Migration was on the top of the agenda of the European Committee of the Regions' plenary session on 7 - 8 December. The EU's assembly of local and regional representatives also adopted recommendations on the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI), REFIT, the collaborative economy, the New Skills Agenda for Europe, the posting of workers as well as the Audiovisual Media Services Directive.
The European Union needs to reform its asylum system thorough, establish clearer routes for legal migration and focus more sharply on the integration of newcomers, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) concludes in three opinions adopted on 8 December. The EU's assembly for local and regional governments said that the EU and its member states would be more effective in all three areas – handling claims for international protection, enabling legal migration and integrating migrants – if they worked closely with the EU's regions and cities.
Vice-president Timmermans has presented the Commission work programme for 2017 with ‘better regulation’ being at its core. Local and regional leaders are closely following EU's work plan and actively contributing to priority dossiers, such as simplifying access to cohesion funds, agriculture, rural development and SMEs support.
EU's cities and regions have backed the European Commission's proposal to extend the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) operations and widen its scope to agriculture, fisheries and cross-border projects. At the same time they demand the EFSI to better complement European Structural and Investment Funds and urge that further cuts to Connecting Europe Facilities (CEF) and Horizon 2020 must be avoided. Geographical and sectorial reach needs also to be improved.
Regions and cities want to exploit the potential of the collaborative economy in delivering jobs, innovative and better services, sustainability and solidarity. But a bolder approach is needed at EU level, with a balanced and forward-looking legal framework that should boost entrepreneurial development whilst ensuring the rights of workers, consumers and incumbent operators. Taxation, market thresholds, classification of service providers are among the main areas to be addressed.
Posting of workers
The European Committee of the Region is the first EU institution to position itself on the revision of the Posting of Workers directive. The opinion adopted in the plenary session considers the European Commission's proposal as a step in the right direction but calls for more efficient measures to protect posted workers and fight social dumping. It suggests that the time limit beyond which the law of the host country must apply in full to a posted worker should be reduced from 24 to 12 months.
New Skills Agenda
Investment in human capital could be treated as social investment within the framework of EU's rules to coordinate macroeconomic policies, suggests the European Committee of the Regions in its opinion on the New Skills Agenda for Europe.
Audiovisual Media Services Directive
Better protection of minors, greater transparency with regard to media ownership, promotion of European works, independence of the national regulatory authorities and media literacy are in the focus of the European Committee of the Regions' opinion on the Review of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive.
Price volatility of agricultural products
Agricultural price volatility has increased over the past decades but risk management mechanisms are still the poor relation of the Common Agricultural Policy – absorbing a mere 0.4% of the total agricultural budget. In order to better safeguard farmers' incomes, the European Committee of the Regions has proposed to boost the role of private agri-food operators in regulating agricultural markets, improve risk and crisis management tools, and promote an increase in the added value of farms.
Press release: The European Union system should safeguard farmers against extreme price volatility of agricultural products
Europe is currently the world's number one tourist destination and a major part of the European Union economy. In times when unemployment rates have increased dramatically, the travel and tourism sector remains one of the leading job creators both in Europe and worldwide. In this context local political leaders are proposing the concrete measure of encouraging European citizens to take more holidays in Europe, thereby forging a sense of European citizenship.
Press release: Europe's local leaders propose an operational solution for making better use of the potential of tourism
The opinion backs the proposals of the European Commission that would involve the replacement of over 30 rules. Alongside different measures from fishermen on the ground, the opinion includes proposals on the regionalisation mechanism and a fairer system for quota distribution for sustainable fisheries that are very important for the economies in coastal towns.
Press release: Europe's local leaders call for the EU's Common Fisheries Policy to be regionalised