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Presidents Valcárcel, Van Rompuy, Schulz, and Barroso kick-off OPEN DAYS 2012 urging Member States to adopt regional policy as top priority for next EU budget
Mr. Ramon Luis Valcárcel, President of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), and the Presidents of all major EU institutions joined voices at the opening of OPEN DAYS 2012 on Monday 8 October, stressing just how vital cohesion policy is in supporting EU recovery. They also warned Member States that cuts to the EU budget will compromise the role of regional and local authorities as key investors for growth. According to the CoR President: "Everybody recognises that cohesion policy is a key tool to re-launch our economy and achieve the Europe 2020 objectives. Therefore, at the CoR, we expect the decisions of the EU Heads of State and Government in the weeks ahead, to be consistent and coherent with the EU's agreed roadmap towards 'quality' growth and jobs".
The President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, addressing an audience of hundreds of CoR members, local representatives from all over Europe, and Members of the European Parliament, stressed that: "Since 2008 Europe has faced two interlinked crisis, a financial crisis and an economic and social one. Their effects could have been incredibly worse without the joint reaction of the EU and the Member States". Referring to the November Extraordinary Council, he added that: "Now Europe needs more structural economic growth and an adequate agreement on the new Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) is for sure in the capacity of the Member States. A failure to reach such an agreement would mean a failure for growth and jobs in Europe".
The risk connected to budget cuts was clearly underlined in the opening speech of the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, who underscored how: "Cuts can be sometimes popular but, as the European Parliament has stated, they are irresponsible at a time when some Member States are slipping into recession and poverty is on the rise, a time when we need to say yes to solidarity and targeted growth investments".
The role of cohesion policy to deal with the on-going crisis was further illustrated by the European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, in his video-message: "Between 2009 and 2012, 20 billion Euros has been reprogrammed focusing on growth priorities such as research and development and the support to small and medium enterprises. In 2012, 10 billion has been invested to deal with rising unemployment".
The opening session provided the occasion for a lively exchange of views among key actors involved in shaping priorities and rules of the next phase of structural funding. EU Regional Policy Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, reiterated the very substance of the reform proposed by the executive, defending innovations such as the introduction of the category of transition regions and the enforcement of conditionalities. "Regional policy can and should improve its effectiveness and performance", said Hahn. "This is why we have proposed for the new policy post-2014 to enshrine these principles of smart, sustainable and social inclusive investments through thematic concentration on the most growth enhancing areas, through the principle of conditionality to underpin structural reforms and through focussing on more results" he added.
The Chair of the European Parliament REGI Committee, Danuta Hübner, stressed that: "Cohesion is our investment plan for the period 2014-2020. Reducing this plan means reducing investment capacity of regional and local authorities".
On Tuesday 9 October the CoR is expected to adopt an opinion on the 2014-2020 MFF, drafted by First-Vice President, Mercedes Bresso (IT/PES).
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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