The EPP Group in the CoR:
- Stresses that the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue launched in Barcelona in 1995 needs to be strengthened in order to foster democracy, starting at the local level; it therefore suggests involving regional and local representatives in the Barcelona process since they are key players in contributing to the deepening and enhancement of the Euro- Mediterranean partnership.
- Welcomes the new approach of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which for the first time combines foreign aid and structural funds towards a direct instrument for cross-border cooperation between local and regional authorities on both sides of the EU border. Furthermore it congratulates the EU decision to grant one billion Euros for this purpose over the next 7 years; the EPP/CoR promotes the direct participation of southern Mediterranean countries in territorial cooperation programmes and instruments, for example the European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation (EGTC).
- It stresses that the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue and the ENP have an excellent potential to safeguard good governance in the southern Mediterranean regions and cities if responsibilities are shared by different levels of government and focus on citizens’ interests, in full compliance with the principles of subsidiarity and proximity to citizens.
- Supports the proposal to set up an EU permanent Forum of local and regional authorities from both side of the Mediterranean, within the CoR, as proposed in the conclusions of the CoR’s Seminar on the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, hold in Valencia on 10 April 2007; it considers that such a Forum could considerably improve the exchange of best practices on a wide range of topics concerning the day-to-day life of citizens. Additionally such a Forum would strengthen a bottom-up approach and grass-root democracy in the whole region, promoting solidarity between people.
- Calls for strong cooperation with the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly (EMPA) and underlines the complementarities and added value that Members of the CoR and representatives from local government of southern Mediterranean countries could bring to the political dialogue organised by European and national parliamentary bodies;
it therefore calls on the EMPA to invite a CoR representative as an observer to its
- Believes that the creation of a common regional market in the Mediterranean Basin would boost economic and social development by promoting public and private investment. Consequently, it calls for the acceleration of the pace towards a Euro- Mediterranean Free Trade Area by 2010; it considers the creation of a Euro- Mediterranean Union as a valid instrument to achieve the total dismantlement of tariff barriers for industrial goods and reciprocal liberalisation of agriculture trade.
- Stresses the key role of the regional and local Authorities in the development of cross-Mediterranean networks of transport and energy, for the development of infrastructures and the protection of the environment, particularly in the field of water protection and use of renewable energies in a scenario of climate change. The decision makers are encouraged to develop strategies and use the financial and other supportive tools for this co-operation, involving their social and economic actors.
- Stresses the role played by local authorities in promoting cooperation in the fields of justice, security and freedom, including migration and integration; supports the creation of platforms on migration and development bringing together African countries, EU Member States and International organisations and believes that local and regional authorities, particularly those that are directly concerned, should participate, possibly via their national and regional associations. The EU should substantially increase its efforts to encourage countries of origin to take back those immigrants who do not qualify for asylum and who have nevertheless taken the route of illegal passage; it supports the initiative of promoting investments in labour-intensive sectors in regions with high outward migration and to inviting Member States to complement it.
- Supports the “Anna Lindh” Foundation for enhancing mutual understanding amongst societies and cultures and calls on the European Commission to integrate a pilot exercise for interfaith dialogue at the local level into the “2008 year for intercultural dialogue”; believes that the CoR could offer a good platform to this end.
- Supports the Congress for Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe in its political work with the Southern Mediterranean countries and thus proposes to further cooperate in order to strengthen the local and regional politics in this common process and furthermore, underlines the importance of closer cooperation between the two
institutions to make proposals for concrete common actions.