Today, regional and local leaders of the European People’s Party (EPP) from across the European Union (EU) welcomed Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister of Croatia, and Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Budget and Administration to an EPP Local Dialogue dedicated to European investments in regions and cities post 2020 in Zagreb, Croatia.
Given that around 60 per cent of the European Union’s budget is implemented at the local and regional level, the leaders discussed the added value and impact of European investments on the sustainable development of our cities and regions. They also exchanged views on ways to strengthen the citizens’ faith in European democracy, knowing that local and regional politicians enjoy the highest level of citizens’ trust and can act as a bridge between the European Union and their local communities.
“We can see the impact of EU investments in our regions and cities improving the daily lives of our citizens in areas such as transport, infrastructure or renewable energies. Regions and cities play a crucial role in the implementation of EU policies, sharing knowledge on European investments on the ground, maintaining a dialogue with the citizens,” said Joseph Daul, President of the EPP.
“We are committed to and we facilitate the dialogue with our regional and local politicians on a daily basis. Your biggest added value is making the EU tangible to the citizens. We are determined to take on board the views our regions and local communities in shaping national priorities and policies,” stated Prime Minister Plenković.
President Schneider thanked Joseph Daul for the close cooperation and productive partnership between the EPP and the EPP Group in the CoR over the past years as well as for his firm commitment to the values of freedom, subsidiarity and solidarity during his leadership as EPP President.
“Local politics is everything. You are the ones close to the people, you can speak to our citizens about Europe. We need your input as the bridge between Brussels and local policies”, stressed Antonio López-Istúriz White, Secretary General of the EPP, MEP.
Rafał Trzaskowski, Mayor of Warsaw, EPP Vice-President joined the debate with Markku Markkula, President of Helsinki Region, CoR 1st Vice-President and Deirdre Forde, Councillor of Cork City Council, Member of EPP-CoR, to present concrete examples on how to engage with the citizens locally and to inform them on the benefits of the European Union in their daily lives:
“The important thing is being close to the people: I have created a successful programme based on my talks with Varsovians from all city districts. Use the right language, be on the streets, talk to and with the people. This is a winning strategy”, Rafał Trzaskowski said.
“A Europe of the citizens is a Europe of the future. The EU will gain credibility and trust when it delivers for the people. This means moving towards a more ambitious, efficient and performing European Union. The local level is where the real action happens. Public service quality being a key determinant of trust, our citizens need to see strong positive changes and have access to services which demonstrate European added-value”, stressed Markku Markkula.
“Recent challenges have proven our European family can and have done the big ticket things brilliantly – Now we need to focus on getting the little things right in collaboration with regions, cities and the Committee of the Regions,” concluded Deirdre Forde.
An EU long-term budget that invests in people
Johannes Hahn and Members of the European Parliament Siegfried Mureșan and Jan Olbrycht talked about the future long-term budget for the Union and how to invest in people in partnership with regions and cities:
“Each municipality should nominate a Councillor as a contact point for EU affairs. This would enhance our two-way communication and increase the understanding of regions and their needs in EU policy making. The EPP should extend this format to its local and regional authorities to close the gap between the EU and its citizens”, said Commissioner Hahn.
“The EU budget is the main tool of the EU to implement its priorities. A strong EU budget means that the EU will continue to generate growth in our regions, create jobs for our young Europeans, develop our infrastructure and support our farmers. It will also contribute to enhancing our security and help us invest in our future by addressing issues such as climate change. The EPP is committed to defending these principles and will fight for a strong EU budget which delivers on what the European citizens expect,” Siegfried Mureșan said.
“Local and regional authorities should not wait for the final decisions concerning the future EU budget. In contrary, they should be actively involved in the work on the next Multiannual Financial Framework, as their experience is needed in the preparation of EU priorities and instruments. Representatives of local and regional authorities in the European Committee of the Regions can be very successful in shaping the future EU budget,” said Jan Olbrycht, who is the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the MFF 2021-2027.
The event was hosted by Nikola Dobroslavić, President of Dubrovnik-Neretva Region, EPP-CoR rapporteur on the Multiannual Financial Framework package for the years 2021-2027. It was co-organised by the EPP-CoR and the Croatian Democratic Union Party (HDZ) in the context of the 2019 EPP Congress in Zagreb.
Concluding the event, Nikola Dobroslavić said: “We should all strengthen our contacts with our citizens. The impacts of European investments are most visible at the local level. Without a strong cohesion policy, the EU will not reach is goals.”
The local dialogue was followed by a study visit to an EU co-funded project on the production of organic food from locally sourced cereals creating employment and well-being in the local community. The visit was organised upon the invitation of Željko Turk, Mayor of the Municipality of Zaprešić and Member of the EPP-CoR.