European Council President Charles Michel wants to see regions more involved in the current European processes, particularly in the drafting of national recovery plans and the Conference on the Future of Europe. EURACTIV Germany reports.
Ever since the outbreak of the pandemic, local politicians have been demanding to have more say in the management and shaping of post-COVID Europe. Regional decision-makers often feel excluded when it comes to national recovery plans detailing how countries plan to use the €672.5 billion strong recovery fund.
A recent survey showed that most local and regional authorities are barely involved in the definition of the overall priorities and objectives of the so-called recovery and resilience plans.
According to the law on the fund, various stakeholders should be consulted in the process, such as civil society or local politicians.
“The articles state that stakeholders should be involved. But in reality, that doesn’t happen, and if it does, it’s only formally, with no real impact,” said Zdeněk Hřib, the mayor of Prague.
Christophe Rouillon, the mayor of Coulaines and leader of the Socialists in the Committee of the Regions, a 329 member-strong advisory body made up of regionally or locally elected politicians, expressed similar views.
“The top-down model is ineffective,” he said of the current process for national roadmaps and pointed to the European Semester – a framework for coordinating economic policies across the EU – as an example.
“We need your support”
Michel tried to reassure local and regional leaders. “Without you, we will not be able to succeed,” he said.
He noted that he supports the idea of involving regions more in national recovery plans and pledged to work to make that happen.
“You can count on me,” Michel said, adding that local politicians have “a clear view of the situation on the ground.”
If countries want to invest effectively, he said, “we need your support.”
Echoing the calls for more involvement of local leaders in the recovery plans, Vasco Ilídio Alves Cordeiro (S&D), a member of the regional parliament of the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal in the Atlantic, argued the same should be true for the Conference on the Future of Europe.
“The conference must elicit how Europe works and in which areas,” Alves Cordeiro said. “In this, regional actors are irreplaceable.” To Michel, he stressed that “more and more, we are counting on you to highlight the role of the regions.”
“Not Europe’s press agency”
Regarding the conference, Michel began by warning that he saw a danger of holding “just another bureaucratic conference” that would produce “incomprehensible jargon.” This must be prevented, he said, otherwise one would lose contact with the citizens.
To connect with people, he said, you really need the support of local politics. “The messages must be received locally, and we must listen to them.”
“The Committee of the Regions is not Europe’s press agency, but the intermediary,” Michel concluded.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]