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Brussels, 31 January 2013
CoR proposes concrete actions to boost EU citizenship
As part of its contribution to the current European Year of Citizens, the Committee of the Regions (CoR) proposed concrete measures to strengthen EU citizenship and foster the development of a European dimension within regional and local politics. Meeting in plenary today, the CoR called for political representation at regional level to be further taken into account in the criteria for registering as a European political party. It also voiced support for extending EU citizens' voting rights to regional elections.
With the adoption of the opinion of István Sértő-Radics (HU/ALDE), Mayor of Uszka, on the European Commission's proposal giving European political parties a higher profile through a uniform EU legal status, CoR members emphasised the importance of the initiative to increase public interest in European elections, enhance the quality of European representative democracy and strengthen the link between EU citizens and EU-level political representation.
Mayors and regional representatives from the EU welcomed the proposal to include political representation at regional level - alongside the European and national levels - among the conditions for registering as a European political party: "The inclusion of political representation in regional assemblies as one of the criteria for registering European political parties reflects the emergence of a genuinely European dimension within local democracy. It is very positive that this possibility brings the EU into regional politics through the representatives of these parties" said Mayor Sértő-Radics. The CoR however asked to go further and called for a more precise definition of "regional assemblies" so that political parties belonging to a variety of sub-national levels in all Member States – i.e. smaller political parties - can also be taken into consideration in the application for registering.
The CoR also insists on the importance to fully comply with the EU fundamental rights and principles as one of the specific conditions for a political party to acquire or retain European legal status. In this regards, it asks for being involved in the monitoring process in case of doubts about a registered party's compliance with those fundamental values, especially where the party reviewed is represented in the CoR.
The rapporteur of the European Parliament, Marietta Giannakou (EL/EPP), addressed the plenary to present the main points of the debate. In line with the Commission's proposal, she expressed her support for the possibility for a regional party – from those regions having legislative powers – to be one of the seven constituting political parties needed to form a European political party. Mrs Giannakou also stressed that she had hopes that the European Parliament can conclude its work by July this year, so as to ensure that the new system is adopted in time for the 2014 European elections.
More specifically on EU citizenship, CoR members also adopted the own-initiative opinion of György Gémesi (HU/EPP), Mayor of Gödöllö, on strengthening EU citizenship and promoting EU's citizens' electoral rights. As he pointed out "The 2013 European Year of Citizens is a real opportunity to step up efforts to raise voter turnout and make sure that all EU citizens of voting age are responsibly aware of their rights. Establishing rights is not enough, it is also important to ensure that they can be easily exercised. This why I have recommended to simplify procedures to register on electoral rolls, a better focus on young people, and to consider the extension of EU citizens' electoral rights to regional elections. Gradually aligning the dates of local and regional elections with European ones would also help to increase voter turnout.”
Whilst encouraging Member States to consider enabling EU citizens to vote not only in local but also in regional elections, the CoR also expresses the intention to actively support the development of the "Let me vote" European citizens' initiative - which proposes to give Europeans residing in another Member State the right to vote for all political elections in their country of residence.
Keeping in mind the subsidiarity principle, a majority of CoR members also followed one of the rapporteur’s key suggestions to encourage Member States to consider the possibility of gradually synchronising the date of local, regional and European elections, with a view to raising awareness of the impact of those elections on European citizens’ everyday life.
(the consolidated version of the opinions will be available within the next few days)
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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