Tuesday

9th Aug 2022

Interview

'Ask the locals' on future EU, says outgoing regions chief

  • 'In Brussels, you need to make people 'regional-minded' and not only 'European-minded', president of the Committee of the Regions, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, said (Photo: European Parliament)

The president of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), Karl-Heinz Lambertz, has warned that the European Union must give a stronger voice to regional and local authorities in order to bring Brussels policy-making closer to citizens.

"I am sure that making stronger the local and regional dimension of the European framework is the only way to bring the European Union closer to citizens," he said.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Lambertz, who ends his mandate as CoR president this week, hopes that the EU's assembly of local and regional representatives will have more influence in the European decision-making process in the near future - especially in the context of subsidiarity and during the 'trialogues'.

The Conference for the Future of Europe - aimed at reconnecting to citizens - will be an opportunity to increase the visibility of the institution, but "we should be correctly represented to have a substantial contribution," he said.

"Each big challenge in the 21st century has a European dimension, but EU policies can only be correctly implemented if they take into consideration the local and regional diversity on the ground," he told EUobserver.

"In Brussels, you need to make people 'regional-minded' and not only 'European-minded'," he warned, adding that this connection with the reality on the ground is a unique selling point of the CoR.

The CoR can help in two ways, he said: firstly, through the connections with more than 300 regional representatives in Brussels, and secondly visiting and making contacts in situ.

However, the presidents of the European Commission, European Parliament and the European Council are not always 'regional-minded', but it is the function and the obligation of the CoR to bring this dimension into the discussion and ensure that it will not be neglected, he told this website.

'Frugal Five' vs 'Friends of Cohesion'

Europe has suffered one crisis after another during the past 25 years, and current problems, he says, are not smaller than before - but maybe even bigger.

"We have less common values and there is still a great difference between the north and south and west and east," he warned, insisting that this plays a crucial role in many policies, such as the ongoing negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) or the Green Deal.

In the context of the MFF, the so-called 'Frugal Five' - Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark - advocate for a reduced budget, due to the departure of the UK, while the 'Friends of Cohesion' - Spain, Portugal, Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia - defend a fully-funded cohesion policy.

It was a "real challenge" for the CoR to come up with a position on the MFF in time for the parliament's vote, Lambertz said.

However, the opinion of his institution was clear: calls for smaller cohesion policy funds are not possible, as Europe needs a future where the differences between regions are not growing but convergent, he said.

"Among others, environment, digitalisation or innovation are priorities for the cohesion policy [so] there is no contradiction between the Green Deal and cohesion policy," he said.

Meanwhile, the EU must ensure sufficient regional investment through its cohesion policy, as well as through the just transition fund (JTF), to achieve the objectives of the Green Deal, but these mechanisms should not undermine each other, Lambertz warned, ahead of the presentation of the JTF earlier this month.

"The new European Commission had a strong start with the Green Deal, but what will be the result of it? You must take into account the regional and local dimension before you take any European decision because the most important question is how these policies can work on the ground," he added.

There are still many challenges ahead, "we do not have all the answers now, but the response must be European," he concluded.

Parliament calls for citizens' 'agoras' to shape future EU

Details have been revealed by the European Parliament of its proposals on how to conduct the two-year post-Brexit reform exercise of the EU. But a final format will have to be determined in talks with member states and the commission.

Interview

EU regions chief fires warning shot over funding cuts

Committee of the Regions president Karl-Heinz Lambertz tells EUobserver why he is not happy with proposed cuts to the EU's cohesion policy. France has already spoken up against Common Agriculture Policy, but who will speak for the regions?

'Top-down' future of Europe conference 'will fail' warning

The new president of the Committee of the Regions has warned the EU Commission that a top-down, centralised, Brussels-driven conference will fail to rebuild trust in Europe. Instead, he proposes a stronger say for local and regional authorities.

Column

Albania's post-communist dream has lessons for Ukraine

Comparisons between post-communist Albania and current-day Ukraine are fascinating — and make many pertinent parallels. Ukrainians have a similar determination to belong to "the rest of Europe" as Albanians.

Opinion

Finally, the victims of Utøya got a memorial

A legal battle between locals on the one hand and the state and the labour youth organisation on the other side postponed the inception of the memorial in remembrance of the victims of Anders Behring Breivik.

News in Brief

  1. Rhine river on the brink of closure for shipping
  2. Moldova sees 'prelude to war' with Russia-backed forces
  3. Taliban preventing Afghan evacuations to Germany
  4. Amnesty regrets 'distress' caused by Ukraine report
  5. Energy companies warn UK gas exports to EU are contaminated
  6. EU set for clash over rules on political adverts
  7. Three grain ships due to leave Ukraine on Friday
  8. EU on track to reach gas-storage November target

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Italy poised to elect far-right rulers
  2. UN chief demands access to nuclear plant after new attack
  3. Greek PM embroiled in spyware scandal
  4. How Ukraine made the case anew for an EU army
  5. 'We must take back institutions', Orban tells US conservatives
  6. Putin must lose Ukraine war, Nato chief says
  7. Let Taiwan's democracy shine brighter
  8. Droughts prompt calls to cut water use amid harvest fears

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us