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EU REFORM DEBATED BY COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

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The role of the Committee of the Regions in the debate on reforming the ...
The role of the Committee of the Regions in the debate on reforming the
institutional architecture of the European Union was the main theme of the
CoR institutional affairs commission meeting on July 5. The meeting
followed up the work of the first conference on proximity, held last month.
The participation of the CoR in the debate on the future of the EU was the
subject of a memorandum presented by the president of the institutional
affairs commission, Manfred Dammeyer. This document, which was adopted by
the commission, puts the case for the CoR formally to participate in the
debate which will be launched by the Laeken European Council. Among those
reacting to the presentation was Reinhold Bocklet, Bavarian
secretary of state for European affairs. 'We must insist', he asserted, 'on the
timely participation of the CoR in the structured debate, while avoiding the
word 'convention' as this formula, used to draw up the EU Charter of
Fundamental Rights, involved the CoR being treated as an NGO!'
The president of the CoR socialist group and leader of Birmingham City
Council, Albert Bore, went on to consider proposals for a second chamber:
What we need, he says, is an institution whose members are drawn from the
CoR and from national parliaments. As for our participation in the
'convention,' we must insist on being treated as a fully fledged
institution.
Lord Tope, president of the ELDR group, believes it is necessary, once more,
to repeat what we have said again and again: we are better placed that the
other institutions to ensure a wideranging debate on the future of the
Union.
A draft resolution from the minister-president of Bavaria, Edmund Stoiber
on preparation for the Laeken European Council and the 2004 IGC was
then given a first reading. Rheinhold Bocklet asserts that a new IGC like
the one which led to the Nice summit is not the right way to go. We need to
plan a preparatory phase, with several stages which include public opinion
and with the full participation of the CoR in the so-called 'structured
debate' stage.
Proximity and regions with legislative powers
The institutional affairs commission also adopted a report from Juan José
Lucas Gimenez and Karl-Heinz Klär on proximity. This report
had been presented at the June conference, where Mr Dammeyer and CoR
president Jos Chabert signed the Declaration in which the CoR calls for the
future reform of the European institutions with the aim of bringing the EU
closer to its citizens.
'What do we mean by 'proximity?' The term might seem vague', explained Dr Klär,
'but for us, proximity with citizens means good policies and good governance,
and that applies at all levels: local, regional, national and European.'
The report will be presented to the September plenary session, which will be
attended by the president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi.
Next came a debate of the role of regions with legislative powers in the
decision making process - a lively debate, as political structures vary from
one member state to another. The three rapporteurs - Manfred Dammeyer,
Claude du Granrut (F/PPE) and Lord Tope (UK/ELDR) - told their colleagues
that further consultation would be needed before a formal presentation could
be made.
The political groups unite to tackle the 2004 IGC
The positioning of the CoR in the run up to the 2004 intergovernmental
conference is a highly political question. At this stage of the debate, the
political groups made their views clear.
I am pleased, says Albert Bore for the PES, that the CoR has begun to define
its position on the future institutional and governance arrangements for the
EU. In this way, the Committee of the Regions is responding to the
increasing calls for proximity in Europe, to enhance a shared responsibility
for policy making an policy implementation between the European, national,
regional and local level. I hope that there will be a convention, or
similar body, to prepare for the 2004 IGC and that the Committee of the
Regions will be a fully participating member of it.
The EPP president, Claude du Granrut declares herself determined that the
CoR should make its voice heard in the debate on the debate on the future of
Europe. The Nice Summit showed the need to reconnect Europe and its
citizens, so it is vital that the Committee of the Regions should contribute
as a full member to the preparatory work for the IGC.
The ELDR group is thinking on similar lines: its president, Lord Tope,
makes it clear: The European Union would shoot itself in the foot if it
leaves out the CoR! Through the Committee of the Regions, the EU has a
unique opportunity to involve millions of European citizens in the public
debate on the future of Europe. CoR members can use their vast network of
political contacts and their influence at all levels to initiate and
stimulate the public debate, and involve and inform the population of
Europe.
For its part, the European Alliance and its president Sean O'Neachtain asks
how could anyone seriously imagine reforms to reconnect the EU and its
citizens without involving the CoR? It is crucial, though, that in a debate
of such importance the local level is given the same consideration as the
regional level.
The meeting ended with initial discussions on two draft opinions. The first
concerned the participation of representative of the regional governments in
the work of the Council (of Ministers) and of the Committee of the Regions
in informal Council meetings (the rapporteurs are Claudio Martini, President
of Tuscany and the head of the government of Salzburg, Frans
Shausberger. The second, from Roger Kaliff deals with the
development of regional and local institutions in candidate countries.
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