(Source: European Committee of Regions)
Regions, cities and villages also ask for a strong role in running EU investment for recovery to ensure that funds reach those most affected by the pandemic.
The COVID crisis highlights the need to connect EU policymaking with the needs of local communities via the crucial role of locally elected politicians: this is the message passed today by the Members of the European Committee of the Regions to European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič. During a plenary debate, local and regional leaders reiterated their commitment to improve EU legislation by contributing to the Fit for Future (F4F) platform . In a resolution with proposals for the 2022 European Commission Work Programme , CoR members request that the European Commission ensures that local and regional authorities are involved in the implementation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRPs) in order to effectively address the pandemic’s consequences on the ground. They also ask to extend crucial flexibility measures that were introduced to mobilise European structural and investment funds during the COVID crisis.
Improving EU rules is a top priority for local and regional authorities, who are in charge of implementing 70 % of EU legislation. Regional and local leaders reiterated that EU laws have to bring the most added value to local communities and respect the fundamental principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. This can only be achieved if locally elected politicians are fully involved in the EU legislative process and if their input is recognised and respected in the Better regulation agenda, throughout every phase of the policymaking.
Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the European Committee of the Regions, said: “T he quality of the EU legislation improves when local and regional authorities share with the Commission their experience and knowledge on the ground. With their involvement, the Commission’s work gains in transparency and efficiency. Lively cooperation with local politicians allows to improve the whole policy cycle: policy design and preparation, adoption, implementation, evaluation and revision. The experience developed by local leaders in tackling the health and economic consequences of the pandemic is a concrete example of the added value they can provide to the EU decision making process, to better address the real needs of our local communities .”
Speaking at the Plenary, European Commission’s Vice-President for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight Maroš Šefčovič said: “What we need is EU legislation that is easy to comply with, efficient and fit for the future. The work of the Committee of the Regions is especially important here, as the Fit for Future Platform has a strong mandate for topics of particular importance for local and regional authorities. For example, its 2021 annual work programme includes cross-border healthcare, public procurement and air quality – all suggested by the representatives of the Committee. Equally, I am glad to see the Committee of the Regions building its foresight capacities. Europe needs a resilient society and therefore, bringing a forward-looking perspective to EU policymaking requires cooperation across all EU institutions and bodies. Following up on direct input from this Committee, our resilience dashboards – a new tool to assess resilience in a holistic manner – will also aim to include indicators of regional disparities.”
The European Commission acknowledges the CoR’s contribution to the EU Better Regulation agenda: clear distinctions between the contributions from different levels of government are made and the role of local and regional authorities in evidence-based policymaking is recognised. Furthermore, the European Commission has committed to practising active subsidiarity and calls for the systematic use of the Subsidiarity Assessment Grid which was developed by the CoR. But the involvement of local and regional authorities in the EU decision-making process could be further strengthened and become a structured and interactive exercise, for example with systematic Territorial Impact Assessments and consultations which are better tailored for local and regional authorities.
The F4F platform as main instrument of the EC Better regulation agenda is designed to simplify and modernise EU laws to better tackle future challenges, while cutting red tape. With 3 Chairs of commissions in the government body of the Platform and the network of Regional Hubs , as sub-group of the Platform, the CoR is present in the Platform at both levels of revising and evaluating existing EU legislation. It therefore represents not only the local and regional authorities but also citizens and businesses which implement EU law on daily basis. The 3 Chairs of CoR commissions have been appointed as rapporteurs during the last F4F Plenary in March: Mark Speich (DE/EPP) , Secretary of State for Federal, European and International Affairs for the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia and chair of CoR commission on Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs ( CIVEX ) is rapporteur for Public procurement legislation with focus on e-procurement; Anne Karjalainen (FI/PSE) , Kerava City Councillor, chair of the CoR commission for Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture (SEDEC) is rapporteur on the INSPIRE directive – an Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe that establishes common standards to describe and share spatial data like natural risk zones, transport networks or population distribution; Ulrika Landergren (SE/RE) , Councillor in the Swedish municipality of Kungsbacka and chair of the CoR commission for Natural Resources (NAT) is rapporteur on cross-border healthcare.
Last but not least, the CoR contributes to the European Commission’s second Foresight report with information gathered from its networks and from its yearly local and regional Barometer in order to ensure that the realities on the ground, and a sub-national perspective, are included in the global outlook of the EU’s foresight.
Subsidiarity ensures that the EU can only act when it is more effective than the national, regional or local levels in tackling certain issues. It is about ensuring that there is sufficient added-value in all the EU’s actions. The concept of Active Subsidiarity is a new way of working that takes the traditional approach to subsidiarity a step further. It encourages all institutional, national and sub-national actors to contribute constructively to improving the added value of EU legislation throughout the policymaking cycle. The Active Subsidiarity approach was proposed by the CoR during the Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and Doing Less More Efficiently and taken up in the European Commission’s Communication on the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality in October 2018 .