The Conference on the Future of Europe launched on Sunday 9 May in Strasbourg can only succeed if local and regional authorities are involved, argued the European Committee of the Regions. EURACTIV France reports.
As the presidents of the main EU institutions opened the Conference on the Future of Europe on the occasion of Europe Day on Sunday, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) organized a local dialogue at Strasbourg to discuss how to involve local communities in the conference and strengthen their role in the future of Europe, according to a official statement.
“The success of this conference presupposes the participation of all”, underlined the French Secretary of State for Rural Affairs, Joël Giraud. “It is fundamental […] to fully involve local elected representatives and local authorities in the debate on the future of Europe, ”he added.
According to the President of the CoR, Apostolos Tzitzikostas, the European project must be relaunched by “improving its democratic functioning”.
“For me, our ‘house of European democracy’ is built on solid foundations – regional and local authorities – solid walls – Member States – and a protective roof – the European Union. The conference offers a unique opportunity to strengthen them, but it can only work if it goes beyond Brussels and the capitals, ”he added.
Dialogue participants – representatives of EU institutions, local and youth associations and local and regional leaders – supported a open letter calling on local and regional leaders to contribute to the conference by organizing dialogues in their regions, towns and villages and by appointing European affairs advisers in their political assemblies.
“The democratic and inclusive Union we want must be built on the foundations of Europe: its regions, its cities and its villages,” the letter reads. Strengthening the legitimacy of the conference would require the involvement of those closest to the citizens.
The territorial dimension of the conference should also make it possible to forge links with European youth, declared Frédéric Bierry, President of the European Community of Alsace and representative of the Assembly of French Departments, during the CoR’s local dialogue.
“I hope that the conference on the future of Europe will allow all young people to experience Europe personally, that they will make it a concrete and positive experience”, declared the president of the European Community of Alsace .
According to him, “this very special year, which will see events unfolding throughout Europe, in all its territories, must offer as many people as possible a moment, an experience which is theirs alone”.
“This is how young people will become aware of their belonging to Europe,” he added.
The CoR is already committed to organizing a series of local dialogues in different EU countries and plans to organize a series of debates on the democratic functioning of the EU throughout the conference.
On Wednesday 12 May, the CoR, in collaboration with the Bertelsmann Foundation, will launch innovative participatory processes and online tools to host citizen panels with the aim of “making the voice of cities and regions heard”.