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Brussels, 31 May 2011
"Invest in local democracy and regional development", CoR President tells Tunisian government
Democracy and regional economic development in the Mediterranean go hand in hand, Committee of the Regions (CoR) President Mercedes Bresso underlined today. Joining EU Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani and Tunisian Industry Minister Abdelaziz Rassaa at the CoR, President Bresso welcomed upgraded EU aid for the Arab spring as an "investment in democracy".
The double challenge of consolidating democracy and promoting regional economic development in the Southern Mediterranean was the topic of a conference in Brussels today. The event was organised at the CoR headquarters in the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean Assembly of Local and Regional Authorities (ARLEM). CoR President Mercedes Bresso stated: "The Committee of the Regions affirms its unconditional support for the reform processes that must result in true democratisation and stability. Durable peace relies on sound economic growth, and vice versa. We have to invest in democracy and offer real perspectives of peace and prosperity to the peoples of the Mediterranean."
Recently increased EU and international aid for the Arab spring is thus not only an investment in development, but an "investment in democracy", the CoR President said. In addition to international support, President Bresso cited easier access to credit, the creation of local development agencies and more cooperation between the private and public sectors as measures to promote growth and jobs in the region.
European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, in charge of industrial policy and tourism, underlined the EU's commitment to the region: "You can count on Europe, and you can count on me. We cannot imagine a future without a strong partnership with the neighbouring Mediterranean countries." He stressed the importance of tourism, innovation and direct cooperation between businesses in Europe and the Southern Mediterranean to strengthen the local economies: "We need to strengthen democracy, and we need to strengthen economic cooperation. We need more joint ventures, cooperation between companies and transfer of know-how between entrepreneurs."
Tunisian Industry Minister Abdelaziz Rassaa noted that the fight against unemployment and social instability is a crucial part of consolidating his country's young democracy. Tunisia must now rethink its economic policy and attract more foreign investment. In this context, he underlined the key role of young people: "We are very proud of our human resources. The young people that have been key actors during the peaceful revolution will also be the engine of our economic growth in the future." Minister Rassaa has invited ARLEM to meet in September in Tunisia in order to debate decentralisation and regional development.
Luc Van den Brande, President of the Committee of the Regions' Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs, welcomed the proposals of the Tunisian government and called for more partnership and exchange of best practices between Euro Mediterranean regional partnerships to be created within ARLEM.
CoR President Bresso reiterated the Committee's support for the democratisation of the Southern Mediterranean and its economic development at a later meeting with EU Neighbourhood Commissioner Stefan Füle in Brussels today. The Commissioner underlined the key role that the Committee of the Regions must have as the voice of local and regional authorities in the renewed European Neighbourhood Policy.
Note to editors: The Committee of the Regions and the Mediterranean
At the Paris Summit in 2008, the Heads of State and Government of the EU and Mediterranean countries underscored "the importance of the active participation of […] local and regional authorities […] in the implementation of the Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean".
The Committee of the Regions, together with regional and local authorities from the three shores of the Mediterranean and their associations, responded to this request by launching the Euro-Mediterranean Assembly of Local and Regional Authorities (ARLEM) in January 2010. It gathers 84 members from the EU and its 16 Mediterranean partners who are representatives of regions and local bodies holding a regional or local authority mandate. The assembly is currently working on four main themes: Climate change - with special emphasis on the problem of desertification, renewable energies, the role of small and medium enterprises, and cultural heritage.
At its plenary session on 12 May, the Committee of the Regions also adopted a resolution on the impact of the Mediterranean revolutions. The CoR expressed its full support for the process of social, economic and political reform that should lead to true democratisation and new stability in all the countries, and strongly condemned any form of violence and human rights abuses.
The CoR on the internet: www.cor.europa.eu
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 of fails to respect regional or local powers.
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