Newsletter of t h e European So ci al i st s in the C ommi tte e of the Re g i ons
NEWS OF THE PES GROUP IN THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
April 2 0 13
PLENARY SESSION OF THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS (11-12 APRIL 2013) 4 COR COMMISSIONS: WHAT'S NEW?
AND NOW OVER TO PES MEMBERS
NEWS OF THE PARTY OF EUROPEAN SOCIALISTS
A LOOK AT SOME RECENT LOCAL AND REGIONAL ELECTIONS
w w w. p e s . co r. e u ro p a . e u Published by | PES Group Secretariat Rue Belliard 101 | 1040 Brussels +32.2.282.22.23 | firstname.lastname@example.org
pring is a moment of renewal and fresh ideas. As ever, the European Union needs that – new ideas, new energy, new hope! We have seen in the last months of 2012 and at the beginning of this year an undignified 'race to the bottom' on the question of the EU's multi-annual financial framework, where many commitments to a sustainable, future-oriented EU budget were sacrificed for short-term national (or even nationalist) point-scoring. In the end, despite the efforts of many, not least the Committee of the Regions, we got a proposal from the European Council which was much less than what we think is necessary to put Europe back on track to sustainable and socially just growth.
Given the challenges facing the EU, a budget of just 1% of GDP against the backdrop of less than 1% of GDP growth on average in the EU does not even allow for "business as usual". In addition, some dubious accounting puts the EU's budget at the risk of running up a deficit. Besides, it is not just about disappointing figures but also about the lack of the political will to address structural deficiencies of the EU budget, such as the "I-wantmy-money-back attitude" or the absence of own resources. We will have to see what we can do in the next couple of months to improve this situation. The agreement on the European Youth Guarantee is probably the only encouraging sign and a great victory for our political family – we now have to make sure that it is put into effect as quickly as possible. At the same time, the EU, and in particular Socialists and Social Democrats, have to deal with a number
of other issues: the elections in Italy have been particularly disappointing, because populism and anti-EU promises have seduced far too many voters. This shows that the 'austerity-only' policies are dangerous and wrong, not just for the countries which are directly hit, but for Europe as a whole. It also shows that there are no 'purely national' elections in the EU anymore because whatever is decided in any Member State has an impact on the others. And this does not only go for national elections, it also holds true for regional ones. The vote in Lombardy, for example, clearly has an impact on other regions where "separatist" or "independentist" movements are active – which in turn is a challenge, yet again not only for individual countries, but also for the European Union. The EU of 27 and soon 28 member states is already struggling to function – splitting up existing nation states into smaller units with the same misguided claims to 'sovereignty', is bound to make things worse. Clearly, only a stable, federal EU can provide the framework where legitimate demands for regional or local autonomy can be accommodated, while preserving the unity of the whole. We will be discussing these questions at our PES Group seminar on 14th May in Brussels. So, the message is clear as spring air: we are in this together, and we need to work on the problems together in order to find solutions together. With best greetings,
Karl-Heinz Lambertz President of the PES Group in the CoR
NEWS OF THE PES GROUP IN THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
n the framework of the 2013 European Year of Citizens, the PES Group launched on 1 March the sixth edition of its yearly photo competition. "Europe, I've got something to tell you" challenges amateur photographers to capture in a photo their expectations from Europe. It can be about
building Europe together, being a European citizen, or showing how one envisages his/ her place in Europe. The competition runs from 1 March until 30 June 2013 and is open to European residents aged 18 and older. The three best photos will be selected by a jury, consisting of members of the PES Group and
professionals from the world of photography. In addition, the public will be able to select a fourth winner via an online vote on the Group's Facebook page in September. More information and promotion material in all EU languages is available on the PES Group website.
Given the topicality of the issue and its potential consequences for the EU and its regions, the PES Group will focus its annual seminar (Brussels, 14 May) on The EU and regional separatism: Federalist solutions. Key questions to be addressed include: Is the European Union currently in a position to integrate different kinds of power-sharing, such as devolved, de-centralised, or federalised lower levels of governance? How would the EU be able to provide a stable environment for future decision-making? Which elements of the European Union need to be strengthened to make sure that solutions are not imposed from above, but could be negotiated bottom-up? How can this crucial problem be addressed with a view to achieving a 'Europe with the regions', rather than a 'Europe of regional nations'? Patrizia Toia, MEP, Bruno Tobback, Leader of the Flemish social-democratic party (Sp.a), former PES Group members Anna Terron I Cusi from Catalonia and Irene Oldfather from Scotland, Yves Bertoncini, Director of the European think-tank Notre Europe, Graham Meadows, former director general for regional policy, and PES Group President Karl-Heinz Lambertz will be among the panellists.
FEATURES Back to basics: equal Equality in employment, rights for women A few weeks ago, on 8 March, we celebrated work and pay yet another International Women's Day, briefly preceded and equally briefly followed by the usual proclamatory literature and events about women's rights. There is nothing wrong with international, European or national days in defence of a cause, but what really matters is the in between celebrations. This comes with the stark realisation that equality of rights between women and men is still not a reality in the EU and, to make matters worse, changing things does not even seem to be a political priority. Meanwhile, with the crisis having taken centre stage in European politics since 2009 and prolonged austerity measures sweeping across the EU, women have been suffering the repercussions of severe cuts in public services and of growing job precariousness. Moreover, with thousands of households plunged in despair because of economic deprivation as a result of the crisis, domestic violence is unlikely to decrease, with women and children being the prime victims. While local and regional authorities are instrumental in identifying the problems, it is progressive concrete solutions that are urgently needed to protect women's fundamental rights.
Respect for women's dignity One may argue that enjoying the right to life cannot be put into question in 21st century Europe. However, with seven women killed every day in the EU and one woman in five having experienced severe physical violence at least once in her life, violence against women is one of the most widespread violations of women’s rights in the Union. Furthermore, combating women's trafficking remains a key challenge since the trade is extremely lucrative and based on slavery and forced labour. The PES Group in the CoR joins the call of the Party of European Socialists on the European Commission to come up with a comprehensive European Strategy for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Moreover, action is urgently needed at European level to stop the systematic distortion of women's image and representation as well as their objectification in advertising, given the devastating consequences of such practices on women's physical and mental health.
Women are the most likely victims ms of poverty, unemployment, precarious us working conditions and the gender pay gap. Out of the 24% of the EU population at risk of poverty or social exclusion, it is women who are at higher risk, with older women and single mothers being particularly vulnerable. The absence of effective measures to reconcile work and family life, which results in lengthy interruptions of the working life or part-time employment, translates into lower pensions. As child and elderly care services have been severely cut because of continuous budget consolidations, women are either forced out of the labour market or compelled to accept more flexible – and often more precarious – forms of employment. It is worth noting that over 31% of women in the EU opt for part-time jobs compared to just 8% of men. Moreover, according to EUROSTAT, the overall employment gap between women (58.5 %) and men (70.1 %) was nearly 12% in 2011, with considerable disparities amongst Member States. The difference between employment rates by sex was as wide as 32.6 percentage points in Malta – where the lowest female employment rate was recorded (41.0 %), followed by Italy and Greece, with a difference of more than 20 percentage points. As for the gender pay gap, although in some Member States it has diminished (but for all the wrong reasons since men have experienced bigger drops in earnings than women because of the crisis), it stands at an average of 16.2% across the EU. This is despite the fact that women have higher educational attainments than men (60% of graduates from universities are women). In practical terms, this gap translates in some 60 days of unpaid work per year for women. Apart from socially unfair, this gap contributes to greater gender pension gaps, thus exposing older women to poverty. The PES Group in the CoR joins the call of the S&D Group on the European Commission to swiftly revise its directive on the Gender Pay Gap and impose sanctions on Member States that do not implement this directive. The Commission report on the application of the existing directive, due for adoption in summer 2013, should lead to something more than non-binding guidance on gender-neutral job evaluation and job classification systems. Moreover, effectively addressing women’s employment requires properly funded public services. The PES Group in the CoR urges that local and regional authorities,
which are those delivering such vital services, ser are not penalised by the co continued consolidation of national budg budgets. Moreover, it underlines the need ffor a European budget commensurate to the challenges ahead. commensura
Equal representation of women in decisionmaking This is a fundamental right, seriously undermined in a part of the world that claims to be open, free and genuinely democratic. Yet, women make only 35% of members of the European Parliament, 23% of members of national parliaments, 33% of the members of the European Commission and 22% of members of national governments. Interestingly enough, there are only three women out of the 14 VicePresidents of the EP elected for the second half of the EP’s term of office (starting in 2012), representing 21%, compared to 43% in June 2009. The PES Group in the CoR joins the European Women’s Lobby in their 50/50 campaign for parity in political decision-making in the firm belief that Member States, national and European political parties as well as the European Parliament should ensure the equal representation of women and men in their various configurations, voting lists and when designating candidates to top European positions. Moreover, the PES Group has always insisted that gender parity is essential within the national delegations represented in the Committee of the Regions.
A last consideration… Gender inequalities persist in the EU, with varying intensity from one Member State to the next but invariably disastrous for half of Europe’s population, and not only. Soft law has failed to prove its worth in the domains where women’s rights are violated. It is regrettable that in this day and age, women’s fundamental rights are still open to discussion. It is our responsibility, as democratically elected, progressive local and regional representatives, to ensure that the respect of such rights is automatic. At the same time, overseeing the respect of such rights at European level is essential. A European Commissioner for gender equality or a European Ombudswoman for gender issues would be useful institutional instruments in this respect. 03
Plenary session of the Committee of the Regions (11 – 12 April 2013) The April plenary session will examine 11 draft opinions, 4 of which by PES rapporteurs. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, will intervene in relation to the the "Multiannual Financial Framework". The European Parliament's rapporteur on European industrial policy, Reinhard Bütikofer (Greens/Germany), will take the floor in relation to the CoR opinion drafted by PES member Claude Gewerc.
OPINIONS IN BRIEF:
A Stronger European industry for growth and economic recovery: Claude Gewerc (PES/France)
of social partners, especially in the management of restructuring. Mr Gewerc's viewpoint was backed at the meeting by the European Parliament's rapporteur, Reinhard Bütikofer (Greens), who announced close cooperation between the two institutions on this file. The opinion was adopted by an overwhelming majority of ECOS members. (Read more under Interviews, p. 8).
EU support for sustainable change in transition societies: Maciej Kobylinski (PES/Poland)
Guidelines on state aid for rescuing and restructuring firms in difficulty: Christophe Rouillon (PES/France) Mac a iej ej Ko ej ob byl by ylins i skki ki
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he draft opinion of the President of Picardy Regional Council responds to a European Commission's communication outlining elements for Europe's industrial relaunch, which should bring industry to 20% of GDP by 2020. In his draft opinion, the Socialist rapporteur underlines that industry is the key driver for the economy, particularly in terms of jobs. He also calls for better coordination between EU industrial policy and cohesion policy through territorial pacts, which should be supported by investments of the European Investment Bank, as well as by project bonds. During the vote at ECOS commission level, the PES Group succeeded in defending a series of key amendments along the PES line already defined at an extraordinary meeting dedicated to this topic in Rijeka in September 2012. Such amendments included making a reference to the Lisbon Treaty's potential regarding better coordination between Member States in the area of industrial policy, supporting the European Parliament's proposal to set up a steering group on industrial policy involving all levels of government, creating a new category of mid-sized enterprises, taking greater account of the quality of public spending, concentrating state aid on cases which have real impact on the single market, and finally, ensuring a closer involvement
ince the draft opinion of the Mayor of Slupsk was adopted unanimously by the CIVEX commission, it is presented to the plenary under the simplified procedure (Read more under CIVEX, p.6, and Interviews, p.9).
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he draft opinion of the Mayor of Coulaines was adopted unanimously by the ECOS commission and will be presented to the plenary under the simplified procedure (Read more under ECOS, p.7, and Interviews, p.9).
Unleashing the potential of cloud computing in Europe: Gábor Bihary (PES/Hungary)
he draft opinion of the Member of Budapest General Assembly was adopted unanimously by the EDUC commission and will be presented in plenary under the simplified procedure (Read more under Plenary, p.7).
Fund for European aid to the most deprived: Ossi Martikainen (ALDE/Finland)
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he European Commission proposed in October 2012 to set up a European Aid Fund to help the poorest persons in the EU. It succeeds the previous Programme for Food Aid to the Most Deprived, the legal basis of which (common agricultural policy) had been considered inappropriate by a ruling of the European Court of Justice. The new Fund would support Member State schemes providing food to the most deprived people, and clothing and other essential goods to homeless people and materially-deprived children. The new Fund faces strong opposition by rightist governments in Europe, such as the German and the UK governments. The envelope earmarked for this Fund was considerably downsized from EUR 3.5 billion to EUR 2.5 billion at the European Council of 7-8 February. While generally welcoming the proposal, the chairman of Lapinlahti Municipal Council and former CoR rapporteur on the programme calls for a substantial raise of the level of funding. Another contentious issue is the choice of the legal basis. At COTER commission level, Michel Delebarre tabled amendments to the text, opposing i.a. the principle of voluntary Member State participation. This could indeed deprive local and regional authorities of access to the fund without taking account of the real challenges of combating poverty and exclusion at sub-national level. In the presence of the EP rapporteur, Emer Costello (S&D/Ireland), former Lord Mayor of Dublin, the European Commission admitted at that the COTER meeting that the legal basis under cohesion policy (article 175 TFEU) did not allow for a voluntary scheme. The opinion was adopted by a majority and all PES amendments were carried in commission.
Synergies between private investment and public funding at local and regional levels: Glyn Thomas (EA/United Kingdom)
he draft opinion of the Member of the National Assembly for Wales builds on a referral by the Irish Presidency of the Council. The
rapporteur highlights the growing importance of and interest in public private partnerships in financing projects (PPPs) and innovative financial instruments (InFIs) as a potential mechanism through which to help unlock key investments at regional and local level. He emphasises that the EU budget and the European Investment Bank play a key leverage role in stimulating investments across the EUâ€™s regions. He calls on the European Commission to give greater clarity in the legislative and regulatory framework behind PPPs/InFIs, in particular regarding the application of State Aid rules and public procurement legislation, which can act as barriers to participation by local and regional authorities in such initiatives. No amendments to the draft opinion were tabled at commission level. Given the rather declamatory nature of the text, its adoption in plenary will most probably run smoothly.
Committees and Working Groups were adopted. The PES Group also stressed the need to better involve citizens of both enlargement countries and current Member States in the process. The opinion was adopted by a large majority and further amendments will be tabled for the adoption in plenary.
Devolution in the European Union and the place for local and regional self-government in EU policy making and delivery: Franz Schausberger (EPP/Austria)
Enlargement strategy and main challenges 2012-2013: Luc Van den Brande (EPP/Belgium) Peer er Bo Bodke dkerr Ande dke Ande nderse rse sen n
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he The draft opinion of the President of the Flanders-Europe Liaison Agency represents the annual input of the CoR on the EU enlargement strategy and covers all candidate and potential candidate countries, namely the Western Balkans (Croatia, Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo), Turkey and Iceland. The rapporteur calls upon the Commission to put greater emphasis on regionalisation and decentralisation reforms in the context of the enlargement reports and to encourage the enlargement countries to establish independent, sub-national levels of government with administrative and managerial capacity. The draft opinion also addresses a range of issues of direct concern to the local and regional level, including the effective management of accession and structural funds, reduction of health regional inequalities, inclusive rural development, transparent local elections, enforcement of environmental legislation and last but not least, the respect for human rights and the fight against corruption. Amendments tabled by Mercedes Bresso, Bernard Soulage and Per Bodker Andersen, reflecting the PES position and ongoing discussions in the CoR's Joint Consultative
he own-initiative opinion of the Delegate of the Land of Salzburg looks at decentralisation in EU Member States over the last couple of years and in particular at changes triggered by the financial crisis since 2008. The rapporteur stresses that functioning local and regional administration and effective devolution must be based on the principles of subsidiarity, proportionality and multilevel governance. He points to a number of developments which, from a regional and local perspective, are seen as problematic, including the attempt to reinforce central (national) governments under the pretext of making savings, or to invest local and regional authorities with functions without providing the necessary resources. A number of amendments by PES shadow rapporteur Per Bodker Andersen have improved the text by highlighting the specific role of the CoR and defining more clearly the cooperation with other institutions, such as the Council of Europe's Congress of Regional and Local Authorities (CLRAE), as well as by stressing the need for a case-by-case assessment of mergers of municipalities. The opinion was adopted by a majority but some further amendments will be tabled by the PES Group for the plenary.
Rethinking Education: Fiona O'Loughlin (IE/ALDE/Ireland)
ince The draft opinion of the member of Kildare County Council and Mid-East Regional Authority responds to a European Commission communication, which calls for a fundamental shift in education, with more focus on learning outcomes. The overall aim is to promote employability and competitiveness through some 05
key recommendations concerning: transversal and basic skills (entrepreneurial and IT skills); foreign language learning; vocational education and training; recognition of qualifications and skills; increased access to education via open educational resources; better training for teachers; and finally, a partnership approach for the funding of education. It is worth noting that the communication is only a general synthesis document, accompanied by 7 working documents, which include all the concrete policy recommendations and are therefore much more political than the ‘chapeau’. As the CoR opinion only responds to the general document, it remains, understandably, quite abstract. The rapporteur underlines the need for equity in educational opportunities, is in favour of promoting entrepreneurship education and calls for synergies between informal and nonformal learning, and formal education. She also
highlights the key role of LRAs in education and training and the need to bridge the gaps between regions. The draft opinion received over 50 amendments, many of which by PES/ EDUC coordinator Yoomi Renström, aiming at inserting in the text comments on concrete policy proposals included in the staff working documents. Some further amendments are to be expected in plenary in order to underline the need for a European response to certain aspects of education and to avoid the subjugation of education to business needs only.
in plenary under the simplified procedure (Read more under EDUC commission, p. 7).
International Cooperation in Research and Innovation: Paolo Valentini Puccitelli (EPP/Italy)
he draft opinion of the Member of the Lombardia Regional Council was adopted unanimously by the EDUC commission and will be presented in plenary under the simplified procedure (Read more under EDUC commission p. 7)
Cultural and Creative Sectors for Growth and Jobs: Anton Rombouts (EPP/Netherlands)
he draft opinion of the Mayor of the city of ‘s Hertogenbosch was adopted unanimously by the EDUC commission and will be presented
CoR commissions: What's new? CIVEX (Brussels, 11 February 2013) The CIVEX commission adopted by unanimity the draft opinion on the EU support for sustainable change in transition societies, by Maciej Kobylinski, Mayor of Slupsk (PES/Poland). The draft opinion is part of the EU's response to recent political transitions, notably in the countries of the Arab Spring. The European Commission's communication to which it responds sets out the instruments that the EU has at its disposal to support transition to democracy, based not least on the rich experience of many of its own Member States, in particular those who underwent deep social, economic and political transitions themselves before acceding to the EU in 2004 and 2007. The draft opinion emphasises the need to recognise regional and local authorities both in the EU and in the partner countries as key actors in promoting and sustaining transition processes on the ground, and to strengthen the exchange of experiences in key policy sectors dealt with at regional and local level. The opinion also points to a series of barriers which often prevent local and regional authorities in the partner countries from playing their important part in the transition process, including lack of financial autonomy, low level of development of local democracy, and also of citizens' participation. Amendments tabled by PES/ CIVEX coordinator Lotta Hakansson Harju 06
and aimed at further strengthening the substance of the text were accepted. The adoption in plenary is not expected to be controversial. Furthermore, CIVEX members adopted by majority the draft opinions on Devolution in the EU and the place for local and regional selfgovernment in EU policy making and delivery, and on the Enlargement strategy and main challenges 2012-2013 by Franz Schausberger (EPP/Austria), and Luc Van den Brande (EPP/ Belgium) respectively. (Read more under Plenary, p.5).
COTER (Brussels, 26 February 2013) COTER members adopted by majority the draft opinion on the highly controversial Fund for European Aid for the most deprived, by Ossi Martikainen (ALDE/Finland) (Read more under Plenary, p. X). Furthermore, the COTER commission held a debate on the working document on Assessment on territorial impacts, by Michael Schneider, State Secretary of the State of Saxony-Anhalt (EPP/Germany). Mr Schneider's work builds on a European Commission staff working document produced by DG REGIO. The CoR rapporteur raises in particular the question of whether territorial impact assessments should be made compulsory for sectoral policies with a territorial dimension.
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Moreover, COTER members had a discussion on the working document on the 4th Railway Package, by Pascal Mangin, Member of Alsace Regional Council (EPP/France). Key elements of the package are the system governance and opening of the long-distance passenger market, the opening of regional passenger markets, the role of the European Railway Agency, and the adjustments in the area of interoperability and railway safety revisions. During the discussion, PES Group shadow-rapporteur Bernard Soulage stressed that the PES would take a very critical stance on the proposed revision of the 2007 regulation on public service obligations in the field of transport. Finally, COTER members held a debate on the working document on Clean Power for Transport Package, by Saima Kalev (EA/Estonia).
ECOS (Brussels, 20 February 2013) The ECOS commission adopted by an overwhelming majority, the draft opinion on a Stronger European industry for growth and economic recovery by Claude Gewerc (PES/ France) (Read more under Plenary, p. 4, and Interviews, p. 8). ECOS members adopted by unanimitythe draft opinion on EU guidelines on State aid for rescuing and restructuring firms in difficulty, by Christophe Rouillon. The draft CoR opinion provides timely input for the European Commission review of the guidelines for rescuing and restructuring firms in difficulty for the 2014-2020 period, expected to be finalised in the second semester of 2013. The rapporteur calls for simple, fair and transparent rules, so that state aid can help companies to overcome a period of instability, preserve industrial knowhow, and promote the preservation of jobs in regions. In his draft opinion, he puts forward a series of key proposals to the European Commission, including: an opposition to the idea of limiting the scope of the guidelines to firms that are in formal insolvency proceedings; an increase of the maximum amount of aid for the rescue and restructuring of any firm from EUR 10 million to EUR 15 million to take account of inflation and the increase of GDP; the extension of the maximum period for rescue aid measures to six months, renewable once for a further six months; the possibility to foresee specific compensatory measures, including a ban on payment of dividends during the restructuring period; the application of an antioutsourcing clause, which would provide for recovery of aid where the investment is not maintained for five years for bigger firms, or three years for SMEs; and, last but not least, the introduction of specific de minimis thresholds for notifying state aid, that is, EUR 200,000 for SMEs and EUR 500,000 for other firms. The draft opinion was warmly welcomed by ECOS members and adoption in plenary is expected to run smoothly (Read more under Interviews, p 8). p.
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PES member Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam (Netherlands), was appointed rapporteur on the European Commission's Social investment package. The European
Commission intends to ensure that social protection systems respond to people's needs, and that active inclusion strategies in the Member States are upgraded.It is worth noting thatthe PES Group will hold its external seminar on Social Ways out of the Crisis on 7 June in Rotterdam (under News of the PES Group in the CoR, p. 2). Finally, ECOS members had a discussion on the working document on Improving the gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges and related measures, by Andreja Potočnik (ALDE/Slovenia).
EDUC (Brussels, 25 February 2013) EDUC members adopted unanimously the draft opinion on Cloud Computing, by Gábor Bihary (PES/Hungary). The text responds to the European Commission's strategy for cloud computing (referring to the storage of data on remote computers, accessible by users over the internet), which aspires to create 2.5 million new European jobs, and an annual boost of EUR 160 billion to EU GDP (around 1%), by 2020. The strategy seeks to ensure interoperability, data portability and reversibility for cloud computing through the establishment of appropriate standards and EU-wide certification schemes. The rapporteur is critical vis-à-vis the ambition and the framework proposed by the European Commission for effectively unleashing the potential of cloud computing. He expresses concerns about its impact upon territorial and social cohesion and criticises the fact that the role of local and regional authorities as service providers in developing and operating cloud computing infrastructure is overlooked. Furthermore, he urges for measures to raise consumer awareness through education and development of IT culture. Gábor Bihary calls for an appropriate regulatory and organisational framework for the proposed standardisation process, while stressing the need for clear rules concerning data protection and copyright. According to him, the public sector, and more particularly regions lagging behind, should be supported beyond the development stage. Finally, he highlights that cloud computing relies on the development of the single market in telecommunication services, which requires European measures regarding tariffs for roaming data exchange services. Amendments tabled by EDUC/ PES coordinator Yoomi Renström aimed at reassessing the positive aspects of cloud computing and were welcomed by the rapporteur. No controversial debates are expected in plenary.
EDUC members adopted by majority the draft opinion on Rethinking Education, of EDUC/ALDE coordinator Fiona O’Loughlin (Read more under plenary, p. 6). They also adopted unanimously the draft opinion on Cultural and Creative Sectors for Growth and Jobs, by EDUC President Anton Rombouts (EPP/Netherlands). The document responds to the European Commission’s proposal for a new strategy aimed at increasing the competitiveness and export potential of the cultural and creative sectors, as well as at maximising their spill over benefits for other areas such as ICT and innovation. However, this soft-law Commission document lacks ambition and does not bring many new elements. The rapporteur underlines the key role played by LRAs when it comes to developing and fostering culture but also to providing the matching resources required. He also reiterates the intrinsic value of culture while highlighting its potential for economic growth and social cohesion. The PES Group tabled several amendments aimed at making the text less academic, all of which were taken up in spirit by the rapporteur. The vote in plenary is expected to be uncontroversial. International Cooperation in Research and Innovation was the subject of the fourth draft opinion for adoption, by Paolo Valentini Puccitelli (EPP/Italy). The European Commission communication proposes a new strategic approach to strengthen the EU's excellence and attractiveness as well as its economic and industrial competitiveness. Tackling global societal challenges and supporting the EU's external policies are also key objectives. ‘Science diplomacy’ is proposed as a 'soft' instrument and a mechanism for improving relations with key countries and regions. This approach will be supported by Horizon 2020. The rapporteur considers that science diplomacy, smart specialisation and research infrastructures (including e-infrastructures) are of particular regional relevance. He also underlines the role of the regions in linking research and innovation activities to horizontal and thematic policies. Adoption in plenary will be uneventful. Finally, the PES Group obtained the rapporteurship on the European Commission’s package on the EU Cyber Security Strategy, consisting of one communication and one proposal for a directive. The rapporteur will be Bob Bright, Leader of Newport City Council (UK), who was also the rapporteur of the 2009 CoR opinion on the Universal Service Directive for telecommunications.
ENVE (Brussels, 19 February 2013)
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PES Group member Ilmar Reeplau, Mayor of Malmo (Sweden), had a discussion with ENVE members on his working document on Smart Cities and Communities- European Innovation Partnership (SCS). The European Commission communication on this topic proposes to launch a European innovation partnership with a view to developing and integrating energy, transport and
information and communications technologies in urban areas. The idea is to concentrate them on a small number of lighthouse projects, which should help to serve as inspiration and mobilise other private and public investments. While generally welcoming the communication, the rapporteur criticises that it does not duly recognise the role and experience of cities in identifying possible projects targeted to local needs and demands. Furthermore, ENVE members had an exchange of views on the working documents on the 7th Environmental Action programme, on the Revision of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive, and on Making the internal energy market work, by JosĂŠ MacĂĄrio Correia (EPP/ Portugal), Marek Sowa (EPP/Poland) and Piet de Vey Mestdagh (ALDE/Netherlands) respectively. In particular, the debate on the EIAs will prove interesting when the draft opinions are published, because a number of critical remarks on the Commission's proposals were made by the rapporteur and
some ENVE members, while PES members byy and large of the revision. g are supportive pp
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Last but not least, PES member Neil Swannick presented his experience from his work on the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority to ENVE members in a round-table debate on the review of EU waste targets. The PES/ENVE coordinator will follow as a shadow rapporteur the elaboration of the CoR opinion on this subject by Belgian EPP member Michel Lebrun.
AND NOW OVER TO PES MEMBERS
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In your draft opinion, you emphasise the fact that regions have a pioneering role to play in implementing European industrial policy. Could you illustrate this with a practical example from your own region, Picardy? Claude Gewerc, president of the Picardy regional council (France): Regional development is an area of industrial policy all too frequently overlooked when the economic crisis is not monopolising 08
the headlines. Nevertheless, there are many examples that show how important local commitment can be for making the best use of all available expertise and injecting fresh impetus into the industrial fabric. This is the approach we are trying to promote in Picardy, which is a region of longstanding agricultural and industrial traditions, whose development has been driven in recent years by an economic model which has proven to be obsolete in the current crisis. We have therefore tried to encourage a root and branch transformation of our production base by making the most of the advantages our region has to offer, such as a strong farming sector co-existing alongside a diversified industry and reinforced private and public scientific potential that has produced several centres of excellence. Our energy and environmental constraints together with our efforts to anticipate new production and consumption trends have become the levers of development driving the various strategic options the region is pursuing (economy, research/innovation, training, sustainable regional development). This is a long-term approach which involves building up our universities, research laboratories, technology and transfer centres, issuing calls for specialised projects and developing clusters (two of which are on an international scale). It is underpinned
by national and European sectoral policies, as in the case of energy storage and bio-refinery, and also by the Structural Funds. It brings together businesses and laboratories in joint innovation and demonstration platforms such as IndustriLAB, Improve and Pivert.
To find out more about the three projects referred to above, visit www.industrilab.fr/ www.picardie.fr/Lancement-du-projet-IMPROVE www.picardie.fr/Le-projet-P-I-V-E-R-T
Why do local and regional authorities have an important role in State aid for rescuing and restructuring firms in difficulty? Christophe Rouillon, Mayor of Coulaines (France):
Christ is oph ophe p e Roui Rouillo llon n
The crisis has restored legitimacy to public investment: national, regional and local authorities are once again being recognised as active players in the economy, and the neoliberal vision of a public sphere for the lowest possible price appears to have had its day. “Public investment” equates to investment by local and regional authorities, and also to State aid. Local and regional authorities therefore have a vital role in State aid. Aid from local and regional authorities is also devoted to employment and supporting firms undergoing restructuring, and to efforts in terms of education and vocational training, making careers more secure and
independence from central government and their own budgets are the foundation for a democratic state governed by the rule of law. Every country in the world has to tackle universal problems (e.g. unemployment, malnutrition, social problems, infrastructure, etc.), however, it is local and regional authorities which come up with individual approaches. As a result, the EU’s local and regional authorities have acquired enormous experience in these fields. It is this experience which is especially valuable for countries in a transition period, and particularly for their local communities and regions.
Mac aciej ieej Ko iej Kobyl byl y ins ylins in nski ki
What do you see as the key contribution which local and regional authorities can make to support sustainable change in transition societies and what is the particular role of countries, such as Poland, which have gone through a transition themselves not so long ago? Maciej Kobylinski, mayor of Słupsk (Poland): A country’s system of local self-government reflects the maturity of its transition process. Strong local and regional authorities with well-defined powers, self-determination,
Local and regional authorities have a very important role to play in educating residents about democratic self-government in Western Europe, which has been in place for decades. Town twinning is of particular relevance here. According to the Association of Polish Towns, in 2003 Polish local authorities signed over 2000 twinning agreements. Over the following six years this number doubled to 4000 in 2009, with as many as 1000 twin towns from Germany. Such twinning enables an enormous amount of experience to be exchanged. The town of Słupsk has played an important role here - as long ago as 1988, together with Carlisle and Flensburg, it signed the first agreement on trilateral cooperation in the history of modern Europe. For nearly a quarter of a century, not just local councillors and municipal employees but also hundreds of ordinary residents have been able
revitalising labour market areas; it also addresses the need to anticipate and provide support concerning restructuring. We therefore need to avoid moral or ideological judgements. State aid is not a bad thing, but nor is it necessarily a good thing: it needs to be properly calibrated and regulated to ensure that it makes economic sense and serves the public interest. Hence, State aid for rescuing and restructuring firms in difficulty should not be used to keep firms with no prospects for the future from exiting the market. Such aid may, however, be useful if its purpose is to help structurally profitable firms to overcome a period of instability, preserve industrial knowhow, maintain the economic fabric of a region, carry out public service tasks (where relevant) or even preserve a competitive market structure, as well as to allow firms to overcome temporary situations of global competitive stress.
to see for themselves how local government is organised and operated on a democratic basis. Thus, local and regional authorities can offer great added value by more effectively promoting and enabling access to tried and tested models of democratic governance at the level of local and regional authorities. With regard to the role of the State in supporting social change in countries undergoing a transformation process, the focus should be on promoting and developing the autonomy and role of local and regional authorities, enabling the exchange of experience between them, as well as supporting and creating mechanisms to facilitate such exchanges. The more people in these countries can see themselves how democracy works at local level in EU countries, not only will more of them will want to see similar changes in their own countries, but they will also know how to go about achieving those changes. The value of interpersonal contacts and the resulting exchange of ideas, values and experience cannot be overestimated. There can be no doubt that Eastern and Central European EU Member States also have a lot to offer here, including Poland, which is the largest country of the last two enlargements, and which is also seen as a country which successfully transformed itself. There is a great deal of interest among eastern neighbours in our experiences.
News of the Party of European Socialists On 18 February, the Party of European Socialists (PES) celebrated its 20th anniversary. The event was opened by Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo. PES Group President Karl-Heinz Lambertz attended the event alongside S&D Group President Hannes Swoboda, FEPS President Massimo D’Alema and some of the PES founders: former Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok, who had led the modernisation of the Confederation of Socialist Parties of the EC (CSPEC) and prepared the ground for the creation of the PES, the first PES President Willy Claes (November 1992 – October 1994) and the longest serving PES President so far Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (May 2004 – November 2011). The first Congress of the PES, which established the party, took place in Den Haag in November 1992. The PES Executive met on 18 February to discuss the PES priorities for 2013 and the PES Group was represented by 1st CoR Vice-President Mercedes Bresso. The PES Presidency also met on the same day. Apart from the debate on the latest political developments in the EU as well as individual Member States, members of the Presidency exchanged views with special guest Peer Steinbrück, SPD Chancellor Candidate. On 19 February, PES Women held their first statutory meeting of the year to discuss the 2013 PES Women campaign, which will focus on ‘Tackling the widening Gender Pay Gap’. PES Women has already campaigned since 2007 on combating the gender pay gap and has succeeded in putting in place a European Equal Pay Day. Since the economic crisis has hit women particularly hard, the theme remains very relevant. Moreover, they agreed to make the call for a reinforced role of the Commission through the appointment of a Gender Equality Commissioner a centrepiece of their 2013-2014 campaign.
The PES Foreign Policy Network also met on 19 February to discuss Syria developments in Syria and Sahel, as well as the EU’s Defence and Trade agendas.
The PES Activists Forum ‘Together for Change’ was organised in Budapest (Hungary) on 8-10 March. Activists from all over Europe gathered to discuss some key themes for the PES such as a New Political Economy, Rising Inequalities, Social Justice in the 21st Century, and Gender and the Economic Crisis. They also discussed some more concrete aspects of campaigning, that is, Effective Online Campaigning and Connecting with Citizens. The Forum was opened by PES President Sergei Stanishev and Attila Mesterházy, Leader of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP).
The PES Advisory Committee on the Fundamental Programme met in Brussels on 18 March. Presentations by PES member parties of their internal policy renewal processes were followed by an extensive exchange of views on the draft PES Fundamental Programme. The Programme will be divided into 3 main blocks: a) A Good Life for All, b) Rising inequalities: the challenge to a Good Life, and c) Building social justice and economic democracy in the 21st century. It will be adopted by the PES council, due to take place in June. On 22 March, PES Women held their second statutory meeting in Dublin (Ireland). Chaired by PES Women President Zita Gurmai MEP, the meeting was hosted at the Irish Parliament and it concluded with a feminist walking tour in Dublin. It was followed by a conference on the ‘Objectification of Women’, held on 23 March. Structured
around three roundtables, the conference examined three broad themes: Women & Media, Women in decision-making: Politics & Labour Market, and Women as Objects: European Response to Human Trafficking and the Sex Trade. The conference was opened by Ireland’s Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton. Key speakers included the members of the European Parliament Nessa Childers, Phil Prendergast and Emer Costello, as well as Senator Ivana Bacick, Sinead Ahern, President of Labour Women Ireland, and Patricia King, VicePresident of SIPTU (Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union), one of Ireland’s biggest trade unions representing over 200,000 workers. The PES Group in the CoR was represented by Mary Freehill, who underlined the role of progressive local and regional authorities in the fight against women’s objectification.
On 26-30 March, the Global Progressive Forum (GPF) and SOLIDAR organised with the support of the PES, the S&D Group in the EP and Global Network, the World Social Forum in Tunis (Tunisia). It is the first time that the Forum took place in the Arab world, which was of great significance given the political challenges in the Middle East and North Africa region two years after the Arab Revolutions. The Forum also discussed global challenges such as the economic crisis, climate change, migration, international trade, decent work and a fairer globalisation. Bernard Soulage represented the PES Group in the CoR underlining the importance of local democracy in the region’s quest for democratic governance, freedom, dignity and social justice.
A look at some recent local and regional elections Lazio, Lombardy y and Molise, Italy (24 and 25 February 2013) The Italian Democratic Party (Partito Democratico) emerged as the winner of the regional elections held in Lazio and Molise, where the centre-left candidates Nicola Zingaretti and Paola Frattura scored 40.6% and 47.8 % respectively. Early elections were also held in Lombardy, one of the richest regions of Italy counting 10 million inhabitants, following the resignation of the centre-right president Roberto Formigoni. Umberto Ambrosoli, the candidate supported by the centre-left, obtained 38.2% of the votes, not enough against the 42.8% received by the candidate of the centre-right, Roberto Maroni, Secretary of the Northern League Party. The candidate of the 5 Star movement received 13.6% of the votes cast, with clear consequences on the outcome of the oneround ballot.
of cooperation, solidarity and competitiveness in Lombardy, and of commitment to the European integration process. Instead, the candidature of the centre–right had been openly backed by Silvio Berlusconi and defends anti-European populist and separatists positions. Malta (9 March 2013) The local elections, held in 33 localities, took place on the same day as the general elections and both outcomes confirmed a landslide victory for the Maltese Labour Party (LP). The LP won 56.7% of the votes in the local elections, increasing its share by 2.2%. PES Group member Ian Borg, the youngest member of the CoR, was elected to Parliament and appointed Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds and EU Presidency.
It is important to underline that Umberto Ambrosoli had been selected through primaries open to all voters, advocating an agenda
POLITICAL BALANCE IN THE COR Political Groups
PES .................................................................. 120 EPP ...................................................................126 ALDE .................................................................. 46 EA ...................................................................... 17 NI ....................................................................... 19 To be appointed .................................................. 16
Fin d us o n Fa ceb o o k : w w w. f b. m e /p e s gro up co r
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Fo ll o w us o n Tw i t ter : @ p e s g ro u p co r
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