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Ne ws l e tte r o f the Eu ro p e a n S o c i a l i sts i n t he Com m i ttee o f t h e R egions

O c tob er 2009

NEWS OF THE PES GROUP IN THE COR 2 FEATURES: A POST EUROPEAN ELECTION ANALYSIS

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AND NOW OVER TO PES MEMBERS

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PLENARY SESSION OF THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS (5-7 OCTOBER 2009) 5-8 POLITICAL BALANCE IN THE COR COR COMMISSIONS: WHAT'S NEW?

8 Dear Friends,

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THE BIGGER PICTURE: NEWS OF THE PARTY OF EUROPEAN SOCIALISTS 11-12 'TAKING ON THE CHALLENGE': THE SWEDISH PRESIDENCY OF THE COUNCIL (1 JULY – 31 DECEMBER 2009) 3 A LOOK AT SOME RECENT EU LOCAL AND REGIONAL ELECTIONS

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www.cor.europa.eu/pesweb Published by | PES Group Secretariat Rue Belliard 101 - Office 7035 B-1040 Brussels | Tel. | +32.2.282.22.23 E-mail | PES-group@cor.europa.eu

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hope you and your families have had the opportunity to use the summer months for some relaxing time, travelling, reading some of those books that you always wanted to read or spending time with friends or relatives. In this second half of the year, the European institutions are picking up speed after the long break due to the European elections. The new European Parliament is up and running, the committees have been formed and started their work, and soon the next set of European Commissioners will be auditioned before the Parliament. As PES Group, we have to now build contacts with our new and old partners in the other institutions. Of course we are also keenly awaiting the end of the ratification saga of the Lisbon Treaty, which will not only determine how many new Commissioners we will get, but also bring significant changes for the Committee of the Regions. It is also in this context that we have to start reflecting upon the next CoR mandate, which will begin in February 2010 and will last, when the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, until February 2015. This 'adaptation’ of the CoR’s term of office is more than just a symbolic recognition that the CoR, like the European Parliament and the European Commission, is an integral part of the EU institutional system.

The five-year terms of office of the EU institutions set the framework in which we can develop our political ideas and projects, and therefore we have started the reflections about our priorities for the period 2010-2015. It is clear that the local and regional dimension will continue to be an essential element in the political debate. We therefore have to keep up our efforts to make

its presence felt and have our voices heard in this regard. The European Union needs a new orientation, one that is based on sustainability and solidarity. In overcoming the economic crisis, we need to grasp the opportunity to build a more social European Union which responds to the citizens’ expectations, and reform the way we do business. We need more environmentally conscious innovation and products to fight climate change, just as we need sound and enforceable regulation in order to avoid the excesses and abuses of the system which have let to the current economic crisis. Inspired by the key aims and goals set out by the PES family for the European elections and for the work of the new Parliament, we have to define our CoR-specific priorities which will guide our negotiations with the other political groups in agreeing the structures for the new term of office., This will be the basis for our work as individual members and as a political group in the coming years. In this sense, the remaining part of 2009 will be an exciting period. I am looking forward to debating and working with all of you for a successful fifth term of office of the Committee of the Regions.

With socialist greetings,

Mercedes BRESSO President of the PES Group in the CoR


NEWS OF THE PES GROUP IN THE COR

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n 3 September, the Secretariat of the PES Group in the CoR organised an information meeting with the assistants of MEPs of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (S&D), with a view to explaining the PES Group's role within the CoR as well as its position within its European political family, the Party of European Socialists (PES). More concretely, it was explained how the PES Group and its secretariat can provide to the S&D Group both political and practical support, facilitating contacts with PES locally and regionally elected representatives, setting up joint initiatives and supporting exchange of expertise between PES and S&D Groups rapporteurs. The meeting was part of the PES Group's strategy to strengthen its relations with all S&D members of

the European Parliament, with a view to a fruitful exchange during the EP's 7th term of office. On 23 September, the PES Group organised an exchange of views with academics and key representatives of the PES political family, on the priorities of regionally and locally elected PES members for the CoR's fifth term of office (20102014/15). The timing of this meeting coincided with the start of a new legislature of the European Parliament and the upcoming appointment of a new European Commission. It is the changing landscape of the European institutions that has called for a debate on the role of the PES Group in the context of the priorities of the PES political family for the progress of the European Union as a whole. Key issues discussed were the review of the EU budget,

the revision of the Lisbon strategy and the future of cohesion policy, the response to the economic crisis, climate change and the development of the EU as an area of freedom, security and justice. On 6 October (14h30-16h30, Room BEL51), the PES Group in the CoR organises a workshop within the framework of this year's Open Days, focusing on 'Growth at all Costs? Bringing the local back into the economy'. The event comes under the overall theme Restoring Growth, which addresses the question of how Europe's regions could become more inventive and innovating while addressing global and environmental challenges. The PES Group workshop focuses on how to achieve these goals in relation to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and food production in Europe. These economic sectors could play a crucial role in achieving stronger regional competitiveness and sustainable development, while ensuring that growth is accompanied by territorial cohesion and minimises the risk of rural depopulation. Key speakers were Mercedes BRESSO, President of the PES Group in the CoR, René SOUCHON, CoR rapporteur on Biodiversity, and Olivier DE SCHUTTER, special rapporteur of the United Nations on the right to food and Professor of the University of Louvain.

Merced Mer cedees ced es BRESSO BRESSO O

Ren RRe ené SOUC SOUC O H HO HON ON

On 6 October, the six winners of the PES Group's photo competition 'Europe in my everyday life' are invited to the meeting of the PES Group (10h3013h00) and will be awarded their prizes, consisting of high value photographic material. The winners are: Tobias MÜHLMEISTER, Germany (1st prize), Verena SCHIEFER - Austria and Andrejs SILDS - Latvia (2nd– 3rd prize), Chiara CERRI – Italy, Vladimir GUCULAKS - UK and Pijus VYKAS - Lithuania (4th-6th prize).

Tobia MÜ Tobias Tob ÜHLM HLMEIS HL EISTER EIS TER

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For more information on the competition, entries and winning photos, visit the website of the PES Group (www.europa.eu/Pesweb/).


FEATURES A post European election analysis All elections, from local and regional, to national and European ones, are a favourite subject of ex-post analyses. Ink starts flowing already at the first exit polls, with commentaries growing exponentially from the close of voting, the counting and the announcement of the final results all through to the few weeks following the election date. This is the time when the very same figures can be interpreted in different ways - always in the name of objectivity but inevitably, according to the "interpreter's" perceptions or even vested interest.

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he 2009 European elections are no exception, with most European parties claiming clear victory over their share of European Parliament influence. There is, however, one sad fact from which there is no escape: an even further drop in voter turnout. Since 1979, when the European Parliament was directly elected for the first time, turnout has dropped by 19%, from 62% to this year's disappointing 43%. This downward trend has been described by some optimists as a decelerating one since turnout in recent years has been dropping at a slower pace than in the past. Yet, the crux of the matter remains that European voters' apathy has grown just as the European Parliament has increased its powers over the last thirty years. Given that once the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, the EP will acquire co-decision powers over as much as 80-90% of the EU legislation, there is something inherently wrong in this turnout pattern, which undermines the principles of European integration. If we add to disinterested voters those who do not like the EU, we have good reasons to worry. The repercussions of this combination were particularly felt by the Party of European Socialists, as reflected in the relative strength of the European Parliament's Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (holding 25%). Although European elections are a unique multinational exercise in pan-European democracy, the separate polls that took place between 4 and 7 June in the 27 EU Member States were a series of simultaneous national votes. This was because campaigns focused, in their overwhelming majority, on national rather than European issues. This was the case also within our political family. The Party of European Socialists dedicated an entire year to the elaboration of its Manifesto, on the basis of a broad bottom-up consultation process, to which the PES Group in the CoR was closely associated. The guiding principle for the PES campaign was that

it was a European one rather than the addition of 27 national campaigns. However, this was not followed through by all PES member parties. What is more, national pressures curtailed, to a certain extent, the PES Manifesto's ambitions. Generally speaking, it was the angle of the national parties that prevailed over that of the European ones, and this was the case not just for the PES. An unusual feature of the 2009 EP elections was that amidst a severe economic crisis, voters, who traditionally punish parties in government, did so also with Social Democrats in opposition, thus renewing their confidence in the centre-right. This is partly due to centre-right policies being 'wrapped' in a stolen centre-left discourse. The PES politicised its campaign, offering concrete alternatives to citizens, but it failed to personalise it. Some strong European personalities spearheading the PES campaign would have made this faceless exercise more relevant to Europeans. Failure to propose a PES candidate to the presidency of the European Commission and the haste demonstrated by some PES member parties to support the EPP candidate, José Manuel Barroso, seriously damaging party cohesion and coherence, gave a serious blow to the Party's credibility. We did not take up the challenge of making a difference on this issue, and Europeans punished us for this. Weak or non-existent European identity and lack of real ownership of the European project, coupled with the fact that European elections do not decide any government, be it European, explains why many people stayed at home. Yet, this was not the case with voters opposing the EU, which was reflected in the overall results obtained by euro-sceptics (led by the UK conservatives) and the far-right. However, it must be pointed out that the modalities of European elections are far from conducive to nurturing a European demos since electoral systems are very divergent and there are no European lists. To make matters worse, in many Member States, voters are confronted with closed lists. This means that in reality, they can only vote for political parties as a whole, having no influence on the party-supplied order in which candidates are elected. Open lists are the exception (Malta, Ireland). Moreover, in many cases, Members of the European Parliament are not accountable to a particular constituency back home, or if they do, constituencies are very large. This is yet another disincentive for people on the ground

to vote, considering the European Parliament an obscure and distant institution, at the image of the EU. The role of national media aggravated the situation since there was no or very little real awareness-raising coverage about the European elections at national level. With less than half of the 375 million eligible voters having exercised their democratic right, we are faced, once again, with the European Union's failure to show what added value it brings to people's everyday life. Local and regional authorities have a particular role to play in this as three quarters of European legislation is implemented at subnational level. The PES Group in the CoR has been fully committed to effectively communicate Europe and the work of the Party of European Socialists at grassroots level. Yet the results of the European elections for our political family indicate that the social democratic electorate has not been sufficiently mobilised. This is partly due to growing social and ideological divergences within the social democratic electoral basis: on the one hand, working classes are attached to protection and security in all its forms, being wary of globalisation; on the other, the better educated middle classes are more flexible and adaptable to change, as well as more attached to environmental values. Elaborating a political programme that satisfies such an electorate is a challenge. The PES did present a balanced manifesto, proposing a viable project for a new social Europe, both flexible and secure, as well as environmentally sustainable. Maybe this programme did not reach the PES electorate or got entangled in national politics. Maybe party structures got complacent, underestimating the damage caused by missing links in the communication chain with our European political family. Maybe we, locally and regionally elected Social Democrats, did not work hard enough to convince voters disillusioned with the EU that the European project is part of our lives, not as a necessary evil but as a window of opportunities for personal development. From now on and until the next European Parliament elections in 2014, the challenge of our political family will be to convince our voters that the European Union is more than the sum of its parts. After all, all those who abstained from voting this year are not even convinced that the EU is equal to the sum of the parts…

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AND NOW OVER TO PES MEMBERS Henning JENSEN, Mayor Municipality (Denmark):

of

Næstved

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lobal climate change represents a major, multifaceted challenge for European local authorities and regions. If we are to safeguard the future for our children and our children's children, we need to make radical changes to the way we live today. Social democrats in all Europe's local authorities and regions thus have an excellent opportunity to show initiative and responsibility in shaping living conditions in our cities and regions.

Do you believe that local and regional governments led by Socialists and Social Democrats can make a quantitative and qualitative difference when it comes to adaptation to climate change?

Tackling the challenges of climate change is not an easy task. Many difficult decisions need to be taken in the near future. We are the ones who must take the lead in order to ensure that our local communities are able to adapt to changed circumstances and combat man-made climate change. It is vital therefore that European social

In the past, there has been criticism from the local and regional levels of governance that the development of the EU as an area of freedom, security and justice does not pay sufficient attention to their particular role in this regard, especially in the crucial area of migration. In which way do you think the European Commission's Stockholm programme (for the coming five years) can improve the situation? Secretary for European Union Government of Catalonia (Spain):

Affairs,

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he regional dimension of the AFSJ should be a priority in the Stockholm programme. Local and regional authorities play an important role on issues such as civil justice, security, and integration of the immigrant population that should not be dismissed.

If the close involvement of local authorities is necessary for the definition of the TransEuropean Transport Network (TEN-T) and its priorities, how are we to manage the numerous instances of opposition from local authorities to certain infrastructure projects, which very often lead to significant delays and additional costs? Jean-Michel DACLIN, Deputy Mayor of Lyon (France):

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umerous TEN-T projects are delayed owing to opposition from local people or local authorities because of the disruption they entail. Indeed, although city and regional growth depends largely on transport infrastructure, these cities and regions also shoulder some of the costs and suffer various side-effects as a consequence. In addition to the delays caused, opposition to projects can lead to significant additional costs during the implementation phase. A number of simple measures could be taken to encourage acceptance of these projects:

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democrats play a key role in European local politics so as to safeguard living conditions in our cities and regions and foster initiative at local level. The financial crisis has unfortunately caused a sharp decline in investment around the world. This is a problem as we seek to readjust basic structures in our society. Such readjustment naturally requires high levels of investment. Yet, is not now, as the financial crisis is bringing many local communities to their knees, the very time for major, forward-looking public investment? Public investment in the form of a "green new deal" would create new jobs, generate growth and give local communities the strength to adapt to the changed circumstances. Our task now is to act sustainably and make the necessary investment. Our children and our children's children deserve nothing less

This is especially relevant in the crucial area of migration where most local and regional authorities, as Catalonia, hold important legislative and executive powers. Thus, the role that local and regional authorities play in shaping and implementing an EU-wide legal immigration policy needs to be examined. Furthermore, their contribution to tackling the illegal employment and smuggling of people, especially when minors are involved, should be taken into account. As regards relations with countries and regions of origin and transit, there is a need to give value to their role in the context of dialogue and cooperation. Their work on integration policies must also be highlighted, ensuring provision of public services. New ways need to be found to ensure resources so that they are able to continue this work. • the close involvement of cities and regional and local authorities in defining the TEN-T network and its priorities, especially when determining transport hubs and secondary infrastructure; • the establishment of permanent consultation structures from the project definition phase onwards; • measures by Member States and regional authorities to prepare areas for major projects (such as training for the local labour force, worker accommodation, adjustment of the local economic fabric to the needs of the projects, etc.), which would enable these sites to generate positive knock-on effects for the areas concerned. Extending European funding to cover these measures would provide significant support. It would also be useful to extend European funding to cover certain accompanying investments, with a view to addressing environmental constraints more effectively


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In the midst of the economic crisis, how can the updated strategic framework for European cooperation in the field of education and training encourage local and regional authorities to contribute to improving employability? Jean-Vincent PLACÉ, Regional Councillor, Ilede-France (France):

n times of crisis, it is often very tempting to deal with the immediate emergency without looking to the future, but it is investment in education and lifelong learning that will allow our economies to overcome the environmental, social and economic crises. In my view, the strategic framework has avoided this pitfall: it will encourage local and regional authorities, the main bodies involved in the education and training of their citizens, to improve people's employability by promoting mobility, the learning of two languages in addition to one's mother tongue and the development of innovative environments. I also believe that the creation of partnerships between education and training institutions, businesses, research institutes, the cultural sector and the creative industries is a very positive move, as, where such actions have been taken, they have been shown to be effective in terms of innovation. Local and regional authorities need to take further action to democratise access to information technologies in education. The importance of citizenship and education to sustainable development, amongst other things, is also high on the agenda. It is a vital element in improving social inclusion and in training European eco-citizens

Plenary Session of the Committee of the Regions (5-7 October 2009) T

he plenary session will begin with a debate on regional responses to the global crisis, with the participation of the newly appointed member of the CoR Patxi LOPEZ ALVAREZ, President of the Basque Country (Spain) and the new Commissioner for Regional Policy Pawel SAMECKI.

P txxi Pa Pat xi LOPPEZ EZ ALV LVVARE ARE R Z REZ

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here will also be a debate on climate change with the participation of Mona HEIBERG, Deputy Chair of Copenhagen City Council in charge of the Copenhagen UN Climate Change Conference (7-18 December). Mon ona HEIB on HEIB EI EER EI ERG RG R

The plenary session will begin work on Monday 5 October at 15h00 at the European Parliament and will be dedicated to the opening session of the OPEN DAYS. It will resume work on Wednesday 7 October (09h00-18h00) in the CHARLEMAGNE building.

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his year's OPEN DAYS bring together over 250 partner organisations, among which 214 regions and cities from 33 European countries. The event will revolve around four themes: restoring growth, climate change, territorial cooperation and cohesion policy post-2013. Some124 seminars, workshops, debates and exhibitions will be hosted in Brussels attracting around 7 000

participants. Another 300 decentralised events will take place across the EU. On 6 October (14h30-16h30, Room BEL51), the PES Group in the CoR will organise a workshop under the theme Restoring Growth, entitled 'Growth at all Costs? Bringing the local back into the economy' (Read more under News of the PES Group, page 2).

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MAIN OPINIONS IN BRIEF:

White paper on adaptation to climate change: Henning JENSEN (PES)

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He ning Hennin He Hen g Jenssen n

he draft opinion by the Mayor of Næstved Municipality (Denmark) is of high political relevance as it will be adopted less than two months before the much awaited UN Climate Change Conference. It responds to the European Commission White Paper, which proposes an Adaptation Framework with actions that are needed to strengthen the EU's resilience in coping with a changing climate. The CoR rapporteur endorses the approach of the European Commission to horizontally integrate adaptation to climate change into several key EU policy areas since the phenomenon affects numerous sector policies (infrastructure, healthcare, agriculture, forests, fisheries, energy, tourism etc.). He underlines that joint bottom-up action needs to be carried out by all relevant levels of government (with clearly defined competences and obligations in order to avoid duplication). Henning Jensen criticises the European Commission for foreseeing the involvement of LRAs only in phase

Stockholm Programme Package: Anna TERRÓN I CUSÍ (PES) Adoption on 7 September

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he draft opinion of the Secretary for European Union Affairs, Government of Catalonia (Spain), which had first been discussed as a working document during the June CONST meeting, addresses the followup of the 'The Hague' Programme for Europe as an area of freedom, security, and justice. It consists of an evaluation report of the The Hague programmeProgramme, and a communication on the 'further development' (termed 'Stockholm Multi-Annual Programme', to be adopted under the Swedish presidency in the second half of 2009). Both these documents were adopted by the Commission in May and are scheduled for adoption by the December Council Meeting under Swedish presidency.

Ann na TERR ER ÓN Ó I CUSÍ USÍ

The draft opinion by PES/CONST coordinator Anna TERRON I CUSI underlines the need to consolidate and strengthen the European Area of Freedom

Green Paper for a policy review of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T): Jean-Michel DACLIN (PES)

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he CoR opinion feeds into the debate on the future fundamental review of TEN-T policy, which in its current form, encounters considerable delays in the completion of many projects of common interest, aiming at interconnecting national networks and overcoming technological barriers across national borders. The follow-up to the Green Paper will be a European Commission proposal for a better definition of 'priority networks' and possibly a legislative proposal in 2010.

Jeeaan Miich Jea icch chell DAC DA LIN N

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The Deputy Mayor of Lyon (France) welcomes this

1 (2009-2012), which will prepare the formulation of a comprehensive EU adaptation strategy, but not in phase 2, starting in 2013 and seeing the implementation of this strategy. The rapporteur proposes green, sustainable, low-carbon economic growth as an answer to escalating social inequalities sparked by the financial and economic crisis. This green "New Deal", or "Smart Green Growth", a top priority of the PES Group and of the Party of European Socialists, should be based upon research in climate-friendly energy solutions and skills development in green technologies. Considering the political developments of the EU climate change policy in the view of the UN Copenhagen conference, the draft opinion might be amended in plenary session with new elements. It is worth noting that the draft opinion has significantly enriched the CoR resolution on Climate Change, adopted at the June plenary and constituting the institution's contribution to the negotiations for amending the UN Climate Change Convention at the COP 15 in Copenhagen in December 2009 (Read more under Interview with Henning Hensen, page 4).

Security and Justice, based on the fundamental rights of citizens and non-citizens and on the principle of legality. In this endeavour, it is essential to continuously monitor and evaluate the effects of policies adopted so far, in order to improve and adapt them. Local and regional authorities have an important part to play in this respect because they very often have access to this kind of such information. At the same time, the rapporteur stresses the importance of developing coherent policies at EU level and of makinge sure that commonly agreed standards are respected and enforced by the Member States. One particularly sensitive area in this policy domain is the issue of data protection. The rapporteur supports the need for more intelligence cooperation and information exchange, but makes it very clear that legitimate security concerns must not come at the expense of individual fundamental rights and that the protection of personal data must be ensured. The draft opinion gave rise to a lively debate in the CONST Commission and received a number of amendments (Read more under Interview with Anna Terron, page 4). review - all the more needed in the light of the current economic crisis - which should ensure a viable EU internal market and would safeguard territorial, economic and social cohesion. He calls on Member States to increase the TEN-T budget, drastically reduced after the 2009/2010 mid-term review of the Financial Perspectives. Moreover, all TEN-T projects should be analysed on the basis of their impact on territorial cohesion. He regrets the lack of a sustainable development dimension and of a link between transport and spatial planning. He also calls for the full involvement of LRAs in the definition and implementation of the TEN-T policy guidelines. Finally, he urges for the simplification of this policy and for a distinction between freight networks and passengers. The rapport was overwhelmingly supported in commission and this is also expected to be the case in plenary. (Read more under Interview with J-M Daclin, page 4).


An updated strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training: Jean-Vincent PLACÉ (PES)

access to education for all and the sense of active citizenship.

n this opinion, the Regional Councillor of Ile-de-France (France) stresses the crucial importance of concentrating EU efforts on promoting cooperation in education and training, in particular in the context of the current economic crisis and given that by 2015, 79% of jobs will require high or medium qualifications (according to a 2008 CEDEFOP study). Key areas of activity should be lifelong learning and the promotion of mobility for reasons of learning; an improvement of the quality and efficiency of the different educational systems; strengthening the

The PES rapporteur welcomes the Commission's approach but underlines that apart from considerations of competitiveness, the social element of education and training should not be neglected. Closer cooperation at European level is to be welcomed, and the open method of coordination is seen as a useful instrument in this regard, but given the sensitive nature of the education and training competencies, much of the debate in the EDUC commission focused on issues of subsidiarity. The opinion was adopted by majority, and some amendments on the subsidiarity aspect are to be expected in plenary (Read more under Interview with J-V Placé, page 5).

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Jeea ean-V n-Vinc ncen nt Placé cé

A European rail network for competitive freight: Witold KROCHMAL (UEN-EA)

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he draft opinion of the Mayor of Wołow (Poland) responds to the European Commission proposal for a regulation concerning the procedures for the selection of rail freight transport corridors, their governance and definition of required characteristics. It has been concluded that the creation of European corridors for rail

freight transport would contribute to enhanced reliability, and thereby to better competitiveness of rail freight transport. The CoR rapporteur considers that consistent implementation of the provisions of the regulation will quickly raise the effectiveness of rail transport, underlying the key role of local and regional authorities in this exercise.

Medicinal products package: Susanna HABY (EPP) favour of pharmaceutical companies and would put consumers at risk.

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he main aim of this package of six proposals ( two proposals for a regulation, three proposals for a directive and one communication) is to boost the competitiveness of the pharmaceutical sector "sometimes to the detriment of patients' interest", as underlined by the Member of the Executive Committee of the City of Gothenburg (Sweden) and CoR rapporteur. According to Ms. Haby, proposals for updating the rules governing the authorisation and safety of medicines, tackling counterfeit drugs and improving information to patients are biased in

Micchae aell COH O N OHE

Most of the PES amendments (such as calling for concrete European quality criteria and for drawing up an international convention against the counterfeiting of medicinal products, tabled in commission by PES/DEVE coordinator Michael COHEN (Malta), were adopted. More PES amendments should be expected in plenary, calling for concrete steps to ensure the total traceability of medicinal products by introducing a single system of recognition for each medicinal product package at European level.

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PES amendments, tabled by René SOUCHON (France) and adopted in their majority in commission, urge to include the CAP in the process of multi-level governance, maintain cross-compliance (which links direct payments to farmers to their respect of environmental and other requirements set at EU and national levels) as a fundamental principle of the CAP direct payments, and ensure that the health check leads to a better and fairer CAP for all, with aid distributed more equitably between farmers, sectors and regions.

A simplified Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): Olivier BERTRAND (EPP)

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he European Commission is confident that it will meet its objective of reducing the administrative burden arising from the CAP by 25 percent by 2012. The draft opinion by the Town Councillor of Saint-Sylvain-Bellegarde (France) supports the simplification process but it lacks ambition, missing the opportunity to put forward proposals on the future CAP.

PROGRESS Microfinance Facility: David PARSONS UK/EPP)

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he European Commission has proposed the establishment of a micro-finance facility as

part of its recovery package. It will be funded from so far unused resources under the PROGRESS programme (100 Mio Euro) to provide credits to those who want to set up new businesses but who have difficulty getting access to credit due to the financial crisis. The rapporteur general insists on: the need for this new instrument to be coherent

with existing schemes under the JASMINE, JEREMIE and ESF structures; the need to clarify that the 100 mio Euros are indeed not taken away from other essential elements under the PROGRESS programme; and the need to foresee not just financial support but also training for those setting up new enterprises on how to run them.

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An EU strategy for the Danube area: Wolfgang REINHART (EPP)

strategy elaborated by the European Commission aiming at putting together all existing regional initiatives in a common regional strategy in order to better target the new common challenges. The Danube area would be the second macro-region to benefit of such a strategy.

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n the model of the Baltic Sea Strategy, the Danube opinion is drafted during the pre-legislative phase. The Minister for Federal and European Affairs of Baden-Württemberg (Germany) aims to contribute to the elaboration of the relevant European Commission strategy, due for adoption only by the end of 2009. The Baltic Sea Strategy is the first macro-regional

Hel elene el en n LU UND D

Priorities for regional and local authorities to prevent violence against women and improve support for victims: Juan Vicente HERRERA CAMPO (EPP)

economic costs of violence, the need to protect and support victims, need of a holistic approach to gender equality in order to eradicate violence etc.), it falls short of concrete proposals, apart from the

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he draft own-initiative opinion of the President of the Region of Castile and Leon (Spain) takes a rather broad sweep of the problem of violence against women, which provoked some criticism from PES members: the opinion remains rather general and while it lists a number of important points (raising awareness about gender-based violence and its impact, social and

A Community approach on the prevention of natural and man-made disasters: Helmut JAHN (EPP)

The future Common European Asylum System II: Doreen HUDDART (ALDE)

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he draft opinion by the Member of Newcastle-upon-Tyne City Council (UK) responds to an EC package of three proposals for

Claaude ud deett d t BALDACCHINO, tte BA A

Amendments by the PES/RELEX coordinator Helene LUND (Denmark) on the role of the CoR in the future macro-regional strategy were adopted by RELEX members. The adoption of the draft opinion in plenary is expected to be widely supported.

usual call to involve local and regional authorities more, the invitation to share good practices, and the (potentially rather controversial) call for the collection of more data and the development of common criteria to evaluate the problems and also the policies to tackle them. Much of the debate focussed on the definition of 'violence against women' and the attempt to find the broadest possible concept (translatable into all EU languages). This issue is bound to come back in the plenary debate. A number of amendments will be tabled by PES member Claudette BALDACCHINO, CoR rapporteur on non-discrimination, equal opportunities and the implementation of the principle of equal treatment between persons.

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he District councillor, Hohenlohe (Germany) supports the political objective to develop a common strategy on the prevention of natural and man-made disasters, but he regrets the lack of European Commission proposals on measures to strengthen trans-border cooperation. In this context, he reminds the added value of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) in the implementation

of disaster-prevention measures. The rapporteur calls for the full participation of local and regional authorities in the elaboration of such measures while underlining the subsidiarity dimension of any European initiative to address natural and man-made disasters. The opinion was adopted unanimously by the DEVE commission and will therefore be adopted in plenary by simplified procedure.

a directive, two proposals for a regulation and one communication. It was discussed in two readings in CONST and its political messages received full support from PES members. Key points concern higher standards for harmonised EU asylum procedures, respect by Member States of their obligations under international and human rights legislation, criticism over omissions in the EC documents (FRONTEX operation, treatment

of refused asylum seekers) and erroneous perceptions over causes of fraudulent asylum applications. The opinion received 13 amendments in CONST, mainly from German EPP members. Nearly all of them were rejected, so it is to be expected that similar amendments, aiming to reduce the EU's influence on national asylum policy, are going to be re-introduced.

POLITICAL BALANCE IN THE CoR 35,8%

35,8%

POLITICAL GROUPS

13,7% 4,7% 7,1%

2,9%

■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

TOTAL CoR 08

MEMBERS (FULL)

PES .................................................................. 123 EPP .................................................................. 123 ALDE .................................................................. 47 UEN-EA .............................................................. 16 NE ...................................................................... 10 Pending appointments .......................................... 25

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CoR Commissions: What's new? CONST (Brussels - 26 June & Mariehamn, Åland Islands, Finland – 7 September 2009)

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n 26 June, CONST members adopted by majority the draft opinion on the future Common European Asylum System II, by Doreen HUDDART (ALDE/UK) (Read more under Plenary, page y, p g 8).

local and regional authorities is supposed to be in this context. Finally, CONST members discussed the Strategic document on future perspectives, competences and activities of the CONST commission for the 2010-2014 term of office, by Claude DU GRANRUT (EPP/France).This document is a basis for an internal discussion in the CONST commission and is not subject to a vote, but it will be forwarded to the CoR President to feed into the debate on the priorities of the CoR for the new term of office. It contains a number of useful ideas on the issues under the CONST remit and stresses the need to operationalise such concepts as subsidiarity and multi-level governance. PES/CONST coordinator Anna TERRON has contributed with a number of reflections to this document, stressing notably that subsidiarity control should not become an aim in itself, but be seen as a horizontal challenge in the interest of finding the appropriate solutions to the challenges facing the EU.

Karl-H Ka Hei e z KLÄR ein

During the discussions on the report, 1st PES Group Vice-President Karl-Heinz KLÄR noted that cohesion policy is the only integration policy of the EU and as such, it should not be addressed from a purely economic, but also a political point of view.

COTER Brussels, 23 June 2009 and 24 September 2009

An Ann n a TERR RRRÓN NIC CUSÍ USÍ SÍÍ

The draft opinion of Anna TERRÓN I CUSÍ (PES/ Spain), which had first been discussed as a working document at the June CONST meeting, was adopted by majority on 7 September (Read more under Plenary, page 6 and Interview with Anna Terron page 4). The draft opinion of Ján ORAVEC (EPP/Slovakia), discussed as a working document in June and adopted in September, addresses a package of two Council Framework Decisions, one on combating sexual exploitation of children and child pornography , and the other on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting victims, both adopted by the Commission on March 25th. These two proposals aim at raising the level of protection for potential crime victims in the EU, taking account of the latest developments in the respective fields (patterns of crime, technology, international agreements on preventing/ combating these phenomena). Both child pornography and human trafficking are of high relevance to public debate in many EU Member States, but the local and regional relevance of the two issues is not very clear, and the opinion does not offer any conclusive arguments in this respect. This results in a somewhat disjointed opinion, which contains an overall positive evaluation of the proposals (mainly from a Member State perspective) and a clear endorsement of the proposals from a subsidiarity point of view. The opinion goes quite far when it demands an extension of jurisdiction on child pornography to non-EU territories, and there is a clear need to highlight what the role of

Albert BORE

JeaanJea n-M n -M -Mich icchel el D DAC ACLIN AC LII

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n 23 June, COTER members adopted by majority two draft opinions on transport policies: the opinion by Jean-Michel DACLIN (PES/France) on the TEN-T policy and the one by Witold KROCHMAL (UEN-EA/Poland) on a European rail network for competitive freight. Both opinions were adopted by majority (Read more under Plenary, pages 6 and 7).

COTER members were presented the report on "An agenda for a reformed cohesion policy", elaborated by Fabrizio Barca, Director General of the Italian Ministry of Finance and Economy. Issued at the request of Regional Policy Commissioner Danuta Hubner, the report identifies an immediate need to reform cohesion policy because of the lack of strategic planning and a territorial perspective, which hinders any effective analysis of policy impacts. More importantly, according to the author of the report, cohesion policy has not managed to make a clear distinction between the “efficiency” objectives (aimed at increasing income and growth) and the “social inclusion” objectives (aimed at reducing inequalities).

The Barca report also proposes a place-based policy, which is 'a long-term strategy aimed at tackling persistent underutilisation of potential and reducing persistent social exclusion in specific places through external interventions and multilevel governance'. In a nutshell, it underlines that a place-based strategy, with its explicit and accountable territorial focus, enables the EU to ensure that European citizens benefit from the European integration project, irrespective of where they live. Commenting on this issue, Albert BORE (PES/UK) stressed the necessity to define the notion of "places" by clarifying their scale (in terms of territory) and size (in terms of inhabitants). Discussions on the report continued on 24 September with the author himself. At its September meeting, the COTER commission also adopted the draft opinion of Väino HALLIKMÄGI (ALDE/Estonia) on the sustainable future for transport. It discussed a working document on the 6th progress report on economic and social cohesion by Flo CLUCAS (ALDE/UK) and held an exchange of views on the future outlook opinion on the future of the cohesion policy by Michael SCHNEIDER (EPP/ Germany).

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DEVE (Brussels, 30 June 2009)

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he DEVE commission adopted by majority the draft opinions on the pharmaceutical package and a simplified CAP, by Susanna HABY (EPP/Sweden) and Olivier BERTRAND (EPP/France) respectively (Read more under Plenary, page 7).

They also adopted unanimously the draft opinion of Helmut JAHN (EPP) on a Community approach on the prevention of natural and man-made disasters. The District councillor of Hohenlohe (Germany) supports the political objective to develop a common strategy on the prevention of natural and man-made disasters, but he regrets the lack of European Commission proposals on measures to strengthen trans-border cooperation. In this context, he reminds the added value of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) in the implementation of disasterprevention measures. The rapporteur calls for the full participation of local and regional authorities in the elaboration of such measures while underlining the subsidiarity dimension of any European initiative to address natural and manmade disasters. The opinion will be adopted in plenary by simplified procedure.

The draft opinion on New Skills for New Jobs by Marianne FÜGL (PES), Deputy Mayorof Traisen (Austria), was discussed as a working document in July and adopted in September (by majority / unanimously). The rapporteur argues that in the context of the current economic and financial crisis, it is all the more urgent to anticipate future labour market needs and assist individuals in getting the qualifications and skills necessary to meet these needs. Local and regional authorities as providers of education, lifelong learning and vocational training, but also as employers and/ or service providers have a key role to play, not least in providing the relevant information to the national and European level. She stresses that key strategic orientations and challenges (such as a drive to promote low carbon emission growth or demographic change) need to be factored into the equation from early on, and that there is clear European added value in generating and sharing information (according to comparable standards) across Member States and regions. The opinion generated a lively debate and received p XX p proposals for amendments.

The DEVE commission also held an exchange of views on a working document by Ramón Luis VALCÁRCEL SISO (EPP), President of the Autonomous Community of Murcia (Spain), responding to an European Commission a communication on aquaculture and the European Commission Green Paper on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. The Green Paper analyses the shortcomings of the current Policy and launches a broad public consultation (until 31 December 2009) on how these shortcomings should be tackled.

ECOS (Brussels – 2 July & Wroclaw, Poland – 14/15 September 2009)

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n 2 July, ECOS members adopted by majority the draft own-initiative opinion of Juan Vicente HERRERA CAMPO (EPP/Spain) on the Priorities for regional and local authorities to prevent violence against women and improve support for victims y page p g 8) (Read more under Plenary,

Marrian Marian ianne ne FÜG ne ÜGL GL

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the EU as a leader for a low-carbon, high-quality and innovative economy where decent jobs are created and sustained. A number of amendments were adopted during the meeting of the ECOS commission.

EDUC (Brussels, 17 September 2009)

Evange Eva nge gelia ge lia SC S HO HO OINAR NA AKI-IL -ILIAKI

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Chris Chr C rist sttine ine in ne CHAP CH HA APM AP P AN

At their September meeting in Poland, ECOS members adopted the draft own-initiative opinion of Christine CHAPMAN (PES), Member of the National Assembly for Wales (UK), on the future of the Lisbon Strategy post 2010. It deals with one of the key priorities of the Committee of the Regions (and the PES Group in particular) for the current political debate: the renewal and revision of the Lisbon Strategy after nearly 10 years. The rapporteur has had a very wide range of consultations with other EU institutions, social partners, researchers and associations, and the ECOS meeting in April had already dedicated a round-table discussion to this issue. The key political message of this opinion is that the future Lisbon Strategy should be more focused and put a strong emphasis on the comprehensive concept of 'quality of life', which should be the aim of EU activity. The rapporteur therefore suggests that the strategy should be renamed 'Sustainable Europe Strategy', to reflect this approach. This would highlight the need to envisage a fundamental re-thinking of the European economy, social relations in the EU and other policies. The EU's strategy should be to support its Member States and their local and regional levels in setting ambitious goals for sustainable policies, targeting funding directly at the level where it has the greatest impact, supporting awarenessraising, education and training so that people can adapt to new economic realities and promoting

DUC members adopted the draft own-initiative opinion of András SZALAY (ALDE/Hungary) on media literacy. It builds on earlier work of the EDUC commission under the leadership of Evangelia SCHOINARAKI-ILIAKI (PES), rapporteur on media literacy and creative content on-line. The draft opinion underlines the importance of enabling citizens of all ages to develop the necessary skills for exploiting the enormous potential of modern ICT. Like the PES rapporteur, Mr Szalay underlines that local and regional authorities, often being responsible for education, have a particular responsibility for integrating media literacy into the curricula of compulsory education in an open and flexible way, since one key ICT feature is that rapid technological developments continuously present new challenges to teachers and students. The draft opinion also reiterates one of the key messages of Ms Schoinaraki's opinion, that is, the importance of developing a critical attitude towards media contents. Moreover, it calls for the creation of partnerships in the interest of media literacy between those who produce media contents, those who work on their dissemination and the education systems.

The EDUC commission also adopted the draft opinion of Liudvikas ŽUKAUSKAS (EPP/Lithuania) on ICT Infrastructures for e-science, a strategy for ICT R&D and Innovation in Europe & A strategy for research on future and emerging technologies in Europe. The draft opinion underlines the crucial importance of existing and future ICT applications for economic and social development and stresses the role of local and regional authorities as ICT users, education and training providers and R&D supporters. It opinion therefore calls for an involvement of local and regional authorities in the debate on how exactly to frame a European policy for the ICT sector. Moreover, EDUC members adopted the draft opinion of Mohammad MASOOD (EPP/UK) on the EU Forum for University-Business Dialogue. The European Commission Communication, to which the draft opinion responds, is based


on the results of a 2006 consultation on how to involve universities better in achieving the aims of the Lisbon strategy. One key focus is on the need to improve cooperation and coordination between universities and the business sector in education, research and innovation. The conditions for concrete partnerships are not equal among member states, and in several cases legal or taxation rules make it unnecessarily difficult to create such partnerships. The CoR opinion stresses the important role of local and regional authorities as 'third partners' in such cooperation schemes, who can act as facilitators and promoters of cooperation on the ground. PES members pointed out during the debates that especially in times of economic crisis, investment in education and research was crucial, while at the same time the partnerships with universities should not be seen exclusively from the point of view of short-term economic gains. A number of amendments were tabled on this opinion.

Furthermore, EDUC members discussed the working document of Mireille LACOMBE (PES), in preparation of an own-initiative opinion on Combating functional illiteracy. Finally, a roundtable discussion about an EU Strategy for Youth was held in preparation of a relevant opinion by Anton ROMBOUTS (EPP/ Netherlands).

RELEX (Brussels, 24 June 2009)

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he RELEX commission adopted by majority the draft own-initiative opinion on an EU strategy for the Danube area, by Wolfgang REINHART (EPP) (Read more under Plenary, page 8).

M eillle LAC Mir LACOM OMBE

THE BIGGER PICTURE: NEWS OF THE PARTY OF EUROPEAN SOCIALISTS

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n extraordinary joint meeting of the PES Presidency with the Bureau of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) of the European Parliament was convened in Brussels, on 2 September. The leaders of political groups in the European Parliament decided in July to have a debate on the next president of the European Commission in plenary on September 15, leaving open the possibility of deferring a vote until October. A decision on the timetable was taken on September 10 by the European Parliament's Conference of Presidents of the political groups. The aim of the extraordinary PES Presidency meeting was to establish a clear line towards current European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, the official candidate of EU heads of states and government, ahead of the European Parliament's decision on the date of his election. The PES and the S&D Group will scrutinise his,

or any other candidate's, programme in order to defend citizens’ interests in the current economic crisis. Containing unemployment by investing in more jobs is the PES top priority and to this effect, the PES calls for a stronger European Recovery Plan as well as effective financial regulation. On 13 July, the S&D Group presented its demands to the Council nominee for Commission President, based on the declaration agreed by PES Leaders in Toulouse on 24 April. Apart from the priorities mentioned above, key issues include a European Employment Pact, a new Charter of Women’s Rights, a Social Progress Pact, a common European roadmap out of the crisis, a more comprehensive and coordinated European external action, a coherent European economic strategy post2010, a new legal framework for public services and a European budget commensurate with the g facing g the EU and its citizens. challenges

The PES Group in the Committee of the Regions was represented at the meeting by its 1st VicePresident Karl-Heinz KLÄR. He underlined the local and regional dimension of the current economic crisis and therefore, the need for an adequate response with the close involvement of the relevant levels of government. He went on to stress that the current situation seriously undermines territorial cohesion, a key objective of the European Union. p

Zitaa GURM URMAI AI

Kar Ka Kar Karl arl-H l Hein i z KKLÄR LÄR

PES Women held a statutory meeting in Brussels, on 23 September. PES Women President Zita GURMAI made an evaluation of the European Parliament elections in terms of gender balance. Women hold 35% of the EP seats, which is an improvement compared to the 2004-2009 figure (31%), but a lot remains to be done to reach gender parity.

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'Taking on the challenge': the Swedish Presidency of the Council (1 July – 31 December 2009)

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ith a logo consisting of an ‘S’ inscribed on a globe, a graphic representation of a ray of light reflecting various expressions of light – from the midnight sun and the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights - the Swedish Presidency emphasises its guiding values: transparency, dialogue, discussion and down-to-earth. Its motto 'taking on the challenge' accurately echoes the current European political conjuncture with the EU facing major challenges both at domestic and global level, while stating the Presidency's

A look at some recent EU local and regional elections UK, 4 June Local elections were held in England to all 27 County Councils, three existing Unitary Authorities (that is, local authorities which form a single tier of local government, and are responsible for almost all local government functions within their areas) and five new Unitary Authorities. The elections were due to be held on 7 May 2009, but were delayed in order to coincide with the EP elections. The Labour Party came third, after the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

preparedness to face such challenges. More concretely, the Swedish Presidency is focusing on Europe's two overriding challenges: the economic crisis and climate change. Restoring the functioning of, and confidence in financial markets and minimising the negative impact on employment and growth, also through the renewed post-2010 Lisbon Strategy, is a top priority. Reaching a new global climate agreement for reduced emissions at the Copenhagen meeting in December is the second biggest challenge. Other priorities include: the Justice and Home Affairs Stockholm Programme on cooperation to combat crime and address migration issues, notable by promoting a common asylum system based on legal certainty and transparency; the Baltic Sea Strategy, considered a model of best practice for macro-regional cooperation; the EU, its neighbourhood and the world, with a focus on the implementation of the Eastern Partnership, continued enlargement and the EU's strengthened role as a global actor. Finally, the Swedish Presidency is set against the backdrop of changing institutional circumstances (new European Parliament and European Commission, need to complete ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and subsequent appointment of a permanent President of the European Council) and therefore, its priority is to ensure a smooth transition so that the EU becomes both more efficient and democratic.

All three of our Irish comrades, that is, Denis LANDY, Veronica CAWLEY and Peter COYLE, have been re-elected.

Heinz LAMBERTZ was re-confirmed as MinisterPresident. Germany, 7 June & 21-22 June

At the local elections, involving 23 of Malta’s 68 local councils, the opposition Labour Party obtained a clear majority of votes with 55%. Our comrade Michael COHEN, Chair of the Local Councils’ Association, was re-elected Mayor of Kalkara. It is worth noting that each local council is elected at three-year intervals. Council elections are staggered so that each year one third of the councils are elected. Thus, over a period of three years, a cycle of elections takes place for all councils. Italy, 6-7 June Elections were held in 63 provinces and 4260 municipalities. The Democratic Party suffered moderate losses and managed to hold on to its strongholds in Florence and Bologna and keep the province of Turin. Belgium, 7 June

The elections for Ireland’s county, city and town councils were held on Friday, 5 June 2009, on the same day as the European Parliament election and two by-elections. The centrist governing party Fianna Fáil suffered a humiliating blow, losing control over all the local councils. Turnout stood at 59 per cent, the highest in two decades.

At the regional elections, held on the same day as the European elections, Belgian voters chose representatives for the Parliaments of Flanders, Wallonia, the Brussels-Capital region and the German-speaking Community of Belgium.

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Our Swedish comrades, the Swedish Social Democratic Party, have formulated their own programme for the semester, far more ambitious on the two key priorities, climate change and job creation, than the one of the Swedish Presidency. Their programme revolves around three 'Ss', standing for Sustainability, Security and Solidarity and reminds the three 'Es' of the 2001 Swedish Presidency under social democratic government: Enlargement, Employment, Environment. Swedish Social Democrats have criticised the way the government has handled the European Court of Justice’s judgments in the Laval and Rüffert cases, and therefore have asked for a Swedish initiative on a modified Posted Workers Directive. This would guarantee trade union rights and collective agreements and would not lead to unfair competition and lower wages. This proposal for a legally binding social protocol strengthening the rights of labour working abroad was not taken up by the Swedish Presidency..

Malta, 6 June

Ireland, 5 June

The Labour Party has had the best ever local elections results, characterised by the election of many young, first-time candidates. With 132 councillors, it has succeeded in increasing its presence in local authorities by 50% across the country since 2004.

Socialdemokraterna

The Socialist Party remained the biggest party in the Walloon Parliament with 21 seats, continuing its 20-year tradition. Both French speaking and Dutch speaking Socialists are the second largest group in the Brussels-Capital Region. Socialists have succeeded in being part of all the regional governments as well the Belgian Germanspeaking community, where our comrade Karl-

Local elections were held alongside voting for the European Parliament in seven German states: Baden-Württemberg, MecklenburgVorpommern, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. Furthermore, mayor elections in the town of Neumünster (Schleswig-Holstein) and district elections in Bergstraße and Gießen (both in Hesse) were also held. The Green Party emerged as the surprise winner in local elections, with particularly strong support in southern Germany. In Baden-Württemberg, the SPD came overall second with 17% and was very successful in Mannheim, the state's second-largest city, where they replaced the CDU as the largest party on the city council, obtaining over 32% of the votes. In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Social Democrats remained at 19.3%, obtaining the third position. In Rhineland-Palatinate, the SPD came in second, increasing their voters' share to 29.5%. It is worth mentioning that the Social Democrats successfully took the lead in the Ludwigshafen city council, with 36.2 per cent of the votes, relegating the CDU to the second place. In Saarland, the Social Democrats came second with 33.5% share while in Saxony, support for the SPD remained overall unchanged. In Magdeburg, the capital of SaxonyAnhalt, the SPD became the largest party with 23.9%. Finally, in Thuringia, the Social Democrats achieved substantial gains and obtained 20.3%.

Newsletter  

newsletter of PES group in the CoR