The leaders of the regions and cities within the European Union have gathered on Thursday in Bucharest at the Palace of Parliament, for the 8th edition of the European Summit of Regions and Cities, in a crucial moment for the future of the EU and the enforcement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations. The Summit is organised by the European Committee of Regions, in cooperation with the Romanian Presidency of the Council of EU. The event brings together European, national, regional and local leaders from all over the continent, to debate on the future of Europe and the manner in which the citizens can become actively involved in the European construction project, through the local and regional authorities.
Dubbed “‘(Re)New Europe” and in context of the Brexit, the Bucharest Summit due to end on Friday will focus on the contribution and role of the local and regional authorities in ensuring solidarity within the EU, in strengthening the European democracy and encouraging the dialogue with the citizens, in particular in the outlook of the May 2019 EP elections.
A few weeks before making important decisions with regard to the leadership of the EU bodies for the next years, this summit will adopt a Declaration meant to unveil the vision of a renewed European Union, a European Union based on democracy, solidarity and proximity (aiming to draft certain EU policies capable to better consider the local needs).
CoR President pleads for strengthening of EU’s cohesion policy
President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) Karl-Heinz Lambertz pleaded on Thursday for the strengthening of EU’s cohesion policy, adding that there cannot be an Union in the absence of a real cohesion.
In the opening of the European Summit of Regions and Cities which takes place on Thursday and Friday in Bucharest, at the Palace of Parliament, Lambertz welcomed the motto which the Romanian Presidency at the EU Council selected, namely “Cohesion, a common European value.”
He mentioned that the cohesion policy should be defended because we know that there cannot be an Union without a real cohesion.
The CoR President underscored that the European Union, where elections will be held in only 73 days, is going through a period marked by major challenges, and in this context, the declaration to be adopted on Friday by the European leaders of regions and cities – ‘essential actors in European construction’ – regarding the vision of the future of the European Union becomes all the more important.
According to Lambertz, the EU needs the suitable tools in order to reach its objectives regarding progress and cohesion, the European Committee of the Regions cooperating with the European Parliament for a substantial financial framework to exist, as well as an efficient allocation of the EU resources.
In her speech, Mayor of Polish city of Gdansk Aleksandra Dulkiewicz was in favour of defending the fundamental European values, saying that most Poles support these values. The 39-year old lawyer brought to mind her predecessor, Pawel Adamowicz – assassinated in January – when those in the audience applauded for a couple of seconds, as a sign of respect.
Adamowicz died on 14 January, after being stabbed the day before, during a public celebration. This attack, committed by a man who got out of prison and spread allegations against a political party close to his victim, sparked a wave of emotion in Poland, many commentators and politicians attributing the drama to the “hate speech” present in the public debate.
PM Dancila: Cohesion policy needs to be continued, strengthened in future financial programming
European Union’s cohesion policy needs to be continued and strengthened under the future EU financial programming, given its essential role in bridging gaps among regions, as well as when establishing solid bonds between communities, Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila told the 8th European Summit of Regions in Bucharest on Thursday.
“The fact that this event takes place in Bucharest in the thick of the Romanian presidency of the Council of the European Union is not accidental. We have taken up the motto: ‘Cohesion – a common European value.’ We wanted to send a message on the importance of this principle in building a union for citizens. European citizens need hospitals to provide important healthcare services, well-equipped schools to ensure quality education, better roads, security, prosperity, equity and stability, in short, a better life,” said Dancila.
She added that 2019 is a year of many changes, but it must be “a year of continuity” at the same time.
“Europe’s agenda and developments are marked by the multiple challenges we need to confront through cohesion, unity and solidarity. People’s trust is gained over time, but it can be lost in a moment. We have the resources, capacity and strength to not only preserve, but also augment confidence in the European project by continuing the investments that have brought prosperity to thousands of regions, cities and local communities. Romania started its tenure as the holder of the rotating presidency of the EU Council under the sign of open and constructive dialogue with you, the ones who promote and represent the interests of the citizens. We have a common goal and I am convinced that together we are able to strengthen our confidence in the fundamental values that unite us (…) Today’s debate is an extremely useful platform for shaping the European future. We want a European Union that is strong, united and in solidarity working so that no one, no city, no region is left behind. Millions of people feel the real benefits of European development policies in their everyday life.”
Dancila added that the prosperity offered by membership of the European project is the result of development policies among which cohesion has a fundamental role.
“The period when Romania holds the EU Council presidency overlaps this stage of redefining the European project for the next decade, so we have the opportunity to be more actively involved in this process, even more than in the 12 years that have passed since Romania’s accession to the EU. We are now part of this important approach, and it is not only an honour but also a duty to participate actively and consistently in the decision on the future of the EU. By the motto we have chosen for Romania’s presidency of the Council of the European Union we sought to connect with the current debates at European level, we wanted to emphasise that European citizens have to feel the benefits that the European Union brings to everyday life. Cohesion policy needs to be continued and strengthened in the future financial programming, given its essential role in bridging gaps among regions, as well as when establishing solid bonds between communities,” the prime minister said.
She added that the EU needs to display more power when acting on and anticipating challenges so that it may be ready to deliver the solutions expected by the European citizens.
Dancila emphasised that the agenda of the Romanian presidency of the Council of the European Union is ample, and Romania intends to follow it to contribute to defining the European design for the next decade.
She also noted that the value of cohesion is underlined by its dual quality – a common European value and the expression of unity and solidarity among the member states of the EU, its regions, its cities and its citizens.
European Commissioner Corina Cretu emphasizes role of territorial component in EU cohesion policy
European Union’s Cohesion Policy was always related to territorial cohesion and its essence is to maintain at a regional and local level, European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu said at the debate “Territorial cohesion to bring EU citizens together,” at the European Summit for Regions and Cities held at the Parliament Palace.
The European official said that the cohesion policy cannot be considered as a challenge to the territorial approach for, on the contrary, it can help achieving the goals established at local and regional level in the EU member states.
Cretu brought to mind that the European Executive proposed 80 measures to simplify the rules regarding the cohesion policy, in the best interest of its final beneficiaries, the European citizens.
The EC representative also said that, in carrying out the operational programmes based on European funds, it is essential to have good quality projects, which will bring concrete advantages to the European citizens.
In his intervention, Juraj Droba, the President of the Bratislava metropolitan area, estimated that the cohesion policy is one of the most important pillars of the European Union, with a substantial contribution to the elimination of disparities between regions, the modernization of local infrastructure, while helping people to find new jobs.
Droba announced that, in order to get closer to the Slovakian citizens, he decided to be a “free taxi driver” on May 25, when Slovakia will host the elections to the European Parliament.
The President of the British delegation to the European Committee of Regions, Albert Bore, opined that the EU must find an adequate language so that the European citizens will better understand what the cohesion policy represents and which are its benefits it brings to their everyday lives. He also criticizes the fact that in many member states there is a tendency to centralize fund management related to the EU cohesion policy.
Negoita: Citizens would live better in EU if decentralization and subsidiarity became reality
President of the Romanian delegation to the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) Robert Negoita on Thursday told a press conference held on the sidelines of the 8th European Summit of Regions and Cities that European citizens would live better lives if decentralization and subsidiarity “became reality.”
“Decentralization and subsidiarity are very important objectives that we promote, but we do not discuss enough or do enough for. But I listened to my European colleagues’ opinions and there is, indeed, concern in all the EU countries with decentralization and also with subsidiarity. The citizens would live better in the EU if these principles became reality,” stated the head of the Association of Municipalities in Romania.
He voiced hope that the participants in the Summit will make all possible efforts to further promote and implement the two objectives.
“The local administration has a major impact on all that it means citizens’ everyday life. The role of the local administration must be emphasized more and it must be better regulated, and I believe that it should be granted the importance that it deserves. Most services the citizens benefit from are provided by the local administration. I am glad that the CoR has taken on goals that we embrace with all our faith and strength, such as cohesion. There cannot be a united Europe without a complex system of cohesion,” said Negoita.
“Government boasts about handouts given from our money”
The President of the Romanian Association of Municipalities, Robert Negoita, reproached the Government that it “boasts” measures such as exempting people working in construction from income tax, although this affects the budget of the local authorities.
“We have seen that the Government often boasts about handouts given from our money. That is, we are exempting from income tax the people who work in construction. The Government boasts about this and has nothing to lose. But we are not able to pay salaries. Moreover, the impact is also negative due to the fact that all the contracts we have contain labour – some more, others less – and this increases our expense in some areas where we do not decide on and we find that we have lower revenues due to the Government and higher spending for the same reason,” said Robert Negoita.
Addressing Minister of Public Finances Eugen Teodorovici, Negoita said that the Government’s projects are “commendable” but that they should be carried out from the budgets that the Executive manages.
Teodorovici replied that these economic issues “should be otherwise discussed”, while at the same time reproaching the fact that in Romania the political class has allowed itself to “grossly manipulate the public opinion” against the backdrop of a very low financial education level.