“Regional interests have to be safeguarded in the new EU Reform Treaty”: Riccardo Illy, President of the Assembly of European Regions (AER, aer.eu) and of the Region Friuli-Venezia Giulia-I, asks EU representatives to maintain the momentum of European integration, by preserving the regional dimension of the text. Mr. Illy’s comments come on the eve of the next Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), which is set to start on Monday.
The AER was a key player during both the European Convention and the previous IGC (2003-2004), as it made sure that the text of the Constitutional Treaty included significant gains for the regions. Among them are:
– the recognition of regional identities, and respect for cultural and linguistic diversity
– the recognition of the principle of local and regional autonomy
– the inclusion of the principle of territorial cohesion as one of the EU’s objectives
– the right of the Committee of the Regions to take the Commission to the European Court of Justice, if the principle of subsidiarity is deemed to have been breached.
– the extension of the principle of subsidiarity to local and regional levels.
– the respect for the organisation of public authorities at national, regional and local levels (as included in the Preamble of the Charter of Fundamental Rights).
The European Council in June also managed to make significant improvements. For example, the new protocol on Services of General Interest mentions the role played by local and regional authorities in managing these services. The Committee of the Region’s mandate has been extended from four to five years, in order to bring it in line with the other European institutions.
At the same time, the protocol on national parliaments will give them eight weeks (rather than the six weeks proposed in the Constitutional Treaty) to raise objections to a draft law on the grounds that subsidiarity has been breached. This will be advantageous to regions which compose the second chambers of national parliaments, such as the German Länder.
More generally, the last EU Council managed to maintain the extension of the Qualified Majority Voting system, as AER President Riccardo Illy advocated exactly one month ago.
The Assembly of European Regions will closely monitor the work of the IGC, and will also ensure that it respects the agreement made by the European Council in respect to the inclusion of the regional dimension in the EU Reform Treaty.
The AER will also work together with the three MEPs (Enrique Baron Crespo, Elmar Brok and Andrew Duff), who will represent the European Parliament at the IGC.
Last but not least, the AER commits itself to engage actively in the communication of key Treaty provisions at the regional level: it is imperative that citizens are not given the impression that their views no longer count, as this will only increase the distance between them and the European Union.
The AER will organise “European Citizens Forums” in the regions and will equip regional politicians with clear information on the Treaty, once it is finally approved by European leaders later this autumn.
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