“The coronavirus pandemic has left a tremendous impact on villages, cities and regions but it has also made our communities stronger and more resilient. We are stepping up our response through the establishment of a COVID-19 response task force that will be responsible to define and communicate COVID-19 recovery measures. This is an important step that shows the commitment of our group to respond to the effects of the virus.” Olgierd Geblewicz – President of the Westpomeranian Region and President of EPP-CoR Group made these remarks during a virtual EPP-CoR group meeting.
Intervening during the meeting Apostolos Tzitzikostas, Governor of Central Macedonia and President of CoR said that this crisis has highlighted the crucial role of local and regional leaders. ” When people think about the EPP family, they should imagine a house with strong foundations, walls and roof. Member states are the walls that shape the structure of the house The European Union is the roof overarching everything not as a heavy burden but as forward-looking and sustainable protection. The villages, the cities and the regions are the strong foundations ensuring that the house is solid and stable.” said Tzitzikostas.
Antonio López-Istúriz, Secretary-General of the EPP and MEP was our special guest invited to share the views of the EPP on how to move ahead in post-crisis times, deliver solutions to people and renew hope for the months ahead. On his speech, he insisted on the important role of regional and local authorities as the ones closest to the people and thanked EPP local and regional leaders for their work in the past challenging months. “The EPP gives tribute to the work of local and regional authorities which was essential during the pandemic.” During the meeting, he stressed the important of ever increased coordination inside the political family, especially between the EPP, EPP Group in the Committee of the Regions and EPP Group in the European Parliament.
The group meeting discussed important reports that will be presented during the next plenary session. János Ádám Karácsony, Rapporteur on clean air policy said that local and regional authorities need easily accessible funding to implement air quality plans. He added that public engagement is crucial to fight pollution and therefore local and regional authorities must have necessary tools. Reacting to the latest developments, Piotr Całbecki rapporteur for the Water Framework and Floods Directives said that it is not possible to implement the Green Deal in Europe without taking into account aspects related to the water framework directive.
Csaba Borboly, stepping in for Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla, rapporteur on Climate Law said “In order to contribute and ensure climate neutrality, measures must not be imposed from Brussels but designed together with local and regional authorities. We need to have the means & assistance to meet these objectives.” Speaking on behalf of Michael Murphy, rapporteur on the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), Deirdre Forde said that FTAs must be shaped with the local and regional needs built in.
The group meeting’s agenda included a discussion on the CoR political priorities for 2020-2025, the MFF and the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan, and the European Commission Work Programme for 2021. Commenting on the latter draft resolution EPP-CoR First Vice-President Jelena Drenjanin said “We want to speed up the development of distance learning tools and digital infrastructure in regions, cities and rural areas, particularly in schools, making digital and media skills an integral part of Life Long Learning as a response to demographic change and brain drain.”