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ECR Member Adam Banaszak voices local and regional authority concerns on natural disasters<img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/AHB.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /> Member Adam Banaszak voices local and regional authority concerns on natural disasters<p>​<strong>Mr Adam Banaszak represented the local and regional government within the EU Member States at the European Civil Protection Forum, the largest European conference on civil protection organised by the European Commission.</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Speaking on behalf of the Committee of the Regions in the light of his rapporteurship on the Union Civil Protection Mechanism, Mr Banaszak said: "Approximately 95% of first responses to disasters are led by local people. That is why a localist approach is key for increasing resilience. For our societies to be more resilient, we need to better involve local and regional authorities in planning of risk preparedness. As we are the level closest to the people and we know our areas best, we know what works on the ground". </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Adam Banaszak spoke at the 2018 Civil Protection Forum organised on March 5, which brought together more than 400 representatives from the civil protection and disaster risk management communities, including governments, European Union institutions, United Nations agencies, academia, and other stakeholders to share experiences and discuss ways of strengthening the Union Civil Protection Mechanism.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">In his speech the ECR Member called on EU and national decision-makers to better involve local and regional authorities in planning of risk preparedness and to encourage the voluntary and community sector to plan for self-help. As the Vice-President of Kujawsko-Pomorskie Regional Assembly in Poland, Mr Banaszak mentioned the 2017 storms in his region which caused the death of six people and damage to thousands of homes. He said that the involvement of volunteers and the community sector, who in many cases supported self-help, had been crucial in this particular case. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The recommendations drafted by Mr Banaszak in the CoR will be voted by local and regional authorities during the May plenary session.</p>
Two ECR CoR Members elected to the Italian Parliament<img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/Giuramento_Mattarella_Montecitorio.jpg" width="635" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /> ECR CoR Members elected to the Italian Parliament<p style="text-align:justify;">​<strong>Two ECR Group Members in the European Committee of the Regions, Matteo Bianchi and Carlo Fidanza, were elected Members of the Italian Parliament in the general elections held on 4 March 2018.</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Italy went to the polls to choose over 900 members of its two houses of parliament. The centre-right alliance <font size="3">won the highest number of seats. Two ECR CoR Group Members became Members of the lower house of the chamber of deputies: Mr Matteo Bianchi from <em>Lega</em>, and Mr Carlo Fidanza from Fratelli d'Italia. Congratulazioni ai nostri membri italiani!</font></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Picture: By Presidenza della Repubblica</p>
Organic farming in Groningen is expanding. Henk Staghouwer has given the sector a push in the right direction.<img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/28.%20Henk.jpg" width="616" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /> farming in Groningen is expanding. Henk Staghouwer has given the sector a push in the right direction.<p style="text-align:justify;">​<strong>When he was re-elected as member of the provincial executive with responsibility for agriculture three years ago, provincial representative Henk Staghouwer (Member of the Executive Council of the Province of Groningen, The Netherlands) set himself the task of giving organic farming a push in the right direction. Two years after the province launched its programme, it is bearing fruit. Ten farms are currently making the transition from conventional to organic farming. 400 hectares of land are being converted. This will increase the land area used for organic farming by around 10% compared with 2016.</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Henk Staghouwer: "I had noticed that the sector was looking for other ways of earning a living. After the war, the aim was simply to produce as much food as possible. But over the last ten years people have begun to ask questions about agriculture: about large-scale farming, soil exhaustion, the use of artificial fertilisers and plant protection products, food safety etc. This was what motivated me to take a different approach to agriculture. With my background as an entrepreneur, I also saw the potential of organic farming. The global market for organic products is growing by 12 to 13% per year. And I thought: This must be an opportunity for Groningen".</p><p style="text-align:justify;">A visit in February 2017 to the world's largest organic produce trade fair, Biofach in Nuremberg, confirmed him in his belief. "In the past the organic sector perhaps tended to think too idealistically and not enough in entrepreneurial terms. But there I realised that it is now a grown-up sector. It is not all sandals and nut cutlets - it is actually a hard-headed business."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The province hired agricultural advisers to lead the project on the ground. Mr Staghouwer said: "At the beginning, the idea was to raise awareness. Farmers were very receptive. Five or ten years ago things might have been different. But they themselves know very well that something has to change. After three information evenings there were already 120 expressions of interest. This was followed up with 40 visits to interested farmers.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Currently, there are five study groups (three on arable farming and two on dairy farming), where farmers exchange information and experience. They can also call in experts.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Mr Staghouwer: "The aim is to provide them with information that they did not get at agricultural college or training centre. There it is mostly about production, production and more production. For most farmers it is about a new way of working."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Mr Staghouwer does not want to predict where the project will ultimately lead. There are now contacts with organic farmers, producers and processors on the German side of the border, aimed at establishing a single area for cultivation and sales. One idea, for example, is to set up a joint organic dairy.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">"I don't have the funds available to finance any plans of this kind that may emerge. But I would welcome them. The time has gone when you could simply send your harvest off to market somewhere and move on. Consumers want to know where their food comes from. And so it is a good thing if you can sell your products in your own area. If we set up our own circuit, we will do just fine."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">He hopes that the rise of organic farming will also influence farmers using conventional methods, inter alia, by drawing attention to the kind of natural farming methods that Groningen also wants to promote. "Of course, it would be a good thing if conventional agriculture also reduced the amount of plant protection products it uses."</p><p style="text-align:justify;"><em>Henk Staghouwer is a Member of the ECR Group in the European Committee of the Regions, where he participates in the work of the Committee on Natural Resources (NAT). He was the ECR Group Shadow Rapporteur on the CoR opinion on "the Common Agricultural Policy post-2020". </em></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><em>The article above was written by John Geijp and originally published in Dagblad van het Noorden on 18 February 2018. The full article can be read online (in Dutch) at </em><a href=""><span lang="EN-GB" style="text-decoration:underline;"><em></em></span></a><em>.</em></p>
The EU supports organic production in Rypin<img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/29.%20Targowisko.jpg" width="680" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /> EU supports organic production in Rypin<p style="text-align:justify;">​<strong>In 2018, the Polish town of Rypin (Kujawsko-Pomorskie region) – the Mayor of which is ECR Group Member Paweł Grzybowski – will modernise its market facilities. It has acquired almost PLN 1 million (EUR 250 000) of EU Funds for this purpose under the rural development programme. </strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">"Improving our market will enable our agri-food producers to attract new customers and will give them better working conditions. The direct sale of goods means stronger local business, and enables consumers to buy higher-quality products. It is precisely in areas like this – promoting healthy food and local economies – that we count on assistance from the European Union, and we are glad that we have managed to receive it," said Mr Grzybowski.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The total investment amounts to PLN 1.5 million (EUR 375 000). The renovation will put a canopy over part of the marketplace. Three trading aisles will be created. Over half of the site will be occupied by market stalls with agricultural and horticultural products from local suppliers. Six percent of the entire trading area will be set aside for the sale of organic agri-food products (in line with EU standards on organic production and the labelling of products). </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The whole area will be drained, and the administration will get a new building. Some of the stalls will be equipped with prefabricated concrete tables to make it easier to display their products. According to the project timetable, work will start in March and will finish in October.</p>
Transatlantic cooperation - going local<img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/us_capitol_building.jpg" width="679" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /> cooperation - going local<p style="text-align:justify;">​<strong>Cllr Joe Cooney went to the United States as part of a wider delegation of the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe. The delegation consisting of EU, national and local politicians attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and met with representatives of US cities and think-tanks working on localism and transatlantic relations.   </strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Commenting on the importance of transatlantic relations, Cllr Cooney said: "It is crucial that we work with our counterparts from the United States as we face common challenges that require action at the level of local and regional politicians. This ranges from subject areas such as climate change to tackling radicalisation. When we think about transatlantic cooperation, we need to think of city to city cooperation. Our cities already cooperate through networks such as the Strong Cities Network, the Global Covenant of Mayors and international conferences. We need to build on these initiatives."                                                              </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Cllr Cooney met representatives of US cities and also attended the CPAC conference as part of the official ACRE delegation. CPAC is the annual political conference attended by more than 10.000 conservative activists and elected officials. The conference unites the political leaders of the conservative movement in a series of keynote speeches and general sessions. </p>
Marcin Ociepa – Deputy Minister for Entrepreneurship and Technology<img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/30.%20Ociepa.jpg" width="665" style="BORDER:0px solid;" />–-Deputy-Minister-for-Entrepreneurship-and-Technology.aspx2018-02-21T23:00:00ZMarcin Ociepa – Deputy Minister for Entrepreneurship and Technology<p style="text-align:justify;">​<strong>On 22 February 2018, Marcin Ociepa, a Member of the ECR Group in the European Committee of the Regions, was made Undersecretary of State in Poland's Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Technology. He will be responsible for European affairs.</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Commenting on his appointment, Mr Ociepa said that "we need common sense in economic relations with the European Union, which is provided by Poland's local and regional elected representatives. And this is not entirely a foreign policy matter – rather, it is European Union domestic policy, in which we play an important role."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Mr Ociepa is Deputy Coordinator of the ECR Group in the CIVEX Commission (Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs) and was the rapporteur for the CoR opinion entitled "strategic approach to resilience in the EU's external action". His recommendations on this topic were adopted unanimously at the CoR plenary session last October. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Since 2014, Mr Ociepa has been President of Opole City Council; he was Vice-President from 2010 to 2014. In 2009-2010, he coordinated the project "Citizen initiative for the development strategy of Opole – Opole 2050". He is an academic at the University of Opole.</p>
Three ways to achieve a breakthrough on climate action<img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/27.%20Matoniene.JPG" width="640" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /> ways to achieve a breakthrough on climate action<p>​<em>- By Daiva </em><em>Matonienė</em></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>If you look at the whole history of EU action on climate change, you have to conclude that we are on the right track. But can we do better? An important change took place in Paris in 2015, when the countries agreed on a long-term goal: to restrict the rise in global average temperatures to well below 2°C compared with pre-industrial values. It is an even greater achievement that 166 states have ratified the Paris Agreement and that ratification is now complete in all EU Member States. An agreement is all well and good, but it is no less important to carry out concrete follow-up measures.</strong> </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Where do we go from here? How can the Committee of the Regions and local and regional authorities contribute to efforts to achieve a breakthrough on climate action? Here are three ways in which we can stop climate change and protect the planet for future generations.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">First, we have to ensure that tried and tested initiatives are continued. A good example would be the COP 23, where representatives of national, regional and local authorities worked together on the achievement of a common goal. I would recommend that the financial framework for the implementation of Covenant of Mayors demonstration projects be increased. It is also important to identify and support valuable initiatives and to encourage the setting of even more ambitious goals, but in a voluntary way, without dictating them to national authorities.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Secondly, the representatives of the local and regional level must be even more closely involved in achieving the climate protection goals, for example by publicising demonstration projects. The representatives of local and regional authorities can also make an important contribution by setting up local energy communities. The benefits of the bottom-up approach are often stressed in speeches, and these must not be empty words but must lead to concrete measures, with real powers for local-level institutions.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Thirdly, the basic and important part is to use all the measures to really work together, that is by promoting close cooperation between the EU, the Member States and local and regional authorities, the private and public sectors, NGOs and scientific organisations. As in Paris, we will only succeed if we work together and empower local and regional actors to be active players in designing, and not only implementing, energy solutions.</p><p style="text-align:justify;"><em>The Covenant of Mayors was launched in 2008 in Europe with the ambition to gather local governments voluntarily committed to achieving and exceeding the EU climate and energy targets. It now gathers more than 7,000 local and regional authorities from 57 countries. </em></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><em>Daiva Matonienė is a Member of Šiauliai City Municipal Council and was also the Deputy Minister of Environment of Lithuania. She has been a Member of the CoR since 2009. The article above is based on a speech delivered by Ms Matonienė during the meeting of the Ambassadors of the Covenant of Mayors in Brussels on 22 February 2018.</em></p>
EU local and regional government share best practices with Southern Mediterranean counterparts<img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/Capture.JPG" width="685" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /> local and regional government share best practices with Southern Mediterranean counterparts<p style="text-align:justify;">​<strong>As part of the annual meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly's (ARLEM), which brings together local and regional government representatives from EU countries with their counterparts from the Mediterranean, ECR Members Dee Sharpe (Member of East Riding of Yorkshire Council) and David Simmonds (Councillor, London Borough of Hillingdon) met with the Governor of Giza, Egypt to share best-practices and find common solutions to challenges stemming from radicalization of youth to women empowerment.</strong><strong> </strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Egypt is a sending, receiving, and transit country for both migrants and refugees. This makes Europe's current policy towards Egypt and its cities, such as Giza, the third largest Egyptian city, dominated by migration concerns. ECR Group Members exchanged ideas on how to involve local governments more closely in managing legal migration, and implementing capacity-building projects at local level so that people are helped in their places of origin or in their proximity. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Cllr Sharpe attended an informal meeting with Egyptian civil society organisations and had the opportunity to meet civil society actors actively involved in helping young people, including migrants, integrate into society. In her words, "Cities and regions have significant responsibilities in relation to young people, and the EU's local and regional authorities should share best practices in this field with southern Mediterranean partners".</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Cllr Simmonds emphasised that the Mediterranean region has been facing an unprecedented flow of refugees and migrants and decentralised cooperation is crucial for exchanging experiences on the inclusion and integration of those who require help. </p>
Driverless trains<img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/25.%20Keith%20Prince.jpg" width="660" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /> trains<p>​<em>- By Cllr Keith Prince (member of the London Assembly for Havering and Redbridge, UK)</em></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Back in 2010 Richard Tracey, my predecessor as the Greater London Authority (GLA) Conservatives' Transport Spokesman, wrote and published a report entitled "Driverless Trains". The report made the case for the introduction of driverless trains on the London Underground. As Richard pointed out:</p><p style="text-align:justify;">"Many other cities around the world, which have both new and old metro systems, run driverless trains. Indeed it's nothing particularly revolutionary in London either: the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) has been driverless since the 1980s and the Victoria, Central and Jubilee are all highly automated where drivers no longer actually drive the trains. Once upgrades are completed the Northern, Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines will operate in the same way too."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The initial reaction of the then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, was sceptical. However we won him round to the idea and by 2014, Boris had promised that Transport for London – London's transport body that is chaired by the Mayor – would never buy another Tube train that required a driver. He also unveiled the design for a new Piccadilly Line train that was intended to be introduced in 2022.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">When Sadiq Khan became Mayor in May 2016 I had two great concerns. The first was that he would destroy Transport for London's finances. Unfortunately, after just two years of his Mayoralty, Transport for London now expects to make a billion pound loss next year. In order to hold down fares, vital infrastructure improvements have been cancelled including new 27 new Tube trains that had been planned for the Northern and Jubilee Lines – two of London's busiest lines.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">My second fear was that the new Mayor would be too afraid of the transport unions to proceed with sensible reforms that would benefit London Underground's passengers. Again his record so far has, unfortunately, proved me right, with a pattern emerging of Sadiq Khan caving into trade unions in order to stop strike action.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Given the great benefits to Londoners, in terms of safety, efficiency and cost, if the London Underground moves towards driverless operation, it would be appalling if Sadiq Khan seeks to stop the next generation of Tube trains for offering driverless capability. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Therefore it was very worrying when in response to my colleague, Tony Devenish's question on driverless trains he suggested that they would be a "risk [to] the safety of Londoners". This is not the evidence of the driverless trains operating in Copenhagen, Barcelona, Paris, Toulouse, Lyon, Rome, Milan, Budapest and many other cities in Europe and around the world. It is, however, the kind of response that I have encountered when the issue is raised with the RMT – the most militant transport union in the UK.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">If Sadiq Khan chooses not to introduce driverless train operation whilst he is Mayor, then that would be frustrating. The real disaster would be if he did anything to impede the purchase of new trains with driverless capability. The key is that his successor must be able to do the right thing for Londoners. Rest assured my GLA Conservatives' colleagues and I will continue to push him all the way to make sure he doesn't deliberately undermine London's future. </p><p style="text-align:justify;"><em>Cllr Keith Prince is the former Leader of Redbridge Council in the United Kingdom, a current Councillor in Redbridge, and a past Councillor in Havering, and served as a Councillor for Gidea Park ward between 1990 and 1995 and was a non-executive advisor to Stephen Greenhalgh, the former Deputy Mayor for Policing & Crime. Councillor Prince was elected to the London Borough of Redbridge Council on 10 April 2003 and was Leader of the Council from May 2009 to June 2014 and was a former marketing manager for LBC Radio. He is a Member of the ECR Group in the CoR.</em></p>
Striking a balance between animal rights and safety of our cities and regions<img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/37.%20Robinson.jpg" width="412" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /> a balance between animal rights and safety of our cities and regions<p style="text-align:justify;">​<strong>"Earth is home to millions of species and we need to do our best to preserve them. In all EU regions local populations coexist with animals. I understand that the interaction of humans with animals differs significantly from region to region and that some animals such as wolves or bears may cause damages and conflicts with human activities in certain situations. But it must remain our common goal to not only protect human settlements but also to better preserve biodiversity", said Cllr Linda Robinson (Member of Wychavon District Council in the United Kingdom) during the CoR plenary debate on 1 February. </strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Cllr Robinson represented the ECR Group during the debate on the CoR opinion "Promoting coexistence with conflict species within the framework of the EU Nature Directives". The CoR opinion was prepared under the leadership of EPP Group Member Mr Csaba Borboly from Romania, a country that is home to more than 6000 brown bears. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Cllr Robinson was critical of a number of points made in the opinion:  "The CoR document is broadly right but on a number of occasions it puts way too much emphasis on protection of human settlements and not enough on protection of biodiversity. Sadly, the language used in the document is very ambiguous, especially when it talks about removing conflict individuals. Carnivores are an important element of healthy ecosystems. The focus should remain on engaging scientists in efforts to maintain populations of predators in coexistence with people. That is why I decided not to support the CoR opinion during the final vote." </p><p style="text-align:justify;">The European Union is home to five species of large carnivores. These include the brown bear, the wolf, the wolverine and two species of lynx, the Eurasian lynx and the Iberian lynx. Historically these species have all suffered dramatic declines in numbers and distribution as a consequence of human activity. Due to increases in their prey and forest cover and favourable legislation the last few decades have seen a positive response, with most populations stabilizing or increasing again. As a result these species have turned to many areas from which they had been absent for decades.          </p><p style="text-align:justify;">However, while this recovery can be viewed as a great conservation success it has resulted in controversy in some areas. In response the European Commission has initiated a range of measures to encourage voluntary cooperation between relevant national authorities, engaging in dialogue with stakeholders and promoting best practices in management methods. </p>
Podkarpackie region benefits from new EU instrument tackling youth unemployment <img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/10.wladyslaw-ortyl-podkarpackie.jpg" width="671" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /> region benefits from new EU instrument tackling youth unemployment <p style="text-align:justify;">​<strong>The Joint Action Plan (JAP) is a new tool designed to help find work for some 13 000 young people (aged 29 or under) in Podkarpackie region in Poland. It covers people who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs). The Marshal (President) of Podkarpackie region, Władysław Ortyl, Member of the ECR Group in the CoR, believes the programme will help to reduce the risk of social exclusion.</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The JAP will be introduced in Podkarpackie as a pilot project. This new European Commission tool has not been used yet in any European Union country or region.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The regional Employment Office in Rzeszów will receive EUR 35.5 million, or PLN 149.7 million, for implementing the JAP, to be used over the two and a half years of the programme's duration. This should help nearly 13 000 young people in Podkarpackie to find work. The JAP for Podkarpackie will start in April 2018 and continue until December 2020.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">"Podkarpackie is the first beneficiary of this new European Commission tool. We think these significant additional resources will address the needs of young people," says Władysław Ortyl. "We have to remember that young unemployed people are a particular category that needs understanding and appropriate support. Support must be comprehensive and tailored, reflecting the needs of those for whom it is intended. We will activate as many young people as possible, which will change their situation in the labour market while also reducing their risk of social exclusion. This all adds up to a coherent package – the unemployment rate falls, new job vacancies are filled, and there are substantial benefits for Podkarpackie and for the country," adds Mr Ortyl.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">To provide effective support for young people (under the age of 29) classified as NEETs, district employment offices (PUPs) must make broad use of services and instruments provided for under the Act on Employment Promotion and Labour Market Institutions. Activation measures conducted by employment offices under the JAP will thus be comprehensive and adapted to each person's individual needs.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">If the PUP deems that a given person merely needs a job offer, then employment office staff will ensure that they receive career guidance or training in active job-searching, as well as offering job placements, traineeship opportunities or apprenticeships. However, if the person concerned requires more comprehensive support, they will be eligible for any form of assistance provided for in the Act with a view to finding work.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The JAP is helping to achieve the targets set by the European Commission under the Youth Employment Initiative for the period 2017-2020. Commission support is intended for young people living in regions where the youth unemployment rate is above 25%. According to Eurostat data, as at the end of 2016 unemployment among young people aged 15-24 stood at 31.6% in Podkarpackie, which is the highest youth unemployment rate in Poland. Podkarpackie is also the only Polish region for which Eurostat reports an unemployment rate of more than 25% in the 15-24 age group, which is why it was also the only region to qualify for support under the JAP.</p>
Rob Jonkman: No to EU tax<img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/5.%20Jonkman.jpg" width="694" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /> Jonkman: No to EU tax<p style="text-align:justify;">​<strong>"We must not fall into the trap of using the current debate over the future of our economic and monetary affairs to create an EU system where we would be trying to bribe citizens with their own money. Creating new taxes at EU level will lead to more criticism of centralisation of powers in Brussels", said ECR Group President Rob Jonkman (Alderman and Member of the Executive Council of Opsterland, The Netherlands) </strong><strong>in a plenary debate with Commissioner Pierre Moscovici.</strong><strong>  </strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The debate with the EU Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs took place in December 2017. Mr Jonkman said that savings needed to be made so that politicians did not have to ask citizens for new taxes at EU level. "We hear that the European Commission is planning to introduce an EU tax on financial transactions and an EU carbon tax. This may sound good on paper, but we all know that such taxes will impact some Member States disproportionately. This would unavoidably lead to more Euroscepticism." </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"The same applies to the idea of creating a post of a European Minister of Economy and Finance. It will centralise the system, discourage competition among euro area countries, and sideline non-euro area Members. This is not a step in the right direction." </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Speaking about possible solutions, the ECR President said: "Taking action only in a selected number of policy areas which are of added value to citizens will bring us savings. We also need structural reforms and we need to allow our cities and regions the room for fiscal policy competition." </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Mr Jonkman reiterated this message during the CoR plenary debate with First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, which took place in February 2018. He highlighted that the Commission's proposals of greater centralization of economic and fiscal powers in a system where local and regional authorities are not treated as partners are not in-line with the principle of subsidiarity. </p>
Commission attempts to punish Poland's local and regional authorities are not in line with EU rules<img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/20.%20resolution.jpg" width="687" style="BORDER:0px solid;" />'s-local-and-regional-authorities-are-not-in-line-with-EU-rules.aspx2018-01-31T23:00:00ZCommission attempts to punish Poland's local and regional authorities are not in line with EU rules<p style="text-align:justify;">​<strong>Europe's local and regional politicians rejected any political ex-post conditionality, which would mean that local and regional authorities in Poland could see their funding suspended as a result of procedure triggered by the European Commission against Poland. The ECR Group's amendment, which stated that Cohesion Policy must not be subject to any conditionalities at European level that cannot be influenced by local and regional authorities, was successfully adopted as part of the final text of the resolution.</strong><strong> </strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The key point in the resolution, about which the ECR felt particularly strongly, was that the EU must not introduce political ex-post conditionality suspending EU funding for cities and regions. "Such a suspension would not be proportionate to the aims of the Treaty - it would not solve anything and on the contrary, would worsen the divide between the richest and poorest parts of Europe", commented ECR Group President Rob Jonkman (Alderman and Member of Executive Council in Opsterland).</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The ECR Group succeeded in strengthening the provision calling for rejection of any political ex-post conditionality. It was also the driving force behind rejecting the amendment from the  Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), which called on the European Commission to "examine all possible measures, political and economic" in the dispute between the Commission and Poland.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Leader of the Polish delegation in the ECR Group Adam Banaszak (Deputy Chairman of Kujawsko-Pomorskie Regional Assembly) added that the CoR is not the right place to comment on judiciary reforms. "Our role is to comment on local and regional matters, not national policies. Recent local government reform in Poland has resulted in many positive changes. It will increase transparency of elections, support active citizenship and increase the role of councillors, including those from the opposition. Local government, not national reforms, should be the focus of our discussions."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Overall, the resolution was supported by 77 Members with 39 votes against and 26 abstentions. All ECR Group Members voted against it, reiterating that the Committee of the Regions is not the institution where we should be discussing the rule of law and central government reforms in this area. </p><p style="text-align:justify;"><em>Background: The European Union has warned that the judicial reforms in Poland threaten the rule of law and has launched disciplinary measures. Poland's government has said that the new laws are needed to curb corruption and to form its first independent judiciary since the post-war communist era.</em></p>
Making access to EU Funds simpler – local and regional politicians outline reforms needed for more effective European Structural Investment post-2020<img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/39310117704_964ac86c38_k.jpg" width="705" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /> access to EU Funds simpler – local and regional politicians outline reforms needed for more effective European Structural Investment post-2020<table width="100%" cellspacing="0" style="text-align:justify;"><tbody><tr><td><div><span lang="EN-GB">"Bold simplification putting local and regional beneficiaries at the heart of the post-2020 structural investments will help ensure that the European Union's next long-term budget better responds to the challenges facing regions and cities", said Oldřich Vlasák, rapporteur for the opinion on the final conclusions and recommendations of the High Level Group on Simplification for post-2020, adopted unanimously by the European Committee of the Regions on 1 February 2017.</span> </div><div> </div><div>The recommendations adopted by the CoR today bring a local and regional perspective to the European Commission's efforts to simplify access to EU Funds in the post-2020 budget. While welcoming the conclusions of the European Commission's High Level Group (HLG) on Simplification of European Structural Investment Funds, the CoR has emphasised that there are a number of very important areas that could be reinforced or addressed in addition to the HLG's recommendations. One such area is the need for a stronger bottom-up approach so that local and regional authorities are treated as equal partners in the development of programmes, with the partnership principle being more deeply rooted in the future legal  framework of the European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds.</div><div> </div><div>The Committee expresses in its opinion its strong support for the significant benefits of the shared management model of Funds so that they are managed at national level for the effective delivery of Cohesion Policy. Local and regional authorities are the main stakeholders for the delivery of the Cohesion Policy and as such they need to be fully involved at all stages of the negotiation and implementation process. We believe that only the shared management model enables sufficient recognition of regional specificities and has a positive impact on other policy areas beyond ESIF, such as reinforcing good governance and civic engagement. </div><div> </div><div>The CoR has also underlined the need for bolder action to cut red-tape. EU Funds should be delivered wherever possible via existing national, regional and local administrative mechanisms. National, regional and local rules and systems (including national auditing authorities and national competition authorities) should be used and relied on wherever possible, because the simplest rules are those that are few in number and preferably the same as those already applied in the Member States. The proposed approach would enable significant simplification with regard to audit, control and reporting. The CoR calls for more proportionality in terms of the number of controls and reporting requirements and for the error margin to be adjusted from 3% to 5%. The control system applied at present, which goes beyond the requirements of internationally recognised standards, creates the misleading perception that the current model is unduly prone to errors. Greater proportionality could also be achieved by moving towards a more differentiated approach in the areas of audit and reporting, taking due account of proven past reliability of national systems and enabling more flexibility to accommodate existing national checks and procedures.</div><div> </div><div>The CoR opinion was drafted under the leadership of Oldřich Vlasák (Councillor for the City of Hradec Králové, Czech Republic / Vice-President of the ECR Group), who said: "Achieving cohesive development in Europe so that our poorer regions prosper and grow with the  rest of the continent is crucial for our future. Strategic investments such as the EU's Cohesion Policy is an important tool in helping achieve this but the complexity and top-down approach has meant that the policy and Funds have not achieved their full potential. We need bold steps to simplify the way we invest in and support our cities and regions. We need to work with local and regional authorities more and support them rather than trying to lead or micro-manage them. We need to also develop a single rulebook for Funds with a territorial angle and use national controls, audits and reporting more rather than creating layers and layers of bureaucracy."</div><div> </div><div>The opinion also supports the call for a level playing field between ESI Funds and centrally managed funds. Compatibility and optimisation of different sources of funding will be even more essential post-2020 than it is now. Effective combination of ESI Funds with financial instruments will continue to be an important option for local and regional authorities. That is why the CoR suggests the creation of one stop shops at national or regional level to help beneficiaries handle ESI and non-ESI Funds together. </div></td></tr></tbody></table>
Structured dialogue with Frans Timmermans - Oldřich Vlasák calls for more localism in planning the EU budget<img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/23.%20Timmermans.JPG" width="564" style="BORDER:0px solid;" />řich-Vlasák-calls-for-more-localism-in-planning-the-EU-budget.aspx2018-01-30T23:00:00ZStructured dialogue with Frans Timmermans - Oldřich Vlasák calls for more localism in planning the EU budget<p style="text-align:justify;"><strong>ECR Group Vice-President Oldřich Vlasák </strong><strong>(Councillor of the City of Hradec Králové, Czech Republic)</strong><strong> called on the European Commission's First Vice-President Frans Timmermans to improve EU governance structures and include local and regional government in decisions concerning the future EU budget. The aim of the structured dialogue that took place on 31 January where the two politicians met was to facilitate a discussion between the European associations of local and regional governments and the European Commission on the EU's priorities for 2018.</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">"Much has been said about the uphill struggle that Europe faces to regain the trust of its citizens. Europe's leaders must seize the occasion to rethink the European project and reshape its policies and institutions", said the ECR Vice-President. Referring specifically to better law-making, he said that "given the increased impact of EU regulations on the local and regional level, we need appropriate mechanisms, efficient tools and governance structures, where local and regional governments and their representative organisations are instrumental in the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and legislation". </p><p style="text-align:justify;">This led the ECR Group Member to the newly created Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and "Doing Less More Efficiently". The Task Force, created in January this year, will identify policy areas where work could be devolved or definitely returned to Member States, as well as ways to better involve regional and local authorities in EU policy making. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"The contribution of the three senior CoR members of the Task Force can help to advance the input of municipalities in devising and shaping EU policies. However, I believe that we need to establish a targeted consultation mechanism, similar to the Social Dialogue. Systematic territorial impact assessments on relevant policy and legislative initiatives should be executed, aiming at identifying the levels of government concerned and leading to the application of the partnership principle and the code of conduct as introduced in the European Structural and Investment Funds", said Mr Vlasák. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Apart from the contribution of local and regional authorities to better law-making, participants discussed the need to improve the impact of subnational government on shaping the EU budget. Deciding on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) is a priority of the Commission for 2018. However, the ECR Vice-President noted that the Commission's consultations on the next generation of financial programmes have been an unsatisfactory exercise for local and regional government seeking to provide meaningful input and insight. There has been no specific consultation on the MFF that would allow local and regional government to input their views on the EU's future budget. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Mr Vlasák: "What is often overlooked is the fact that there are many issues, where sub-national level efforts are essential to achieving overall EU goals. It is therefore important that the future budget is guided by the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality and tailored to enable easy access by municipalities and regions, and – where possible – delivered as close as possible to the citizens' needs". </p><p style="text-align:justify;"><em>Oldřich Vlasák is Councillor for the City of Hradec Králové in the Czech Republic and Vice-President of the ECR Group in the European Committee of the Regions. He is also Vice-President of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions and former Vice-President of the European Parliament.</em></p>
Pavel Branda presents his recommendations on small scale projects in cross-border areas to the European Parliament <img alt="" src="/ecr/news/PublishingImages/pb.JPG" style="BORDER:0px solid;" /> Branda presents his recommendations on small scale projects in cross-border areas to the European Parliament <p style="text-align:justify;">​<strong>At the meeting of the European Parliament's REGI Committee that took place on 25 January 2018, ECR Group Member Pavel Branda (Deputy Mayor of Rádlo municipality, Czech Republic), the CoR rapporteur for the opinion on "People-to-people projects and small scale projects in cross-border cooperation programmes", presented his work on the recommendations of the CoR for more efficient cross-border cooperation.</strong></p><p style="text-align:justify;">"People-to-people projects and small scale projects play an essential role in cross-border cooperation programmes and have contributed greatly to their success. They form a basis upon which further cross-border cooperation in different areas can be developed. They contribute to making contacts across borders and normalise relationships between neighbouring regions, building trust among partners and overcoming prejudices." explained Dr Pavel Branda.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">He further underlined that these projects deal with topics of everyday relevance, helping to develop larger projects, but that they are not properly regulated. "They contribute to building partnerships and mobilise wider civil society. Such projects are addressing real local problems and finding effective local solutions. Nevertheless, they are being questioned as they are not anchored in the Cohesion Policy regulations"</p><p style="text-align:justify;">When it comes to the future of the cross-border programmes post 2020, the CoR recommendations highlight the need to decentralise management of small-scale and people-to-people projects, to allow greater flexibility and to anchor them in EU regulations. </p>