Kralovehradecky (CZ), 7 May 2004
1st May 2004: the enlargement of the EU became a reality. The political Bureau of the Assembly of European Regions (AER), in order to welcome this event that it prepared since 1989, chose to celebrate it by holding its very first meeting in 2004 in the new EU 25 in the Czech Region of Kralovehradecky. The following decisions were taken:
The Bureau, referring to the third Cohesion report, affirmed the key role of the regions in shaping and delivering the future cohesion policy. “A stronger programme and appropriate funds are needed for interregional and cross-border cooperation in a wider Europe. The regions oppose a new legal instrument which is too strict and binding. Regions do not need a new EU framework to develop cooperation.” said Peter de Martin, Secretary General of the Arge Donauländer.
“There is urgent need for non-discrimination and equal opportunity in airport-airline negotiations. Strict guidelines would be damaging to the sector”, analysed Liese Prokop, “because regional airports are of great importance, notably for the isolated or disadvantaged regions which are highly dependable on this kind of infrastructure to boost their economic development. We decided – added Liese Prokop – to create an alliance which will encompass the representative European organisations of low-cost carriers with EFLAA, the regions within the AER, the regional airports and their regional authorities. This Alliance will be pushing regional and local development and aims to prevent the EU from imposing inflexible guidelines on the field of regional aviation”.
Services of General Interest
“Respect for the subsidiarity principle is essential” said Liese Prokop. “Regions are responsible for the provision of the majority of Services of General Interest, including health, transport, culture and education. Moreover, no in-depth study into the long-term implications of liberalisation of services has been carried out to date. The AER will continue to closely monitor developments in this area” she concluded.
Draft Constitutional Treaty
The AER Bureau expressed its full support for the current efforts to adopt the draft Constitutional Treaty for the newly enlarged Union. The regions raised their concerns, however, towards the draft provisions on the common commercial policy. “These may lead to the liberalisation of cultural, educational, health and social services by a majority vote”, noted Liese Prokop. “The Union should respect the current debate on Services of General Interest in Europe and should not move to the further liberalisation of these services under the GATS”, she stated.
The European Regions have the right to remain non Genetically Modified (GM-free); they need appropriate legal means to make this right true. “Authorising the introduction of GM-crops that have been rejected by 80% of the European citizens is totally illegitimate” underlined Brian Greenslade, President of the AER Committee on ‘Regional development’.
Bureau members are set to agree on the first opinion on the European Commission’s Green Paper on Services of General Interest and the corresponding new directive. They are expected to express reservations about the liberalisation of sectors such as culture, health, social affairs and transport.
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