ECR News - 14th edition

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ECR News European Committee of the Regions | 14th edition



The role of people-to-people cross border cooperation projects in increasing the EUs added value


Dr Pavel Branda, rapporteur on “people-to-people and smallscale projects in cross-border cooperation programmes”, saw his work adopted by Members of the CoR’s Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy. The opinion underlines the added value of people-to-people and small-scale projects, which contribute considerably to overcoming border obstacles.

A more bottom-up European Semester 2 Tackling youth unemployment 3 Progressing on renewable energy and electricity market design 4 Simplyfying people-to-people and small-scale projects 5 Dr Pavel Branda

LOCALISM ECR localism conference in Vukovar Focusing EU action on areas of added value What future for EU Cohesion Policy? Contributing to the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction Thoughts on EU action for Smart Villages Achieving greater rural prosperity

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CURRENT CHALLENGES The future of dairy farming London united after recent tragedies Election observation mission to Armenia Implementing the new consensus on development Enlargement of the European Union

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ECR localism conference in Vukovar calls for a bottom-up and localist EU Cohesion Policy This year’s localism conference organised in Vukovar, Croatia brought together local and regional politicians and experts with representatives of the European Parliament. Croatian, Czech, Dutch, Lithuanian and Polish case studies on the use of the EUs Cohesion Funds were presented.

MEMBERS ACTIVITIES ECR Members elected to the House of Commons Forging a strong partnership post-Brexit Election fever in the United Kingdom Key aviation industry event in Podkarpackie Investing in clean energy in Strzyżów Fostering entrepreneurship in Lithuania European Tree of the Year

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ECR Group Secretariat Committee of the Regions

ECR Group Members in Vukovar

We do not yet know what the future relationship of the UK and the EU will look like. But it is my sincere hope that the outcome of the Brexit process will be an improved and stronger EU that is more open to the values of the ECR writes Cllr David Simmonds CBE.

Rue Belliard/Belliardstraat, 101 1040 Bruxelles/Brussel

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

Cllr David Simmonds CBE


ECR Group President Rob Jonkman

This newsletter is coming out at a time when the European Union is reflecting on its future. This process, triggered by the UK referendum result on June 2016, is due to result in a decision being taken by the heads of state and government by the end of this year on the future path of Europe. As the ECR Group, we were created through the desire of our members to reform the EU. While I do regret that it has taken the decision of the UK to leave the EU for reform to finally be put on

the agenda, I am nonetheless glad that we are finally talking about serious reforms. We need a European system of governance that is more transparent, less centralised and less intrusive. Work and cooperation at the EU level should focus on areas where EU action is really needed and where it is not more practicable to handle matters locally or nationally. Rather than trying to do everything, the EU should focus and do less more efficiently. I would bring into question the degree to which we need to focus on a European collective representation in different parts of the world given that we have our national diplomats and ambassadors already providing this representation. Instead, I would underline the need to do a better job of achieving cohesive development of Europe. Despite spending one third of the EU budget on trying to achieve this goal, the gap between the richest and poorest regions remains wide. In this edition of our newsletter, you will find examples of our work in trying to achieve a reformed and better functioning European Un-

ion. You will find examples of the work that our rapporteurs are doing in preparing and representing the opinion of European local and regional government. You will see how they are leading on the reform of the EU’s Cohesion Policy through their work on people-to-people projects and how they are leading the work on addressing youth unemployment through community led solutions. You will also find examples of the work our members are doing in reforming the EU’s internal energy market.

Our members are local and regional leaders representing their communities. You will therefore find examples of their work in this newsletter as well as examples of our work in trying to further develop our localism discourse jointly with local communities in different parts of Europe. Alderman Rob Jonkman President of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group European Committee of the Regions European Union

ECR GROUP OPINIONS Rob Jonkman leads call of cities and regions for a more bottom-up European Semester process At the European Committee of the Regions’ plenary session in May 2017, ECR Group President Rob Jonkman presented CoR’s outlines of a Code of Conduct to make the European Semester more localist and effective. The opinion drafted under the leadership of Mr Jonkman (Alderman of Opsterland in the Netherlands) was adopted unanimously on 11 May by local and regional authorities in the CoR. It calls for the territorial dimension to be included in the key documents of the European Semester and for the structured and regular involvement of local and regional authorities in its planning and implementation. Introduced in 2010, the European Semester enables the EU member countries to coordinate their economic policies throughout the year and address the economic challenges facing the EU. Each year, the European Commission undertakes a detailed analysis of



each country’s plans for budget, macroeconomic and structural reforms. It then provides EU governments with countryspecific recommendations for the next 12-18 months. “In the highly integrated economic environment of the EU, no country can successfully set its economic policy in complete isolation from other Member States. Since 2011, therefore, the European Semester has been the main coordination tool for Member States to align their budgetary and economic policies with the policy priorities agreed at EU level. Although recently revamped, the Semester still faces a lack of ownership on the ground, which undermines its effectiveness”, said Mr Jonkman.

ECR Rapporteur Rob Jonkman

“Over 40 per cent of the 2016 country-specific recommendations could not be fully implemented without the active role of local and regional authorities, which are also

responsible for over 50 per cent of public investment. Involving them in the European Semester process as full partners will

not only increase their commitment to implementation, but will also help to set the right goals, taking local and regional opportunities, challenges and disparities into account”, argued the ECR Group Rapporteur. The CoR opinion suggests that a sound territorial analysis should be included in the main documents of the European Semester - the Annual Growth Survey and the National Re-

form Programmes, thus reflecting regional disparities and acknowledging the role of local and regional authorities in implementing the country-specific recommendations. The opinion also recommends that a structured dialogue take place between the European Commission and the umbrella organisations representing local and regional authorities during the country visits and at the beginning of the Semester.

The text prepared under the leadership of Mr Jonkman further recommends that the EU institutions work in partnership to develop the actual content and wording of the Code of Conduct, in line with the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity, ensuring that there is full scope for the country-level provisions to be adapted to specific national and sub-national circumstances.

Rapporteur Paweł Grzybowski calls for community-led solutions to tackling youth unemployment ties to volunteer or work in projects that benefit communities and people around Europe for a period of two to twelve months. After completing a registration process online, participants could be invited to join a wide range of projects, such as helping to prevent natural disasters or rebuild afterwards, assisting in centres for asylum seekers, or addressing different social issues in communities. More than 27,000 young people have signed up to date.

ECR Rapporteur Paweł Grzybowski

The opinion on “Investing in Europe’s Youth and European Solidarity Corps” drawn up by Mr Paweł Grzybowski, the ECR Group’s Coordinator for Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture (SEDEC) Commission, was unanimously adopted by the European Committee of the Regions. The opinion highlights that ensuring equal opportunities, promoting social integration and improving the competitiveness of young people on the labour market should remain the key objectives of the EU’s youth policy. The European Commission is aiming to improve opportunities for young people and step up the fight against youth unemployment with a set of measures, which include the establishment of European Solidarity Corps (ESC). The latter is a new EU initiative for young people aged 18-30, which creates opportuni-

Mr Grzybowski’s opinion, which was adopted during the 11 May plenary session, calls for more cooperation with the public and private sector to help better match employee skills with labour market needs. It underlines that the implementation of vari-

ous initiatives requires stronger local and regional government involvement as they have the knowledge and expertise about the specific, local or regional characteristics of an area. “I would like to call for the European Commission to attribute appropriate funding to the European Solidarity Corps, without endangering in any way the implementation of successful programmes such as the Erasmus+. Enabling young people to acquire additional skills by means of work and volunteering benefits both public and private sectors. Therefore, I would like to underline the importance of working with the private sector to couple public and private funds available to support the ESC’s initiatives”, Mr Grzybowski, Mayor of Rypin, said.

ECR Member Paweł Grzybowski presented with his special diploma for the use of EU educational funding


The opinion stresses the need to establish tools to monitor and support the young people participating in order to ensure the quality of the activities offered by the ESC, and also to ensure the young people are properly trained and prepared for the various activities. Furthermore, hosting organisations should follow the principles and standards such as those outlined in the European Quality Charter on Internships and Apprenticeships in order to guarantee quality jobs placements. The town of Rypin governed by Mr Grzybowski is a good example of how EU Funds could be used efficiently to improve the competitiveness of young people. Rypin was this year’s winner in the ranking drawn up by the local government magazine Wspólnota (Community) for the use of EU educational funding. The success of the

Polish town was due mainly to educational projects implemented during the second EU financial perspective — aimed at nursery, primary, secondary and upper secondary schools. In most cases Rypin acted as leader for partnership projects. One of the largest inter-regional projects was “Z Nauką Ścisłą za Pan Brat” (user-friendly science), which focused in particular on offering pupils in primary and secondary schools the opportunity to take part in an inter-regional programme aimed at developing key skills for employment and continuing education, with particular emphasis on mathematics and science, ICT and learning-to-learn skills. “We regard our first place in the Wspólnota local government magazine ranking for ed-

ucational spending in the 2007-2015 period financed from EU funds as a huge success, which gives us great satisfaction as well as the opportunity to present our achievements”, said Mr Grzybowski. “For me the most important thing is the effectiveness of the projects in which we are taking part. High levels of training, including external examinations, a wide range of educational services and an upgraded teaching base are all evidence that our local education strategy is bringing tangible benefits. We are planning further investments. Much remains to be done, and we will therefore continue to invest in the functioning of the town’s education system, particularly in connection with education reform. The knowledge I gained in the preparations of the CoR will help our local community to achieve these goals”.

Investing in all clean energy sources is key to Europe’s security and prosperity - By Daiva Matonienė, CoR Rapporteur on “renewable energy and internal electricity market” As the CoR Rapporteur on renewable energy and internal electricity market I have repeatedly highlighted that renewable energy has to be at the heart of Europe’s long-term energy strategy not only because it helps to bring down greenhouse gas emissions, but also to decrease our energy imports. Citizens of countries like mine know best that achieving greater energy independence helps to achieve greater freedom. – at just 4 cents/kWh in the case of most efficient plants. Europe has great potential in renewable energy and is progressively becoming a leader in the field.

ECR Group Rapporteur Daiva Matonienė

A great deal of attention has been paid in the European Union to the development of renewable energy sources, including setting mandatory national targets for each EU Member State for the development of renewable energy up to 2020.

In 2014, the international competitiveness of renewable energy reached a new level. Electricity is now generated from wind, hydro, geothermal plants and biofuel production and can compete successfully on price with energy produced by fossil fuel plants. Interestingly, IRENA data indicates that wind turbines produce the cheapest electricity compared with other renewable energy sources

I welcome the fact that a number of EU Member States have already exceeded these targets. For example, Sweden – with 50% – is one of the leading countries, and in Latvia the rate was 37%. In 2015, the share of renewable energy in Lithuania’s energy balance amounted to 25.86%, putting the country in the top ten of Member States in this regard.



But I must also highlight that for many other Member States these binding targets have proved inflexible and costly. For this reason I have repeatedly called on the European Commission to propose indicative targets. Every Member State, region or locality should be able to invest in clean technologies which best suit its needs and match its capabilities. If that is not the case, we put Member States, regions and localities into a legislative straightjacket, which prevents them from investing in other low carbon technologies such as nuclear energy or carbon capture and storage. I therefore welcome in the CoR opinion that the European Commission proposal sets a proportionate and realistic 27% renewable target at the EU level, and not at the level of Member States. The European Commission is right to give national authorities more flexibility on renewables.

It is very important that regions increasingly invest in innovation and technological development to further efficient use of renewables and other clean sources of energy. New technologies enable all consumers to use energy more rationally and efficiently. The successful development of less mature clean energy sources and their incorporation into the market requires substantial funding. Institutions at European, national, regional and local level should therefore work together to ensure the pooling of resources and a multiplier effect. An integrated energy market is the most effective way to ensure affordable energy prices and a secure energy supply, and to enable generation of larger quantities of electricity from clean energy sources to be integrated in a cost-effective way. At times of crisis, the Single Market will help to safeguard a variety of sources of supply and will contribute to solidarity. At present, the mere fact that there is no such market leads to high economic losses. Experts calculate that at current consumption levels, oil reserves will be exhausted within fifty years. In total, the EU imports 53% of its energy,

which costs us EUR 400 billion a year. For this reason, the Commission’s proposals for an electricity market design that promotes the introduction of renewable energy, improves demand management, creates an integrated energy market at regional level and empowers consumers are welcome. As local and regional authorities we play an important role in developing the energy sector and in achieving climate protection goals. We are in close contact with people – that is, consumers – and our most important task is to provide high quality services at affordable prices. The European Commission’s proposal to reform the energy market, give consumers a greater say and make them market participants on an equal footing will provide a new boost to more active involvement of the population in the energy sector. Local energy communities can be an efficient way of managing energy at local level. The creation of such communities should be promoted through clear criteria and rules and creating the necessary technical and financial instruments to en-

able local and regional authorities to fully support these communities. Research has shown that consumers complain about a lack of transparency in electricity markets, reducing their ability to benefit from competition and actively participate in markets. They do not feel sufficiently well informed about alternative providers and choices. It is therefore important to address problems related to protection of privacy and security of customer data. As local and regional authorities we can contribute to promoting the use of clean energy and improving energy efficiency at local and regional level, for instance by voluntarily establishing ambitious targets and action plans, simplifying administrative procedures and rules or providing financial support, as well as through the education system. Ms Daiva Matonienė is a Member of Šiauliai City Council and was also the Deputy Minister for Environment of Lithuania. She has been a Member of the CoR since 2009.

The role of people-to-people cross border cooperation projects in increasing the EUs added value Dr Pavel Branda, ECR Group Member and Rapporteur on “people-to-people and small-scale projects in cross-border cooperation programmes”, saw his work adopted by Members of the European Committee of the Regions’ Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget during the 17 May meeting. The opinion underlines the added value of people-to-people (P2P) and small-scale projects in generating EU added-value. The opinion aims to contribute to the ongoing debates on the shape of the EU’s Cohesion Policy post-2020. People-to-people and small-scale projects can be defined by their size, duration and content. Small-scale projects are usually smaller in size than regular big projects (e.g. maximum size of EUR 100 000). They may also be of limited duration, and their main focus is to finance initiatives in the many different areas of cross border cooperation that have a local impact, in order to support the main thematic objectives of EU programmes (including building trust, creating favourable framework conditions and a bottom-up approach and initiating new partnerships).

“More than one third of EU citizens live and work in Europe’s border regions, which has a direct impact on their lives. Cross-border cooperation has proved to be the most effective tool for overcoming the barrier effect of borders and increasing the quality of life for citizens in border regions. People-to-people and smallscale projects in general have great European added value and contribute considerably to overcoming border obstacles and integrating border areas and their citizens. They are carried out in a wide range of fields such as culture, sport, tourism and environment and are accessible to a wide range of beneficiaries”.

ECR Group Rapporteur Dr Pavel Branda


Conference of Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership. At the last CORLEAP Bureau meeting on 22 May in Minsk, Belarus, the ECR Group Member highlighted the need to support people-to-people projects outside EU borders.

Dr Pavel Branda (fourth from the right) meeting representatives of the City of Minsk

“Small scale projects bring numerous benefits”, underlines Dr Branda. “It is easier to secure co-financing for them than for bigger projects. Application procedures are often simpler and they are more flexible, meaning that this instrument is suitable for addressing local specificities and adapting to changing local circumstances”.

explains Dr Branda. “Decentralised management through creating sub-programmes and enabling the financing of small-scale and people-to-people projects is the best solution to keep the programmes close to citizens. We need simplification of projects and procedures. More emphasis should be placed on content than on procedures”.

However, in order to become even more efficient, “the programmes require simplification and more decentralised management,”

Dr Branda is also a Chairman of the interregional group on cross-border cooperation and a Member of the Bureau of the CoR’s

“The EU should encourage cooperation not only between itself and the Eastern Neighbourhood, but also among Eastern Partnership countries themselves. In order to achieve this, I have proposed the development of strategic areas of territorial cooperation with a special focus on people-to-people projects. These projects can effectively stimulate European contacts among civil society actors, including schools, NGOs, municipalities and chambers of commerce. I witnessed this myself during a recent workshop organised by the Euroregion Dnepr in Chernihiv where cooperation between Chernihiv in Ukraine and the Gomel regions in Belarus was discussed,” said Dr Branda.

LOCALISM ECR localism conference in Vukovar calls for a bottom-up and localist EU Cohesion Policy The third edition of the localism conference focusing on cohesive development in Europe took place on 28 April in Vukovar, Croatia’s Slavonia region. Organised by the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group in the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), the event brought together locals with local and regional politicians and experts from across Europe. Best-practices and lessons-learnt were shared. Those participating included the CoR ECR Group President Rob Jonkman, Croatian ECR Member of the European Parliament Ruža Tomašić, Deputy Mayor of Vukovar Marijan Pavliček and the European Young Conservatives President Keti Mamulashvilli. Prior to the start of the conference, participants visited the war memorial and payed their respect to the victims who lost their lives during the Homeland War in 1991.



ECR Group Members and Ruža Tomašić MEP visiting War Memorial site

This year’s localism conference organised in Vukovar brought together local and regional politicians and experts with representatives of the European Parliament. Croatian, Czech, Dutch, Lithuanian and Polish case studies on the use of the EUs Cohesion Funds were presented. Bestpractices as well as lessons-learnt were shared and their implications for the current programming period that runs till 2020 were analysed, as was their implications for the future of the EUs Cohesion Policy post-2020. Mr Marijan Pavliček said “Vukovar’s recent history is very tragic. It was the area of Croatia most heavily affected by the Homeland War and saw most of its infrastructure and buildings destroyed. Our town had to be rebuilt and is recovering well from the effects of the war. So far, EU support has been limited. Today’s exchange of views has enabled us in Vukovar to share ideas and draw lessons from the experiences of others. It is the first time that we have had such an opportunity in Vukovar and I look forward to repeating it. I hope that today’s conclusions on cohesive development will help shape the policies’ future and contribute to the better use of EU Funds in the Slavonia region.” Mrs Ruža Tomašić MEP said “when Croatia joined the EU in 2013, we expected our membership to benefit our country. Unfortunately, we encountered many challenges with complicated EU procedures and we didn’t have the necessary infrastructure needed to make the most of the available EU Funds. To address this, we need to simplify procedures and develop the necessary administrative tools and capacity. We also need to ensure that the technical assistance is better channeled to our local and regional authorities. To achieve shared goals, the level of trust be-

ECR Group Members in Vukovar

tween the different layers of government should be increased and we need to enhance collaboration between the public and private sectors.”

can only be done if we empower them. Therefore, the future of Europe must be a decentralised and localist one.”

The EU Parliament survey published on 27 April showed that there are nine Member States (Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia and Slovenia) in which less than 49% of the population believe that EU membership is a good thing. This means that these nine Member States are more critical of EUs benefits than the UK, given that survey showed that 49% of the citizens in the UK believed that EU membership is a good thing.

Referring to the General Affairs Council meeting of 25 April, Alderman Jonkman said “while I do agree that the success stories of EU projects need to be better communicated to citizens, the issue is much deeper than communication. The Cohesion Policy is simply not delivering its intended results and therefore needs to be reformulated.”

Drawing the link with the ongoing debate on the future of the European Union, Alderman Jonkman stated that “it is clear that the EUs Cohesion Policy brings added-value but the results could be much more positive. For its success, we need to reform and improve the EUs system of governance. Local communities should be at the heart of the project and this

Currently, the EU dedicates more than 350 billion Euros to its Regional and Cohesion Policy, which is one third of the EUs budget. The EUs European Strategy and Policy Analysis System study on global trends 2030 and the 6th Cohesion Policy both showed that global trends are having a varied impact on localities, with some prospering and other facing challenges. The results show that the EUs Cohesion Policy has not helped mitigate the challenges and that disparities between the richest and poorest regions remain.

ECR Group Members call on the European Parliament and the European Commission to focus EU action on areas of added value The EU should be more localist and focus on areas of added value was the message delivered by ECR Group President Rob Jonkman and ECR Group Member Władysław Ortyl to the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani and Vice-President of the European Commission Jyrki Katainen during the European Committee of the Regions plenary session on May 11. The two high-profile representatives of the European Parliament and the European Commission attended the CoR plenary debate to

discuss the future of Europe. Antonio Tajani acknowledged that the EU’s role should be “not to shower everyone with money”, but to con-

ECR Group President Rob Jonkman addressing the President of the European Parliament


Marshal Władysław Ortyl addressing Vice-President of the European Commission

centrate on priority areas: security, migration and youth unemployment. This was in line with Rob Jonkman’s (Alderman in Opsterland, Netherlands) call for rebuilding trust for the EU by investing in civic empowerment and taking decisions at

a level that is closest to citizens. “Many Europeans feel today that the EU is too remote. As a result support for the EU is low in many Member States, in fact even lower than in the United Kingdom, which decided to leave the Union. We must rebuild this trust by bringing the EU as close as possible to our local communities. This could be achieved through European localism. The EU should refrain from regulating on issues that can be addressed at local or regional level”. The ECR President’s message was reinforced by Władysław Ortyl (Marshal of the Podkarpackie region in Poland) who addressed Commissioner Katainen and called on the European Commission to listen more to the citizens and focus on issues which benefit all Member States.

“In February this year we co-organised with the European Committee of the Regions a citizen’s debate in my region Podkarpackie in Poland. The event was attended by Prime Minister Beata Szydło and CoR President Markku Markkula, but above all the purpose of the meeting was to listen to our citizens and to pass their comments to EU institutions. One of the main messages the citizens wanted us to take to Brussels is that we should not be afraid to reform the EU and to concentrate on selected policies which bring benefits to all, such as deepening of the Single Market, flexible regional policy and building resilience to natural disasters”.

What future for EU Cohesion Policy post 2020? - By Dr Pavel Branda and Oldřich Vlasák, ECR Group Coordinator and Deputy Coordinator in the Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy As we reflect on what kind of a European Union we would like to see in the future, the EUs Cohesion Policy is something that we must focus on. The Cohesion Policy is an important instrument of solidarity providing support to less developed regions to help ensure the benefits of the EUs Single Market are distributed throughout Europe. It brings clear Europe added-value but it is not working as well as it should and is therefore in need of reform. our Group supports scenario four. As part of a more efficient EU, we need a continued yet reformed EU Cohesion Policy.

ECR Group Member Pavel Branda

On 1 March 2017 the European Commission presented its famous “White Paper on the Future of Europe”, in which it outlined five scenarios for the European Union: (1) “Carrying on”; (2) “Nothing but the Single Market”; (3) “Those who want more do more”; (4) “Doing less more efficiently”; and (5) “Doing much more together”. The EU does need to focus more on areas where action at the EU level brings more added-value than action at local, regional or national levels. For this reason,



Firstly, let us look at why we should address this policy area. The EUs Cohesion Policy has one-third of the EU budget dedicated to it and with this aims to achieve more cohesive development in Europe. Yet, the last Cohesion Report concluded that regional disparities had widened meaning the gap between the richest and poorest regions was getting bigger. We must therefore reform the policy area so that it is better able to help us achieve territorial, economic and social cohesion. When discussing the future of this policy area, it is important to remind ourselves about its original purpose. It is a solidarity mechanism as well as being so much more than that. It compensates less developed regions for entering the Single Market in which they find it difficult to compete, hence becoming increasingly dependent on imports. Cohesion instruments help to distribute the benefits of the Single Market more evenly

among all actors so that the positive impact is felt more equally in all parts of Europe. As a tool, even if it has had limited success in helping reduce regional disparities, it has had clear benefits for both the richer and poorer regions. Numerous reports highlight the fact that Cohesion Policy has translated into accelerated social and economic change in less developed parts of Europe. It has also benefited more developed regions and countries. Recent studies show that Cohesion Policy has had a significant macroeconomic impact on the EU-15 (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom). This impact has even been quantified – each euro spent through Cohesion Policy on the Visegrad countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) generated an additional 61 cents in export terms for the EU-15. To help achieve a better functioning Cohesion Policy we need to a stronger bottom-up approach to this policy area. In the EU, we have

called this a “place-based” approach and it ultimately means greater localism. We have to have a system them empowers the local community. We should enable different actors and stakeholders to engage in a collaborative process to address issues as they are experienced within a geographic space, be it a neighbourhood, region, or an ecosystem. The focus of EUs Cohesion Policy should also remain on less developed regions, while special attention has to be paid to regions in transition. To achieve that, we should strengthen European Territorial Cooperation (ETC), which is a great example of community bottom-up led solutions that the EU can support. It brings real added value to communities. Better known as Interreg, ETC provides a framework for the implementation of joint actions and policy exchanges between national, regional and local actors from different Member States. It is one of the two goals of the Cohesion Policy besides investment for growth and jobs. Cross-border cooperation, which is part of Interreg, especially deserves more attention. Currently, 37.5% of the EU population lives in border areas, along some 38 internal borders made up of geographic, linguistic barriers often bearing the scars of European wars. In the future, Interreg could also be a useful tool in helping us continue sharing best practice with local government in the United Kingdom after the country’s exit from the European Union. Currently the amount of Funds allocated to Interreg in general and cross-border cooperation in particular, does not reflect its added value. The Cohesion Policy also needs to become more flexible. We need flexibility in its expenditure and methodology. It needs to be flexible to deal with major crises and to adapt to the real need of our localities. This need for flexibility can be seen clearly in the case of cross-border coopera-

tion where the objectives of such programmes of achieving integration of boarder areas is much broader than the specific thematic goals of the European Union. The Funds that aim to deliver the Cohesion Policy should therefore reflect this need for flexibility felt by the end users like ourselves. We also need to simplify Cohesion Policy. The administrative burden that the final beneficiaries face has to be reduced, even if this means more work for the managing and or intermediary bodies. The Funds should be more readily accessible to applicants with limited administrative capacity, such as small towns and municipalities. Standards need to be set as close as possible to the people, whereas the EU should concentrate its attention on controls, audits and efficient rules for public procurement. The EU should trust the regions, not micromanage them. Cohesion Policy should remain a policy driven by the regions and for the regions. We also need a shared management of Funds aiming to deliver our Cohesion Policy, meaning that the management of Funds is shared between the EU and its Member States. For a shared management model to be a success, we must also ensure that local and regional authorities are involved in all stages of the programming process and in the implementation phase. Although shared management may be slower than a centralised system directly managed by the European Commission, a bottom-up system would enable spending better adapted to local needs. The speed of spending Funds should not be the criterion against which we measure the success of our Cohesion Policy. Last but not least, we have to ensure better communication about the concrete results that the EU achieves. The independent evaluation of the EU investments done in 2007-2013 illustrated the tangible positive results of our Cohesion Policy. This includes things like the fact that six million people have new or improved supplies of clean

drinking water thanks to the policy and the fact that the policy has led to the construction of 4900 km of road and the construction or upgrading of 1500 km. Cohesion Policy also supported 121 400 start-ups of which an estimated 400 000 were SMEs. It was responsible for the creation of one third of the net jobs during the 2007-2013 period. The best way to improve communication is to showcase real projects and tell the real stories of the people who benefited from them. We must act together to showcase the benefits of the policy.

ECR Group Vice-President Oldřich Vlasák

Mr Oldřich Vlasák (Councillor of Hradec Králové, Czech Republic / ECR Group VicePresident) is the European Committee of the Regions’ Rapporteur on “territorial vision 2050: what future?”. He is also the Deputy Spokesperson of the ECR Group on territorial cohesion policy. Mr Vlasák is the former Vice-President of the European Parliament responsible for the European Parliament’s relations with the European Committee of the Regions. Dr Pavel Branda (Deputy Mayor of Radlo, Czech Republic) is the European Committee of the Regions’ Rapporteur on “people-topeople projects in cross-border cooperation”. He is also the Spokesperson of the ECR Group on territorial cohesion policy and Chairman of the CoR interregional group on cross-border cooperation.

Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Mexico: Adam Banaszak calls for the principle of disaster resilience to be mainstreamed into all public investments Representing European local and regional government, ECR Group Member Adam Banaszak contributed to the meeting of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction held in Cancún, Mexico on 22-26 May. Speaking on behalf of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), he stressed that disaster resilience is one of the central pillars of sustainable development and emphasised that disaster resilience must be taken into account in all public investment strategies. For every euro we spend on disaster risk reduction, he said, we save at least four euros that would otherwise be spent on reconstruction.


The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (Global Platform), as recognized by the UN General Assembly, is the main forum at the global level for strategic advice, coordination, partnership development and the review of progress in the implementation of international instruments on disaster risk reduction. It was established in 2006 and is now the world’s foremost gathering of stakeholders committed to reducing disaster risk and building the resilience of communities and nations. ECR Group Member Mr Banaszak (VicePresident of Kujawsko-Pomorskie Regional Assembly, Poland) is the author of the CoR’s opinion on the Action Plan on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 20152030. In Cancún he underlined that achieving the key objective of the Action Plan of increasing the number of countries with national and local risk-management plans by 2020 requires the different tiers of government in different countries to work together. “The frequency and intensity of disasters are increasing and disasters do not respect borders. Therefore, we have to work together to ensure that we are collectively building resilient communities. In Europe we already have such mechanisms in place. However, they mainly focus on disaster response, which is why we are now trying to embed the principle of disaster resilience into our development policy. Local and regional government have a key role to play in achieving this. We are the first line of response in crisis situations and have at our disposal detailed knowledge of the local area and community. We have to take the lead and share our bestpractices with each other” said Mr Banaszak.

Speaking at the working session on “Achieving the Sendai Framework”, Mr Banaszak said: “In Kujawsko-Pomorskie, we have suffered from wild fire. In 1992, we suffered four disastrous forest fires, each of which affected several thousand hectares and led to deaths and injuries. We learnt from this experience, and we have successfully avoided similar levels of damages. We built community-based contingency plans, and this grass-root approach has been crucial to our success.” The CoR calls in its opinion for the principle of disaster resilience to be mainstreamed into EU policies and funds. All EU projects for the construction of new infrastructure should be resilient to threats and this principle should be a condition of access to funding. Currently, approximately one-third of the EUs budget is spent on territorial and cohesive development, on top of which the EU also has a strategic investment fund. These, however, currently do not require disaster resilience to be taken into account in the construction of new infrastructure. Changing this would help save lives and minimise the economic damage that future disasters can cause. The opinion also underlines that the importance of the private sector being aware of risks, and the positive role that the pri-

Adam Banaszak speaking at the Global Conference in Cancún

vate sector can play, through sharing disaster data and through disaster insurance schemes. The Global Platform in Cancún was an excellent opportunity to share these ideas with representatives of local and regional authorities from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America”, said Mr Banaszak. The CoR Rapporteur also had bilateral meetings with Mr Christos Stylianides (EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management), Mr Robert Glasser (Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for disaster risk reduction), Ms Beata Wojna (Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Mexico) and with representatives of the Polish Government Centre for Security.

Adam Banaszak (first from the right) with representatives of the EU delegation, including Commissioner Stylianides (second from the left)

Thoughts on European Union action for Smart Villages - By Dr László Lóránt Keresztes, representative of Local Government of Pécs (Hungary) Preservation and development of rural areas and villages is a huge challenge for the EU Member States. It is also a major problem in my country, Hungary. That is why the Smart Villages initiative has sprung from a proposal by a Hungarian Member of the European Parliament, backed by European Commissioner Phil Hogan and the European Commission as a whole. The region of Hungary where I live is perhaps where we need to make the greatest efforts in this field. Southern Transdanubia, with a population of more than 900 000, is Hungary’s least



densely populated region, and the counties it comprises contain more than 600 villages. These small municipalities are traditionally the worst affected by the youth exodus. It is also

in the rural areas that are furthest from major cities that economic problems are greatest. I know what this challenge means and I am aware of the amount of work that awaits us

in all the European Union countries. As a result, I attach particular importance to my task as the Shadow Rapporteur for the ECR Group for the opinion on “Revitalisation of rural areas through Smart Villages”, which will enable me to look closely at this question and ensure that the greatest possible number of additional comments and proposals reach the Rapporteur and are subsequently incorporated into the European Committee of the Regions opinion, so that it reflects the specific factors to be taken into account for each country. The CoR is currently in the process of preparing an opinion the “revitalisation of rural areas through Smart Villages”. It is prepared by the Natural Resources Commission of the CoR and is due to be discussed for the first time on 26 September. Th ECR Group Shadow Rapporteur is Dr László Lóránt Keresztes. The Smart Villages initiative is based on the Cork 2.0 declaration on A Better Life in Rural Areas, focusing on enhancing rural prosperity and the viability of rural areas, while emphasising conservation of the rural environment and effective management of natural resources. The declaration emphasises that rural areas must also participate in the knowledge economy so that they can take advantage of its effects. Solving the problems that affect rural areas entails a global, strategic approach. There is no avoiding the fact that the habitat as a whole can only function if all its elements - from large cities to villages - remain viable. Sustained and sustain-

able development is only possible if rural areas are not abandoned and if they manage to keep the involuntary exodus within certain limits and keep young people in villages. This is important not only for rural areas, but also for people living in large towns, since balanced territorial development can provide the foundation for implementing social, economic and environmental sustainability. We all face this challenge then, whether we live in a large city or in a village. This initiative and this approach can help to enhance economic opportunities and create local jobs in rural areas, offering their inhabitants better prospects for local or accessible employment. Existing opportunities in rural areas must be harnessed, new business models introduced and better use made of knowledge. Economic relations with urban areas need to be guaranteed and the basis for commercial exchanges overhauled. To this end, the digital gap should be narrowed by creating the relevant infrastructure, using the right technology and improving access to services. In addition, physical accessibility must be ensured, once again by developing infrastructure and applying and disseminating the smart solutions needed to bring it to completion. Only innovative and smart solutions will permit the communication and transport systems needed for access to jobs and the main services, and for the development of new trading models and tourist services, to be harnessed efficiently in low-population density areas.

rope should be presented. This initiative will only be successful if we strive to adopt a single approach at all political levels rather than introducing measures piecemeal. This should be a priority at both European and national level, but it is up to us, as local and regional authorities, to play the leading role. We can only succeed if we ensure that grassroots initiatives flourish, and if we enable local communities to be closely involved in development. To achieve this, we need wellmanaged, robustly autonomous local authorities - reinforced and supported, of course, by a European policy.

ECR Group Member Dr László Lóránt Keresztes

Dr Laszlo Lorant Keresztes is a Councillor of the city of Pécs (Baranya County, Hungary), since 2010 and member of the CoR since 2015. He is the regional president of his political party (LMP) for South-Transdanubia Region. For years he dealt with the development issues of rural areas as a researcher.

An overall vision and a comprehensive approach covering the various policy areas are crucial to this end, and the best practices seen across Eu-

The future of the EUs Common Agriculture Policy – national authorities need more flexibility says Henk Staghouwer “We all agree that our aim should be to create a fair, sustainable and solidarity-based Common Agricultural Policy”, said Mr Henk Staghouwer, ECR Group Shadow Rapporteur on the CoR opinion on “The future of the CAP post-2020”. Speaking at the 1 June external meeting of the Natural Resources Commission in Spain, Mr Staghouwer added that for the reforms to be successful, the EU needed to adopt a more localist approach to the allocation of subsidies. Mr Staghouwer also underlined the need to increase coherence between the different types of EU Funds aiming to support farmers.

ECR Group Shadow Rapporteur Henk Staghouwer

The EUs Common Agriculture Policy, developed in the early sixties, is currently undergoing a review with the aim of being modernised and simplified. The CAP aims to do the following -

increase agricultural productivity, ensure a fair standard of living for agricultural communities, stabilise the markets, assure the availability of suppliers and ensure that supplies reach con-


sumers at reasonable prices. However, the CAP is not fully delivering. Farmers have been raising serious concerns about the low prices for their products and the inequality in the supply chain with farmers making far less of a profit then the processors and those selling their products. This is coupled with low entry levels of our youth into the industry and the concerns this creates about the future of farming.

vations can help increase yield and introduce more efficient methods, which in turn can help increase the competitiveness of our agricultural industry. We need to put the money aside for this. In my community, the money under “Pillar 2” of the CAP reserved for rural development is particularly important and, for example, innovation is something that we can embed more explicitly into this Pillar.”

Speaking on behalf of the Group, Mr Staghouwer (Member of the Executive Council of the Province of Groningen in the Netherlands) highlighted that the Cork 2.0 Conference declaration provides an important starting point and framework for these discussions. “Issued by policy makers and other groups who participated in the September 2016 conference on rural development, the declaration provides a strong basis for us to build on. Our local communities really identify with the points relating to rural prosperity, a fair income for farmers, protection of the rural environment and the emphasis on knowledge and innovation”.

The Cork 2.0 European Conference on Rural Development of 5-6 September 2016 in Cork, Ireland brought together over 340 rural development stakeholders to reflect on the current challenges and opportunities facing Europe’s rural areas and how best to respond to these. The primary objective and main output from this major event was the Cork 2.0 Declaration 2016: A Better Life in Rural Areas. This new declaration provides a framework for the future of rural development policy and action in Europe.

“Building on Cork 2.0, we need to take a look at how we are supporting rural development. We should be helping our farmers in their ongoing efforts to modernise. New technological inno-

“We need to ensure that CAP payments are better linked to our environmentally friendly direct payments scheme, which we call ‘greening’. Greening supports farmers’ efforts in the area of environmental protection, innovation and ru-

ral development. Local and regional authorities should play a bigger role here, since they know what efforts are important for the area, which organisations can play a role and what is required of public authorities in order to support these efforts. Also, we need to ensure that any penalties for not respecting greening rules are proportionate to the scale of the misuse at hand”. “Farmers are currently hesitant when pursuing greening, which depending on the size of their farm they are obliged to do. They fear that unintentional misuse will lead to heavy fines. We need to keep the rules simple, provide guidance and ensure fines are proportionate to the degree of misuse,” explained Mr Staghouwer. Mr Staghouwer also underlined the importance of improving coherence between the different EU Funds aiming to support rural economies. “Increasing synergies between the European Regional Development Fund, European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and European Structural Fund is crucial in order to provide proper support for our rural economies and communities. Through better coordination, entrepreneurs and businesses can get their projects off the ground more easily and can shape supply chains more effectively”.

CURRENT CHALLENGES Arnold Hatch attends study visit in Galicia analysing situation of Europe’s dairy sector ECR Group Deputy Coordinator in the Natural Resources Commission Mr Arnold Hatch (Alderman, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Northern Ireland) participated in a study visit to Galicia, Spain where he exchanged ideas with EU local and regional authorities on developments in the dairy sector. As part of the programme, Members visited a typical Galician dairy farm and a modern cheese factory. The Common Agricultural Policy has helped Galicia to become a producer of high-quality food and to develop its dairy industry. Currently 56% of all Spanish dairy farms are located in this region. The region is also the ninth largest producer of milk in the EU. Unfortunately, its producers have not yet fully recovered from the recent crisis.

Alderman Arnold Hatch visiting a dairy farm in Galicia



Mr Hatch highlighted that the United Kingdom is the third largest dairy producer in the European Union and Northern Ireland dairy farmers account for 27% of the UK herd and 26% of produc-

tion. “Northern Ireland farmers would be familiar with the issues faced by Galician farmers. However, there has been a 43% surge in milk prices in the last year. The price is now almost 30p (€0.35) per litre”, said the ECR Group Member. “Milk buyers from all corners of the world come to Northern Ireland to see first–hand the high quality of milk and dairy products we produce there. This high quality is demonstrated by the fact that, for the second year running, an independent evaluation of sales shows that exports have exceeded targets. But before that the pic-

ture was less rosy. Milk producers have suffered huge losses as a result of the Russian embargo and the catastrophic drought of 2015. Heavy fines have been imposed on a large proportion of farms for exceeding the milk quotas.” To avoid such situations in the future, Mr Hatch said we need to pay special attention to reducing imbalances in the supply chain. He also emphasised that the European Commission should work more closely with national, regional and local representatives, as well as with the farming groups to make better use of the existing risk management tools. As part of the sharing of best practices exercise, Alderman Hatch referred to an example of a successful project called “Cheese Up Your Life!”. “Our programme involves European Milk Forum members from France, Denmark and Ireland as well the Dairy Council of Northern Ireland, and is co–funded by the EU. As part of the programme

Logo of the Cheese Up Your Life! campaign

we held a Cheese Symposium in May 2016, which focused on European cheese culture generally and our local cheese heritage in particular, and used this as a platform to examine the place of

cheese in a modern lifestyle. Inspiring exchange of best practices through similar initiatives is key to ensuring innovation in the dairy sector.”

London united after recent tragedies - By Keith Prince, London Assembly Member (United Kingdom) London has been shocked by a series of tragic and horrific events in recent months. First was the terrorist attack in Westminster, where four people and a police officer were killed. Weeks later, three armed men drove a van at crowds on London Bridge before launching a knife attack on people enjoying a night out in Borough Market. The recent blaze at Grenfell Tower in Kensington, in which at least 80 people perished, was the latest in this appalling trio of events. Historically this city has shown resilience in the face of disaster, with Londoners coming together and invoking the ‘Blitz spirit’ during bombing raids in the Second World War. I can tell you first hand that the public feeling today is no different. Far from being cowed by the deadly acts of terrorism inflicted on our streets, Londoners have been united. In the panicked aftermath of both attacks, Londoners took to social media to offer food, shelter and lifts to anyone stuck in the areas. Members of the public provided our brave emergency services with food and water as they undertook the harrowing and exhausting work at the scenes. And there were incredible stories of bravery from

individuals who put their own lives on the line to save complete strangers. We may be famous for not speaking to each other on the tube, but recent months have shown that we come together in times of crisis. On the day the police cordon at Borough Market was lifted, people flooded the pubs and bars that had been the scene of such horrendous atrocities days earlier. They were bonded by solidarity against those who try to disrupt our way of life and people gathered to have a drink, socialise and be defiant.

clothes and supplies to those who were forced to flee their homes with nothing. People were consoling complete strangers in the street and coming together to help anyone they could. The horrors of these recent events are hard to comprehend, but if we can take anything positive away, the willingness of ordinary people to come together and help their fellow citizens has to be it. It is these qualities that connect us as nations, not just human beings, and it is comforting to see it replicated in similar situations around the world.

Messages of support and sympathy from around the world formed part of a makeshift memorial near to where the London Bridge attack took place. Reading some of the poignant messages left by complete strangers gave me a real sense that the solidarity I’d seen in London was shared around the world. The same unity was on display in the terrifying aftermath of the Grenfell Tower blaze. People from all walks of life flooded to the area to try to help. When the sun came up over the smouldering tower, local residents were seen handing out

ECR Member Keith Prince AM


Adam Banaszak takes part in election observation mission to Armenia ECR Group Member Adam Banaszak (Vice-President of Kujawsko-Pomorskie Regional Assembly in Poland) has taken part in an electoral observation mission in the city of Yerevan. Observers in Armenia assessed the implementation of the new electoral legal framework and use of the new electronic system to identify voters and detect fraud.

ECR Group Member Adam Banaszak participating in election observations in Yerevan

A ten-member electoral assessment team from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe – headed by Liisa Ansala (Finland, ILDG) and including two representatives from the European Committee of the Regions, Mr Adam Banaszak and Mr Arnoldas Abramavičius – observed the elections to the Council of Elders of Yerevan on 12-15 May.

On election day four teams visited over 100 polling stations in the different administrative districts of Yerevan. The delegation observing the elections underlined that voter identification devices (VADs) were functioning properly throughout the whole voting procedure. In addition to VADs, web cameras were installed in all polling stations in order to prevent electoral fraud, notably multiple voting and “family voting”, and to ensure transparency during the opening of polling stations and counting of ballots. The observers also highlighted that new technical measures had improved the situation inside polling stations. However, they concluded that more needs to be done outside polling stations to improve the voting

process. The delegation heard allegations that vote-buying and bribery are a systemic problem in Armenia. According to the observers pressure was put on public employees, and there were reports of misuse of administrative resources. In the majority of places visited by Mr Banaszak and other observers there were groups of people loitering outside polling stations, creating a general atmosphere of surveillance. All these issues need to be taken seriously by local authorities in order to increase people’s trust in the electoral process in Armenia. Mr Banaszak has already participated in several election observations missions: to Georgia (2013), Albania (2016) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (2016).

European Development Days - Keith Prince AM shares best-practices with partners from Africa, Caribbean, Pacific and Latin America Keith Prince AM, Member of the ECR Group of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), participated in the 7-8 June EU Development Days (EDDs) as part of the European delegation of local and regional government representatives. During this EU forum on development cooperation, multiple development stakeholders, practitioners and advocates from Europe, Africa, Caribbean, Pacific and Latin America came together to share best-practices and lessons-learnt. Organised by the European Commission, the European Development Days (EDD) brings the development community together with the aim of enabling the share ideas and experiences in ways that inspire new partnerships and innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. Local and regional government from the EU and from the African, Caribbean, Pacific and Latin American partner development countries attend this annual event. During this year’s Development Days, Antonio Tajani (President of the European Parliament), Jean-Claude Juncker (President of the Commission) and Federica Mogherini (High Representative of the Union for For-



eign Affairs and Security Policy) signed the new European Consensus on Development. The Consensus presents a shared vision and framework for action for development cooperation for the European Union (EU) and its Member States. It is a blueprint that aims to align the Union’s development policy with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. London Assembly Member Keith Prince underlined that “city diplomacy is an important tool in complementing ongoing international development efforts. Local politicians are the ones who take action on the ground and therefore it is important that we engage at a local government level with developing coun-

tries to share best-practices and lessons-learnt from our own experiences in Europe.”

ECR Group Member Keith Prince AM at the European Development Days

During the EDD, the Committee of the Regions announced its development event being organised by local and regional government. The biannual CoR event called the Assises on decentralised cooperation brings

together European and partner countries’ local and regional governments to discuss development policies and share experiences. This year’s Assises, taking place on 10 and 11 June, brings together more than 600

representatives of local and regional authorities from the EU and partner countries: Africa, Caribbean, Pacific and Latin America.

ECR Members take part in Enlargement Day 2017 in Brussels Our ECR Group Members Mr Ilpo Haalisto (Local councillor of Nousiainen, Finland) and Mr Adam Banaszak (Vice-President of Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland) attended the Joint Consultative Committee meeting and Working Group meetings organised during Enlargement Day 2017 at CoR headquarters ment discussions, building valuable relations with local and regional authorities in candidate and neighbouring countries.

ECR Group Member Adam Banaszak with Deputy Mayor Mehmet Müftüoğlu

Their participation reflected the important role being played by the CoR in enlarge-

words of Mr Banaszak, “cities and regions have great potential in the enlargement process through sharing best practices at local level”.

Mr Haalisto attended the EU-Serbia JCC meeting, at which Members discussed how to involve local governments more closely in the implementation of reforms at local level and emphasised the importance of better communicating with citizens. Mr Haalisto expressed his optimism regarding the prospect of EU enlargement in the Western Balkans and stressed that Serbia could make a massive contribution to the EU in terms of technological innovation. Mr Banaszak attended the working group on Turkey and had the opportunity to meet Mr Mehmet Müftüoğlu, Deputy Mayor of Küçükçekmece municipality in Istanbul. In the

ECR Group Member Ilpo Haalisto

MEMBERS ACTIVITIES General election in the United Kingdom: Two former Members of the ECR Group elected to the House of Commons Two former Members of the ECR Group in the European Committee of the Regions were elected to the UK House of Commons in the general election, which took place on 8 June 2017. Andrew Lewer MBE became a Member of Parliament for Northampton South, and John Lamont was elected as the MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh, & Selkirk.

Andrew Lewer MBE MP

Andrew Lewer MBE MP is the former Leader of Derbyshire County and a champion of European localism and subsidiarity. Representing the East Midlands, he secured his seat on the European Parliament in the 2014 elections. He was a Spokesperson of the ECR Group in the European Parliament on Regional Development and Culture and

Education. In addition, he was Chairman of the ECR Policy Group on Subsidiarity and Localism. He was a Member of the Parliament’s Science and Technology Panel and Vice-President of the ECR’s think tank “New Direction”. He is also Vice-President of the Local Government Association and a Director of the Derbyshire Historic Buildings


Trust. Mr Lewer received his MBE in 2014 for his services as Leader of Derbyshire County Council from 2009 to 2013 and as Deputy Chairman of the Local Government Association from 2011 to 2014. John Lamont is the MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk. He has a strong track record of political service at local, regional, national and European level. He won the seat previously held by the Scottish National Party with 11,000 majority, representing a swing to Conservatives of 17.9% compared to last general election. He was a Member of the

Scottish Parliament in the Scottish Borders since May 2007. When in Parliament he took over the role of Justice Spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives and sat on the Justice, Rural Affairs and Standards & Procedure Committees. In May 2011, he increased his majority and more recently in May 2016, won over 55% of the vote and gained one of the largest majorities in the whole of Scotland. He campaigned strongly to keep the United Kingdom together in September 2014 and believes that the Borders now needs to move on from the constitutional question to tackling improving local services.

John Lamont MP

Forging a strong partnership post-Brexit - By Cllr David Simmonds CBE, Deputy Leader of the London Borough of Hillingdon (United Kingdom) There was a wide range of views among local politicians in the United Kingdom during the referendum on EU membership, but whatever stance our councillors took during the campaign, we all have a responsibility to work together to deal with the consequences. The UK has had a mixed history when it comes to engagement with our allies in Europe, but if Brexit is to be a success for both the UK and the EU then we need to develop and maintain good working relationships with our counterparts. The further complications arising from the recent general election result will make the existing links that we have through the European Committee of the Regions, the Council of European Municipalities and Regions, and the Council of Europe even more important than they were before. Cllr David Simmonds CBE

Since the referendum result was declared, I have been leading for the Local Government Association (LGA) on our Brexit work and we have seen that much of Whitehall will be preoccupied with Brexit. This is an opportunity for councils and we have to campaign to ensure that devolution from the EU does not stick in Whitehall. Councils, because of their local knowledge, are best placed to help their communities to meet the challenges and make the most of the economic opportunities that we need to develop to make Brexit a success. We will need to build on this with government to ensure that we have more opportunity to shape and grow our local economy. Many local authorities already have good economic links with regions in Europe, and the wider world, which can be built on as we seek to develop trading partnerships, for example. However, a crucial question is what this means for our participation in the ECR and in EU and European institutions. Cross-party, the LGA has



been clear that it is more important than ever that our members take an active role as this is both important in influencing the negotiations underway now, and shaping our future relationships. We do not yet know what the future relationship of the UK and the EU will look like, with various ideas being put forward based on the ‘Norway Model’ on one hand, and a ‘hard Brexit’ with the UK becoming disengaged from the political, civil, and economic structures of the EU altogether, on the other. As the negotiations go on, it is very clear that different sectors in the UK are arguing very strongly for continued participation in EU programmes, such as Erasmus, and this will be an important consideration in the final agreement. What is noteworthy for our UK ECR members across the different institutions has been a recognition that the regret at the UK’s decision is balanced by a recognition that were citizens do not see reform the democratic process can throw up uncomfortable results. We are all in the ECR because we share values which we

want to see more fully expressed in the way the EU does its business. It is my sincere hope that the outcome of the Brexit process will be an improved and stronger EU that is more open to the values of the ECR, and that we forge a very strong partnership in which all can thrive. Cllr David Simmonds has been Hillingdon’s Deputy Leader since 2002. He was the youngest Councillor in London when elected and served as a committee chairman and cabinet member covering planning, housing, social services, and education and children’s services. He also served as Coordinator for the Education Commission of the European Committee of the Regions and is currently a Member of the CoR’s Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs and Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget. Cllr Simmonds is the Deputy Chairman of the Local Government Association and the Leader of the Conservative Group in the LGA. He was awarded a CBE in the 2015 Birthday Honours List.

Election fever in the United Kingdom - By Cllr Joe Cooney, Leader of the Conservative delegation in the Pendle Council (United Kingdom) It’s been a busy time in the UK with both important local and national elections taking place within weeks of each other. In early May citizens across counties, cities and regions went to the polls to choose who they would want to represent them and taking decisions on important issues such as education, highways, adult social care and public health to name a few. Birmingham, the UK’s second city. We also saw success in West Country and the Labour heartland of Teeside and Cleveland.

ECR Group Vice-President Joe Cooney

The County Council and Metro Mayor elections proved to be a very good night for Conservative colleagues across the United Kingdom, with seats and Councils being won from all other main political parties. On a personal note I was immensely proud to be elected to Lancashire County Council for the first time and to regain a majority from Labour. This year also saw newly created Metro Mayor elections, these regional posts would take on devolved powers from Central Government covering areas such as Transport, Housing, Health Services and Economic Development. We were delighted to see Andy Street win West Midlands Mayoralty, which includes

With a positive set of election results under our belt the party moved forward with optimism to the General Election. While the General Election was a surprise the reasons given by the Prime Minister for calling it were overwhelming. I shall leave the commenting on the quality of the Conservative Campaign to others but for my part, I saw lots of positive responses from residents, many people optimistic and positive about the UK future relationship with the EU as a close partner both politically and economically. The results at the General Election were obviously very disappointing but as a party we polled more votes that we did in 2015 and we continued to make progress in the traditional

Labour heartland areas that they’ve taken for granted for a number of years. The focus must now be to provide a Government in the national interest, to secure the best possible Brexit deal and continue to grow our economy to provide jobs we need and to fund our key public services. In the coming weeks and month that is exactly what we will see from the Prime Minister and her Government. Cllr Joe Cooney is the Vice-President of the ECR Group and the leader of the ECR UK delegation. His main expertise is in the field of economic and monetary affairs. Back in the UK, Cllr Cooney is a Conservative Councillor based in Colne in Lancashire, where he is leader of the Conservative delegation in Pendle Borough Council. His interest in local government surrounds the importance of supporting local economies and providing decent work opportunities for residents.

Marshal Władysław Ortyl hosts a key aviation industry event Marshal Władysław Ortyl (Member of the ECR Group in the Committee of the Regions and Chair of the Carpathians Interregional Group) launched one of the largest aviation fairs in Europe in the Podkarpackie region, Poland. Over the course of three days, the Podkarpackie region hosted exhibits from over 160 companies from 25 countries, including representatives of Airbus, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, United Technologies and Thales as well as the biggest companies in Aviation Valley: Polskie Zakłady Lotnicze in Mielec, Pratt & Whitney Rzeszów S.A., WSK “PZL-Świdnik”, MTU Aero Engines Polska, Safran Transmission Systems Poland, Hamilton Sundstrand Poland, Goodrich Aerospace Poland, Avio Polska and many more. The aviation fair also included many conferences, panel discussions and B2B meetings, as well as visits to factories in Aviation Valley.

“Podkarpackie is the only Polish region to have selected this industry as its smart specialisation under its Regional Innovation Strategy, indicating the direction in which the region’s economy will develop. Aviation is the jewel in Podkarpackie’s crown. The region’s administration is aware of just how much potential lies in modern technologies, which are constantly being developed with the support of technical colleges, scientific institutions and research centres. This expertise, and the esteem in which our history and experience is held, spurred us on to bring this key aviation industry event to Podkarpackie,” said Marshal Władysław Ortyl.

Aerospace & Defense Meetings is a project that aims to bring together business partners. It is exclusively open to global professionals in the civilian and military sectors of the aviation industry and is an excellent opportunity for aviation and

Marshal Władysław Ortyl


defence industry leaders to forge new business contacts and strengthen existing ones. The event additionally aims to promote the aviation, space and armaments sector. At a ceremony during the Aerospace & Defense Meetings, Marshal Władysław Ortyl signed the Political Charter, symbolising the accession of the Podkarpackie region to NEREUS (the European space network). This association brings together European regions that use space technologies. It was set up in Toulouse in 2007 by 23 regions of the European Union. Its aims include the following: helping regions to design and develop Euro-

pean space programmes; developing the needs of users of space services; ensuring that space services are used in all European regions; supporting the promotion of Europe’s space dimension in the global economy; and enhancing citizen participation in creating European policies and developing markets for space services. The accession of Podkarpackie region to the NEREUS association represents a further step towards the consistent implementation of a policy to support projects that open up the region’s economy and the R&D sector to the “space” sector, broadly defined (e.g. the European Space

Agency’s business incubator project and close cooperation with the Polish Space Agency). Podkarpackie region is the only Polish region with a smart specialisation in aviation and aerospace. The region’s tradition in the aviation industry dates back more than a century, and it has over 80 years’ experience in manufacturing aircraft and training flight crew. The event was co-financed by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund under the Podkarpackie regions’ Regional Operational Programme for 2014-2020.

Investing in clean energy in Strzyżów - By Mr Robert Godek , Head of Strzyżów District Council (Poland) In the Strzyżów district we are systematically promoting the use of renewable energy in public buildings. A project is currently underway that aims to make use of photovoltaic and cogeneration technology to produce electricity, cut emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere and reduce energy demand in two of our public buildings. Thanks to this project, the two buildings’ CO2 emissions into the atmosphere will be reduced by 80.61%. Funding is from the European Regional Development Fund and the budget of the Strzyżów district. Since 2010, we have installed a total of 144 solar thermal collectors in buildings in Strzyżów district, to be used in modern zero-emission thermal energy generation systems. We carried out these measures as part of projects co-financed by the European Union under the Regional Operational Programme of the Podkarpackie region for the period 2007-2013. Solar collectors are currently operational in residential care homes in Glinik Dolny, Babica, Pstrągowa Wola, the district hospital, the Adam Mickiewicz Liceum (secondary school) and the clinic in Strzyżów. We have also installed heat pumps have in the local authority premises in Strzyżów, to be used for heating in winter and cooling in summer. A new project we currently implement in Strzyżów district involves on-site production of electricity in an office building in Strzyżów using photovoltaic panels and cogeneration, i.e. electricity production from natural gas. This project is expected to reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere by 283.57 t/year. Photovoltaic equipment with a capacity of 28 kW will be installed on the roof of the building to provide renewable energy to power the heat pump and the smart building management system, and to provide hot water. The project also provides for the replacement of the existing oil-fired central heating system by gas-fired condensing boilers with a closed combustion chamber with a capacity of 126 kW, and the use of



cogeneration with a thermal output of 15 kW and an electrical output of up to 6 kW. It also provides for the installation of an air-to-air heat pump for mechanical ventilation, as well as the modernisation of the building’s electrical system. Furthermore, we will replace the existing coalfired central heating system in an educational/ services building forming part of the Practical Education Centre in Dobrzechów by a gas-fired condensing boiler with a closed combustion chamber and a capacity of 27 kW, and a mechanical ventilation system will be installed. The project also provides for the insulation of walls, ceilings and foundations and the replacement of window and door frames in both buildings to bring them into line with modern standards, including thermal insulation requirements. Our investment will make it possible to bring the building in Strzyżów into line with the Energy Performance (EP) indicator, which measures the primary, non-renewable energy used each year to run the building expressed in kWh/m² of total useful floor area - 166.61 kWh/m² per year for the Strzyżów building and 189.42 kWh/m² for Dobrzechów. This will represent an 80.88% reduction in current energy use. The consumption of energy for heating, ventilation, cooling, hot water and lighting in the Strzyżów building will also be cut by 83.61%, and 90.09% in the case of the Dobrzechów building.

Modernising public buildings in Strzyżów

The overall average reduction in energy use for the two buildings will thus be around 86.85%. For its project for the “Comprehensive energy modernisation of public buildings in the Strzyżów district” the Strzyżów district authority received co-financing from the European Regional Development Fund under the Regional Operational Programme of the Podkarpackie region for the period 2014-2020. The application for co-funding of 85 % of eligible costs was submitted by the Podkarpackie region Marshal’s Office on 15.3.2016. The total planned cost of the project is PLN 3 010 843.36, of which almost PLN 2 million will be funded by the European Regional Development Fund. The project is being implemented under “Priority Axis III. Clean energy. Action 3.2. Energy modernisation of buildings” of the Regional Operational Programme of the Podkarpackie region for the period 2014-2020. Mr Robert Godek is the Head of the Strzyżów District Council in Podkarpackie region (southeast Poland). Since 2007 he has been the Deputy Chairman of the Association of Polish Districts.

EU Funds energising the entrepreneurial spirit in Lithuania - By Ms Zinaida Tresnickaja, Deputy Mayor of Visaginas municipality (Lithuania) The Latvian Agricultural University in Jelgava and Visaginas Centre of Creativity in Lithuania are launching the Latvian-Lithuanian cross-border cooperation project called “Ready for Business/ReforB”. The Latvian–Lithuanian cross-border cooperation project aims to contribute to the sustainable development of the project area and to make it a competitive and attractive place to live, work and visit. It is part of the 2014-2020 Interreg V-A programme, which was designed to promote greater levels of cross-border cooperation in the EU.

Regional Development Fund and by Visaginas municipality. The general aim of the project is to facilitate sustainable development of entrepreneurship in the border region through a number of innovative entrepreneurship support solutions and tools. The partners will develop and organise “simulation games” that imitate the real-life situations facing most business start-ups. In addition, “Be involved” seminars will be organised as part of the interactive concept “Get inspired–Help–Share–Analyse”. An ICT Business Simulator will be introduced, imitating business start-up and development processes.

Borders can distort infrastructure and communication networks resulting in reduced economic activitity. The INTERREG Programme for 2014-2020 is one of 60 programmes across the European Union designed to address these challenges and to promote greater economic, social and territorial cohesion.

The project’s target group is students and graduates, young people with a business idea and/or who are willing to start their own business, as well as the founders of new businesses.

It will be my honour to supervise this project as the Deputy Mayor of Visaginas municipality. The project will start on 1 May 2017 and will conclude on 30 April 2019. It is financed by the European

The project goes beyond current practices and is new and original in terms of its integrated approach, which includes several elements: a) principles of play-based non-formal learning, b) core business principles, c) the experience of existing entrepreneurs and d) real-life business scenarios. This format makes it possible to look at the different aspects of entrepreneurship

and therefore to gain a comprehensive understanding of the business. We hope that the project will stimulate the entrepreneurial environment, the creation of new businesses and jobs and will thus reduce unemployment and promote regional economic development. Ms Zinaida Tresnickaja is the Vicemayor of Visaginas municipality, Member of Visaginas Municipality Council and CoR Member since 2015. She has many years of experience in educational policy and was also the Head of Office of Ignalina nuclear power plant.

ECR Member Zinaida Tresnickaja

The “Józef” oak - European Tree of the Year 2017 - By Mr Robert Godek, Head of Strzyżów District Council (Poland) The winner of this year’s international European Tree of the Year competition is the “Józef” oak, located in the Wiśniowa Palace Park (district of Strzyżów, Podkarpackie region, Poland). Our centuries-old natural monument obtained 17 597 votes, thus winning the competition ahead of 15 finalists from all over Europe. This is a great success for Polish civil society and our whole local community. In this year’s competition, “Józef” received 17 597 votes, beating the runner-up, the Brimmon Oak of Wales (UK), by 1 394 votes. In third place was the lime tree at Lipka (Czech Republic), which received 14 813 internet votes. More than 125 000 people from across the continent took part in the voting, casting one vote for their own candidate, and a second for one of the 16 national finalists. Podkarpackie residents were very active in promoting their tree, which from the beginning of the voting was one of the favourites. The oak tree is around 650 years old and rich in history. A Jewish family hid in its trunk during the Second World War. They were able to survive the war largely thanks to the local people, who supplied them

with food. In late June this year the MEP Tomasz Poręba (ECR/PL) staged an exhibition at the European Parliament about Jews rescued by Poles, which included the story of the “Józef” oak. To this day “Józef” is admired by many school parties and families on a day out. The tree is also a favourite subject for photographers and painters, particularly as the tradition of plein air art, which dates back to the inter-war period, continues in Wiśniowa. The results of the voting, which were kept secret right up to the end, were announced at the European Parliament in Brussels on the International Day of Forests, which is celebrated worldwide on

21 March. The ceremony was attended by several hundred people, including representatives of the European Parliament, the European Commission and the organisers of national Tree of the Year competitions. Poland was represented by a delegation from the district of Strzyżów. Accepting the prize for the Polish delegation, I thanked the

Oak Józef


organisers on behalf of the people of the district, and asked that in future years not only the European Parliament but also the European Committee of the Regions be involved in the organisation of the competition. Finally, I would like to stress that success in the competition was possible thanks to the exemplary cooperation of local government bodies, NGOs, the Church, the media, schools, and residents of the municipality of Wiśniowa, the district of Strzyżów, the Podkarpackie region, Poland and the international Polish community. This outstanding result testifies to local residents’ concern about the natural environment and their

desire to preserve their cultural heritage. The results of the competition also show that events of this kind are an excellent way of bringing together the local community and encouraging collective action. This is also the aim of the competition — to unite people in the pursuit of a common objective, to draw attention to natural assets and the region’s potential, and to publicise them to a wider audience, beyond national borders. The 2017 European Tree of the Year Award ceremony was organised by the Environmental Partnership Association, the European Landowners’ Organization and TetraPak, with the support of the South Moravian Region and Mendel University in Brno. It was held under the patronage of

Karmenu Vella, European Environment Commissioner. The purpose of the competition is to draw attention to interesting old trees, as important elements of natural and cultural heritage that we should cherish and protect.

ECR Member Robert Godek (in the middle) accepting the prize on behalf of the Polish delegation








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



Commission for Economic Policy (ECON)



Commission for Financial and Administrative Affairs (CAFA)



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



Commission for Natural Resources (NAT)



Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget (COTER)





Commission for Economic Policy (ECON)









External CoR BUREAU ECR Group Meeting

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

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