CoR president sees ‘enormous opportunity’ in Brexit

Committee of the Regions President Markku Markkula [European Commission]

Committee of the Regions President Markku Markkula is adamant Brexit is an opportunity to “renew” the European Union, while cities and regions can be the drivers of change. EURACTIV Spain reports.

At an event in northern Spain yesterday (3 May), the CoR president advocated a decentralised approach to issues such as innovation, the hunt for added value and energy solutions.

“Brexit is a big opportunity, an enormous opportunity, for Europe, for the other 27 countries, to renew what we have,” the Finn insisted. He added that his institution is working for a Europe that is “open minded” and which allocates more importance to “local structures, which are closer to the citizens”.

Commission insists poor-performing regions need structural reforms

The European Commission yesterday (11 April) suggested that regions with a lower level of growth could benefit from greater institutional capacity and structural reforms that could facilitate investment. EURACTIV Spain reports.

In Markkula’s opinion, the future of the EU is at risk because “everything needs to be agreed by national governments” and the bloc needs processes to “be much faster, done with an open mind and be more innovative”. He insisted that this is all made easier by regional and local authorities.

Some issues, like fighting terrorism and migration policies, are best tackled at “state level” but other matters “face a better future if worked on at a decentralised level, such as is the case with energy or digitalisation”.

Enhancing “innovative ecosystems” at regional and local level, as well as fostering collaboration between these centres across Europe is, in Markkula’s view, the best medicine for “those ‘Trumps’ that build walls between the United States and Mexico or Putin taking control of Crimea”.

“It is better if we encourage people to do more things together, to teach people that we have strong democracies and that this has been Europe’s longest period of peace,” the CoR president added.

Regarding the chance of Marine Le Pen triumphing in this weekend’s French presidential election, Markkula cited the example of the recent Dutch elections where it was shown that “people take these situations very seriously”.

Leaders call for discipline to maintain fragile unity in Brexit talks

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned that talks over the post-Brexit EU budget could divide member states, undermining the show of unity they put on at a summit today (29 April).

He also explained that the situation in France has allowed “strong personalities with talent” to come to the fore, in reference to Le Pen’s opponent, Emmanuel Macron.

One of the conclusions of the event, entitled Sciences Meets Regions, was that “every city or region can be a pioneer in the economic transformation”, so long as “the different regions of Europe set up collaborative partnerships that launch pilot projects and scale them up to a European level”.

Markkula argued that his institution carries a certain degree of clout within the EU’s framework, as national governments are “slowing down” the European project, while cities and regions are doing more to be “drivers of change”.

He clarified that the idea of giving regions more power and making them more independent are two different things.

“Europe’s strength is in maintaining its different cultures but the key lies in collaboration,” he concluded.