Migration, the Common Agricultural Policy and the investment gap topped the agenda at the plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) on 8-9 February. The EU's assembly of local and regional politicians also adopted recommendations on the topics transport, energy and environment, alcohol, telecom and EU's fiscal capacity. The CoR members discussed the priorities of Malta's EU Presidency with the Ian Borg, Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds and they adopted a resolution to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community.
Reform of the CAP after 2020
The debate took place days after the launch of the European Commission's three-month public consultation, as the first phase of the modernisation and simplification of the Common Agricultural Policy. Commissioner Hogan called on EU regions to contribute to these consultations. During the debate, members of the EUs assembly of local and regional politicians adopted an opinion on support for young European farmers.
The EU's economy continues to recover despite increasing uncertainty worldwide. The CoR underlined that cutting red tape, improving local and regional administrative know-how, raising awareness about EU investment tools as well as adapting economic governance should help recover this missing investment of about 15% in Europe's economy. This approach was supported by Vazil Hudak, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), during a debate with CoR members. ( infographic )
Migration and asylum
The European Union's plans to align its rules on asylum and standardise conditions for asylum-seekers are welcome but fail to recognise adequately that migration to Europe is long-term and structural in nature, says the European Committee of the Regions. In separate recommendations agreed on the same day, the CoR welcomed the EU's drive to manage migration through country-specific partnerships with neighbouring states and argued that the EU should work more with regions and cities in these countries.
The European Union should increase its cooperation with local and regional authorities in the developing world if the United Nations is to achieve its goal of making cities more "inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable" by 2030, the European Committee of the Regions argues.
Press release: A more urban developing world requires more urban responses
Missing transport links
Local leaders called on EU institutions and national governments to tackle the lack of public and private investment on transport links in border regions, in order to improve living and working conditions for hundreds of thousands of European citizens.
How to turn declining ports areas in sustainable urban hubs
With the geographical concentration of operations, small and medium-sized ports are losing some of their business, causing knock-on damage to the towns and cities in which they operate. In its opinion, the CoR set out ideas on how to regenerate port areas, focusing on governance, investment attraction and sustainable urban development.
60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome
Ahead of the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty and in the context of growing disaffection toward the European project, the EU's cities and regions pledged to shoulder their share of responsibility for involving citizens more deeply in shaping a new path for the Union. The CoR will launch an extensive citizens' consultation process on "Reflecting on Europe" throughout the EU. The outcome will feed into the CoR's contribution to the upcoming political discussions on the future of the Union. A delegation of 200 young Europeans played an active part in the debate within the CoR and witnessed an amendment on behalf of Europe's youth get adopted.
Review of the telecom package
Securing basic access to high-speed broadband must be recognised as a universal service and universal service obligations should get full recognition, especially for areas where the market is failing to deliver services and in areas where public investment is crucial. The opinion suggests earmark funds to develop access networks in rural areas, and calls for 5G networks to be rolled out at the the same time and at the same speed across the EU.
Effective water management
Climate change can lead to intensive rainfall, floods and the contamination of drinking water. The CoR unanimously adopted an opinion on effective water management that focused on water quality, the shortage of fresh water and flood defences. Local leaders underlined that water management is a capital-intensive policy area in which major investments must be made and called for a European water innovation action agenda.
Environment and climate
LIFE, the European programme dedicated to the environment and climate change, plays an important role in promoting eco-innovation and developing new solutions in environmental protection and climate, the CoR underlined in this opinion. Local and regional authorities reiterated their 2012 call for a substantial increase in the programme's budget and strongly recommended maintaining the sub-programme on climate action beyond 2020.
The European Committee of the Regions has called for the European Union to establish a new alcohol strategy and to improve labelling, increase efforts to protect children, target binge-drinking, and encourage the use of car locks to prevent drink-driving.
Press release: EU needs an alcohol strategy, local and regional leaders say
Climate change adaptation strategy
As cities and regions are on the front line of climate change, members of the CoR are actively engaged in the current revision of the EU's climate-change adaptation strategy. Local leaders are asking for well-functioning multi-level governance, an enabling framework for capacity-building in cities and regions for risk modelling tools, reporting and monitoring methods and to facilitate access to public and private financing supporting climate-adaptation actions.
A fully-fledged Banking Union and a strong fiscal capacity of the Economic and Monetary Union are tools necessary to support investment and safeguard potential growth, productivity and competitiveness in times of economic crisis, European local and regional leaders emphasise. The major concern is the growing economic gap between regions.