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Dialogue with associations of regional and local authorities
The European Commission is establishing a systematic dialogue with the European and national associations of regional and local authorities. The aim is to involve the local actors as far upstream as possible in the decision-making process so that fuller account will be taken of their opinions on Community policies with a significant regional and local impact. The Commission has spelled out the framework and arrangements for this dialogue.
Commission Communication of 19 December 2003 - Dialogue with associations of regional and local authorities on the formulation of European Union policy [COM(2003) 811 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
Since enlargement, the European Union now comprises some 250 regions and 1000 regional and local authorities. The Commission is establishing systematic dialogue with the European and national associations representing them. This more political and more structured dialogue will complement the other forms of consultation provided for in the Nice Treaty (Articles 137 to 139) establishing the European Community and in the specific Commission communication of December 2002 [COM(2002) 704 final]. Its aim is to involve local and regional actors, responsible for implementing Community policies, so that account will be taken of their opinions as far upstream as possible in the decision-making process.
When will this systematic dialogue take place?
The dialogue will take place prior to the formal decision-making process on two separate occasions:
- the presentation of the Commission's work programme.
The Commission is intending to organise an annual meeting at the highest political level between the Commission President and/or Vice-Presidents and the representatives of the associations of regional and local authorities. The dialogue will cover the guidelines for European Union action;
- the launch of major policy initiatives with a significant territorial impact.
These meetings with members of the Commission could be held annually if the timetable of initiatives justifies it.
The Commission will set the date of the meetings six weeks in advance and make the necessary documents available to the associations.
Dialogue will strengthen the Committee of the Regions' role of intermediary
The Commission regards this new dialogue as an opportunity for establishing closer links between the Committee of the Regions and the regional and local authorities which it represents. Concluded in Brussels on 20 September 2001, the cooperation protocol on the cooperation arrangements between the Commission and the Committee of the Regions recognises the role of intermediary of the consultation body.
The Committee of the Regions is best placed to assist the Commission in identifying the participants in the dialogue. For each planned meeting it will provide an indicative list of European and national associations relevant for the topics considered. Lastly, the Commission decides on the participants. It reserves the right to invite other organisations of its choice.
The Committee of the Regions, in cooperation with the associations of regional and local authorities, will lay down the selection criteria for participating in the dialogue. The organisations involved will be representative of the various levels of regional and local authorities directly affected by the policies being discussed, able to demonstrate their experience and level of expertise, capable of delivering a jointly produced opinion and in a position to pass on to their members the Commission's proposals and guidelines.
What is the justification for the systematic dialogue?
Ad hoc contacts exist already between the Commission and the local and regional authorities, both directly and through their associations. In response to the commitment given in the White Paper on European Governance, the Commission wishes to make this dialogue systematic. The following principles justify the need to involve the regional and local authorities in the formulation of European policies:
Improved information and ownership of the Community's policy position are needed. Since they are democratically elected and close to the ground, the regional and local authorities are well placed to provide the citizen with information.
The White Paper on governance affirms the need for the European and national associations of regional and local authorities to be involved with due regard for the institutional architecture of the Union and the Member States' internal organisation.
The Commission acknowledges the need for better assessment of the impact at regional and local level of Community policies in areas such as transport, energy and the environment. Analysing the impact of measures proposed at Community level will contribute to informing the different actors of the effects of these measures and guide them in their implementation tasks.
Some Community policies are implemented and/or have the greatest effect at regional and local level. Local government authorities are ideally placed therefore to assess the coherence and effectiveness of Community policies.