European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen, Commissioner for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness addressed the Members of the European Committee of the Regions in a debate on the Future of Europe during the plenary session on May 11th.

The Vice President stressed that he was there to listen to the views of the European local and regional leaders on how the future Union should be shaped:” The new EU will be different from the current one – we are giving birth to a new EU27 as the current Union cannot continue like nothing happened. This new EU27 needs direction, content and commitment.

Commissioner Katainen highlighted that the EU’s owners have been silent for too long and a stronger ownership of the whole Union is needed. Whereas the Member States are the owners of the European project according to the Vice President, the reflection on the future of the Union cannot happen only in Brussels. This reflection must take place on the ground, in the town halls, and Mr Katainen emphasised how happy he was on the activity of the CoR on the issue.

CoR President Markku Markkula addressed the Commission white paper with a new proposal: “we need an agile and durable sixth scenario seen from a regional and local perspective. We want a more transparent and democratic Union that defends the principles of subsidiarity, partnership and multilevel governance. A Union that supports cities and regions as catalysers and enablers for new jobs and sustainable growth but also for entrepreneurship, innovation and digitalisation. We need a Union that secures an effective budget based on reliable own resources and reflecting the European solidarity.

Commissioner Katainen urged the Members not to limit themselves as regional or local authorities to Cohesion Policy or regional issues. The Vice President is an ardent supporter or smart specialisation and smart city approaches and he stated that most probably the next EU budget will be smaller, so there must be reflection on how to use Cohesion Policy more efficiently and make more with less, combining it more efficiently with EFSI. He also called for examples from the grassroots level on how the globalisation funds have worked and how they could be developed further.

Raffaele Cattaneo, Chair of the COTER Commission, stressed that “without a European Cohesion policy that supports investments across all EU regions, regional disparities will increase, whilst a reformed cohesion policy can serve as a tool to help reverse this trend. A reformed, more flexible and less bureaucratic Cohesion policy must be therefore central part of the future of the EU“.

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