A strong cohesion policy, keeping the Green Deal and the digital transition within focus, stronger financial tools as well as stronger regional responsibilities and European coordination. These were the key statements delivered by EPP speakers during the European Committee of the Regions online forum “Regions and cities: vital for Europe’s recovery”.
In his opening remarks Apostolos Tzitzikostas, Governor of the Region of Central Macedonia, Greece and the President of CoR said “Europe needs a strong Cohesion Policy and real partners in recovering fast. The health of our regions and cites reflects the health of our countries and the health of Europe.”
Michael Murphy, Member of the Tipperary County Council, Ireland, and chair of the CoR’s Economic Affairs Commission said that the challenge in the recovery is keeping the long-term direction set by the SDGs, the Green Deal and the digital transition while ensuring EU’s strategic autonomy through a dynamic industrial policy and support for SMEs and start-ups. He added “We need to think about channeling investment into key strategic areas that can reinforce Europe’s long-term competitiveness, growth and employment creation potential.”
Intervening during the first session entitled “Recovering from Coronavirus, the future of EU cohesion policy and the new proposal for the EU budget 2021-2027”, Konstantinos Agorastos, Governor of the Region of Thessaly said “We are faced with a crisis that affected Europe socially and economically. Our cities and regions need financial tools and facilities in order to recover fast”.
EPP Group MEP Jan Olbrycht said that Cohesion Policy is about solidarity and it is needed as a tool for the recovery of our villages, cities and regions and the recovery of Europe. He expressed his full support for adequate EU funding for regions.
During the second session with the theme: Regions and cities at work for a resilient and sustainable recovery. CoR President Tzitzikostas said “Villages, cities and regions have been and will always be the engines of Europe’s economy. Now, with the right policies and measures they will become the engine of our economic recovery.”
Mark Speich, Secretary of State for Federal, European and International Affairs, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, and Chair of the CoR Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External affairs focused on the need of a European strategy of regional responsibility to overcome national isolation and closed borders.
In the third and final session: EU democracy – future of Europe, Dubravka Šuica, European Commission Vice-President referred to the CoR declaration ‘Local and regional authorities as actors of the European response to the COVID-19 crisis’ saying that as a former mayor she appreciates the work of villages, cities and regions to fight the pandemic and its consequences. With respect to the Conference on the Future of Europe, she remarked that this is more important than ever before. “The CoR will have a crucial role and can help us engage with citizens. Every voice counts for us and the conference will ensure this.” She concluded that the covid19 crisis has shown the importance of addressing demographic challenges as the virus has not hit every member state the same.