Thursday

24th Sep 2020

EU regions: pandemic should force decision-making rethink

The delayed Conference on the Future of Europe should take place as soon as possible as it is a "timely opportunity" to debate how to make local and regional authorities fully-involved in the EU-wide response to Covid-19, the Committee of the Regions warned on Friday (11 September).

The planned conference, a two-year initiative which aims to reconnect citizens with Brussels, was initially scheduled to start on Europe's day (9 May), but the coronavirus pandemic postponed it.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or subscribe as a group

Although the three main EU institutions have not reached a common position yet, the regions committee expects the conference to be launched under the current German presidency of the European Council - most probably with an online format.

"The committee is ready to team up with the German laender [regions] in order to bring forward the voice of the EU's one million locally and regionally-elected representatives," said the president of the committee Apostolos Tzitzikostas.

"Now is the time to ensure that, in addition to the national and EU authorities, regional and local authorities are recognised, once and for all, as one of the three dimensions of our European 'house of democracy'," he added.

While EU countries ruled out treaty changes in the wake of the conference, local and regional authorities consider that the event cannot be just a forum for discussion. Instead, it needs to pave the way for concrete changes and reforms decided "collectively".

The German secretary of state for federal, European and international affairs for North Rhine-Westphalia, Mark Speich, urged leaders to leave an open door for treaty changes.

"We need to reflect on the future architecture of the EU, and the conference is a vital opportunity to do it. We need the courage for change, even for treaty changes," Speich said.

For his part, Christophe Rouillon, mayor of the French commune Coulaines, said the conference gives institutions the chance to create a public space to discuss matters of concern - such as housing, taxation, digital platforms and health.

'First line of defence'

Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic has raised questions about the bloc's response to major crises - especially since the first reaction from EU capitals was often to take unilateral decisions, and put their national interests first.

"[But] from managing the return to school, to coping with the pressures on health services, to securing jobs and supporting SMEs, regional and local authorities continue to be the first line of defence during this tragic pandemic," said Tzitzikostas.

He stressed that member states are relying on local and regional authorities to overcome the challenges of the second wave of the pandemic.

The pandemic also put pressure on all levels of EU governance to work together effectively, setting higher expectations from the European Commission's Better Regulation Agenda, the committee said.

"Local, regional, national and European actors must combine their efforts - in this way we can ensure that we not only bounce back from the crisis but bounce forward, building a green, digital and fair Europe," EU commissioner for inter-institutional relations Maroš Šefčovič told members of the committee.

EU regions insisted that their technical feedback, at an early stage of implementing EU law, is key for success, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Future of Europe Conference: Council urged to move now

MEPs want to launch the delayed two-year event in September, which would require a joint position of the three main EU institutions before summer. EU commissioner Maroš Šefčovič is optimistic about reaching an EU Council's position under the Croatian presidency.

News in Brief

  1. Belgium: masks no longer mandatory from October
  2. Report: China built 380 Muslim internment camps
  3. Belgian government formation in final phase
  4. Lukashenko sworn in at secret ceremony
  5. Study: No-deal Brexit more costly than corona for UK
  6. Polish miners in underground protest against energy plan
  7. EU animal farming emits more CO2 than cars
  8. Navalny leaves Berlin hospital after poisoning attempt

Opinion

Why so few women in EU missions?

Angela Merkel is only the seventh woman to chair the Council of the European Union's meetings. And in 2020 there is no woman leading any of the current 11 European civilian missions (let alone the six military operations).

Commission chief under fire for Croatia campaign video

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen recorded a video in support of Croatia's ruling party, which the EU executive said was in her "personal capacity" - and admits it was a "mistake" that this was not made clear.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. EU migration pact to deter asylum
  2. 'Era of EU naivety ends', MEP pledges on foreign meddling
  3. Anti-mask protesters pose challenge for EU authorities
  4. EU 'failed' to safeguard civic freedoms during pandemic
  5. The corruption fuelling the Bulgaria protests
  6. EU countries stuck on rule of law-budget link
  7. EU states struggle to better sync Covid-19 measures
  8. EP groups drop homophobe from Sakharov prize

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us