“First of all I would like to thank you for re-electing me as President of AER. I’m proud and honoured, of course, but let me also take this opportunity to make some reflections on what this means not only to me, but to AER and our role in the world in which we live. The election sends a strong message not only to EU, but to the wider Europe as well.
I think you all agree when I say that the first two years were difficult. The Executive Board and the Secretariat worked hard to put AER back on track. It was hard work, yes, but it was worth it! With the changes decided by the General Assembly in Västra Götaland, we now have a strong foundation to take the next steps.
We will continue to represent the voice of regions on European level and to promote interregional cooperation. We will focus on regional and local political concerns of a pan-European nature and foster leadership excellence on all levels of governance. We will embrace globalisation, beyond Europe, and acknowledge the need of diversity, inclusion and a multi-cultural approach in search of solutions.
As you know, I come from a geography – Istanbul – which has always symbolized cultural diversity, showing that it is indeed possible for people of different cultures and persuasions to live together in peace.
In the invitation to the AER Fall Bureau’s political discussion on “Facing the refugee crisis”, we stated the undeniable fact “The world is facing an unprecedented magnitude of people on the move”. This is not only challenging public leaders and governments of all political levels on how to manage this migration and refugee crisis. More than that, it challenges the social cohesion of our societies and puts into question our values and democracies as such.
The reasons behind – and also the proper solutions – vary depending who you ask. Refugees flee from war and suppression, only to meet a European union, who – due to political inabilities, threats of terror and internal stresses – seem shaken in its foundations.
In this situation, AER and its member regions have an important role to play in finding solutions based on principles of solidarity, partnership and shared responsibility. We know what it means to bring a diversity of cultures, political traditions and thinking together. It is not always easy. In fact, AER, as an organisation, is a symbol in and of itself of true diversity and a forum for political exchange and debate. It is what brings value to our discussions and exchanges, as we will see tomorrow at the Bureau meeting. 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.
The crisis is a crisis for democracy itself. A crisis for the idea of an open society.
Starting immediately after the Bureau meeting tomorrow, AER will launch a series of events and activities to revitalize democracy. We will gather regional political and business leaders, cooperate with universities and NGO’s. We will voice the concerns of people throughout wider Europe – determined to show that regional policy making is grounded in the territories, cultures, histories and lives of the citizens. That’s our aim: political leadership in its broadest sense.
We will make sure the outcome of our activities are visible, and beneficial, to our members but also to our partners and stakeholders who rely on our contributions for the development of regional policy in Europe.”