The opinion of rapporteur Gaetano Armao (EPP/IT), Vice-President and Regional Minister for Economy of the Region of Sicily and Chair of the CoR’s Interregional Group on Insular Regions on ‘Towards sustainable neighborhoods and small communities – Environment policy below municipal level’ was adopted today at the Inaugural Plenary Session of the CoR.

The engagement of small communities and neighbourhoods is crucial when it comes to delivering effective climate and environmental policies and ensuring their successful implementation. Small communities often have a strong interest in environmental issues that can have a considerable impact on the local area and on the quality of life of their residents, such as air quality or noise.

Sub-municipal communities, however, face specific challenges in their efforts to tackle environmental issues. In the European Union, these communities range from urban areas to rural districts and from mountain hamlets to islands that are not municipalities in their own right. They may not have the required representatives, budgets and other resources that would allow them to participate in policy making and implementation and to make good use of the opportunities offered by the European Union.

Rapporteur Armao declared: “As the EU’s assembly of local and regional authorities, it is our duty to channel the voice of sub-municipal communities and to support initiatives that make them more prosperous and sustainable. Whether small islands, urban districts or unpopulated mountain areas, tailored mechanisms must be established as to tackle the specific challenges that communities below the municipal level are currently facing. We must start by simplifying and streamlining eligibility rules to encourage the direct participation of sub-municipal entities in EU environmental programmes.”

Armao’s draft opinion puts forward several proposals to increase the local ownership of environmental policy choices and to strengthen the capacities of sub-municipal communities. It calls for a better use of tailor-made solutions, including a greater degree of regulatory flexibility and technical and financial assistance to support small communities with their climate actions. It also promotes the exchange of best practices and proposes the establishment of a Sustainable Neighbourhood Award or the integration of the sub-municipal level in existing environmental awards.

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