Rebuilding trust in the European Union was the main topic for the European Committee of the Regions’ Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX), which adopted its first ever referral from the President of the European Council to the CoR today. Amongst the recommendations, the EU is called upon to protect and empower citizens whilst delivering on its promises through a much stronger future-orientation of EU policies. This is the way to reinforce trust in democracy and elected politicians, according to the two rapporteurs Markku Markkula and Karl-Heinz Lambertz. The opinion will be annexed with the outcome of CoR-led town hall debates and meetings, which have taken place in 81 regions over the past twelve months.
“We are facing a crucial moment where the EU’s political leadership needs to be aware of the regional and local authorities’ matters and concerns across the EU” Markku Markkula, 1st Vice-President of the CoR, said before noting that there is a significant gap between people’s expectations and the EU’s ability to deliver. “We believe that Europe can deliver more and better by better involving cities and regions in all policies. Therefore a permanent channel of dialogue with local and regional authorities, including through the CoR, must be implemented as soon as possible.” The 1st Vice-President also stressed that trust in the local and regional levels of governance is higher than trust in national governments on average and that in most Member States, it is also higher than trust in the EU.
The opinion is a formal response to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council’s request to the CoR to elaborate an opinion on “Reflecting on Europe: the voice of regional and local authorities to rebuild trust in the European Union“, which also proposes developing on the concept of a European identity. According to the rapporteurs, this could increase a sense of belonging whilst enriching national, regional and local identities, if is supported and encouraged through civic participation, cultural activities and education. Within this context, they argue that citizens’ consultations, such as the CoR’s reflecting on Europe initiative and the EPP Local Dialogues, must ensure a genuine, inclusive and representative exchange with citizens.
Drawing more from the results of the CoR’s local debates, the draft opinion underlines that citizens are asking for an EU project built on solidarity, cohesion and proximity. The specific role for Europe’s youth as the most enthusiastic population towards the EU is also underlined with a call for a Europe which enables regions and cities to co-create the future through simple-to-use, results-oriented instruments. “As regions and cities, we are ready to design and implement innovative solutions to our shared societal challenges. In this way, we can be laboratories for new policy solutions at the European level” 1st Vice-President Markkula explained.