Since the creation of the AER in 1985, Europe has achieved significant advances along the path of regionalisation. This trend has obviously been due to the efforts of our members, who for 25 years have been militating for greater recognition of the key role played by the Regions in the construction of Europe, and specifically in its ownership at political and citizen level. Incidentally, over this period, most European countries have experienced decentralisation, to a greater or lesser degree depending on each one’s constitutional and political traditions. The Lisbon Treaty has taken these trends into account. The rise of the regional layer in multi-level governance is now widely recognised, even if only via the right granted to the Committee of the Regions to appeal direct to the Court of Justice of the European Communities in the event of any violation of the principle of subsidiarity. This shows that the principle of local autonomy has certainly been strengthened, but also fully institutionalised following the highly uncertain phase of European construction that culminated in the signature of the Lisbon Treaty.
But this does not mean that the dynamic of regionalisation and decentralisation has been completed or even that it has become widespread. The most recent European legislative elections gave us a reminder that politically, Europe remains both uncertain and perfectible. There is no doubt that in that respect, multi-level governance needs to make a fresh qualitative leap in the years ahead in order to bridge the gulf that has opened between the institutional life of the Union and that of its citizens. The budgetary period currently starting must enable us to achieve the objective of territorial cohesion laid down by the Lisbon Treaty.
It is the objective of better grasping the Regions’ new framework of action that is driving the AER to organise a conference in December that will bring together institutions from the EU, member regions and States, primarily for the sake of exploring a better use of the structural funds. In other areas – be it the fight against climate change or the economic recovery – we must continue to use the exchange of good practices and the development of local solutions to press on towards our common goal of a Europe which is sustainable and geared to its citizens.