“Democracy, human rights and civic participation are entwined. One is not possible without the others.” AER President, Dr Hande Özsan Bozatli, explains the reasoning behind the 2016 theme, Revitalizing democracy.
2015 has been a challenging year for Europe. Rising unemployment in many countries, divisions on the attitude towards a historic influx of refugees, economic growth weaker than on other continents, terrorist attacks in various countries and a growing feeling among citizens that the European Union, national governments and politics in general are not always measuring up to the challenges.
The AER Fall Bureau’s political discussion on “Facing the refugee crisis”, concluded that the European crisis challenges the social cohesion of our societies and puts into question our values and democracies as such.
Important role for the regions
“This is where AER and its member regions have an important role to play. We know what it means to bring a diversity of cultures, political traditions and thinking together”, Dr Bozatli continues.
“Multilevel governance and a strengthened position for the regions are key elements in finding solutions. In fact, AER, as an organisation, is a symbol in itself of true diversity and a forum for political exchange and debate. It is what brings value to our discussions and exchanges.”
Participation and multilevel governance are key to Democracy
AER has always focused on multilevel governance and participation as the basis for analysing the problems citizens are facing and also for finding the best long-term solutions. Solutions based on principles of solidarity, partnership and shared responsibility, as was underlined during the Fall Bureau’s discussion.
The Executive Board proposes that all activities taking place in 2016 within AER should demonstrate how they contribute to reinforcing democracy. The outcome of our activities must be visible and beneficial, to the citizens and all regional stakeholders who rely on AER’s contributions for the development of regional policy in Europe.
There are several examples on how this will be achieved by the AER Committees. All policies that give the right tools to citizens to innovate, become entrepreneur, promote their culture, access good living conditions including health are and will continue to be at the heart of AER’s work.
Promoting regions with the launch of the AER report on the state of regionalism in Europe; the preparation of the post-2020 period on cohesion policy and structural funds and looking at what others are doing through inter-regional cooperation including cooperation with non European regions through the transatlantic leadership initiative with the USA in 2016.
Countering radicalisation through citizen’s participation, better information on how regions deal with refugees, support to youth involvement, could also be added to the list.
Results are needed
And words are of course not enough, finalizes Dr Bozatli:
“We have to show results. Our role is to provide tools for leadership to the politicians in our member regions. Their citizens will appreciate good local and regional politics and management. This is the basis for their confidence in democracy and in political answers to their problems.”
“We need to value and nurture our diversity. I am more than ever convinced that working together can also mean making use of the power of sub-national diplomacy, to be open to different perspectives and to take into account the complexity of the situation.”