Regions’ cross-examination of EP leaders “long overdue”
Strasbourg (F), 5 May 2009.
The European Parliament’s political groups last night faced a “cross-examination” hosted by the Assembly of European Regions (AER), Europe’s largest organisation of regional authorities.
Moderated by EU Observer’s Lisbeth Kirk, the panel discussion and audience Q&A brought together regional politicians and students to cross-examine EP political group representatives Gisela Kallenbach (GREENS/EFA, DE) Hannes Swoboda (PES, AT), Graham Watson (ALDE, UK) and Jan Olbrycht (EPP-ED, PL).
AER vice-president and leader of Devon County Council (UK), Brian Greenslade, said: “This is a long-overdue iniative – it has shown that European and regional politicians have a lot in common, most notably the view that Europe needs the regions as much as the regions need Europe.”
On Cohesion Policy, Jan Olbrycht said: “It is important to consider regions as partners at national and European level….[but] if we want to have more for regions, we cannot focus only on the cohesion policy because there are other challenges emerging, for example climate change and de-population.”
On the Lisbon Treaty, Jan Olbrycht said: “What is sure is that the EU will face one big danger, the danger of the internal division of the EU, the division between the strongest and the weakest.”
On the Lisbon Treaty, Gisela Kallenbach said: “It will be a catastrophe if the Lisbon Treaty is not ratified, since it is not only important for the 27 member states but also for the integration of the states, for example, of the former Yugoslavia. And the treaty’s references to the principle of subsidiarity are especially important for cities and regions.”
On the Lisbon Treaty, Graham Watson said: “Lisbon doesn’t do much, but it does do something. There was a big agenda before 2000 to have a regional Europe. But the member states took fright and campaigned against it. But now the treaty can pave the way for the regions to take steps forward again. ”
On youth issues, Gisela Kallenbach said: “Nowadays young people already know that Europe offers them a lot of advantages, but the EU is investing too much on structural funds and too little on “soft” policies such as education and training.”
On youth issues, Roy Perry, AER member and Hampshire county councillor (UK), said: “Europe has to bring some results; it has to gain some points with young people by convincing them that a post-war Europe actually carries some importance in their lives, for example when it comes to issues such as climate change.”
On the economy, Hannes Swoboda emphasised that “the regions must be supported by national governments and the EU, and be given real incentives for new projects to restructure their economies in way that will create jobs and a greener economy.”
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