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The ECR Group is centre-right and euro-realist.​
It is made up of local and regional politicians working together within the EU Committee of the Regions ​

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EU environmental policy: Offering local solutions to global problems<img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/1.%20Torun.jpg" width="699" style="BORDER:0px solid;" />http://web.cor.europa.eu/ecr/news/Pages/Torun.aspx2017-11-28T23:00:00ZEU environmental policy: Offering local solutions to global problems<p style="text-align:justify;">​<strong>On 23 November, the ECR Group in the CoR held a conference dedicated to the role local and regional stakeholders play in global climate change negotiations, the bioeconomy and the circular economy. The conference was held in Toruń, Poland, at the invitation of the president of the ECR Group in the CoR, Rob Jonkman, and ECR Group members from Poland. </strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Speaking about ways to improve sustainability in the EU, ECR Group member Paweł Grzybowski (Mayor of Rypin in Kujawsko-Pomorskie, Poland) said: "We need better regulations, better education for citizens and more investment in new technologies. Out of these three measures education is cheapest and most effective, but it requires strategic planning and does not bring immediate results". </p><p style="text-align:justify;">During the first panel, Mr Grzybowski debriefed participants about his participation in the international climate change negotiations in Marrakesh (COP22), which took place last year. This year's climate change conference, COP23, was held in the German city of Bonn. Commenting on its outcomes, ECR Group vice-president Adam Banaszak stated: "It is promising to see that every year the role of local and regional politicians in these meetings has been increasing. As we are the level closest to the people and we know our areas best, we know what works on the ground and what targets are realistic to achieve." Mr Banaszak also reminded participants that the next COP will take place in the Polish city of Katowice, the capital of the industrial Silesia region, which will provide a good opportunity to discuss clean energy technologies, including the ones for fossil fuels.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Speaking about the bioeconomy, Michał Korolko, chair of the Europa Kujaw i Pomorza regional association, used a practical example from the region of Kujawsko-Pomorskie: "In Bydgoszcz there are private companies which re-use the ash from burning waste. They use it in the construction sector. There are not many enterprises like that in Poland but we are trying to encourage them to invest in innovative bioeconomy projects, which are among EU's priorities. We expect that after 2020, structural funds will continue to be invested in the bioeconomy so the private sector may expect a degree of stability and predictability".</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Prof. Daniela Szymańska from the Nicolaus Copernicus University added that "there is no alternative to the bioeconomy for local communities". This is because we have limited natural resources which will need to be replaced with new ones. "Key to this process is education. We need to convince people and businesses that the bioeconomy is not something difficult to implement. The bioeconomy is not an entirely new idea. For instance, composting as a recognised practice dates back to the early Roman Empire". </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Among the participants at the conference were politicians, researchers, representatives of non-governmental organisations, and students from the Kujawsko-Pomorskie region. The speakers also included Alderman Gordon Keymer (honorary president of the ECR Group) and Emanuele Monti (councillor in Lombardy) who shared best practices from the United Kingdom and Italy in the area of the circular economy. </p>
EU Funds – keeping it simple<img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/5.%20Vlasak.jpg" width="701" style="BORDER:0px solid;" />http://web.cor.europa.eu/ecr/news/Pages/EU-Funds-–-keeping-it-simple.aspx2017-11-26T23:00:00ZEU Funds – keeping it simple<p style="text-align:justify;">​Oldřich Vlasák (Councillor for the City of Hradec Králové, Czech Republic / Vice-President of the ECR Group) has been appointed by fellow local and regional politicians as rapporteur for the European Committee of the Region's opinion on 'Final Conclusions and Recommendations of the High Level Group on Simplification post-2020'. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The goal of the Committee of the Regions opinion, due to be prepared under the leadership of Oldřich Vlasák, will be to present the ideas of local and regional authorities on how the EUs Cohesion Policy could be simplified for the future. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"The EUs Cohesion Policy is in serious need of simplification. We need to simplify rules in order to reduce the administrative burdens imposed on beneficiaries. There is no doubt that Cohesion Policy has brought many positive and tangible results to local communities across the continent. However, access to the Fund and its management is difficult for local and regional authorities. The Funds need to be reformed so that they are easier to access, especially for small towns and municipalities. What we also need is to have a policy that is more bottom-up and based on clear rules and mutual trust. For a reliable and effective shared management system we need to find ways to ensure that the partnership principle is properly applied", said Mr Vlasák.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The partnership principle underperins the EUs Cohesion Policy and helps to ensure that actions are adapted to local and regional needs and priorities. The principle is also encoded in the European Code of Conduct on the Partnership Principle that regulate the use of European Structural and Investment Funds. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The High Level Group (HLG) on monitoring simplification for beneficiaries of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) was set up by the European Commission in July 2015. The final conclusions and recommendations of the HLG were adopted at its 10th meeting on 11 July 2017 and provide specific options for the preparation of post-2020 legislative proposals regarding the ESIF. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The initial discussion and the adoption of the opinion in the Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget (COTER) are due to take place on 13 December 2017 and the plenary adoption during the first CoR plenary session in 2018. </p>
Addressing social rights without further EU power creep<img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/24.%20Grzybowski.JPG" width="405" style="BORDER:0px solid;" />http://web.cor.europa.eu/ecr/news/Pages/Addressing-social-rights-without-further-EU-power-creep.aspx2017-11-26T23:00:00ZAddressing social rights without further EU power creep<p style="text-align:justify;">​In response to the European Commission's new plans for a European Pillar of Social Rights, the European Conservatives and Reformists Group underlined that adressing social rights does not require greater centralisation of social policies in Brussels. While underlining that we do need to achieve equal opportunities in our societies and fair working conditions through coordinated action, the Group flagged subsidiarity concerns over replacing national systems with a single EU welfare system.  </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The ECR Group voiced strong opposition to the opinion on the European Pillar of Social Rights and voted against the CoR opinion at the CoR plenary on 11 October 2017. The general tenor of that criticism also applies to the current proposal by the European Commission. The European Pillar of Social Rights, presented as a Commission recommendation on 26 April and reffered to by Jean-Claude Juncker in his 13 September State of the Union address. It aims to deliver new and more effective rights to citizens and has three categories; 1) equal opportunities and access to the labour market 2) fair working conditions and 3) social protection and inclusion.  </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The ECR Group Coordinator for the Commission for Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture (SEDEC), Paweł Grzybowski, stressed that the solution at the EU level cannot always be more centralisation. "Yes we do have a problem. We are yet to achieve equal opportunities for our citizens so that a child can have a bright future irrespective of the family or country it is born into. However, the way to address this is not by trying to harmonise the social systems of 28 diverse economies."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Underlining that there were warning flags already raised by national parliaments on Commission proposals on social matters, Paweł Grzybowski emphasised the need to respect the principle of subsidiarity "We need to respect the powers of local, regional and national authorities. We need to respect the principle of subsidiarity," he said. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The Commission has already received a "yellow card" from national parliaments over its proposed reform of the Posting of Workers Directive. The Commission proposed changes in three main areas: the remuneration of posted workers (making it equal to that of local workers, even when subcontracting), more coherent rules on temporary agency workers, as well as long-term posting. These changes would mean that it would go significantly beyond the requirements of minimum remuneration of the existing directive. Despite the 'yellow card' procedure triggered by 11 Member States because of subsidiarity concerns, the European Commission stands by its initial proposal.</p><p>Mr Grzybowski (Mayor of Rypin in Poland) noted the following; "the Group believes that reforms are necessary at EU level in order to enhance competition, keep labour costs down and boost productivity, ultimately bringing an end to an over-regulated labour market. But we believe that employment legislation is best decided at national level and that any European initiative must show due regard for the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">ECR Group Member Matteo Bianchi commented the following on the proposal: "We fear that the European Commission's plan will be used to harmonise social policy further, giving more powers to the European level and taking them away from the Member States, regional and local authorities".</p><p style="text-align:justify;">ECR Group Member Matteo Bianchi will organise on 14 December in Milan, Italy, a citizens' dialogue devoted to European Commission's proposals for a European Pillar of Social Rights and work-life balance. The event will be organised under the auspices of the Lombardy region and the European Committee of the Regions. It will be attended by citizens, local, regional and national politicians, academics and researchers. Besides Mr Bianchi, among the key speakers will be CoR Members Raffaele Cattaneo (President of the Lombardy Regional Council) and Mauro D'Attis (CoR rapporteur on the European Pillar of Social Rights). </p>
New ECR Member presents the unique and multicultural Vilnius region <img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/10.%20Andrzejewski.jpg" width="315" style="BORDER:0px solid;" />http://web.cor.europa.eu/ecr/news/Pages/New-ECR-Member-presents-the-unique-and-multicultural-Vilnius-region-.aspx2017-11-23T23:00:00ZNew ECR Member presents the unique and multicultural Vilnius region <p style="text-align:justify;">​The region surrounding the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, is unique in Lithuania not only because of its size but also its multicultural character. The largest regional authority in the Amber Republic has over 100 000 inhabitants, of whom 52% are Polish, over 32% Lithuanians, around 8% Russians and just over 4% Belarusians. There are also smaller numbers of Ukrainians (0.65%) and Tatars (0.4%).</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The latter are the descendants of Tatars brought to Lithuania by Grand Duke Vytautas the Great in the late 14th century as his personal bodyguard. The Vilnius region is thus unique in terms of its history, culture, languages, customs and religion. The outstandingly beautiful, hilly landscapes of the Vilnius region are adorned by the pointed towers of Catholic churches topped by crosses, and domed Orthodox churches with their characteristic diagonal-beamed crosses, as well as a few wooden mosques in the villages of Nemėžis and Keturiasdešimt Totorių, where the descendants of Vytautas' valiant knights go to pray.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The local authorities of the region, which I have the honour to represent at the European Committee of the Regions, aware of the unique historical and cultural heritage of the region, endeavour to cultivate and promote it. They have already been doing this for several decades, and it is worth noting that, since our country obtained its independence in 1990, all the local elections in the Vilnius region have been won by the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania - Christian Families Alliance (AWPL-ZRCH) political group. This is a regional party of Lithuanian Poles, but also representatives of other national minorities, and of course also Lithuanians.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The AWPL-ZRCH group's consistent and convincing success with the electorate can be partly explained by the fact that it is particularly sensitive to the Vilnius area's multicultural character, and seeks to preserve it. This is demonstrated by the fact that every year more than 50% of the regional authority's budget allocation goes on education, which has three dimensions. Teaching in the region's state-funded educational institutions takes place in three languages: Lithuanian, Polish and Russian. In this way all children are guaranteed the right to pursue their secondary education in their mother tongue, which is a precondition for preserving the ethnic identities of the individual diasporas.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">This trilingual model obviously requires significant investment, but the local authority willingly accepts the increased expenditure in this area. It also understands that, if national minorities are to feel safe and comfortable in their little homelands, three things have to be guaranteed: education in their mother tongue, the opportunity to use the language of their national minority in their close-knit community, and the ability to promote their culture. In spite of various difficulties with the central government in this area (e.g. the Lithuanian parliament's repeal of the Law on National Minorities following the country's accession to the EU), the local authority is trying to create this security of identity for national minorities.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Support from the various EU programmes has been helpful in this respect. EU and local authority funds have been used to modernise educational establishments, kindergartens have been built, the entire school infrastructure is being extended and modernised. For example, sports fields and gymnasiums, playgrounds and cycle tracks etc. are being built. In effect, thanks to EU support, our region is undergoing a transformation. More than EUR 70 million has been invested in the region from EU funds since 2007. In the last few years alone a folk arts centre has been built at the Houvalt manor in Maišiagala with co-financing from EU programmes (EUR 967 000). A new biathlon shooting range has been built at Nemenčinė (with EUR 312 000 from the EU), as have seven new sports fields (EUR 499 000).</p><p style="text-align:justify;">EU funds are of course also being invested in cultural projects, which in our region, like education, have three dimensions. This can best be seen in the context of our main annual celebration, the harvest festival. The popular Dozhinki festival encapsulates the culture, history and customs of the Vilnius region in all their diversity. At the festival individual municipalities from the Vilnius region present not only the year's harvest, but also their rich multi-ethnic artistic skills. At the festival you can listen to jolly, boisterous Polish folk songs performed by the many folk music ensembles of the region, fall into a melancholy reverie over wistful Lithuanian laments or dance to the rhythm of the gopak performed by Russian masters of the dance. You can also sample the delights of various ethnic delicacies, such as Lithuanian dumplings, Polish poppy-seed cake and Russian bliny. You can marvel at the richness of the creations of masters of different cultures and nationalities.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">One thing that is absolutely unique to the Vilnius region, from the cultural point of view, is the Vilnius Easter palms which the women of the region have been weaving for generations. Vilnius palms are so beautiful, original and individual that the Lithuanian authorities have applied to UNESCO to have them included on the World Cultural Heritage list.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">We invite you to visit the Vilnius region to experience for yourself its diverse cultures and peoples.</p><p style="text-align:justify;"><em>Tadeusz Andrzejewski is a member of Vilnius district municipal council and a member of the European Committee of the Regions, where he belongs to the European Conservatives and Reformists Group. At the Committee he participates in the work of the Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX), and the Commission for Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture (SEDEC). He is a journalist and columnist, inter alia for the Tygodnik Wileńszczyzny and the L24 internet portal.</em></p>

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