The last time Bureau members met, it was the eve of the long-awaited UK referendum; AER was gathered in Bodo (Nordland-NO) for its General Assembly. Words of hope but also concerns were shared by two British politicians, Cllr Roy Perry from Hampshire (AER Vice President for Institutional Affairs) and Mr Brian Greenslade from Devon (Honorary AER member) also long-time AER friends and true Europeans. Numerous Bureau members took the floor show their support in the final countdown. After the initial shock of the results subsided the next day, AER was quick to point out the value of the democratic process and the importance to respect the voice of citizens.
Almost 4 months later, the aftermath of Brexit is still to be fully revealed. But one thing is cristal clear; the European Union model has reached some sort of limit and the growing concerns of Europeans need to be addressed. Although the EU is a (non-negligeable) factor in the lives of Europeans, it is but part of a larger process in the development of (continental) Europe. Bringing together EU and non-EU regions, AER is the first to recognise that the European construction does not stop at the EU-28 borders. So regardless of the disappointment to see the UK leave the EU, British regions will still have opportunities to build a future by other means, AER being one of them.
In the Bureau meeting and conference “Europe after Brexit: is status quo an option”, Bureau members chose to address three main parameters for the future of Europe; (1) vision and values, (2) patterns and institutions, (3) communicate and promote. They worked in the spirit of the “world café” methodology to define their common position and adopt a declaration to voice their ideas and proposals to make the necessary changes in Europe.
Cllr Roy Perry, AER Vice-President for Institutional Affairs and Leader of Hampshire County Council (UK) set the scene with a presentation on the history of EU-UK relations and an analysis of the referendum results.
Two other speakers brought closure to the discussions, including Mr Maximilian Huck, Advisor Press and Information, Austrian Ministry for Europe who spoke about “Europe begins in your municipality“and Mr Jorg Wojahn, Head of the Representation of the European Commission in Austria who gave a visionary speech “Europe is dead ? Long live Europe !”