Support for Ukraine, enlargement and citizen-focused EU legislation were the focus of the European Committee of the Regions meeting in Timişoara.
Support for Ukraine dominated discussions of local and regional leaders from across the European Union as they gathered in the European Capital of Culture on September 18-19, with strong calls for increased funding long-term EU support for Ukraine to enable its reconstruction. , strengthen its decentralization process and support it in its journey towards European membership.
Regional governors, mayors and local councilors – all members of the European Committee of the Regions – have pledged their support for Ukraine in its efforts to end Russia’s war of aggression with statements emphasizing the need for Europe to prove its political resilience by using next year’s European Parliament elections as an opportunity for democratic renewal.
The politicians, who came to Timişoara at the invitation of
Alin-Adrian Nica (RO/PPE), President of the Timiş County Council, met on September 18 to discuss European legislation, then on September 19 for a conference focused on citizen proposals aimed at strengthening democracy in the EU.
Mr Nica, a long-standing member of the European Committee of the Regions and Vice-President of its
institutional and external affairs committee (CIVEX), declared:
“The European Union must be strong in the face of Russia and its war of aggression. It must be strong for Ukraine, now and in the long term – and, to be strong for Ukraine, the EU must also do more to ensure its own democracy is strong and effective, rooted in local democracy and with a growing sense of European identity. Next year’s European elections are an opportunity to increase the political resilience of the EU.”
Dario Nardella (IT/PSE), Mayor of Florence and rapporteur on the Ukraine Facility
“Despite the fact that the war continues, the reconstruction of Ukraine must start now. A large part of the EU’s support for Ukraine in the coming years will come through the Ukraine Facility. We want that the Facility be a stepping stone on Ukraine’s path to development, membership in the EU and to apply in advance as many of the fundamental principles of EU regional policy as possible, in particular the partnership principle and regional strategic planning. We also believe that cities and regions of Ukraine must be involved in every stage of the reconstruction process, from planning, through implementation to monitoring, and therefore , greater importance should be given to the technical assistance pillar of the facility. To maintain support to Ukraine at current levels, we will need to increase the size of the facility beyond the current €50 billion proposed. “.
Reflecting the urgency of establishing a long-term framework for financial support to Ukraine, Mr Nardella’s opinion on the
Installation in Ukraine was fast-tracked for adoption at the plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions in October. The Facility will provide Ukraine with grants, loans and technical support, and establish an investment framework that is expected to mobilize public and private investment for Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction.
Patrick Molinoz (FR/PSE), president of CIVEX and vice-president of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region, declared:
“Russia’s war against Ukraine is the greatest challenge the European Union has ever faced.
should contribute to a long-term process of reconstruction of the country. This is why the financial instrument must be commensurate with the task, while reinforcing an essential decentralization process in Ukraine and proximity to its local and regional levels of government.
I therefore call for the inclusion of EU local and regional authorities in the governance of the Ukraine Facility.”
In a debate on enlargement, CoR members expressed support for the accession of Ukraine and Moldova to the EU, subject to continued reforms, as well as the expansion of the EU in the Western Balkans. Speakers stressed that the success of democratic reforms will be crucial for their chances of joining the EU and for securing public support for their membership.
CoR members also discussed the fight against corruption in the EU, highlighting the damage corruption causes to democracy, trust in elected representatives and the EU internal market. The CoR will issue recommendations later this year.
The EU’s broader agenda of internal democratic reforms was highlighted on September 19 at a conference titled “Strengthening European citizenship by promoting European identity and democratic values” – governors, mayors and councilors discussed with experts and citizens the monitoring of the
Conference on the future of Europe a year-long series of citizen consultations that ended in May 2022. The Conference on the Future of Europe produced
49 proposals for future political priorities and political reform of the EU. Some of the proposals have since been implemented and some are expected to be reflected in the manifestos of European political groups for the European elections, which will be held from June 6 to 9, 2024.
The September 19 conference was opened by the mayor of Timişoara,
.Timişoara is the European Capital of Culture in 2023 and the conference paid particular attention to the role of education and culture in strengthening the concept of active citizenship. Mayor Fritz highlighted Timişoara’s commitment to building on the city’s multicultural European identity and argued for the broader value of culture in political and economic life.
“The very idea of active citizenship is reinforced by culture, but it does not remain in the cultural sphere” he argued that
“We must send the signal that cultural budgets are not where cuts need to be made” . When the European Commission awarded the title to Timişoara, it hailed the city as an example of how culture can be used to boost social and economic development.
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