ECR News Committee of the Regions | 11th edition
CONTENTS PRESIDENT’S LETTER
We need regional promotional banks to make the EU’s investment plan work
ECR GROUP OPINIONS We need regional promotional banks to make the EU’s investment plan work
LOCALISM ECR launches annual conference putting localism at heart of EU reform agenda ECR Group President Gordon Keymer calls for greater European localism in CoR debate with the President of the European Council Delivering effective and efficient public services – ECR Group will analyse EU public procurement rules in June Groningen meeting
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CURRENT CHALLENGES The UKs devolution revolution – 2016 budget and localism 7 Localism needs to be empowered in Scotland 9 The Middle East and Europe’s migration crisis – Gordon Keymer and Ilpo Haalisto meet local government counterparts from the EUs Southern Neighbourhood 10 Daiva Matonienė: Tackling radicalism requires local action 11 Robert Godek on “Via Carpathia” transport route – an opportunity for Europe and for European regions 12 Fostering cross-border cooperation – example of Southern Denmark 12
ECR launches annual conference putting localism at heart of EU reform agenda The European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the Committee of the Regions on 29 January 2016 launched a campaign to put localism at the heart of the EU. At a conference in Budapest (Hungary) delegates had the opportunity to exchange views and further develop the ECR’s localism agenda. The principle of localism would ECR Group conference on localism result in the EU only getting involved if absolutely needed and better taking into account the interests of local communities.
Delivering effective and efficient public services – ECR Group will analyse EU public procurement rules in June Groningen meeting
MEMBERS ACTIVITIES Renovation of city districts gathers pace in Lithuania 13 Paweł Grzybowski sheds light on Rypin’s international cooperation and the Europe for Citizens programme 14
ECR Group Secretariat Committee of the Regions
Adam Banaszak, Member of the ECR Group Bureau and VicePresident of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Regional Assembly, is the Committee of the Regions’ rapporteur on the role of national and regional promotional banks in implementing the “Investment Plan for Europe”. While welcoming the ongoing EU work in exploring the positive role that promotional banks can play in providing financing solutions, the CoR opinion outlines that the “centralised” promotional support models do not always meet the needs of local communities.
This year’s external ECR Group meeting will be dedicated to the topic of EU public procurement in delivering better public services. Public procurement refers to the process by which public authorities, such as government departments or local authorities, purchase work, goods or services from companies. Examples include the building of a state school, purchasing furniture for a public prosecutor’s office and contracting cleaning services for a public university. ECR Group members will be meeting in Groningen in the Netherlands on 3 June.
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PRESIDENT’S LETTER Brussels was recently attacked by terrorists. My thoughts lie with the families and friends of the victims of these tragic events. In this newsletter you will find examples of the local and regional sharing of experiences on issues such as combating radicalism and managing migration. You will find examples of exchanges within the EU and also with our Southern EU neighbourhood. It is also my pleasure to present this newsletter where you will find an article on the first Localism Conference organised by my Group where we brought together politicians from different tiers of government with experts in the field to discuss and further elaborate what localism means for different parts of Europe. You will also
Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA
find an article by Adam Banaszak on the CoR opinion on the role of national and regional promotional banks in delivering jobs and growth. This CoR opinion is being prepared under Adam’s leadership as rapporteur on this important dossier. Furthermore, you will find the details of our upcoming Group meeting where we are due to discuss public procurement rules taking stock of the current situation and seeing how things can be improved. You will also find examples of our Members’ activities ranging from renovation projects in Lithuania to cross-border cooperation examples from Denmark. Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA President of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group Committee of the Regions, European Union
ECR GROUP OPINIONS We need regional promotional banks to make the EU’s investment plan work Adam Banaszak, Member of the ECR Group Bureau and Vice-President of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Regional Assembly, is the Committee of the Regions’ rapporteur on the role of national and regional promotional banks in implementing the “Investment Plan for Europe”. While welcoming the ongoing EU work in exploring the positive role that promotional banks can play in providing financing solutions, the CoR opinion outlines that the “centralised” promotional support models do not always meet the needs of local communities. Adam Banaszak, as the Committee of the Regions’ Economic Policy Commission member charged with drafting the Committee of the Regions’ report on the role of promotional banks in delivering Europe’s Investment Plan, outlined that for the success of the Investment Plan, the Commission needed to put greater emphasis on decentralised promotional support models. “While the Commission’s aim to try to capitalise on the potential of promotional banks in delivering jobs and growth is good, local and regional authorities need to be given a greater say in the choice
of financial solutions that are targeted at the local level. The “centralised” promotional support models based solely on a national bank and its non-autonomous local branches do not always meet the needs of local communities. Such promotional banks need to further decentralise the services they offer”, explained Adam Banaszak. The Investment Plan for Europe announced by European Commission on 26 November 2014 aims to leverage €315 billion of investment to create jobs and growth. While implementation of the plan relies mainly on the Commission and EIB working together as strategic partners, an effective involvement of National Promotional Banks (NPBs) is seen as necessary by the EU as reflected in the regulation on the European Fund for Strategic Investments. The Commission published
a Communication on 27 July 2015 to provide guidance to Member States intending to set up new NPBs. The investment programme including the role of and cooperation among promotional banks is due to be evaluated following its completion on 30 June 2018. Adam Banaszak explained that promotional banks have the potential to fill the investment gap created by the financial crisis but that a decentralised model and ex-post evaluations matching the long-term nature of the projects is necessary. It is estimated that the investment gap resulting from the financial crisis has reached €300 billion in public and private investment since 2008. “The economic and financial crisis has had a significant impact on our societies, that can still be felt today. Our financial systems are still recovering, which creates an invest-
ment gap. Promotional banks are stepping in across Europe to fill this gap. This is a much welcome move because promotional bank lending does not cause any crowding-out ef-
fects of the private sector. Different promotional banking development models exist, each with its own merit. The important thing is to ensure we do not overtly centralise the system and that any ex-post evaluations of these banks are long-term in nature (10-15 years) reflecting the timeframe of investment projects financed”, said Mr Banaszak. The European Commission, outlining the possible role that promotional banks can play in delivering investment on the ground, is providing guidance to Member States intending to set up new promotional banks. Mr Banaszak criticised that the Commission’s focus remains on national promotional banks, while promotional banks’ activities usually focus on the local and regional level. “The document outlining the views by European local and regional politicians prepared under my leadership as spokesperson highlights the importance of having decentralised promotional banks working at the regional level to meet the needs of
our communities. We need to further decentralise the services that our promotional banks offer so that the services they offer match local and regional interests”, said Mr Banaszak. Already in November shortly after the Investment plan was announced, eight NPBs (from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia and Spain) committed to provide co-financing to projects and investment platforms, for a total financing volume of up to € 34 billion. Speaking about the Polish case, Mr Banaszak explained that “there is only one state-owned promotional bank in Poland – Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego. Operating at the national level, it is the centre of competence in the financing of infrastructure projects, export, municipal companies and local governments. In the Kujawsko-Pomorskie region we are currently considering creating a regional bank.”
LOCALISM ECR launches annual conference putting localism at heart of EU reform agenda The European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the Committee of the Regions on 29 January 2016 launched a campaign to put localism at the heart of the EU. At a conference in Budapest (Hungary) delegates had the opportunity to exchange views and further develop the ECR’s localism agenda. LOCALISM REALISM REFORM
Î Conservatism and localism Î Sustainable local policies Î Economic governance 29-01-2016 | 9.00 - 14.00
Mercure Korona Hotel, Budapest
“We believe that localism is key for a reformed and better-functioning EU, as it would mean a more citizen-led, more transparent, and less intrusive system of governance,” said Cllr Gordon Keymer, President of the ECR Group in the CoR. “Approximately 70% of EU legislation impacts local and regional authorities, and these bodies therefore deserve a seat at the decision-making table to ensure they can contribute to polices which are elaborated at national and EU level.”
Hungary there is hardly any independence for municipalities, the growing centralization hurts local interests. It goes against conservative values such as the importance of the individual and their involvement in the decision making process as well as the idea of a free market. I can see how the principles of localism would benefit both the local populations and local businesses on the ground, moving decisions closer to the citizen and adapting them to local circumstances. I very much wel-
The principle of localism would result in the EU only getting involved if absolutely needed and better taking into account the interests of local communities. Zoltan Kész, a member of the Hungarian Parliament, spoke about the local context in his country. “Localism is about taking decisions in a bottom-up manner and allowing local issues to be addressed locally – here in
ECR Group conference on localism
come this campaign from the ECR and will be closely following developments”. The event, which focused on the role of local and regional government in delivering effective public services, brought together a wide range of decision-makers and stakeholders and featured an excellent group of speakers including MEPs, national Parliamentarians, Members of the CoR, Think-Tanks, economists, and local development agencies. This conference is the first of what will become an annual event on the topic to further raise the profile of localism across Europe.
Andrew Lewer MEP said: “Localism is particularly dear to our party group – indeed the exercise of powers at the lowest practicable level is one of our political family’s founding principles. In my own country, the UK, we have a number of layers of government, with some power devolved in the regions. However, there is still much work to be done when it comes to properly respecting and rewarding our local government leaders, and they must be provided with enough autonomy and responsibility to make a difference at the local level. Working hard at the European level
to get the institutions to ensure they do not block local autonomy – deliberately or otherwise – only bears its ripest fruit if national government is equally respectful of other layers of governance.” In the coming months the ECR Group will work with policymakers to ensure that localism not only remains on the EU agenda, but also comes to shape future policies to the extent that it becomes a principle to the EU as a whole.
ECR Group President Gordon Keymer calls for greater European localism in CoR debate with the President of the European Council ECR Group President Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA (Leader of the Tandridge District Council/United Kingdom) welcomed the President of the European Council, Mr Donald Tusk, on behalf of the ECR Group during the plenary session of the Committee of the Regions on 10 February 2016. Cllr Keymer explained that greater localist thinking is needed and gave examples of how greater localism could help the EU to better address economic development targets and the migration crisis. Regarding the upcoming Council agenda item on the future structure of the EU, Cllr Keymer welcomed Donald Tusk’s efforts and underlined that European reform is of great
importance to local government. “I believe the debates over the future gives an opportunity for all of us in the EU to look at what is going on in our countries and whether local
Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA (first from the right) with President Donald Tusk (fourth from the right)
government where we live is flourishing or declining. We need to ask ourselves if powers are really being devolved down to the levels closest to the people. Is adequate funding obtainable to run the services on which our residents rely? How far are we able to raise funds locally to provide services locally?”, explained Cllr Keymer.
veillance, Cllr Keymer said “local and regional authorities are responsible for approximately one third of all public expenditure and two thirds of all public investment. Therefore, as part of the structural reforms being pursued, the EU needs to work with local and regional authorities when formulating economic targets and strategies”.
The ECR Group President commented on the two items of the upcoming Council meetings of Heads of State and Government explaining that greater localist thinking is needed. On the European semester, the EUs annual cycle of economic policy guidance and sur-
On migration, Cllr Keymer emphasised that the ECR Group “has been consistent in calling for a firm but fair approach. From the very beginning we called for the EU to respect the legal distinction between a migrant and a refugee. Someone seeking to enter the EU
illegally to improve their life cannot be put in the same category as a person fleeing from war and persecution. We have seen the EU become more careful in its wording so as to respect this and that must be welcome. However, we are still not seeing sufficient focus on local and regional capabilities. As local and regional authorities, we are the ones who have to deliver on housing and care. We need more collective thinking on how to address the migration challenges we face in a sustainable and realistic manner,” Cllr Keymer concluded.
Delivering effective and efficient public services – ECR Group will analyse EU public procurement rules in June Groningen meeting ECR Group members will be meeting in Groningen in the Netherlands on 3 June to analyse the EUs public procurement rules. Group members will analyse the current situation following the new rules introduced in February 2014 and will look at further steps that can be taken to help deliver most efficient and effective public services. The meeting will be hosted by ECR Group members Rob Jonkman (Member of the Executive Council of Opsterland) and Henk Staghouwer (Member of the Executive Council of the Province of Groningen). This year’s external ECR Group meeting will be dedicated to the topic of EU public procurement in delivering better public services. Public procurement refers to the process by which public authorities, such as government departments or local authorities, purchase work, goods or services from companies. Examples include the building of a state school,
purchasing furniture for a public prosecutor’s office and contracting cleaning services for a public university. Every year over 250 000 public authorities in the EU spend around 14% of GDP on the purchase of services, works and supplies.
Prinsenhof gardens in Groningen
To create a level playing field for all businesses across Europe, EU law sets out minimum harmonised public procurement rules. These rules organise the way public authorities and certain public utility operators purchase goods, works and services. They are transposed into national legislation and apply to tenders whose monetary value exceeds a certain amount. For tenders of a lower value, national rules apply. Nevertheless, these national rules also have to respect the general principles of EU law.
procurement alone across the EU could generate savings of up to â&#x201A;Ź2.3 billion. Full e-procurement is yet to be achieved.
EU public procurement rules have recently been updated and the new Directive adopted by the European Parliament and the Council on 26 February 2014 is due to be transposed into national law by 18 April of this year. Their correct and timely transposition is crucial as is continuing the work in modernising public procurement. On April 2012, after the European Commission adopted a strategy for e-procurement, it announced that it aimed to reach full eprocurement by the middle of this year noting that the adoption of e-invoicing in public
University of Groningen
ECR Group member Rob Jonkman was representing the Dutch provinces in the preparation of the new EU procurement rules.
Among the guest speakers will be Malcolm Harbour CBE, who as the former Member of the European Parliament was the EP rapporteur on the issue representing the EPs position in the preparation of the new rules. Malcolm Harbour is also the former Chair of the EPs Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee. Other guest speakers include Professor of Economic Law, Prof Hans Vedder
from the faculty of law at the University of Groningen and Fenna Beekmans, the Director of Europa Decentraal. Europa Decentraal is a Dutch Knowledge centre that provides free advice and information to municipalities, provinces and water management boards on the application of European law and policy. The province of Groningen has a population of 579 000 and is made up of 23 municipali-
ties. Its economic heart is the city of Groningen – home to a famous university, numerous colleges, a medical centre, and the European gas infrastructure company Gasunie. An important pillar of the local economy is agriculture. The main port Eemshaven and the harbour area of Delfzijl allow business to expand and contribute to the province’s economic growth.
CURRENT CHALLENGES The UKs devolution revolution – 2016 budget and localism - By Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA Gordon Keymer (Leader of Tandridge District Council, UK/ President of the ECR Group in the Committee of the Regions) is a Chartered Accountant and is Chairman of his family firm founded in 1844. He has been a member of the Committee of the Regions since 1998. He has been Tandridge District Council Conservative Group Leader since 1991 and Council leader since 2000. He was awarded the CBE in 2002 for his services to local government. He became South East England Council’s Chairman in June 2012, completing his three year term in 2015. He was the UK CoR Delegation Leader for nine years from 2006 until 2015. He is also the UK Delegation Leader and Chairman of the Finance Management Committee on the Council of European Municipalities and Regions. As a politician who has dedicated his career to serving local communities, I have been championing for greater localism for almost 30 years. It is my belief that our citizens’ interests are better served through governance at the level closest to them. The budget has a huge role to play in this. When we empower local authorities we must also match this with the necessary fiscal capacity so that they have the means to provide services to their localities. I was at the British Parliament on 15 March when the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne presented my countries budget for 2016, outlining bold steps to achieve devolution not only to our nations but also to local governments. He explained that while 80% of local government funding came from central grants in 2010, “by the end of this parliament, 100% of local government resources will come from local government – raised locally, spent locally, invested locally.” Touching on the new devolution deals for East Anglia, the west of England and Greater Lincolnshire, he said that “north,
south, east and west, the devolution revolution is taking hold.” Looking at the bigger picture, our national public spending is being cut and we are trying to achieve more private sector led growth in our local communities. To try to balance the books and ensure that we do spend more money than what we have, the Chancellor announced £3.5 billion (approximately €4.4 billion) of savings from public spending in 2019-20. It is not fully clear at this stage how the budgetary cuts will impact local government. The Chancellor did not announce any direct cuts to local government budget and that must be welcome. However, the reform of business rates will affect us. In October of last year, the Chancellor had announced that by the end of this government in 2020, local government will be able to retain 100% of local taxes – including all £26 billion (approximately €32.5 billion) of revenue from business rates – to spend on local government services. He had also announced that Uniform Business Rate would also be abolished and local authorities would
be given the power to cut business rates to boost enterprise and economic activity in their areas. The Chancellor has now also announced cuts to the taxes that small businesses pay. This tax cut must of course be welcome as we need our businesses to grow and flourish for the good of our economy. Given that money obtained through business rates will be less than before, we must now think of other ways to provide our local governments with the necessary financial stability to deliver services. An announcement that must be strongly welcomed is the £700 million (approximately €891 million) extra funding for flood resilience and defences. When disasters hit, local government is the first tier of government that has to respond. Disasters are happening more regularly and therefore it is important that we are investing in resilience and response.
an elected mayor. In particular, the Chancellor wants to see the creation of strong elected Mayors to help us build a Northern Powerhouse. Many two tier local governments in England do not want Mayors. In 2012, 9 out of 10 cities rejected the idea of having Mayors. A key argument has been that the current system allows for a more inclusive approach rather than concentrating powers in the hand of a single person. Others have underlined that the current system works and balances the interests of the different tiers and is therefore not in need of change. In the UK, we have a diverse set of local government systems in the different parts of our country. In England, where my Council is located, many areas have two tiers of local government (county councils and district, borough or city councils) while other parts of the country have just one tier (unitary authorities in shire areas, London boroughs, metropolitan boroughs).
Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA
The main aspect of the budget for local government was the devolution deals. As outlined in the budget document, the government has now agreed new mayoral devolution deals with English counties and southern cities too, reaching agreements with the West of England, East Anglia and Greater Lincolnshire. The government has also agreed a further devolution deal with Greater Manchester, including a commitment to work towards the devolution of criminal justice powers. This is good news for Greater Manchester,
whose new competences in the justice field will allow it to tackle crime more efficiently. A second devolution deal was made with Liverpool City Region, through which Liverpool will be able to have better control over not only the justice system, but also transport, business rates (of which Liverpool will keep 100%), health and housing. The main stumbling block in the devolution deals is the idea of having directly elected Mayors across the UK, which would replace local council cabinets. Our Chancellor is keen on elected Mayors. Already last year and the year before that he had promised devolution to cities. However, the condition has been to have
It is also worth noting that in the UK, we currently have two types of Mayors â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Mayors with ceremonial duties chosen by Councilors and Mayors directly elected by the public with powers to make decisions. The option of a directly elected Mayor was introduced in the Local Government Act 2000. Councils in England and Wales may have elected Mayors if the public decide they want this. In other words, if the citizens in the area vote for a Mayor in a referendum, held in the area, then there will be a Mayor. As of 2015, we have 18 directly elected Mayors with this due to rise to over 20 by the end of 2017. This new budget is giving local areas more control over the decisions that have impact on their communities. However, the requirement for Mayors is a dimension that remains unpopular and needs further thought. In the UK we have a diverse local government system each one tailored to the specific locality. We need to find a way to pursue greater localism without taking a â&#x20AC;&#x153;one-size fits all approachâ&#x20AC;? which may look good on paper, but it does not always meet the demands of our diverse communities.
Localism needs to be empowered in Scotland - By Cllr Barbara Grant On May 5th, Scotland will go to the polls to elect a new Scottish Parliament and the administration of its 32 Local Authorities, known as Councils. Councillor Barbara Grant, Shadow Convenor for Community Services and Community Safety, of East Renfrewshire Council represents Scotland on the Committee of the Regions SEDEC Commission. Here she discusses the ongoing movement to put local democracy at the heart of Scotlandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s future. Central to the campaign is COSLAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Manifesto for a Stronger Local Democracy, which every parliamentary candidate is being asked to sign and act upon in the first 100 days of the new Parliament. There are five pledges within the manifesto: 1. Make Scotlandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s public services local by default 2. Redraw the partnership between local and national government 3. Give communities financial choices 4. Open up Scottish democracy 5. Join up thinking on reform
Cllr Barbara Grant
Scottish Local Authorities are concerned with the local services that local communities need. We are committed to decisionmaking at the lowest possible level, giving communities a say over their service provision and delivering positive change locally. However it remains the case that compared to Local Government in other EU Member States, Scottish Councils represent much larger populations, have less constitutional protection and considerably more reliance on funding from national government. There is therefore a real need to empower localism in Scotland and continue to develop local, outcome based approaches that have already been shown to make a real difference. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), the representative voice of Scottish Local Government at national and international level is advocating reform by focussing on building local democratic choice. The COSLA #chooselocal campaign is calling for a stronger local democracy and an overhaul of participation in decision-making by bringing democracy closer to people.
Strong democracy means putting local people in charge of their own lives, and freeing national government to focus on outcomes for the whole of Scotland, and the rights that all communities should enjoy. A democracy where local communities have more say; where different needs are met with different solutions; and where new ideas can flourish will empower local Councils to use their democratic mandate to really influence the issues that matter locally and bring change. In my own Local Authority, East Renfrewshire Council, I have been highlighting the importance of care for the elderly population for several years. This is in recognition of the challenge that an ageing demographic puts on locally delivered social care services. The five #chooselocal manifesto pledges can help Local Authorities effectively respond to this issue. For example, giving communities financial choices can help deliver standards of care that the
community expects. It can also help manage costly long-term care that is more frequently required. By making public services local by default and by opening Scottish democracy, communities will have a bigger say over how their public services are run which is ultimately the best way to improve community wellbeing. Change at all levels of governance in Scotland is required and it is with much hope that the election in May will bring that change. Scottish Local Government will continue to make the case for a strengthened local democracy where elected representatives play a fundamental role in encouraging local participation and delivering locally tailored services.
COSLA #chooselocal campaign
The Middle East and Europe’s migration crisis – Gordon Keymer and Ilpo Haalisto meet local government counterparts from the EUs Southern Neighbourhood ECR Group Members Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA (Leader of Tandridge Council/United Kingdom) and Ilpo Haalisto (Local Councillor of Nousiainen/Finland) participated in the 7th annual plenary session of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) where local and regional politicians from the EU and the EU’s Southern Neighbourhood gathered together to discuss key issues of mutual concern. The action plan of ARLEM for 2016 was agreed and specific targeted assistance was offered to Libyan local authorities following on from the CoR meetings with Libyan Mayors.
ARLEM Members in Nicosia
The 7th ARLEM Plenary session, where the Union for the Mediterranean, the European Commission and the United Nations were also represented, addressed key issues including the “management of migration” and local and regional development. The meeting took place from 18 to 19 January 2016 and brought together over 100 delegates from the Mediterranean Sea area. ECR Group members Cllr Gordon Keymer and Mr Ilpo Haalisto contributed to debates on migration, the European Neighbourhood Policy and local reforms in Libya.
gional authorities are in the frontline when it comes to managing migration. This issue will be with us for the years to come and that is why we need to focus on sharing
best practices in the field of integration of refugees and prevention of radicalisation. Ensuring funding for local and regional authorities is essential in this regard and we
ECR Group President Cllr Gordon Keymer spoke on the part that local government can play in increasing local integration and combatting radicalisation. “Local and re-
Ilpo Haalisto (on the left) and Cllr Gordon Keymer CBE FCA
need to be clear about that with the national governments. As to ARLEM, the local government family should work together in the countries from where the refugees and migrants come to increase stability, investment and jobs”, said Cllr Keymer.
ARLEM was set up on 21 January 2010 in Barcelona with the aim of strengthening the role of local authorities in Euro-Mediterranean cooperation and giving a territorial dimension to the Union for the Mediterranean. It was also set up to enhance cooperation between the three shores of the
Mediterranean (south, east and north) and to demonstrate that, despite political and institutional difficulties, local authorities are able to promote the launching and development of new cooperation projects in line with the priorities adopted at the 2008 Paris Summit.
Daiva Matonienė: Tackling radicalism requires local action ECR Group Member Daiva Matonienė participated in a fact-finding mission to Mechelen (Belgium) on February 25, where European experts exchanged good practices on the fight against extremism. The experience and preventive approach of local authorities in fighting radicalisation was presented by police officers from Mechelen, Vilvoorde and Antwerp. The second part of the mission included a testimonial of two field workers and a mother who lost her son in fights in Syria. In Ms Matonienė’s view “prevention of radicalisation requires a localist bottom-up approach”. “I fully agree that we need to urgently intensify our efforts to prevent radicalisation and to foster anti-radicalisation programmes in communities across Europe. We should do so by engaging with communities and civil society not only at national, but also at local level. This is the kind of preventative action that we need to carry out as local and regional leaders”. Although in Lithuania radical ideologies have remained largely unpopular, various
Daiva Matonienė (third from the left in the front row) at the conference
government documents indicate potential threats. For example, studies find that a growing number of extremists who return from the conflict regions to Europe, and of persons who come under influence of active extremist propaganda, poses a potential terrorist attack threat to all EU countries. “It is important we address radicalisation through grass root solutions. If we don’t, this can lead to a backlash from our voters who may opt for racism or xenophobia as an outlet for their concerns and this will only make the problem worse”, notes Ms Matonienė.
Daiva Matonienė (fifth from the left) in Mechelen
Robert Godek on “Via Carpathia” transport route — an opportunity for Europe and for European regions The transport ministers of the nine countries through which the Via Carpathia transportation route runs signed a joint declaration in Warsaw on 3 March. The declaration outlines joint cooperation on the development of the transport corridor that links northern and southern Europe, starting in Lithuania and ending in Greece.
Proposed “Via Carpathia” transit route
“This is a major event, not only on a macroEuropean scale but also for Polish and European regions”, said Robert Godek, Mayor of Strzyżów town in Poland and Member of the ECR Group in the Committee of the Regions. “Among other things, this investment is of crucial importance for areas like the Podkarpackie region, including the district of Strzyżów. It will contribute to the economic development expected in the eastern part of the EU, and thus to increased employment
and reduced unemployment, which has long been our greatest social problem.” Sections of the S-19 expressway, which will form part of the Via Carpathia, are being built in the Podkarpackie region. A project linking the Rzeszów-South junctions with the Polish-Slovak border at Barwinek is currently being prepared, with the participation of local authority representatives. The route was the subject of broad social consultation, as a
result of which the optimum variant was chosen, one requirement being an acceptable impact on the natural environment. A technical dialogue announced by the Rzeszów office of the General Directorate of National Roads and Motorways is currently underway, the aim being to collect information on the technically and technologically most advantageous solutions for the construction of this section of the S-19 expressway.
Fostering cross-border cooperation – example of Southern Denmark The region of Southern Denmark – represented in the ECR Group by Councillor Niels Erik Søndergaard – has over many years developed cross-border areas of cooperation to strengthen the basis for growth, enhance the region’s attractiveness for the future and build on its strategic strengths. The region is an active member of several European organisations and networks. The region of Southern Denmark is one of five administrative units in Denmark. It consists of 22 municipalities, and has a population of 1.2 million. One of the organisa-
tions in which it plays an active role is the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR). The CPMR is an association of 160 regions from 28 EU countries promoting balanced development in Europe. It has considerable influence in the EU as the body representing the views of numerous peripheral regions in Europe. Its main activities are carried by six geographical commissions, including the region of South Denmark as
a member of the North Sea Commission (NSC). The NSC is able to exercise political influence in the EU institutions in areas affecting the North Sea. Southern Denmark is also participating in the Nordic Transport Policy Network (NTN) – a forum for regional cooperation in the field of transport policy, set up in 1998. The network is made up of regions with a com-
sectors, fisheries, the tourism professions, industry, ports and nature protection organisations from the Netherlands, Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark. Danish-German cooperation is largely based on a series of formal agreements and informal working relations. The region of Southern Denmark engages in bilateral cooperation with the Land of Schleswig-Holstein. A partnership agreement provides a framework for cooperation, which is organised in the form of biennial plans and covers areas such as education, business development, health and infrastructure.
The Interreg 5A programme is an EU programme for Danish-German cross-border projects in the period 2014-2020, with funding of approximately DKR 672 million. The Danish partners are the Southern Denmark and Sjælland regions, whilst the German partners comprise nine districts and cities. The Southern Denmark region intends to use the programme for major strategic projects in a variety of areas: clean technologies, offshore, food, innovation in welfare, design, education, transport, tourism, culture, internships and cross-border cooperation.
Niels Erik Søndergaard
mon interest in links between them and between the western part of Scandinavia and Central Europe. It seeks to create a basis for transport policy decisions and to enhance regional planning in transport and infrastructure. The network focuses primarily on the transport of freight and passengers and on reinforcing the European dimension of Southern Denmark’s priorities in the area of transport. Finally, the region takes part in the Wadden Sea Forum – an independent platform of stakeholders from the Wadden Sea region in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, with a joint secretariat. The members of the Forum represent the local and regional authorities, the agriculture and energy
Region of Southern Denmark (in red)
MEMBERS ACTIVITIES Renovation of city districts gathers pace in Lithuania Last year was a turning point in the history of the renovation of apartment buildings in Lithuania. Last year 3.5 times more apartment buildings were renovated than previously. Daiva Matonienė, Deputy Lithuanian Environment Minister responsible for building renovation, Member of Šiauliai City Municipal Council and ECR Group Coordinator in the ENVE Commission in the Committee of the Regions, points out that such good results would not have been possible without the support of local and regional authorities. “Only by mobilising capacity at local level and through close cooperation have we been able to promote building modernisation throughout Lithuania”, Daiva Matonienė ex-
plains, pleased at the results of this difficult and responsible job. According to economists, the housing renovation programme launched is one of the government’s largest
around 400 projects of this kind are being carried out. The possibility is being considered of submitting a national programme for increasing the energy efficiency of residential areas to the government for discussion shortly. Under this plan, all 60 Lithuanian local and regional authorities would plan and comprehensively renovate not only individual buildings but whole residential areas. This would include apartment blocks, public buildings and infrastructure, i.e. street lighting, car parks, access roads, green areas etc. Pilot city district renovation projects are currently being carried out in Šiauliai, Utena and Birštonas.
Daiva Matonienė (third from the right) visiting the German Federal Environment Ministry
projects and has given a clear impetus to the Lithuanian economy. Thus, in 2015 it led to an increase in GDP of around 0.4% and contributed to a reduction in unemployment and to improved energy efficiency in Lithuania. Renovation work is expected to continue at roughly the same pace in 2016. The Environment Ministry intends to renovate 1 000 apartment buildings each year for the foreseeable future. The aim is to increase the renovation rate further and to gradually ex-
tend the measures to entire city districts. The Environment Ministry is working closely with Germany on this. In this connection, a Lithuanian delegation travelled to Germany to study experience with city district renovation there, and in return German experts visited Lithuania. A number of visits are planned in 2016, in the course of which experience will be exchanged. In Germany the renovation of city districts, involving not just individual houses but whole residential areas and their infrastructure, began in 2008. At present
“The Environment Ministry is also planning to set up a risk-sharing fund, in cooperation with the Finance Ministry and the European Investment Bank, to make more resources available for renovation”, Daiva Matonienė says, explaining the plans for the future. The ECR Group Coordinator in the ENVE Commission was recently appointed CoR rapporteur on “an EU strategy for heating and cooling”. Daiva Matonienė will evaluate European Commission’s plans on heating and cooling, which are part of the EU Energy Union Strategy. She will look at plans to boost the energy efficiency of buildings, improve linkages between electricity systems and district heating, and encourage reuse of waste heat and cold generated by industry.
Paweł Grzybowski sheds light on Rypin’s international cooperation and the Europe for Citizens programme Paweł Grzybowski (ECR Group Member and Mayor of Rypin/Poland) concluded a mutual cooperation agreement between Rypin and the Italian municipality of Uggiate-Trevano that sets out cooperation in many areas ranging from youth exchange projects to the exchange of local authority experiences. The municipalities are now due to apply for EU funding for their joint projects. Paweł Grzybowski signed a mutual cooperation agreement between Rypin and Uggiate-Trevano, an Italian municipality located in the province of Como. The document, signed in February 2016, provides for multi-level cooperation in the areas of sport, education, exchange of local authori-
ty experience and youth exchange projects. The agreement will also help to apply for the funding to carry out these initiatives. “I am pleased that we have established cooperation with the Italian municipality of Uggiate-Trevano. With this agreement we will be able to, among other things, apply for EU funding for joint projects under the Europe for Citizens programme”, said Mr Grzybowski. The aim of the Europe for Citizens Programme is to contribute to citizens’ under-
standing of the EU, its history and diversity. The financed projects raise awareness of the common history and values, as well as encourage the democratic and civic participation of citizens. Mr Grzybowski added that “this kind of contact also facilitates the exchange of experience in the areas of local government, culture, education and sport”. In July this year, a 25-member delegation from Rypin will take part in an international meeting on the subject of migration. The project leader and host of the event will be
Visit to the Rypin municipal council
Mayors PaweĹ&#x201A; Grzybowski (on the right) and Fortunato Turcato sign a cooperation agreement
Uggiate-Trevano. In addition to representatives of Poland and Italy, the meeting will bring together delegations from partner towns in France, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Malta. During the meeting
Mayor Grzybowski will deliver a lecture on the future of Europe. The main theme of the talk will be the need for a review of the concepts of tolerance, openness, solidarity and multiculturalism.
MEETINGS CALENDAR MEETING
CoR PLENARY SESSION
Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX)
Commission for Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture (SEDEC)
Commission for the Environment, Climate Change and Energy (ENVE)
Commission for Economic Policy (ECON)
Bureau of the Conference of the Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP)
Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget (COTER) and CoR Forum on Urban Agenda
ECR GROUP MEETING
CoR PLENARY SESSION
Bureau of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM)
Commission for Natural Resources (NAT)
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