Today, NALAS takes part in the panel session “Europe that plays its part in the world”, as part of the CEMR conference entitled “Getting Europe back on its feet – a view from local and regional governments”, organized in Brussels within the European Week of Regions and Cities in Brussels.
NALAS Executive Director Kelmend Zajazi provided a complementary perspective to the points raised by the two speakers, Ms. Gunn Marit Helgesen, CEMR Co-President, President of Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities and Mr.Carlos Martínez Mínguez, CEMR Vice-President, Mayor of Soria, Spain.
The focus was on issues arising from the EU’s engagement beyond the boundaries of the EU27, and the engagement of local and regional authorities involved in these activities. ”The future of EU should strongly reinforce and rely on the fundamental principles which created it. The solidarity principle should be nurtured and exercised at the local level. As citizens exercise solidarity to their neighbors, they learn on the benefits that it brings back to their community. This is the seed for growing liberal nations and strong EU”, said Mr. Zajazi.
The aim of this workshop was to encourage a lively debate that opens up the discussion, taking account of the views of different stakeholders on how to reconnect the European project to its citizens. A diverse group of 170 participants took part in the session, including local and regional representatives from across Europe, both technical level and politicians, European Commission officials, and consultants working on economic development issues, academics and researchers.
Speakers raised fundamental questions about the future of Europe, citizen participation and the role of local and regional governments. Today it is very fashionable to talk about cities and the local government level but it does not translate in any concrete recognition in EU decision-making process. Citizen participation is reflected at local level, but not necessarily further up.
Right now there is a constitutional debate on the role of regions and cities in the European Parliament and the window of opportunity is open for cities and local governments to step in. It is about the future of the EU after BREXIT and the debate has already begun on the model of the EU in the future.
A fundamental issue was raised on the recognition of LG and RG as crucial stakeholders in policy dialogue and EU programming. Although recognised in the European Consensus it does not translate in the EU Enlargement process.
There was an unison consensus among most speakers that the bottom-up approach is the only feasible and sustainable way to build the EU on solid ground from the local government level upwards. Going local is indeed a challenge the EU institutions need to face in building a future Europe that remembers its roots and principles it was founded for: about people, for people and around people!
The event was moderated by Frédéric Vallier, Secretary General of CEMR and Angelika Poth–Mögele, Executive Director of European Affairs, CEMR.