Success of EU's response to challenges of migration and unstable neighbourhood depends on local leaders, EU foreign-policy chief says.
Federica Mogherini, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, today told addressed the 350 leaders of regions and cities in the 114th Plenary of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) that "you are players in our foreign policy". CoR President Markkula and High Representative Mogherini spoke in unison about the role of the regions and cities on the frontline in tackling the migration crisis and called for joint partnerships with local governments.
Ms Mogherini spoke at length about the role of Europe's cities and regions in international diplomacy. "We live in a globalised world, but also a fragmented one. We need to think continent-size, we need to broker regionally, and we have to act local - and here the partnership between us can make the difference," the EU's foreign-policy chief said.
Markku Markkula, President of the CoR, emphasised the good cooperation already established, continuing: "We are ready to further support you by all means possible and at all levels of governance to help the development of a powerful and more tangible European policy."
In a speech that ranged from migration to climate change and the ongoing review of the European Neighbourhood Policy, the High Representative particularly highlighted the role that city and region-to-region diplomacy could make to stabilising the situation in Libya, one of the principal countries from which migrants have arrived in Europe since 2011.
She described the CoR's outreach to Libyan municipalities as an example of "city diplomacy at its best", adding that the CoR and the EU will need to "continue this cooperation especially in the next critical months to come. The High Representative stated that throughout the conflict in Libya municipalities have retained political legitimacy and are the sole functioning level of government in the country. "The more you can do" to help the EU in Libya, "the better for our collective security," she said.
"One of the purposes of people-to-people and city-diplomacy is to build local authorities' human capacity and confidence measures, fight corruption and implement reforms," President Markkula said. "Good examples can be found from our cooperation initiatives with the Mediterranean and Eastern local authorities as well as the CoR's Task-Force for Ukraine for implementing the decentralisation reform."
In the subsequent debate, members from the political groups dwelt on the challenge that Europe's cities and regions face in coping with the migration challenge. The CoR has drafted a comprehensive opinion on the European agenda for migration, which is scheduled for adoption in December.
The President and all CoR members stressed the urgency of the situation and the need for action. "You need and deserve support for this; my national background makes that very evident to me," Ms Mogherini responded.
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