Members of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) adopted today a resolution detailing their political priorities for the coming year, with particular emphasis on youth unemployment, the need to address geographical inequalities between EU regions and the review of the EU Growth Strategy. In a debate with CoR members on the European Commission's working programme for 2014, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič highlighted the key role of cities and regions in ensuring much-needed progress toward EU growth and in restoring citizens' confidence in both the European economy and the European project.
Opening the debate between the Commissioner and the CoR members, CoR President Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso referred to the reflection process launched by the assembly to contribute to the debate on the future of the Union: "2014 will mark the 20th anniversary of the existence of the Committee of the Regions. It will also be a year in which the European institutions will engage in a debate about the future of the Union. As CoR President I have launched an internal reflection process about what our role should be in the future. We are preparing an inclusive report which will reflect on the role that local and regional authorities should have in a renewed European Union".
During his presentation of the Commission's priorities for next year, Vice-President Šefčovič stressed: "The start of the new Multiannual Financial Framework for 2014-2020 will bring much-appreciated support to Europe's regions and cities through the cohesion policy budget. Local and regional authorities across Europe have their own role to play in many policy areas. "Think global, act local", has never been more pertinent than at the present moment and we, in the European institutions, must play our part in making it a reality for more of our regional and local actors."
Following-up to the CoR contribution to the preparation of the Commission's 2014 work programme, CoR members adopted a resolution reacting to the final outcome and setting out the CoR priorities for the upcoming year. The resolution highlights the major challenges ahead as identified by the CoR, including generating sustainable growth, ensuring social, economic and territorial cohesion, creating jobs and reinforcing citizens' trust in the European project.
Against this backdrop, the CoR calls on the European Commission to ensure greater coordination of economic and social policies to help address the competitiveness gap between the Member States. It also reiterates the urgency of tackling youth unemployment and addressing existing geographical inequalities between EU regions. Based on the assessment that the unsatisfactory state of play of the EU's growth strategy - Europe 2020 - is partly due to a lack of involvement of local authorities, CoR members call for a thorough mid-term review of the EU 2020 Strategy to give more prominence to the territorial dimension. Such review should include enhanced participation of local and regional authorities in setting targets and implementing the Strategy, as well as funding for long-term investments.
Regarding the EU cohesion policy, the CoR urges the Commission to promote the proper involvement of cities and regions in the finalization of the Partnership Agreements, which must be seen as a "pivotal element of multilevel governance in Europe's strategy for growth and jobs". The CoR is also concerned at the increase of "uncoordinated EU initiatives affecting urban development" and calls for the preparation of a White Paper on an integrated urban agenda for the EU. It further encourages the Commission to urgently move forward with the completion of the Banking Union and to make use of the new EU budget to promote social cohesion.