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Presidents Valcárcel and Barroso call for a decent compromise on the EU budget 2014-2020
The Committee of the Regions (CoR) in the presence the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, debated the Commission's work programme for the year 2013 and the outcome of the last European Council on the Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2014-2020.
During the debate the President of the Committee of the Regions, Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso voiced the deep concerns of the Committee on the cuts to the next EU budget which were discussed by the Council and on the inability of Member States to find an agreement: "Until a few days ago we all agreed that the EU budget should be our main tool to support growth and jobs in Europe, that promoting a smart and inclusive development of our economies was our priority. Now the only issue on the table is how much we want to cut the budget. This is a clear inconsistency raising a comprehensible disappointment in our citizens". The CoR President also added that: "Nobody can consider positively the option of missing the deadlines and proceeding with a provisional budget, which would block the planning of the new investment which are crucial to regions and cities committed in supporting the recovery". The risk related to delays in the structural funds programming was also stressed by CoR First Vice-President Mercedes Bresso: "Since 2/3 of public investment is made by regional and local authorities, and in the most cases local and regional investment are supported by the EU budget, it is clear that we risk paralysing relevant processes of innovation, greening and re-organisation of our economy". The President of the CoR's EPP Group, Michael Schneider, synthesised the problem in these terms: "In the regions we hoped that an agreement could be possible and are still hoping for a timely solution since only when decisions and results are there can we keep the engine of regional development running. Provisional budget would not allow us to put in place any growth strategy. The later we'll have an agreement on the MFF, the harder granting investment continuity will be".
Criticism of the Commission's priorities for the next year was expressed by Holger Poppenhäger on behalf of the CoR's PES Group: "This work programme is crucial because it is the last full yearly work programme of the Barroso Commission and the first one after the adoption of the regulations on the programmes and structural funds. But our concern is not so much about what is in the programme but about a worrying lack of ambitions in the social policy. Why is the European Commission not taking up the call made by the European Parliament for a ‘Social Investment Pact’, which would set investment targets for social investments to be taken by Member States according to the Europe 2020 strategy?" asked Poppenhäger. On this issue, President Barroso underlined the Commission's efforts in enforcing the contribution of the European Social Funds in contrasting social exclusion, in giving a future to the European Fund for Adjustment to Globalization and to the food programme for the most deprived, stressing that a significant number of national governments are against these proposals.
The CoR ALDE Group First Vice President Doris Ansari highlighted how national governments' positions are often not shared by regional and local authorities and insisted on a "clearer commitment for smart energy grids and energy micro-production" in the Commission work programme, calling also for an EU initiative to grant voting rights to all citizens, without any discrimination as to their respective nationality and current country of residence. The CoR's European Alliance Group President, Uno Silberg, focused on the risks that inconsistent choices on the budget will have which will compromise EU credibility. He also referred to the Common Agriculture Policy stressing that: "It must taken forward in a way that guarantees equal treatment to all Member States and potential beneficiaries".
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 infringes the subsidiarity principle or fails to respect regional or local powers.
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