Following his election as President of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso (EPP/ES) said that his top priority would be to ensure that local and regional authorities were given the necessary support to tackle the crisis, promote economic growth and create jobs. Speaking at the CoR’s July plenary, Valcárcel spelled out his vision for his two-and-a-half year Presidency saying that the focus would be on making the EU’s plan for economic growth a reality by bridging the gap between the different levels of government, increasing the capacity of local and regional authorities to drive growth, and contributing to the deepening of the economic union.
The President-elect urged the EU to demonstrate its “added value” by engaging local and regional authorities, “because only by working together can we emerge stronger from the crisis”. He stressed that local and regional authorities were best placed to encourage economic growth, evaluate the delivery of EU funds and projects and, being responsible for implementing two-thirds of public investment, should be seen as “agents of change”. In this regard Valcárcel reiterated his full support for Europe 2020 – Europe’s growth strategy – and said that if the ambitious aims were to be met, more needed to be done to support local and regional authorities.
He called for synergy between European, national and regional budgets and underlined the need for systematic review at all levels of governance. During his term he said that the CoR will work together with the Council, the Parliament and the Commission to ensure, “the effectiveness of territorial pacts and make a significant contribution to the implementation of the Europe 2020 at local and regional level before each Spring European Council”. Territorial Pacts are agreements signed by the different tiers of government (local, regional and national) across Europe, committing the signatories to focus their attention in delivering the Europe 2020 objectives whilst seeking to improve the coordination efforts between them.
As part of his Presidential priorities, Valcárcel said that the Committee would also focus on promoting culture and sports in Europe which he sees as being a catalyst in creating jobs and which therefore should be take into consideration when territorial cohesion is at stake. His proposals include improving cooperation between the different Capitals of Culture, collaborating with international bodies to promote the heritage of EU cities and regions and working alongside the European Commission to develop a European industrial policy for sustainable tourism, He said, “I would like to incorporate culture as a key driver for growth and jobs in cities and regions. I would like to particularly work with international organisations, like UNESCO, in each of our regions and cities to preserve it and use it for local development through, for example, sustainable tourism and sport actions”.
Valcárcel will formally begin his Presidential reign on 13 August, taking over office from the current President, Mercedes Bresso, who was elected as First Vice-President of the EU institution during the CoR plenary. The election is in keeping with the agreement made by the Committee’s two largest political parties – Party of European Socialists (PES) and European People’s Party (EPP) – which assures an equal share of the leadership during the five-year term which will come to an end in February 2015. Valcárcel is the President of Murcia Region and the first president of a Spanish region to be elected as the head of the Committee of the Regions.
The Committee of the Regions
The Committee of the Regions is the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives. The mission of its 344 members from all 27 EU Member States is to involve regional and local authorities and the communities they represent in the EU’s decision-making process and to inform them about EU policies. The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council are obliged to consult the Committee in policy areas affecting regions and cities. It can appeal to the EU Court of Justice if its rights are infringed or it believes that an EU law violates the subsidiarity principle or fails to respect regional or local powers.
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