Brussels, 16 February 2012
Multilevel governance: strengthening the role of cities and regions in the exercise of European governance
Europe is currently in crisis, both a financial crisis and a crisis of confidence towards its institutions, which makes it more important than ever to make multilevel governance a reality in the Member States. Ensuring that cities and regions are more involved in framing, implementing and evaluating EU policies with a territorial impact will lay the necessary foundations for the success of those policies. This is the message of Committee of the Regions members meeting today in plenary session in Brussels, with the unanimous adoption of the opinion presented by Luc Van den Brande (BE/EPP), president of the Flanders-Europe Liaison Agency.
In its 2009 White Paper on Multilevel Governance, the Committee of the Regions (CoR) undertook to promote a culture of multilevel governance in Europe in order to strengthen the Community method based on partnership, dialogue, joint implementation and participation of elected representatives at all levels of the European process. The follow-up opinion adopted today reports on progress made in EU policies with a territorial dimension, such as the single market, the environment, energy, agriculture and fisheries, enlargement policies, development and neighbourhood policy. It also recommends new measures to consolidate the exercise of this method of governance.
"Multilevel governance must not be regarded as a purely theoretical concept of EU jargon that is endorsed on paper but rarely applied in practice. The principle of multilevel governance must be an integral part of EU legislative texts as a fundamental guiding principle of the European decision‑making process for all EU policies with a territorial impact. The time has come for a new culture and practical approach to multilevel governance", noted Mr Van den Brande when his opinion was adopted.
The opinion observes that the CoR's call for multilevel governance has gained traction over the past few years in its partner institutions. This applies to the Lisbon Treaty, which has entrenched multilevel governance in the operation of the EU, as well as recent European Commission proposals on future cohesion policy, which recognises the essential role of local and regional levels of government in framing and implementing EU programmes. The CoR is also increasingly recognised by the other institutions as a source of expertise in this area. Despite all these developments, considerable progress still has to be made.
"We must obviously go further than this. The CoR's Multilevel Governance Scoreboard, which monitors the progress of multilevel governance at EU level, demonstrates the persistence of deficits and gaps in observing the principle of multilevel governance, including in key EU dossiers such as the Europe 2020 strategy, energy policy and the Stockholm Programme on immigration and asylum. There are still too few innovative instruments created to encourage the participation of cities and regions and hold them accountable," explained the rapporteur.
To give form and substance to the CoR's political project, its members advocate the drawing up of a European Union Charter for Multilevel Governance, which should lead to more participation of local and regional authorities in the exercise of European democracy. By the same token, they ask the Commission to consider adapting EU administrative law in order to establish more participatory procedures in accordance with the key values and principles of this future Charter.
The CoR also intends to continue its annual assessment of the situation of regionalisation and decentralisation in the European Union so as to provide a measure of progress observed towards local and regional authorities' political, judicial and fiscal autonomy.
Draft opinion on Building a European culture of multilevel governance: follow-up to the Committee of the Regions' White Paper (the updated version will be available shortly)
Visit the CoR's website at 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 or fails to respect regional or local powers.
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