The EU's Assembly of Regional and Local Representatives
New cooperation platform to support Europe's local authorities in delivering 7th Environment Action Programme
Committee of the Regions First-Vice President Mercedes Bresso and EU Commissioner Janez Potočnik launch Technical Platform for Cooperation on the Environment
Committee of the Regions' (CoR) First Vice-President Mercedes Bresso, and Commissioner for Environment, Janez Potočnik, launched today a cooperation platform which seeks to engage Europe's local and regional authorities in implementing EU environment law. The launch coincides with proposals published by the European Commission last week on a 7th Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) which prioritises the implementation of environment law within its overall strategy.
The "Technical Platform for Cooperation on the Environment" looks to improve the exchange of information, encourage dialogue between the institutions and engage local and regional authorities to improve the implementation of EU environment law on the ground. The idea, originally conceived by a CoR opinion by rapporteur Paula Baker (UK/ALDE) and taken up by the Commission in 2012, underlines the need to properly involve local and regional authorities in the formation of EU environmental policy.
During the conference CoR First Vice-President Mercedes Bresso backed the Commission's 7th EAP noting that local and regional authorities had to be involved at the very heart of creating EU environmental law. She therefore urged: "the European Parliament and the Council, in their decision-making within the coming months on the EAP, to consequently expand on the concept of a “multilevel governance structure”, which includes networks of the different actors involved in implementing the environmental acquis, with local and regional authorities as a key element".
Speaking on ways to improve implementation and referring to the CoRs' opinion presented by Nilgun Canver (UK/PES) adopted on 30 November, Bresso said that whilst she agreed that systems – such as the Structured Implementation and Information Frameworks (SIIFs) – need to be put in place to support the sharing of information locally, adequate EU funds were needed. She further argued that whilst the CoR may support the development of a new instrument of "Partnership Implementation Agreements" it should involve local and regional authorities concerned, and proposed creating instead a “Tripartite Implementation Agreement”.
Bresso also welcomed the Commission's plans to make sustainable cities a priority objective of the 7th EAP which: "reflects what the CoR has called for in its opinions, and what I could see at Rio+20 where "sustainable cities" was recognised as major future challenge. We now need to ensure that under this new priority objective, concrete means are spelled out that will further empower cities. We can only reiterate in this regard our suggestion of considering extending the Covenant of Mayors to cover key areas of resource-efficiency, and to further strengthen the European Green Capital Award and are prepared to contribute to this".
Commissioner Potočnik added that: "Making cities sustainable is a major challenge, but we need to rise to that challenge as seven out of ten Europeans now live in urban environments. It can be done – we need to follow the examples set by numerous European cities that are putting environmental sustainability at the core of their urban development strategies. They show us that strong environmental protection is not a barrier – it's a driver of prosperity and growth, and it also pays dividends for citizens' health."
The Technical Platform will be held twice each year and will be co-organised by the Committee of the Regions' Commission for Environment, Climate Change and Energy and the European Commissions' Directorate-General for the Environment, in cooperation with relevant ad-hoc partners from associations of local and regional authorities. The first meeting is foreseen to take place during the EU's Green Week in June 2013 and focus on implementation of EU air quality legislation by local and regional authorities.
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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