Each New Year often brings a sense of determination, resolve and expectation. It is a time to not only reflect on the past but look to the future with renewed energy and hope. The economic crisis has challenged the very essence of the European project but the tide is turning and we are seeing a few positive signs of recovery. The Eurozone is now stable and keeps on attracting new members. At the end of 2013 an agreement was finally reached on the EU budget and the new EU Cohesion policy offering local and regional authorities an opportunity to progress and make strides forward in delivering projects across Europe.
Nevertheless, with such unacceptable levels of unemployment, especially youth employment, there is still a lot of work to be done which needs the support and inspiration of all levels of government, including European cities and regions.
2014 is also a historic year for the Committee of the Regions which will be celebrating 20 years since its inception. Over the past two decades our assembly has grown both in size and political influence. The very existence of the Committee shows the broad recognition that Europe's cities and regions must contribute to the shaping of the European agenda. The celebrations will also offer us the opportunity to reflect on the Committee's achievements, whilst considering how it can further involve local governments in the broader debate on the future of the EU.
These fundamental questions will be the basis of debate on 7 and 8 March when we will hold the 6th Summit of Cities and Regions in Athens. The event will review the EU's strategy for growth debating the efforts made at European, national and local levels to deliver a job-rich recovery. With the European elections to take place in May, the Summit is also due to hold a high level debate between the main European representatives on the future of the European Union.
We must not forget that 2014 will also mark both the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and the 75th anniversary of the start of World War II. The dual anniversaries of the 20th century’s two greatest conflicts will offer opportunities for reflection on the European project and what it means today and for future generations. The European elections will also be a landmark for the EU, as well as a key opportunity for all EUcitizens to choose what future they want for Europe.
So the time is for more action and less words. For now, let me wish you a peaceful, prosperous and successful New Year!
President of the EU Committee of the Regions
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