The members of the Renew Europe Group in the European Committee of the Regions (Renew Europe CoR) proposed solutions for economic recovery in a debate with European Commissioners, putting the Green Deal at the centre of the recovery during a hybrid plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions.
Renew Europe CoR Vice-President Jasna Gabrič kicked off the plenary by addressing European Commissioner for Crisis Management, in charge of European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Janez Lenarčič:
“We didn’t have much experience or knowledge about such crisis situations such as with COVID-19, but what we had was our citizen’s trust and strong sense of responsibility.” Gabrič argued for more coherence and equality: “We must not let it happen again that solidarity between member states & freedom of movement are suspended at national borders even when transport of emergency medical equipment is at stake.”
“We need to ensure that social distancing does not become national distancing again as the 2nd COVID-19 wave approaches. Europe must show more coherence in its reactions.”
Mikk Pikkmets, talking about digital transition and the COVID-19 crisis with European Commissioner for Democracy and Demography Dubravka Suica, said that “if it was not clear before, the link between digitalization, quality of life and flexibility of employment became apparent in this crisis. The pandemic showed us how dependent we all are on the fast and stable internet connection. It also demonstrated how easy it is to saturate the broadband.”
“By fully benefiting from digitization, we can contribute to resolving several causes of demographic change: increasing work-life balance, repopulate rural areas, decrease brain drain, increase quality of public services, even in health and care and many more.”
Turning towards the Green Deal, Michiel Rijsberman argued for a full involvement of regions and cities:
“Without involvement and commitment of cities and regions, European citizens and SMEs will not buy into the transition project, which is a prerequisite for success.”
Renew Europe CoR members from Germany Dietmar Brockes and Tobias Gotthardt pleaded in favour of hydrogen: “We strongly support the EU hydrogen strategy. What is important now is the expansion of production, open to new technologies and the development of new fields of application,” said Brockes. Tobias Gotthardt added: “Hydrogen is pure future. Europe must be the innovative world market leader in pure hydrogen energy. It’s the main pillar of decentralized energy supply with added value in the regions.”
On the EU budget, Renew Europe CoR Vice-President Ulrika Landergren called for an aggressive investment budget, one that not only restarts the economy but also has the capacity to shift our climate performance as a continent into higher gear:
“Every euro we spend should have a positive environmental and social impact. The EU budget must continue to be spent in a transparent way; we also need proper own resources and to be stricter with member states who fail to live up to our fundamental principles or undermine them.”
Renew Europe CoR members highlighted the tourism sector as a priority, with Juan José Martinez Lozana saying that “tourism has to be a priority for investments during the recovery, as it represents 10% of GDP. This time calls for a movement and alliance across all regions to promote smart, innovative, sustainable and responsible tourism”.
Frank Cecconi told European Commissioner for industry, services and tourism Thierry Breton that “the tourism industry has specific needs to reach the European objective for energy renovation for buildings; we need to foresee a special section in the Green Deal for it”.
“The crisis we face doesn’t leave us with any other choice but to innovate and invent,” said Renew Europe CoR President François Decoster during the same debate.
“Together, we need to overcome the digital fractures, the interruptions of the chains of valor and the brutal shutdown of whole sectors of our local economies such as tourism. More than ever, the European Commission can lean on the cities and regions of Europe.”
During the plenary the report on the Services package of Jean-Luc Vanraes was also adopted, calling for clear cooperation rules between authorities to reduce the administrative burden: “Removing unjustified obstacles to cross-border provisions of services would speed up the economic recovery in Europe”. He also added that “while services account for around 70% of both GDP & jobs in Europe, intra-EU trade in services represents only one third of intra-EU trade in goods and shows no signs of catching up”.