Ireland’s “yes” vote means that Europe’s regions can look forward to the extension of the subsidiarity principle
Strasbourg (F), 5 October 2009
“The Irish ‘yes’ is not only a vote for the European Union – it is a vote that supports stronger, more involved and more dynamic regions in Europe,” Assembly of European Regions’ (AER) president Michèle Sabban said in the wake of last Friday’s Irish referendum on the proposed Lisbon Treaty. An overwhelming two-thirds of Irish voters supported the changes proposed by the treaty.
The Lisbon Treaty marks a greater recognition of the regional and local dimensions of European decision-making by extending the principle of subsidiarity to include all levels of governance. Thus European Union initiatives will need to involve local and regional levels in the early stages of consultations, and assess the territorial, financial and administrative impact of any new legislation.
The treaty will further allow local and regional authorities an avenue to appeal to the European Court of Justice if they consider that EU legislation has failed to respect the subsidiarity principle.
“When the constitutional treaty was being drafted, AER fought hard for the extension of the subsidiarity principle to regional and local levels,” said Ms Sabban. “And now that those provisions have been included in the Lisbon Treaty, we can look forward to our member regions having a greater say in the decisions that affect their citizens”.
AER’s president added that the treaty’s “right of citizens’ initiative”, by which one million citizens from a “significant number” of Member States can request a specific action from the European Commission, would “open up a golden opportunity for the regions.”
“Regional and local authorities, as the levels closest to and most trusted by citizens, will be able to initiate directly new European legislation,” Ms Sabban noted. “The solidarity among AER’s member regions – of which almost 200 fall within the EU zone – means that we’d have real coordination and rallying power when it comes to gathering one million signatures in support of an initiative. That is subsidiarity at work. Watch this space.”
AER now calls on the Polish and Czech presidents to ensure the treaty’s swift passage into ratification.
AER has been promoting the subsidiarity principle since the organisation was established in 1985. The AER Statute declares as one of the organisation’s key objectives: “To…encourage the application of the principle of subsidiarity”.
In 1991, AER lobbied for the subsidiarity principle to be entrenched in the Maastricht Treaty. In 1995, it campaigned for the revision of the Maastricht Treaty to redefine and strengthen the principle.
In 2005, when the European Constitutional Treaty was being drafted, AER helped to secure the extension of the subsidiarity principle to regional and local levels, as well as a provision allowing the European Court of Justice to hear cases in which EU legislation had allegedly infringed the principle – these provisions have since been included in the Treaty of Lisbon.
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