Brussels, 11 January 2010
European neighbourhood policy and enlargement: How will the Commission ensure that local and regional authorities in the countries concerned are not sidelined?
On 12 January, the European Parliament's AFET committee will hold a hearing with the Commissioner-designate for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle. While Mr Füle has already stated his willingness to cooperate with the MEPs, if he wants the reforms being driven by the EU to take root in the regions and local areas of the partner countries, he will also have to factor in the sub-national authorities. The CoR would propose several measures which the commissioner-designate could take to ensure this.
How can the European Commission increase the participation of candidate and potential candidate countries' local and regional authorities throughout the EU accession process?
The Committee of the Regions has constantly pointed out in its opinions on the enlargement package that candidate and potential candidate countries' local and regional authorities have been sidelined from the enlargement process. The CoR therefore calls for future Commission enlargement reports on individual countries to look at decentralisation, in accordance with European standards, and the progress made by local authorities from the candidate countries. The CoR expects to be considered as a partner by the European Commission in assessing implementation of the Copenhagen criteria by the countries concerned and by their local and regional authorities.
"Expertise from the EU is needed to build the capacity of each [partner country] administration so that willingness to adopt relevant elements of the EU acquis can be translated into effective implementation, bringing national norms in line with EU standards and practices." So stated Štefan Füle in his answers to the MEPs' questions. But this contact should not be limited to the national level. The CoR therefore invites the future commissioner to support and take part in the first meeting of its EU-Croatia Joint Consultative Committee , which will take place in spring 2010.
How does the Commission intend to consolidate the Council's political initiatives and the role of local and regional authorities as recognised by the Council?
With both the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) and the Eastern Partnership, the Council laid the foundations for renewed political dialogue with the EU's partner countries. The role of local and regional authorities was then recognised and appreciated by successive EU presidencies, with the CoR involved in meetings and other work in this area. In the context of the UfM, the CoR has even set up new structures, with the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) to be launched on 21 January 2010. A similar approach is proposed for the Eastern Partnership, with the support of the Commission. The CoR president, Luc Van den Brande, is calling specifically on the future commissioner to support his proposal, put forward at the meeting of EU and partner country foreign ministers on 8 December, to conclude an international agreement enabling the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) to be used in the six Eastern Partnership countries.
The CoR thus calls on the Commission to take a multilevel approach to these - and other - initiatives, so that local and regional authorities can play their due role in European neighbourhood policy.
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