Under the presidency of Luc Van den Brande, President of the AER and Minister-President of Vlaanderen, the Presidium and the Bureau of the AER met on 12th and 13th February 1998 in Brussels for the first time this year. As a follow-up to the work of the General Assembly of Montpellier, some important decisions were made:
Agenda 2000 for the regions
The Bureau asked a reflection group to draw up, for June 1998, a regional Agenda 2000 on the political role and priorities of the AER for the coming years. The AER would like to see itself as a full regional partner in the construction of Europe, to which the regions make a major contribution.
Promotion of employment
The Bureau launched an appeal to its EU member regions to participate actively in the national plans for employment which are being prepared in their countries. President Luc Van den Brande will write to the Heads of national governments asking them to take account of regional initiatives when they draw up and implement their plans and, at European level, to ensure that the principle of subsidiarity is applied in this area. In carrying out the decisions made by the extraordinary Bureau on Employment and the General Assembly in Montpellier (concerning the creation of an interregional network for the exchange of experiences and the setting up of a permanent observation centre for employment in the regions of Europe), President Van den Brande will draw up, in liaison with the European Commission, a proposal for the implementation of this observation centre. Made up of regional experts and social partners, it will carry out a prospective analysis of the labour market in the regions of Europe and will lead to the exchange of experience on a methodical basis. Moreover, the Bureau appeals to the member regions to take an active role in the exchange process set up last year and to join the unofficial existing network (26 regions participate already) which shall have the necessary interregional information at its disposal.
Enlargement of the European Union
In the perspective of the European Conference on enlargement, the Bureau has asked the Presidents of the six Committees to develop bilateral and multilateral regional partnerships with the regions from candidate countries. Its objective: to ensure the transfer of know-how and the exchange of experiences, the setting up of democratic institutions at regional level, economic development in the regions from the candidate countries and the participation of these regions in European programmes and European regional networks. The AER, which will follow very closely the work of this Conference, will organise, at the end of 1999, a European conference on the contribution of the regions of Europe and the enlargement and integration of the EU.