Europe and the local level

The European Union Committee of the Regions (CoR) estimates that seventy percent of EU policies have a direct regional or local impact, and EU funds can certainly play a significant role in developing regions. The role played by the CoR, connecting local governments with the EU, is therefore very important. The CoR can also put forward a more ambitious view at the EU level, for example regarding the environment. In 2014, the Committee of the Regions urged bolder and binding targets for fifty per cent greenhouse gas reduction along with forty per cent renewable energy and energy efficiency targets. Their opinions can be significant, especially where the regional perspective is valuable.

One of the focusses of QCEA’s work is democratic accountability, as citizen involvement is essential to keep democracies vibrant and representative. QCEA has published a new briefing paper to help Quakers and others to engage more easily with the European level, focussing on the Committee of the Regions and the links between the supranational EU, and sub-national governments. This paper is part of a series: similar guides are available on the European Parliament, and European Commission.

The Committee of the Regions

The Committee of the Regions is an assembly of locally and regionally elected politicians, who come to Brussels to meet five or six times a year. It has several distinct areas in which it works, notably safeguarding the principle of subsidiarity. As a consultative institution, the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council of the European Union are obliged to take its opinions into account during the EU legislative process.

CoR 111th plenary EU Tim De backer

The Committee of Regions in action – the 111th Plenary Session. Image credit: EU/Tim De Backer. Creative Commons license

The CoR also plays an important role in bringing together local and regional governments from across the twenty-eight EU Member States, enabling them to interact and exchange knowledge with each other and with the European Union institutions. This interaction between different levels of government is very important; it can enable better policy-making and regional development.

Relevance to citizens

It is people like yourselves, who can interact closely your local and regional political representatives, who make the Committee of the Regions relevant. The CoR can benefit local areas significantly, for example by supporting EU regional schemes, such as the Covenant of Mayors. Under this scheme, local authorities can sign up to support the EU’s 2020 climate and energy targets by pledging to reduce their emissions by at least 20 per cent by 2020. You can find out more about this and the role of EU regional schemes in the briefing paper. You could also send a letter to your regional or local authority asking them to sign up, which can be downloaded here.

The guide provides advice on how to engage with the Committee of the Regions, with whom to engage and when to engage, to help citizens increase their involvement and make the most out of the CoR’s continent-wide connections. Although the CoR is not the EU’s most powerful institution, it does have an important role in representing the regional perspective, promoting the priorities of regions, and in providing a forum for local and regional politicians from across Europe, at the EU level.

To read the QCEA guide to getting involved on regional issues, click here.

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