Wroclaw, Lower Silesia (PL), 11 June 2008
As the EU awaits the outcome of Ireland’s referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, the political leaders of Europe’s regions were debating the implications for citizens of a ratified Treaty.
The Assembly of European Regions (AER) held Presidium and Bureau sessions this week in Wroclaw (Lower Silesia region, Poland) ahead of a European Citizens Forum tomorrow which will explore the question: ‘What does the Treaty of Lisbon change for citizens?’
The Lisbon Treaty marks a huge step towards the recognition of the principle of regional and local self-government. For the first time, the definition of subsidiarity is extended to include these lower levels, meaning that the EU will not be able to act where local or regional action is more appropriate.
Although 8 out of 10 European citizens see the principle of subsidiarity as a good thing (Eurobarometer #234, March 2008), AER members agree that their electorates understand little about how the Lisbon changes will directly affect them.
Michele Sabban, AER Acting President, said:
‘With the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, the regions will finally become a fully recognised and equal partner in EU policy-making. And because citizens have the easiest and most direct access to regional and local authorities, they will be able to demand EU action on the issues they really care about: health, education, climate change, the economy and the many other challenges AER member regions are addressing together. The Lisbon Treaty is a licence for grass-roots action!’
Mag. Johanna Mikl-Leitner, Minister for Women, Family and Generations of Lower Austria (A), said:
‘The inclusion of local and regional levels under the subsidiarity principle of the Lisbon Treaty means that citizens will have a greater possibility to really feel a part of Europe, since they will be more directly involved in shaping EU politics.’
Roy Perry, former MEP and Deputy Leader Hampshire County Council (GB), said:
‘Meeting here in Poland we are very conscious of how the EU has successfully addressed the European divisions of the 20th century, but now it must be made to work as a union of 27 nations and their regions to address the problems of the 21st century, for example climate change, globalization, and mass migration.’
Last month AER launched its ‘Subsidiarity is a word’ movement to demand recognition of the word in every dictionary of every language worldwide. As the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty draws closer, the movement will turn its focus from demanding recognition of the word to securing respect for the principle in accordance with the new Lisbon Treaty provisions.
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