urban areas, it is positive that we are taking steps to ensure the voices of our cities are heard on policies that impact them. However, this move must not be at the expensive of rural areas and we have to be careful to ensure that all new initiatives respect the spirit of minimal-regulation” said Mr. Vlasák.

Oldřich Vlasák (second from the left) with COTER-REGI members


Squaring the circle on the EU’s approach to waste management - By Cllr Kay Twitchen OBE Each EU citizen generates annually approximately five tons of waste. To achieve better waste management and increase recycling, the European Commission adopted its long-expected new Circular Economy Strategy Package on 2 December. We do need to be more resource-efficient and sustainable and we do need to be ambitious in tackling environmental issues. However, we need to combine ambition with realism. As local and regional authorities, we are the ones who implement waste legislation. From my own experiences, I know that binding targets are not helpful as they take a one-size-fits-all approach that is not always in line with the principles of subsidiarity or proportionality enshrined in the EU Treaties. behaviour and business models. We need to ensure that the proposed solutions on the table are proportional to the challenges faced and do not undermine competitiveness.

Cllr Kay Twitchen OBE

Circular economy is a concept I support. It provides an alternative to a traditional economy of producing, using and disposing and aims to keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract their maximum value, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life. This approach can bring environmental and economic gains, if we get it right. The European Commission estimates that two million jobs might be created by 2030 as a result of moving towards circular economy. At the same time, it is widely acknowledged that there are serious challenges ahead in terms of transition costs, impact on employment in a number of sectors, as well as changing consumer

The Commission’s proposal contains a number of legally binding targets, including a 65% household recycling rate across the EU and a landfill target to reduce landfill to maximum of 10% of all waste (to be achieved by 2030). As the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the Committee of the Regions we have been asking EU policymakers to move away from a one-size fits all approach. Not all countries are the same. For instance, while the share of recycled or composted municipal waste has increased significantly in the last ten years in Europe, differences between EU countries are very significant. Recycling and composting are widely used in Germany, Sweden and Austria, but other countries handle waste differently. That is why we need to adopt a stronger bottom-up approach whereby national, local and regional authorities are provided with guidance and the room to adapt the tools at their disposal to their specific needs. This would leave Member States free to set their individual objectives and decide on a sustainable yet achievable policy mix instead of an EU system that is heavy on binding targets and derogations. Through my own experiences in local government in the UK as Cabinet Member in Essex County Council and through my experiences

in the CoR discussing waste management issues with local and regional politicians from across the EU, I have seen how many variations there are. This has been confirmed by the European Environment Agency (EEA), which acknowledged in one of its studies the existence of substantial differences within countries. In ten of EU thirteen countries the EEA looked at, there was a variation of more than 15 percentage points in recycling rates between different regions. This shows the importance of proper implementation of EU and national measures at regional and local level, as well as the scope for improvement. Regions and municipalities, who will be implementing the new measures, need to be given the room to act in a way they consider most efficient both economically and environmentally as well as socially. We should respect the principle of subsidiarity and not put our local authorities into circumstances where they lose the ability to adjust their budgets to local needs. We should focus above all on full implementation of existing waste legislation, information campaigns, promoting resource efficiency, cooperation with the private sector, and on environmental targets based on the results of territorial impact assessments. We should encourage regions with high recycling rates and the best waste management systems to share best practice at national and European level. The Committee of the Regions may serve as an excellent platform to exchange experiences on this important topic.

Cllr Kay Twitchen OBE is the Deputy Cabinet Member for Planning and Environment at Essex County Council. She is the ECR Group Deputy Coordinator on Environment, Climate Change and Energy and has been a Member of the CoR since 2006. Cllr Twitchen was Chairman of the County Council from 2012 till 2014. Since her election to the County Council in 1989 she has served on a number of outside bodies, including the Board of the UK Environment Agency, and chaired the LGA Environment Committee for four years.



ECR calls for closer monitoring of subsidiarity and an independent Regulatory Scrutiny Board The Committee of the Regions organised its bi-annual conference on subsidiarity in partnership with the Flemish Parliament in Brussels, on 17 November 2015. ECR Group Members Gordon Keymer, Ilpo Haalisto and Judith Wallace participated in the conference where ECR Group Member of Parliament Sajjad Karim was a speaker in light of his role as the European Parliament’s rapporteur on subsidiarity. The event enabled an EU inter-institutional dialogue on subsidiarity scrutiny and allowed an exchange between local, national and EU actors involved in the monitoring process. ECR Group members supported the EP rapporteur in his call for an independent regulatory scrutiny board and called for local and regional authorities’ expertise to be used in ensuring that the principle of subsidiarity is upheld. lations between the European Parliament and national parliaments. He called for national parliaments to be at the forefront of the subsidiarity debate and the need to use the European Parliament to push for their case.

From left to right: Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA, Cllr Judith Wallace, Sajjad Karim MEP, Ilpo Haalisto

As defined in EU Treaties, subsidiarity is about making sure that decisions are taken at the level closest to the citizens and at which they can be best handled. Through the EU Treaties, the Committee of the Regions is tasked with the role of assessing the subsidiarity compliance for local and regional government and can take the EU to Court if the principle of subsidiarity is not respected. The Committee of the Regions organises bi-annual conferences dedicated to this important topic. The conference started with a high-level round table where Frans Timmermans (1st Vice-President of the European Commission), Nicolas Schmit (Luxembourg’s Minister of Labour, Employment and the Social and Solidarity Economy, Presidency of the Council of the European Union) and Pavel Svoboda MEP (Chair of the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee) discussed how subsidiarity can help deliver better EU

regulation. The participants also touched on the ongoing negotiations on an interinstitutional agreement between the Commission, Council and Parliament on better law-making. Opening the conference, Vice-President Frans Timmermans stressed that “local and regional authorities are much closer to the public’s perception of what politics is than the institutions in Brussels”. Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA (President of the ECR Group in the Committee of the Regions, Leader of Tandridge Council in the UK) reiterated this point explaining that “it is important that the local and regional government is not forgotten as they are impacted by approximately 70% of EU legislation”.

“Without providing national parliaments with effective ways to engage, you cannot expect parliamentarians to invest time in process that is not going to be effective. At this moment national parliaments and national parliamentarians are not at all convinced that they will actually be listened to (…). We have seen improvements in terms of number of reasoned opinions from national parliaments, especially in 2010-2011, but there is still substantial room for improvement. I am extremely keen that European citizens feel a part of this process and the only way we can effectively deliver that to them is by making sure that national parliaments are firmly a part of our decisionmaking process and that does not exist at this moment”, Mr Karim explained, adding that there is a need “to make sure that subsidiarity checks and subsidiarity input from national parliament is taking place at much earlier levels in our processes”. Taking the floor after Sajjad Karim MEP, Cllr Gordon Keymer welcomed the key messages in Sajjad Karim MEPs report. “In the EP report on subsidiarity and proportionality produced by the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, there is a reference to the need for earlier evaluation of subsidiarity at the beginning of the legislative process. This is very important. Similarly, the European Parliament’s regulatory

Sajjad Karim MEP (ECR/UK), European Parliament’s rapporteur on annual reports on subsidiarity and proportionality, was a speaker on the panel addressing subsidiarity monitoring. Mr Karim focused on re-


According to the plans of the European Commission, the new Regulatory Scrutiny Board, which will replace the Impact Assessment Board, will have an expanded role in checking the quality of impact assessments of new EU proposals, as well as evaluations of existing legislation. However, it is not due to be fully independent from the European Commission. Three out of its six members are due to come from within the Commission. Fully independent scrutiny bodies exist in six EU Member States. In the United Kingdom, the Regulatory Policy Committee is a fully independent advisory body on domestic, international and EU law, which helps to identify costs of legislation to business and society. Subsidiarity conference in the Flemish Parliament

fitness report contains a reference to the role of the Committee of the Regions as the EU advisory body representing local and regional government in the EU, which is also a very valuable recognition”, said Cllr Keymer. Both Mr Karim MEP, Cllr Keymer and Cllr Judith Wallace (Conservative Group Leader of North Tyneside Council) expressed their support for an independent impact assess-

ment body. Cllr Keymer called for “a subsidiarity scoreboard, which covers not only national parliaments, but also looks at the role of local and regional government”. Cllr Judith Wallace noted that “it is clearly important for politicians to rely on independence and for members of the public to have confidence in those who are making the assessment.”

ECR Group Member Ilpo Haalisto (Local Councillor of Nousiainen, Finland) underlined that “we need local and regional authorities to be included in the EUs betterregulation agenda as decision-making partners. Only then can we truly achieve better EU regulation that matches the needs on the ground. “ The respect for the EU principle of subsidiarity is stated as a priority for the ECR Group political family.

Sajjad Karim MEP (UK/ECR) is the EP rapporteur on Subsidiarity and Proportionality. He is a Member of Parliament for North West England. He is the Conservative Legal Affairs Spokesman in the EP. He was the EP ECR Group candidate for European Parliament President and received 101 votes (second highest after Martin Schulz, who won the vote in the EP with 209 votes). He is the Chair of the EPs advisory Committee on the Conduct of Members.

Traffic planning and social responsibility - By Prof. Dr. Reijo E. Heinonen At the last elections for the Finnish Parliament in 2015, all the parties said they wanted to ensure that population levels were maintained in the whole of Finland. The reason why it has been necessary to emphasise this point, is that many regions of the country, which is the fifth largest in Western Europe, with a surface area of 338.440 square kilometres, have suffered in terms of internal migration triggered by the globalisation process which has also changed the country’s commercial structures. Young people in particular have moved from rural areas to the capital region of Helsinki where jobs are easier to find. In this paper we are highlighting the impact of logistics and traffic planning on commercial and social change and the role of rail policy in particular. If we look at the



depopulation in the eastern border regions for example, it is clear that migration has accelerated, not because the schools, banks and shops have closed down, but because the cuts to the railway networks have made it increasingly difficult for people to work outside their home region. That is why the plans to cut more rail connections are a

very sensitive economic and social issue. It runs totally counter to what the politicians recently said about maintaining population levels throughout the whole country. The local municipalities have understood that the well-being of their inhabitants is dependent on good rail connections. In Pirkanmaa in central Finland, the develop-

Professor Reijo E. Heinonen

ment of the region was based on good rail connections. Other local authorities have also invested in improvements to rail transport in order to make it easier for people to get to their jobs in the city of Tampere/ Pirkanmaa. This means that the rail policy is closely connected to work force and labour policy. Now, the slowing down of the Tampere -Keuruu connection has created bitter disappointment because it causes “unnecessary and irreversible damage”.

Before that (1.9.2006), the cross-country traffic in central Finland was affected by the axing of the night train on the routes between Turku (south-west of the country) and Joensuu (north-east of the country) and Helsinki and Joensuu, without taking account of the opinions of the passengers or their commercial or cultural stakeholders. This led to a major protest and 22.000 signatures were collected in favour of restoring the, in many ways, essential night train routes between Helsinki and Joensuu and Turku and Joensuu. The petition was submitted to the minister responsible but did not lead to any positive response. Now the route from Turku via Helsinki to Joensuu (over 650km) takes around 6-7 hours. It means that many working days are lost and people are facing expensive bills for staying overnight in hotels. Today the new minister for transport and communication, Anne Berner, has announced that the monopoly of the VR (State Railway) will be abolished. It should mean that the majority of the passenger traffic will operate on the basis of the market economy. The question remains as to whether this might improve the situation in the central parts of the country and especially in the disadvantaged border regions, if the companies do not change their thinking on social responsibility. The question is legitimate, because the competition is

concentrated on the less busy forested regions in central Finland instead of the more wealthy southern parts of the country. In order to be able to maintain the less profitable routes, a company also needs some more profitable routes, although the routes in the more populated areas may also need subsidies. Finland is a relatively large country. The distance from south to north is 1,197 km and its border with Russia stretches some 1300 km. Public transport receives annual subsidies of EUR 1 billion, of which the state pays one third and the local governments the rest. According to the statistics of the traffic office, trains in Finland seem to be an astonishingly cost-effective form of transport. This conclusion is based on a comparison of the subsidy paid to trains (2 cents per kilometre) and the corresponding figures for buses (10 cents per kilometre) and taxis (20 cents per kilometre). In the light of this trend, which was already becoming clear at the beginning of the new millennium, the opposition in the Finnish Parliament launched a survey on 5.11.20015. The question was whether it was necessary for rail transport to be profitable on all routes, or whether the commitment to social responsibility was more important in order to maintain population levels in the whole of Finland.

Professor Reijo E. Heinonen is emeritus professor of cultural theology and history of ideas at the University of Joensuu (University of Eastern Finland), where he was the founding dean of the Ecumenical Theological Faculty. Professor Heinonen has published more than 130 scientific articles and seven monographs. He received his PhD from the University of Tübingen (Germany).

ECR GROUP EVENTS Building resilience to disasters On the occasion of the International Day for Disaster Reduction and following the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 last March, the ECR Group organised on 13 October 2015 a workshop bringing together local, regional and European practitioners, policy-makers and experts in order to analyse what the new framework means for Europe. Together, experts looked at the Sendai Framework and the EU mechanisms already in place. Disasters are socially and economically devastating. They can be local, regional, national or international in scale and impact. Between

2002 and 2012, disasters were responsible for more than 80,000 deaths and cost around €95bn in the EU alone. The frequency of se-


vere flooding across Europe is set to double by 2050, while it is the often unreported more recurrent, smaller local disasters that have the biggest impact on people and communities. At the EU level, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, the EU Solidarity Fund and the EU Cohesion Policy are existing tools that help Member States better prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. At the international level, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction aims to serve as a blueprint to help build resilience globally. This new international framework was adopted recently on 18 March 2015 at the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction coordinated by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

ECR Group seminar on building resilience to disasters

for Europe), Mr Ian Clark (Head of Unit, Policy and Implementation Frameworks, DG ECHO, European Commission), Dr Swenja Surminski (Senior Research Fellow, London School of Economics and Political Science), Dr Pavel Branda (Deputy-Mayor of Rádlo municipality, Czech Republic/ CoRs “EU Solidarity Fund” rapporteur/ ECR Group Member), and Mr Adam Banaszak (Vice-President of KujawskoPomorskie Regional Assembly, Poland/ CoRs “EU Civil Protection Mechanism” rapporteur/ ECR Group Bureau Member). Ms Kristalina Georgieva (the European Commission Vice-President and one of the UN Global Disaster Risk Reduction Champions) sent a video message in which she emphasised the importance of investing in disaster prevention. “Globally, only 4% of spending on disasters goes towards disaster preven-

Adam Banaszak (on the left) and Dr Pavel Branda

On the occasion of the International Day for Disaster Reduction, the ECR Group organised a workshop in the Committee of the Regions bringing together experts and practitioners from all levels of government, in order to analyse the implications of the new framework for Europe. The event was chaired by Councillor Harvey Siggs (Leader of Mendip District Council, UK/ CoRs “post-2015 Hyogo Framework for Action: Managing Risks to Achieve Resilience” rapporteur/ ECR Group Member). The list of panellists included Ms Paola Albrito (Head of the UNISDR Regional Office

Cllr Harvey Siggs



tion and preparedness, with 96% spent on response. This has to change’’ said Vice-President Georgieva. “Globally, only 4% of spending on disasters goes towards disaster prevention and preparedness, with 96% spent on response. This has to change’’. “Disasters know no borders which is why we need a coordinated approach at the EU

level. We already have EU mechanisms in place like the Civil Protection Mechanism and the Solidarity Fund but what we really need to do now, is to develop an overarching framework that can work as a coherent strategy. A strategy that pinpoints what Sendai means for Europe. Local government must be involved in this” said CoR rapporteur Cllr Harvey Siggs. In the coming years, the disaster risk community, including at the local level, will be engaged on many fronts in implementing

the Sendai Framework. “Developing new and building upon existing partnerships that support disaster risk reduction on the local level are key. The EU plays an important role in supporting local and regional authorities to build resilience to disasters and promoting the complementarity between climate and disaster risk reduction, sustainable development, and responsible urban planning,” concluded Paola Albrito, Head of the UNISDR Regional Office for Europe.

The role of transport connection in delivering growth and jobs – ECR Group Member Ilpo Haalisto unveils a new trans-European transport connection during Group meeting in Turku ECR Group members met in Turku, Finland to analyse the role of local and regional transport connections in delivering growth and jobs. Members met the Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini on the 19th of October and continued the debate over two panels on the 20th, where members and experts discussed the current EU transport infrastructure policy and explored the role that innovation could play as well as how the public and private sectors could best work together. Mr Ilpo Haalisto (Local Councillor of Nousiainen, Finland/ECR Group Bureau Member) unveiled a proposal for a new Western-Finland high-speed transport route to be added to the existing trans-European transport (TEN-T) network. He underlined a new Turku-Oulu-Kirkenes highway connection would help complement the existing trans-European networks by helping increase connectivity, competitiveness and generate growth and jobs. Mr Haalisto, unveiling his plans for a new link to the current trans-European transport network, explained that “the existing transport networks in Europe miss out the Northern

parts of the Nordic countries. We need to capitalise on the potential of the Nordic countries. Through a high-speed Turku (Finland) - Oulu (Finland) -Kirkenes (Norway) connection tak-

ing into account the Stockholm (Sweden) to Turku sea connection, the European market can have access to the Arctic and through the Arctic, to China. Currently, sending goods to China takes about a month. Through the Barents Sea in Arctic, this would take about two weeks. We can thus create a ‘sea silk road’”. Mr Haalisto also underlined that the next step could even be to create a new data cable from Europe to China along the ‘sea silk road’. “The existing transport networks in Europe miss out the Northern parts of the Nordic countries. We need to capitalise on the potential of the Nordic countries. Through a high-speed Turku (Finland) - Oulu (Finland) -Kirkenes (Norway) connection taking into account the Stockholm (Sweden) to Turku sea connection, the European market can have access to the Arctic and through the Arctic, to China”.


dressing the ECR Group members, the Foreign Minister said “you have a major role in implementation and have the best knowledge of how things are on the ground. Things must be done locally wherever and whenever possible. I’m very happy that the Committee of the Regions has been so active in these issues, be it on the TEN-T networks or the Connecting Europe Facility.” Mr Soini also noted that “transport is much more than asphalt, railways, and bridges. Digitalisation and automation offer a huge variety of possibilities for the transport sector”.

ECR Group members in Turku shipyard. From right to left: Vytautas Kanevičius, Dr Pavel Branda, Cllr Kay Twitchen OBE, Robert Godek, Ilpo Haalisto, Adam Banaszak, Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA, Cllr Judith Wallace, Rob Jonkman, Zinaida Tresnickaja

Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA (President of the ECR Group in the Committee of the Regions/Leader of Tandridge District Council, UK) underlined the importance of ensuring that the more remote areas of Europe remain connected. “Despite EU Treaty goals to build cohesion in all regions in the EU, we see that capital cities or the largest metropolitan centres are systematically prioritised. A genuinely holistic approach to balanced development is urgently needed and should form a fundamental pillar of the EU’s development policies. Transportation routes are an important way that can be done. As the CoR rapporteur on “mobility in geographically and demographically challenged regions”, I have called on the Commission to launch a debate on the mobility challenges faced by our remote areas through a white paper. I believe this remains a necessity” said Cllr Keymer.

Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini, discussing the importance of developing and modernising transport infrastructure with the ECR Group members, underlined the importance of local and regional authorities’ involvement. Ad-

The ECR Group meeting in Turku, Finland brought together politicians and experts to identify challenges and solutions in the European transport sector so that greater interconnectivity can be achieved. Members took stock of the current transport connections and discussed the role that innovation and technology can play as well as how the public and private sectors could work together. This meeting took place in light of the new EU transport infrastructure policy that has been in place since January 2014. The new Trans-European

From left to right: Ilpo Haalisto, Foreign Minister Timo Soini, Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA



Transport Networks (TEN-T) aims to modernise and ‘knit together’ today’s patchwork of national parts into a smooth-running network that connects all corners of Europe while making the best use of all the different means of travel. It has a budget of €26 billion up to 2020 and, in combination with funds from other EU sources and the EIB, it is expected to significantly stimulate investments and ensure a successful implementation of the new infrastructure policy. “The Juncker investment plan of €315 billion also presents an important opportunity to further improve our interconnectivity” said Mr Haalisto.

ECR Group Members in Turku

MEMBERS’ ACTIVITIES EU Funds in action: ECR Group Member Paweł Grzybowski highlights the benefits of modernising Rypin’s heating system The Municipal Thermal Energy Company — a company owned by the Municipality of Rypin (Poland), implemented a project entitled “modernisation of the heating system of Rypin, involving the conversion of the existing coal-fired power plant to combined production of heat and power obtained from the combustion of natural gas, and the modernisation of the network and the district heating substations”. Mayor of Rypin and ECR Group Member Paweł Grzybowski highlights the importance of this project.

Heating plant in Rypin after modernisation

Paweł Grzybowski

The project was co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and was aimed at modernising the heating system

of the Municipality of Rypin by using natural gas for the high-efficiency co-generation of heat and power.

and the existing plant was converted. In addition, a high-pressure thermal energy

In the framework of the project a gas-fired generator was purchased and assembled


grid was constructed using pre-insulation technology to allow the connection of new customers. The old coal-fired boilers were scrapped. 1774 km of high-pressure thermal energy pipes were replaced using preinsulated technology and 22 substations were replaced with new compact models. Five additional substations were also assembled for new customers.

“The introduction of a new source of power will reduce environmental costs and the need to purchase additional carbon dioxide emission rights. The investment will also increase the efficiency and technical reliability of the heating plant and secure thermal energy supplies”.

energy supplies,” explained Mayor Paweł Grzybowski. It will also improve air quality in the region, as the investment makes it possible to limit emissions into the atmosphere of harmful compounds, including CO2. This will have a positive impact on the environment, not only in Rypin itself but also in the surrounding municipalities.

As a result of this investment, the natural gas grid was extended to Rypin. This work was carried out in the framework of the “natural gas — energy for generations, gasification of the Rypin and Osiek municipalities” project.

“The introduction of a new source of power will reduce environmental costs and the need to purchase additional carbon dioxide emission rights. The investment will also increase the efficiency and technical reliability of the heating plant and secure thermal

It should be added that many buildings in Rypin are heated using energy produced from biogas. This is produced in the biogas plant constructed near Rypin, which is connected to the Rypin heating network, which belongs to the Municipal Thermal Energy Company.

Mr Paweł Grzybowski is a Member of the ECR Group in the Committee of the Regions since 2015. He was elected as Mayor of Rypin (Kujawsko-Pomorskie region, Poland) in 2010. Before becoming a Mayor, Mr Grzybowski served as Deputy Leader of the Rypin City Council. He was also the Chairman of the Council’s Committee for Culture, Sport, Health and Social Affairs.

Daiva Matonienė presents measures to improve energy efficiency at the Global Lithuanian Economic Forum The Global Lithuanian Economic Forum is Lithuania’s largest and most important economic event. The Forum brings together more than 400 international, government and local leaders with diverse backgrounds in business, politics, academia and culture. Organised by the Lithuanian Business Confederation, it promotes exchange of information and calls for stronger voice of the Lithuanian community in the world. the auspices of the President of the Republic of Lithuania, Ms Dalia Grybauskaitė, who also gave the opening speech. ECR Group Bureau Member and Lithuania’s Deputy Minister for Environment Ms Daiva Matonienė was a speaker on the panel devoted to energy independence and security. Ms Matonienė outlined the building renovation programme which has been crucial in achieving energy efficiency gains in the Baltic state.

Daiva Matonienė speaking at the Global Lithuanian Economic Forum

This year’s Forum was held on 20 October in Tel Aviv – the capital of Israel. The main themes of the event were innovation, research, development, strengthening cooperation between business and science, as well as fostering relations between Lithuania and Israel. The Forum was held under



“Our practice shows, that after modernisation there is a possibility to reduce energy consumption by between 50% and 70 %.” Ms Matonienė noted that as of today 75% of buildings in the European Union are not energy efficient. Renovations could help to ameliorate this situation and each country should strongly consider investments in this field. Benefits of such programmes were

presented to Lithuanian and Israeli business communities and research institutes. Above all, energy consumption in renovated buildings decreases by between 50% and 70% as a result of replacement of windows and doors, insulation and modernisation of heating systems. It is also important to highlight that emissions of greenhouse gases are significantly reduced. Ms Matonienė,

who is the ECR Group Coordinator in the ENVE Commission in the Committee of the Regions, familiarised the audience with methods of obtaining funding for such projects, including the European Investment Bank’s JESSICA programme. Lithuania has embarked on an ambitious programme of renovations focused on in-

creasing energy efficiency, which turned into a success story. Ms Matonienė said that this has only been possible due to close cooperation between all actors, including ministries, municipalities, agencies, enterprises, financial institutions and homeowners. The Deputy Minister invited Israeli representatives to become involved in the renovation scheme in Lithuania.

Ms Daiva Matonienė has been Lithuania’s Deputy Minister for Environment since 2012, where she is responsible for construction and housing, urban design and architecture, planning and mining sectors. She is also the ECR Group Coordinator in the Commission for Environment, Climate Change and Energy (ENVE) and a Member of the Šiauliai City Council.

CURRENT EU CHALLENGES Citizens more optimistic about the economy, but majority still do not trust the EU ECR President Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA and Marshal Władysław Ortyl comment on the results of the latest regional Eurobarometer survey released by the European Commission on October 21. The survey looked at main concerns of citizens in each of the 209 regions in the European Union, but also at levels of trust in the EU, perception of economic situation, and quality of life. 62,511 respondents from 28 EU Member States were interviewed in September this year by the Commission. The findings revealed relatively low level of trust in EU.

The economy Unemployment was identified as the most important problem by 46% of respondents, a 9% point decline since 2012. There were also increases in those who described the economic situation in their region as ‘good’ (55%, up from 45%) and described their quality of life as ‘good’ (76%, up from 70%).

However, concern about unemployment remains high across the continent. In Poland, the inhabitants of Podkarpackie region turned out to be most optimistic when asked about the economic situation and the quality of life. “It is important to notice in the context of these good results

that a dozen or so years ago the region was in economic crisis. But Podkarpackie is a region which grows quickly. Despite some economic problems, the development of new infrastructure, fast growth, and better employment prospects are all apparent” said Władysław Ortyl, who serves as the Marshal of the Podkarpackie region and is a Member of the ECR Group in the Committee of the Regions. “The EU needs to be led by the principle of localism so that decisions are taken as close to the citizens as possible and guided by the domestic realities we face”.

Eurobarometer survey, October 2015


Trust in the EU Overall, only 42% of all respondents expressed trust in the European Union. This is lower than the level of trust expressed in 2008, which stood at 47%. Trust in the EU is below the European average in 11 of the 12 regions of the United Kingdom. The average figure for the UK’s regions was 33%, lower than in every EU Member State except the Czech Republic. ECR Group President Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA (Leader of Tandridge District Council, UK) commented on these results calling for a need of more localism: “The low level of trust that UK citizens have for the EU sends a strong signal about the need for the type of reform that our Group has been campaigning for. To gain our citizens trust, we must empower them and to empower them, we must reform the EU and make it more bottom-up. The EU needs to be led by the principle of localism so that decisions are taken as close

to the citizens as possible and guided by the domestic realities we face. Local governments know the local realities so we must allow them to do their job and involve

them in the decision-making process for EU decisions that impact their work. We must allow and resource them to do their job” said Cllr Keymer.

Eurobarometer survey, October 2015
















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