Speaking after the adoption by the Commission of its Communication on Europe 2020, A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth , Mercedes Bresso, the President of the Committee of the Regions, noted that the strategy was more realistic than the proposal set out in the consultation document on which the Committee had expressed its views at the end of 2009 , as it "finally gets to grips with the crisis which is hitting our businesses, citizens and regions". She added that "we should be pleased that Europe 2020 is first putting forward a strategy for overcoming the crisis, followed by guidelines for the future, by building on rather than breaking with the European social model".
Nonetheless, the CoR President regretted that Europe 2020 had not really learned the lessons from the failure of the Lisbon Strategy. "The Europe 2020 Strategy does not go far enough in mobilising the driving forces of our society, and it would be much more effective if it enabled local and regional authorities to take an active part in framing national reform programmes and flagship initiatives rather than simply being limited to implementing them", stressed Ms Bresso. Even more seriously, added Ms Bresso, the strategy currently stopped at national level, and failed to take account of the fact that, in many countries, it was the regions who were the main players in the field of economic policy: support for innovation and small and medium-sized enterprises, lifelong learning, employment training schemes, etc. "This is rather disappointing" said Ms Bresso.
The CoR also criticised a lack of specific measures for implementing territorial cohesion: "We cannot let this type of opportunity pass us by at a time when the Lisbon Treaty has just come into force," stressed Ms Bresso. She added that the CoR would do everything in its power to ensure that the "inclusive growth" objective became a reality and that it would put forward its own proposals for a flagship initiative bringing together the territorial dimension and social cohesion, for instance on the quality and accessibility of public services.
The triple objective of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, as well as the seven flagship initiatives, reflect the problems and concerns of local and regional authorities and have the backing of the Committee of the Regions. Measures such as the objective to combat poverty and the changes in the rules on public procurement and state aid are a positive feature of the document. But if this European strategy is to become a reality, the key question of financial resources needs to be developed further. Speaking on the strategy's financial dimension, Ms Bresso was keen to stress that the Committee of the Regions would closely monitor the links between the Europe 2020 strategy, cohesion policy and the future EU budget. In accordance with the Lisbon Treaty, the Committee would also take care to ensure that the draft legislation implementing the strategy was fully compliant with the conditions outlined in the new protocol on subsidiarity. For all new legislative proposals, added Ms Bresso, it was important to ensure minimum financial or administrative burdens for the EU, national government or local and regional authorities, in proportion to the objectives to be achieved.
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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.