Vienna (A), 26 November 2004
The members of the Assembly of European Regions, meeting in Vienna on 25th and 26th November 2004 welcomed the signing of the European Constitution as a clear sign that Europe is moving towards the establishment of a Union grounded in the principle of subsidiarity and recognising the key role of the regions in contributing to policy-making. During the meeting in Vienna, the AER decided to commit itself to support the ratification of the Constitution, which creates a significantly improved European framework for regions. The AER urges, however, the EU Member States to respect and to implement the objectives and values set out in the Constitution, notably in the Charter of Fundamental Rights (Part II), which underpins the European social model.
The current developments at European and international level, such as the review and reform of the rules on state aid, the proposed Directive on services in the internal market or the ongoing developments in the context of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) put at stake the very future of services of general interest in Europe. These are mainly delivered by regional and local authorities, in particular in the areas of economic development, education and training, housing, transport, health, care for the elderly and socially-excluded and the protection of the environment.
“Many European regions do not share the EU will to submit all our society to the logic of competition and free trade”, said Liese Prokop, the AER outgoing President. “We also strongly reject any populist arguments that suggest that governments and public administration in general are unable to think and act economically and efficiently. Many regional governments face mounting difficulties, due to the increasingly precarious situation of public budgets in times of moderate economic growth, to rationalise and save costs, and strive for social balance” Ms Prokop added.
In the Final Declaration adopted by the AER members after a two day debate in Vienna, the Regions of Europe call upon the European Council and the national governments to reinvigorate the European social model and the concept of a knowledge society, when reviewing the Lisbon strategy during the Spring Council of 2005.
“The Lisbon strategy should not limit the concept of economic growth to achieving a single market in services, but rather should take into consideration the unique nature of the European social model and how it can contribute to economic growth” pointed out Dr. Riccardo Illy, the new AER President. “We demand that the Union supports the regions’ efforts to combat social exclusion, poverty and promote wellbeing in their territories, by introducing the promotion of social policies as an important objective under the Union’s financial instruments, especially within the Structural Funds, the new instrument for pre-adhesion and the European Neighbourhood and Partnership instrument” Dr. Illy highlighted.
The General Assembly of the Assembly of European Regions opposes any centrally inspired horizontal harmonising of EU legislation in the area of services of general interest, as there is no legal basis for European action in the field. It calls for a wider evaluation of the European rules on competition and state aid, on the basis of an open consultation process that includes the regions, and questions the rigidity of pure economic considerations, which guide the formulation of these rules. The AER also demands that international trade liberalisation be organised in a balanced way, through a democratic process, with the participation of all concerned institutions, including the regions, and stakeholders. Account should be taken of the established values and standards of the European Union, such as human rights, in particular workers’ and children’s rights, and social and environmental standards.
At the initiative of 21 regions of 14 countries, the General Assembly of the Assembly of European Regions adopted the following resolution on Ukraine: “We, the members of the Assembly of European Regions, representing 250 European Regions, express our deepest concern about the situation in Ukraine after the presidential elections. We are convinced of the necessity of finding a political solution which will respect common democratic standards.”
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