Palma de Mallorca, 4 October 2004
Developing its key role of bringing the European Regions closer together, the Assembly of European Regions (AER) has risen to a new challenge: to develop North-South cooperation between the regions of the European continent and their neighbours in the Southern Mediterranean. The Region of Illes Balears-E, living up to its geographical role as a link between Europe and the Southern Mediterranean, hosted 80 political representatives of the regions of the AER‘Institutional Affairs’ Committee.
North-South cooperation, a new way to build stable societies
The AER, always convinced of the importance of developing links between the regions of the European Union (EU) and their neighbours, is keen to support the development of democratic processes in the Southern Mediterranean. “Our goal is to support each of our Member Regions in building bridges with other regions. The AER will place its network of 250 regions from 30 countries at the disposal of the regions in the Southern Mediterranean, in order to support these regions in building democratic structures that meet the needs of their citizens. It will achieve this through the development of concrete programmes of exchange of experience and know-how, working together with key partners such as the Untied Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The EU’s new neighbours will benefit from the dissemination of examples of best practice in regional government, and the subsequent strengthening of subsidiarity will benefit all their citizens” stated Peter Straub, President of the AER’s ‘Institutional Affairs’ Committee and President of the Committee of the Regions. “This initiative will build upon the hard work that the AER has undertaken for many years on the issue of EU enlargement. We will now use our expertise to the benefit of its new neighbours in the Southern Mediterranean, Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans”.
Structural funds: the AER appeals to the EU for continued support
The AER welcomes the intention of the EU to support regional development in the new Member States through a reform of its Structural Funds programmes. However, the AER highlights the importance of ensuring that continued support is given to the least developed regions of the old EU Member States (EU 15), which are currently classified as “Objective 1”. The AER, through its 20 years of work with the European Regions, understands the specific difficulties that many of these regions still face. The AER will therefore continue to lobby the European institutions to ensure that support is provided to regions from the “EU-15” that are facing specific handicaps in their development, resulting, for example, from their situation as peripheral or island regions.
Let’s ratify the Constitutional Treaty
At the same time that the EU plays a key role in regional development, the regions have an increasingly important part to play in the development of the EU. The AER has strongly influenced the development of the Constitution. “We have had great success in ensuring that the interests of the regions and their citizens were reflected in the final text of the treaty. We must now ensure that citizens fully understand the significance and relevance of the new Constitution for them, so that they are able to make informed decisions during the ratification process” highlighted Klaus Klipp, Secretary General of the AER. “The AER will assist its member regions in successfully informing their citizens about this important issue. At the beginnig of the making of the institutional treaty in the so call Convention, lead by Valery Giscard d’Estaing, we would not have dreamt of only achieving half of what regions and citizens have achieved now with the Constitutional Treaty”.
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