In their meeting in Batumi on 15 September, the Executive Board reviewed the annual theme that naturally took its place from AER’s new year’s resolution last December. Chosen for 2016, the issue of “Revitalising democracy” is ever more relevant and topical in the current political context and the Executive Board has given the network a strong political impetus by maintaining the theme for 2017.
The issues that led to choosing this topic in 2015 included the refugee and migration crisis, the continued rise of unemployment, terrorist attacks and weaker economic growth. Unfortunately, a new set of severe and alarming factors have given “revitalising democracy” a more pronounced and profound reason for being in the past months.
In the aftermath of Brexit, cleavages and tensions between European countries, political groups and citizens have been brought to light and the very nature of the European Union is more than ever questioned with tendencies to move away from common projects and values. The backstage discussions on the EU regional policy and funds also question some of the core European principles such as solidarity and cohesion. AER is acting on both fronts to safeguard the principles of democracy in our societies; the AER Autumn Bureau meeting in Vienna will question (24-25 October) will question “Europe after Brexit: is status quo an option?” and AER is also playing a pivotal role in the pushing for a Cohesion policy post 2020 for all regions. The latter point will be materialised at the Summit of the Regions on 28 September in Brussels.
The attempted coup in Turkey has shaken the essence of the democratic process. AER is showing support and concern to its member regions via a Delegation with government and opposition officials in an attempt to contribute to the necessary constructive dialogue with Turkey.
AER will continue to develop concrete projects and actions to bring its own building block for the revitalisation of our democracies in 2017.