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The regional dimension is becoming more important in a European Union in the process of enlargement. The specific r...
The regional dimension is becoming more important in a European Union in the process of enlargement. The specific role of the Committee of the Regions is being further strengthened. The COR - set up in 1994 under the Maastricht Treaty as a political body to represent local and regional authorities - is set to make new gains.

The intergovernmental conference on the institutional reform of the EU, which has just been launched, the forthcoming enlargement of the EU and the European Commission's strategic work programme 2000-2005 offer excellent opportunities.

This will be stressed by the outgoing president of the COR, Manfred Dammeyer, at the start of the 32nd plenary session in Brussels today. This afternoon a new president will be elected. The only candidate is the Belgian Christian Democrat Jos Chabert.

The agreement reached in early 1998 between the two largest political groups - the PSE and PPE - will being put into practice: Dammeyer and Chabert swop roles as president and first vice-president.

Reviewing his two-year mandate as president, Dr Dammeyer feels the record is positive. In particular the COR had successfully expanded and consolidated its relations with the European Commission and European parliament.

Furthermore, it had done full justice to its role as champion of the European principle of subsidiarity. The COR will go on exploiting every opportunity to enhance the influence and involvement of regions and citizens. Commission president Romano Prodi - who will address the COR plenary session on Thursday - will be judged over the coming years by what he has to say on the latest developments and what he does with regard to subsidiarity, keeping the Union in touch with its citizens, decentralisation and the increasing role of the regions.

Manfred Dammeyer express satisfaction at the European Commission's stated intention of reinforcing the role of the COR as a political body. The growing importance of the COR must also be reflected in an increase in its membership (currently 222 from the 15 member states) as part of the enlargement process, said Dr Dammeyer.

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