In a special report with several interviews, the Renew Europe Group at the European Committee of Regions looks into how, for local and regional stakeholders, the Conference on the Future of Europe (COFOE) is a chance to address the most prominent issues in Europe’s regions and cities and translate these into proposals for the future of the EU.
On 13 January, during their multiplex-event, local citizen’s panels indicated an appetite for ambitious EU reforms in the process of COFOE, and expressed how many policies could benefit from a bottom-up approach. In the French city of Autun with Mayor Vincent Chauvet for instance, citizens called for harmonisation at the EU level of rules for accessibility, particularly in transport and establishments open to the public, as well as in public administrations. Another key issue raised was direct EU funding. “We strongly believe that European funding should be as close to citizens as possible” argues Michiel Rijsberman, Renew Europe’s Coordinator in the CoR’s Commission for Territorial Cohesion and EU Budget (COTER) and Regional Minister of Flevoland, since regions and cities have long demanded to have more direct access to bloc euros, so far with limited success.
“The EU is also more than just a bank account”, says François Decoster, Renew Europe’s CoR President and Mayor of Saint-Omer, France. Elected local officials are crucial to bring the EU closer to the citizens and show them, it is not just about receiving funds. Convinced that it is essential to talk about Europe at the local level, Decoster set up ‘correspondents’ to bring European news to the public.
In Bratislava, Mayor Matús Vallo, sees cities and regions stepping up for democracy: “For democracy to function, it is very important that people trust their local representatives. They should see trustworthy politics and transparent institutions in places where they live. Where national governments fail, it is the cities and regions, who stand by people and democracy” he said.
In Germany, Dietmar Brockes, Member of a Regional Assembly, insists that North Rhine-Westphalia remains the model region for industrial transformation, as it goes through digital and green transitions, and still aims to master these structural transformations to stay competitive.
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