The impact of the corona virus pandemic on the conference on the future of Europe and on migration together with the use of digital technology to strengthen local democracy were the key topics discussed during the first hybrid meeting of the Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX).

Discussing the impact of the pandemic crisis on the debate on the future of Europe, Olgierd Geblewicz – President of the Westpomeranian Region and President of EPP-CoR Group said that the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak exposed some of the weakest points of EU policies, demonstrated the fragility of EU integration and the real cost of non-Europe for our regions. Regarding the role of regions and cities during the pandemic Geblewicz said “The Covid-19  crisis has proven that local and regional governance is a pillar of political credibility in Europe and that we are the first in line to create the image of the European way of life.” He appealed for the conference on the future of Europe to serve as an opportunity to strengthen European principles such as rule of law, democracy and active subsidiarity as well as the freedom of movement.

Mark Speich, Secretary of State for Federal, European and International Affairs (North Rhine-Westphalia) and CIVEX chair said that the conference on the Future of Europe is needed more than ever. However, he warned that the Conference should not just be a  a listening exercise. “There is a climate for cooperation and we have to make use of that.” He said that having just an exchange of opinions would undermine this climate and stressed that the conference must have consequences on policies and politics.

During a debate on Covid-19, development cooperation and migration, Franz Schausberger, from the State Parliament of Salzburg said that thinking globally and acting locally will help us to protect fragile healthcare systems and economies and stop the perpetuating effect which the Covid-19 crisis could have on migration from partner countries.

Schausberger also intervened in a debate on strengthening local governance and representative democracy via new digital technology instruments. He remarked that regions and cities had several good practices to share when it comes to the use of digital solutions to empower citizens’ participation mentioning discussion of budgets and decisions on infrastructural projects as examples. “I believe local and regional authorities can lead the way forward for digitalizing European democracy. Representative democracy needs to find its way into 21 century and we are best placed to make this happen.” he concluded.

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