On 3-4 March 2022, The Assembly of European Regions took part in the 9th European Summit of Regions and Cities in Marseille, France.
The European Summit of Regions and Cities is a gathering of local representatives organised every two years by the European Committee of the Regions to discuss the EU’s future challenges. The 9th European Summit took place in the context of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union. This edition aimed to engage local and regional politicians across the EU in debates on the future of Europe, and to show how Europe’s regions and cities play a vital role in placing citizens at the heart of Europe.
The AER featured prominently in this year’s edition, with our President, Magnus Berntsson and Secretary General, Christian Spahr joining high-level discussions on the future of territorial development and youth participation in regional politics.
Partnership at the core of the Recovery
With Europe looking to bounce back from the pandemic, how can we ensure a balanced recovery across all regions? Our President Magnus Berntsson tackled this problem in a high-level panel on future models of territorial development alongside Isabel Natividad Díaz Ayuso, President of the Community of Madrid, Massimiliano Fedriga, President of Italian Conference of Regions, Jean-Claude Marcourt, President of the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies, and Christophe Rouillon, President of the PES Group at the European Committee of the Regions.
The President stressed that European and national stakeholders have to work in partnership with regions for a fair recovery, “Now is the time to turn crisis into opportunity. All levels of governments must work together for a truly sustainable, inclusive and resilient recovery across Europe’s regions.” How to do this in practice? “We need to shift to a place based approach when shaping policies; to engage local and regional authorities in a meaningful manner and provide funding,” he concluded.
The Future of European Democracy: Youth engagement at Regional level
Our Secretary General, Christian Spahr spoke in a dedicated session on youth titled “Youth participation in the revival of democracy and the promotion of European values“. This panel discussed how to get young people involved in debates on the challenges and priorities of the EU at local and regional level, as their ideas will be in the spotlight during the European Year of Youth.
Empowering youth is a key priority of the AER. As young people are under-represented in most political decisions across European countries and regions, delivering a position on the European Year of Youth with concrete recommendations to build back better for all generations and, in particular, in a post-pandemic Europe is one of the AER’s main priorities, as stated in the AER Political Priorities 2020-2025.
This session brought together notable speakers like European Parliament Vice-President, Evelyn Regner, Chair of the European Parliament’s Culture Committee, Sabine Verheyen and Jean Rottner, President of AER member region Grand Est.
Opening the panel, the Secretary General shared responses from 18-24 year-olds from our 2021 Opinion Poll on the expectations of citizens on the future of Europe. The Secretary General highlighted the high expectations young Europeans have for their future, despite the pandemic “Our survey shows just how hopeful, ambitious and optimistic young Europeans are. The AER is committed to giving them a real say in shaping the future of Europe, starting in our regions.”
From the future of territorial development to realising the aspirations of Europe’s youth, the AER was grateful for the chance to share our ideas for stronger European regions as we bounce back from the pandemic. These many fruitful and enriching debates at the European Summit of Regions and Cities in Marseille resulted in a Manifesto of local and regional leaders that we invite you to read HERE.