During the Committee of the Regions' (CoR) 105th plenary session on 30-31 January, CoR President Valcárcel, will be joined by the European Commission's President, Jose Manuel Durão Barroso, and EC Vice-President in charge of Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn, to debate the main political and economic challenges in 2014. The debate with CoR members will focus on the state of play and future of the EU's Strategy for growth and jobs, economic governance, and the fiscal consolidation efforts they would like to see Member States and local governements pursue in 2014 and beyond. The Greek Minister for Internal Affairs, Yannis Michelakis, will also address the plenary to present the main priorities of the EU Presidency.
To mark its first 2014 plenary session and prepare for a year that will impact on the future of the EU, the CoR will hold a debate with President Barroso who will address issues of EU growth and economic recovery, including the mid-term review of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the role of the structural funds, and the contribution of cities and regions in view of the 2014 European elections. On the second day of the plenary, Commissioner Olli Rehn will lead debate on economic governance, the completion of the Economic and Monetary Union, and fiscal consolidation. The new "partnerships for jobs, growth and competitiveness", their impact on regions and cities and the way they will complement the new cohesion and investment funds, will be also be discussed.
Also on the plenary agenda:
Social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU)
Based on an opinion drafted by Jean-Louis Destans (FR/PSE), President of Eure General Council, CoR members will adopt their position on the long-awaited Commission's Communication on the social dimension of the EMU. While welcoming the initiative which aims to add a social pillar to the EMU's existing ones (economic, budgetary, banking and political), the CoR argues that guaranteeing high-quality employment and social standards are essential to gain back citizens' trust in the European project. The rapporteur puts forward a number of recommendations, including further developing the proposed scoreboard of key employment and social indicators, introducing a system of financial aid to EMU countries as well as an EU unemployment benefit insurance scheme.
2030 Climate and Energy policy and shipments of waste
In response to the European Commission's Green Paper published last year, members of the CoR will debate an opinion on the 2030 framework for EU climate change and energy policy. The opinion penned by Sirpa Hertell (FI/EPP) from Espoo City Council, urges the European Commission to commit member states to reducing green house gases by 50% from 1990 levels and set targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency. It also calls for structural reform of the ETS including a reduction of the number of emission certificates.
CoR members will also consider the review of the shipment of waste. With around 25% of waste being sent outside the EU, the Commission has outlined proposals to amend the current Waste Shipments Regulation. UK's Paula Baker (UK/ALDE) report welcomes the revisions as a means to improve enforcement and ensure consistency in the EU. Ms Baker will argue, however, that all consultations must be carried out with the full involvement of local and regional authorities, clear measure targets set and annual inspection plans made public. The opinion reiterates previous CoR calls for EU legislation on environmental inspections and surveillance, including inspection powers given to the Commission.
EU Telecoms market reform
The far-reaching Commission's proposal to reform the European telecoms market covers issues of critical importance for the whole EU, and especially for local and regional authorities. The CoR welcomes the general objective but argues that large parts of the proposal are not yet ready for adoption. The main concerns include the competency transfer of frequency management, the single EU authorisation procedure as well as the overly ambitious timetable. The rapporteur of the opinion, Frank Zimmermann (DE/PES), Member of the Berlin House of Representatives, argues that local and regional legal frameworks have to be taken into account as well as the existing digital divides across regions. The opinion also urges the Commission to support local and regional authorities in financing digital infrastructure in rural areas through the structural funds.
"Culture and Creativity" Conference - 29 January
The CoR will also hold a conference on "Culture and Creativity - Europe’s regions and cities making a difference" offering participants an opportunity to share success stories from the field and examine their local impact. The CoR will use the event to stress the need for a long-term vision closely linked to culture and creativity, and call for those sectors to be better integrated into the EU's Growth Strategy. Main speakers include Mercedes Bresso, CoR First Vice-President, Anton Rombouts, Chair of the CoR commission in charge of culture, and Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner in charge of Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.
The plenary will be held in the European Parliament (room JAN 2Q2).
Debates will be streamed live at www.cor.europa.eu.