ISSN 1725-2423

doi:10.3000/17252423.C_2009.211.eng

Official Journal

of the European Union

C 211

European flag  

English edition

Information and Notices

Volume 52
4 September 2009


Notice No

Contents

page

 

I   Resolutions, recommendations and opinions

 

OPINIONS

 

Committee of the Regions

 

80th plenary session 17 and 18 June 2009

2009/C 211/01

The Committee of the Regions' White Paper on multilevel governance

1

2009/C 211/02

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on one year after Lisbon: the Africa-EU partnership at work and The EU, Africa and China: towards trilateral dialogue and cooperation

28

2009/C 211/03

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on enlargement strategy and main challenges 2008-2009: potential candidate countries

34

2009/C 211/04

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the enlargement strategy and main challenges 2008-2009: candidate countries

37

2009/C 211/05

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on Strengthening the Global Approach to Migration: increasing coordination, COHERENCE and Synergies

43

2009/C 211/06

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on a new impetus for halting biodiversity loss

47

2009/C 211/07

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the management of bio-waste in the European Union

54

2009/C 211/08

Resolution of the Committee of the Regions on the European response to the crisis in the automotive sector adopted on 18 June 2009

59

2009/C 211/09

Resolution of the Committee of the Regions on climate change: the road to Copenhagen adopted on 18 June 2009

61

 

III   Preparatory acts

 

Committee of the Regions

 

80th plenary session 17 and 18 June 2009

2009/C 211/10

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the maritime and coastal package

65

2009/C 211/11

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on Community Fisheries Control System

73

2009/C 211/12

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on non-discrimination, equal opportunities and the implementation of the principle of equal treatment between persons

90

EN

 


I Resolutions, recommendations and opinions

OPINIONS

Committee of the Regions

80th plenary session 17 and 18 June 2009

4.9.2009   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 211/1


THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS' WHITE PAPER ON MULTILEVEL GOVERNANCE

(2009/C 211/01)

The Committee of the Regions is launching a general consultation to canvas the views of the local and regional authorities, associations and other stakeholders and calling on them to submit their comments on the best way of implementing multi-level governance in Europe. Comments can be submitted up to 30 November 2009 to the following address:

Comité des régions de l'Union européenne

Cellule de prospective

Bureau VMA 0635

Rue Belliard/Belliardstraat 101

1040 Bruxelles/Brussel

BELGIQUE/BELGIË

or by email to: governance@cor.europa.eu

Own-initiative opinion of the committee of the regions on

The committee of the regions' white paper on multilevel governance

The White Paper reflects the determination to ‘Build Europe in partnership’ and sets two main strategic objectives: encouraging participation in the European process and reinforcing the efficiency of Community action. The fact that public interest in European elections is decreasing, whilst the European Union itself is largely seen as an asset in facing the challenges of globalisation, should prompt political action to be refocused on the principles and mechanisms of multi-level governance.

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

The Committee of the Regions considers multilevel governance to mean coordinated action by the European Union, the Member States and local and regional authorities, based on partnership and aimed at drawing up and implementing EU policies. It leads to responsibility being shared between the different tiers of government concerned and is underpinned by all sources of democratic legitimacy and the representative nature of the different players involved;

recommends that each major Community strategic reform should be accompanied by a regional action plan agreed between the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions, setting out the political mechanisms to facilitate the ownership, implementation and evaluation of the policies adopted, and including a decentralised communication plan;

establishing appropriate tools to support participatory democracy, particularly in the framework of the Lisbon Strategy, social agenda, Gothenburg Strategy and development of ‘Local Agenda 21type mechanisms, which are participatory and integrated mechanisms developing long-term strategic plans;

recommends reinforcing the partnership practice, both vertically between ‘local and regional authorities — national government and European Union’ and horizontally between ‘local and regional authorities — civil society’, particularly in the context of social dialogue;

invites the Commission and the Member States to reform the open method of coordination to make it more inclusive, by developing participatory governance indicators and territorial indicators, in conjunction with regional and local authorities;

recommends that the territorial impact analysis should become standard practice through the involvement, upstream of the policy decision, of the various actors concerned in order to understand the economic, social and environmental repercussions on the regions of Community legislative and non-legislative proposals;

undertakes to submit proposals to support the use of experimentation at local and regional level in certain areas of intervention of the European Union, such as the strategy for growth and jobs, the social agenda, integration policy, innovation policy, cohesion policy, sustainable development and civil defence;

recommends establishing European territorial pacts capable of bringing together, on a voluntary basis, the different competent tiers of government in order to adapt the implementation of the major political priorities and objectives of the European Union on a partnership basis with the local and regional authorities and invites local and regional authorities interested in committing to such a process to indicate their interest as part of the consultation on the implementation of the White Paper.

Rapporteurs:

:

Luc Van den Brande (BE/EPP), Member of the Flemish Parliament, President of the Committee of the Regions

Michel Delebarre (FR/PES), Mayor of Dunkirk, First Vice-President of the Committee of the Regions

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1.

Introduction

2.

Building Europe in partnership

3.

Encouraging participation in the European process

4.

Reinforcing the effectiveness of Community action

5.

Implementing and monitoring the White Paper

‘There are many goals which we cannot achieve on our own, but only in concert. Tasks are shared between the European Union, the Member States and their regions and local authorities’  (1).

1.   Introduction

Governance is one of the main keys to the success of the process of European integration. Europe will be strong, its institutions legitimate, its policies effective, and its citizens feeling involved and engaged if its mode of governance guarantees cooperation between the different tiers of government, in order to implement the Community agenda and meet the global challenges.

This was acknowledged by the Heads of State or of Government in the Berlin Declaration on 25 March 2007. By recognising the scope of multilevel governance, they accepted the vision and conception of Europe that the Committee of the Regions had formulated a few days earlier in its Declaration of Rome (2).

Within the European Union nearly 95 000 local and regional authorities currently have significant powers in key sectors such as education, the environment, economic development, town and country planning, transport, public services and social policies. They also help ensure the exercise of European democracy and citizenship (3).

Both the closeness to the citizens and the diversity of governance at local and regional level is a real asset to the Union. However, despite significant advances having been made in recent years in terms of recognising their role in the European process, substantial progress has yet to be achieved, both at Community level and within the Member States. Change will be gradual, but real efforts are now needed to do away with such administrative cultures that stand in the way of the ongoing processes of decentralisation.

The current global crisis underlines the importance of governance, particularly at European level, and the need for local and regional authorities to be closely involved in shaping and implementing Community strategies, since they implement nearly 70 % of Community legislation and therefore play an essential role in implementing the European Economic Recovery Plan. What is more, in a context of increasing scarcity of public funds, attempts could be made to renationalise common policies and centralise resources, despite the fact that globalisation reinforces the relevance of multilevel governance.

The EU's ability to adapt to the new global context actually depends largely on the potential of its regions to react, act and interact. The European Union must, therefore, have a form of governance that combines:

accepting globalisation and the emergence of a multi-polar world that determines the issues to be addressed by the European Union; and

continuing the process of European integration that abolishes borders, unifies markets and brings people closer together whilst respecting national sovereignties and preserving identities.

In order to secure and develop the European model, it is imperative to overcome two of the main dangers posed by globalisation:

the danger that our societies will become completely uniform: diversity is a value worth promoting;

the danger that inequalities will grow within and between Member States: solidarity is a value that must be defended.

The Committee of the Regions' political initiative comes at a time of transition and change in the process of European integration. The renewal of the European Parliament and the European Commission, the transition to a new institutional framework, the recast of the EU budget and the direct and indirect effects of the global crisis all illustrate the new shape of the Community agenda for the coming years.

Over the coming months the European Union will have to define, review and adjust Community strategies to meet the major global challenges and establish new instruments for implementing them. This next cycle must lead to a new approach to European governance, both in terms of the methodology behind and substance of proposals and the impact of Community intervention.

Multilevel governance actually serves the fundamental political objectives of the European Union: a Europe of citizens, economic growth and social progress, sustainable development, and the role of the European Union as a global player. It reinforces the democratic dimension of the European Union and increases the efficiency of its processes. It does not, however, apply to all EU policies, and when it does, it rarely applies symmetrically or homogenously.

The activities carried out by the Committee of the Regions and the recommendations made are based on the Treaties, but nevertheless reflect the prospect of the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, which enshrines the territorial dimension, notably territorial cohesion, as part of the process of European integration and strengthens the mechanisms of multilevel governance.

Establishing genuine multilevel governance in Europe has always been the strategic priority of the Committee of the Regions. It has now become a condition of good European governance (4). This White Paper acknowledges this priority, proposes clear policy options for improving European governance and recommends specific mechanisms and instruments for stimulating all stages of the European decision-making process. It identifies lines of action and discussion, which may facilitate, in the interests of the citizens, the design and implementation of Community policies (5), it makes commitments to develop these and it offers illustrations of shared governance. In addition, it represents an initial contribution by the Committee of the Regions to the Reflection Group that has been given the task by the European Council of helping the European Union to anticipate and meet challenges more effectively in the longer term (i.e. 2020-2030), taking the Berlin Declaration of 25 March 2007 as its starting point.

The White Paper forms part of a proactive political approach to ‘Building Europe in partnership’ and sets two main strategic objectives: encouraging participation in the European process and reinforcing the efficiency of Community action. The fact that public interest in European elections is decreasing, whilst the European Union itself is largely seen as an asset in facing the challenges of globalisation, should prompt political action to be refocused on the principles and mechanisms of multi-level governance.

2.   Building Europe in partnership

The European Union's capacity to perform its role and achieve Community objectives depends not only on its institutional organisation but also and above all on its mode of governance. The legitimacy, efficiency and visibility of the way the Community operates depend on contributions from all the various players. They are guaranteed if local and regional authorities are genuine ‘partners’ rather than mere ‘intermediaries’. Partnership goes beyond participation and consultation, promoting a more dynamic approach and greater responsibility for the various players. Accordingly, the challenge of multilevel governance is to ensure that there is a complementary balance between institutional governance and partnership-based governance (6). The development of political and administrative culture in the European Union must therefore be encouraged and stimulated. The European public seems to want it.

I.   Citizens and shared governance: Eurobarometer results (7)

The Special Eurobarometer 307 Report on the role and impact of local and regional authorities within the European Union, published in February 2009, highlights the fact that shared governance seems natural for Europeans. The results of this survey, conducted among 27 000 European citizens in the 27 Member States during the autumn of 2008, show that citizens consider that their national political representatives, Members of the European Parliament and local and regional political representatives are equally able to defend their personal interests at European level (29 % trust in their national political representatives, 26 % in their MEPs and 21 % in local and regional representatives).

It confirms that citizens expect a Europe more in step with their day-to-day lives and reliant on the actions of their local and regional elected representatives. In fact, 59 % of them consider that local and regional authorities are not sufficiently taken into account in the European process.

It demonstrates their attachment to local and regional democracy, illustrated by the level of trust that they place in their local and regional elected representatives (50 %) in comparison with the government of their country (34 %) and the European Union (47 %).

In conclusion, this Eurobarometer encourages the establishment of decentralised communication strategies: 26 % of Europeans consider that local and regional elected representatives are best placed to explain how European policies impact on their daily lives (28 % for national political representatives and 21 % for Members of the European Parliament).

The Committee of the Regions considers multilevel governance to mean coordinated action by the European Union, the Member States and local and regional authorities, based on partnership and aimed at drawing up and implementing EU policies. It leads to responsibility being shared between the different tiers of government concerned and is underpinned by all sources of democratic legitimacy and the representative nature of the different players involved. By means of an integrated approach, it entails the joint participation of the different tiers of government in the formulation of Community policies and legislation, with the aid of various mechanisms (consultation, territorial impact analyses, etc.)

Multilevel governance is a dynamic process with a horizontal and vertical dimension, which does not in any way dilute political responsibility. On the contrary, if the mechanisms and instruments are appropriate and applied correctly, it helps to increase joint ownership and implementation. Consequently, multilevel governance represents a political ‘action blueprint’ rather than a legal instrument and cannot be understood solely through the lens of the division of powers.

In 2001, in its White Paper on European Governance (8), the European Commission identified five principles underpinning good governance, namely: openness, participation, responsibility, effectiveness and coherence. Multilevel governance ensures that these principles are implemented, maintained and enhanced.

The implementation of multilevel governance depends on respect for the principle of subsidiarity, which prevents decisions from being restricted to a single tier of government and which guarantees that policies are conceived and applied at the most appropriate level. Respect for the principle of subsidiarity and multilevel governance are indissociable: one indicates the responsibilities of the different tiers of government, whilst the other emphasises their interaction.

The European Union is underpinned by a set of common values and fundamental rights that has been the basis for the emergence of a common political culture at the level of the European Union. Subsidiarity, proportionality, proximity, partnership, participation, solidarity and mutual loyalty are the key principles that inspire and guide Community action. They shape the European model of protection for fundamental rights, which include local and regional autonomy and respect for diversity. Promoting and preserving this model requires responsibility to be shared between all tiers of government.

The Committee of the Regions is also helping to implement the Memorandum of Understanding between the European Union and the Council of Europe, with a view to establishing a pan-European consensus on multilevel governance based on democratic values and principles and the constitutional set of fundamental rights (9).

Multilevel governance is not simply a question of translating European or national objectives into local or regional action, but must also be understood as a process for integrating the objectives of local and regional authorities within the strategies of the European Union. Moreover, multilevel governance should reinforce and shape the responsibilities of local and regional authorities at national level and encourage their participation in the coordination of European policy, in this way helping to design and implement Community policies.

The conditions for good multilevel governance actually depend on the Member States themselves. Although there is a clear trend in Europe towards a process of decentralisation, which is certainly not uniform but nonetheless widespread, the conditions for this shared governance have not yet been met in full. The principles and mechanisms of consultation, coordination, cooperation and evaluation recommended at Community level must firstly be applied within the Member States.

The constituent shift from a resource-based to a knowledge-based European society necessitates a corresponding change in modes of governance, which should focus in the future on a more cross-cutting holistic and inclusive approach resulting in more targeted Community strategies and the introduction of coordinated and integrated common policies. The European Union's budget should reflect the progress towards integration, based on drawing-up and financing of common policies and Community actions of an experimental nature.

The Community method must remain the cornerstone of European governance  (10). It has in fact so far ensured the success of the process of European integration but must, however, be adaptable in order to remain an effective and transparent model of political organisation.

To put multilevel governance into practice, the Committee of the Regions:

Undertakes to:

initiate a consultation process with a view to drawing up a European Union Charter on multilevel governance, which would establish the principles and methods for developing a common and shared understanding of European governance, based on respect for the principle of subsidiarity, which would support local and regional governance and the process of decentralisation in the Member States, candidate countries and neighbouring states, and which would stand as a guarantee of the political will to respect the independence of local and regional authorities and their involvement in the European decision-making process;

encourage the protection of fundamental rights at various levels and cooperate to this end with the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in order to promote and disseminate the best practices developed at local and regional level (11);

take part in the Community debate and future negotiations in order to advocate an ambitious Community budget which will have the necessary resources to anticipate responses to global challenges and implement integrated and coordinated strategies, and which will form the anchorage and leverage for partnerships contracted between the different public levels.

Recommends:

that each major Community strategic reform should be accompanied by a regional action plan agreed between the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions, setting out the political mechanisms to facilitate the ownership, implementation and evaluation of the policies adopted, and including a decentralised communication plan. This measure would allow a sea change in the current process, which too often leaves local and regional authorities out of the Community action design phase;

that the growth and stability pacts produced by the Member States, and their evaluation by the European Commission, should take proper account of the quantitative and qualitative dimension of local and regional finances and should more closely involve local and regional authorities in the process of controlling public spending.

3.   Encouraging participation in the European process

Getting the citizens to sign up to the European process is a challenge of credibility for European democracy. European citizenship is built, and European governance is based, on participation. This has two dimensions: representative democracy, which is its foundation, and participatory democracy, which enhances it. Good European governance actually requires the elected authorities and civil society actors to cooperate for the common good. Local and regional authorities are invested with an indisputable democratic legitimacy. Being directly responsible to the citizens, they represent a huge part of the democratic legitimacy within the European Union and exercise a large number of political powers. As a result, multilevel governance must combine the institutional recognition of the different tiers of government in Europe, through appropriate mechanisms, with the organisation of political cooperation and the stimulation of the European public sphere.

Strengthening institutional representation

Guaranteed since the Treaty of Maastricht, institutional representation for local and regional authorities has been strengthened in the course of the successive institutional reforms. The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty would represent an important step towards institutional recognition of multilevel governance in the way the European Union operates. In this respect, strengthening the representation and influence of local and regional authorities in the Community decision-making process must be encouraged both within the Committee of the Regions and in the activities of the Council of the European Union. Since 1994 the Treaties have allowed the regions, in accordance with the respective national constitutional structures, to participate in the activities of the Council of the European Union. This direct participation allows the representatives of the regions concerned to be included in Member State delegations, to be authorised to lead the national delegation and, where necessary, to assume the presidency of the Council.

To put multilevel governance into practice, the Committee of the Regions:

Undertakes to:

reinforce, in accordance with its Mission Statement, its status as a political assembly, its involvement upstream of the decision-making process in the design of European strategies and Community legislation, monitoring of the principle of subsidiarity in the spirit and tenor of the Treaty of Lisbon, evaluation of the territorial impact of Community policies, and its role as a facilitator of participatory democracy in Europe;

develop, to this end, its interinstitutional relations with the European Commission with a view to revising its cooperation agreement, with the European Parliament in the context of the policy programme for the next legislative term and, finally, with the Council of the European Union in order to harmonise the intergovernmental dynamic of the political action of local and regional elected representatives in designing and implementing European decisions;

continue its work to get closer to the national parliamentary assemblies and regional legislative assemblies, particularly within the process of monitoring subsidiarity.

Calls on the Member States to:

invite the CoR to participate systematically in the formal or informal Councils on Community policies falling within the areas in which they must be consulted or involving in particular the responsibilities of local and regional authorities;

allow the CoR to take advantage of access to Council documents, in the same way as the other European institutions participating in the preparation of Community legislation.

Invites the Member States to:

put in place, where there is no possibility of formal representation within the Council or its preparatory commissions, internal processes of consultation and coordination with local and regional authorities with electronic access to the Member States' database for monitoring draft EU legislation, in order both to take account of their know-how in the preparation of the national position and to provide an opportunity for them to take part in subsidiarity monitoring;

strengthen and enhance existing mechanisms for preparing the national position and for formal representation in the Council, so that these mechanisms are fully in line with the distribution of competences as established in the relevant constitutional system.

Organising political cooperation

Multilevel governance presupposes the existence of mutual loyalty between all the various levels of government and the institutions to reach common goals. The institutional framework is fundamental but is not enough to guarantee good governance. On the contrary, good cooperation between the various levels of political power and the institutions is absolutely vital; it has to be based on trust, rather than on confrontation between the different legitimate political and democratic roles.

European democracy would be reinforced by more inclusive and flexible interinstitutional cooperation and by more sustained political cooperation between the various levels of power; European political parties, which are a particularly important element for strengthening the European political sphere and thus helping to develop a political culture of multilevel governance.

Because of the political nature of the Committee of the Regions and the European Parliament, it is logical that they should work closely together to strengthen the democratic legitimacy of the process of European integration, both in the context of the European political groups and families, and also in the context of their various decision-making bodies (12).

Interparliamentary cooperation is gradually becoming a vital component of democratic legitimacy and of the process of drafting European legislation. Multilevel governance is a way of also involving all local and regional authorities more explicitly in the process. In particular, under the ‘early warning’ mechanism proposed in the Lisbon Treaty, regional parliaments and regional legislative assemblies will be able to play a part in appraising the application of the subsidiarity principle.

The proposal of the Lisbon Treaty applies to all Member States but can be implemented in different ways. Consequently, the CoR encourages Member States whose national parliaments do not have a chamber representing local and regional authorities to provide for their involvement in the monitoring of the subsidiarity principle.

To put multilevel governance into practice, the Committee of the Regions:

Undertakes to:

strengthen political and institutional cooperation with the European Parliament to ensure that the concerns of citizens are taken into account in the design and implementation of Community action;

support the pilot initiative of an ‘Erasmus programme for local and regional elected representatives’ and cooperate to this end with the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission on its conceptual and operational development, and encourage the introduction of training programmes and experience and good practice exchange programmes intended for local and regional elected representatives.

Invites:

councils of local and regional elected representatives to devote special sessions to European integration and European policies and to involve, in their debates, representatives of the various European institutions engaged in shared governance.

The Covenant of Mayors forms a reference model for the active engagement of cities and regions in achieving strategic goals in the European Union and should be extended to other areas such as employment, integration policy or social exclusion.

II.   The Covenant of Mayors: committing to and cooperating in the fight against climate change

The Covenant of Mayors is a political initiative which seeks to unite the Mayors of European towns and cities around a shared goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 2020: 20 % reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, 20 % improvement in energy efficiency and 20 % use of renewable energies in the consumption of energy.

Cities and regions are responsible for over half of greenhouse gas emissions generated by the use of energy in human activities. It was therefore essential to create an appropriate framework so that cities, regions and Member States could assume responsibility in the fight against climate change.

By signing this Covenant, Mayors voluntarily commit to implementing an Action Plan for sustainable energy in their community. The Covenant allows pioneering experiments to be shared, facilitates the exchange of good practices and increases the awareness of citizens and local socioeconomic actors with regard to sustainable energy use.

The Committee of the Regions is working with the European Commission to develop this initiative and plans to extend it to regional authorities. The action plans of towns and cities actually need to fit within the context of regional and national action plans.

To reinforce the effectiveness of the Covenant of Mayors, it is also essential that the political mobilisation on the ground is followed by specific responses in terms of European policy and funding: loans from the European Investment Bank should be readily accessible for local authorities and regions willing to invest in energy efficiency programmes and promote the use of renewable energy sources.

Note: In March 2009 nearly 470 European cities had signed the Covenant and many others had stated their intention to do so.

Local and regional authorities have over time become vital players in the external policy of the European Union and in the enlargement strategy. Without duplicating the relevant mechanisms at Community level, the empirical approach which has predominated in the development of the international relations of local and regional authorities is now turning them into players in globalisation.

The added value of participation by local and regional authorities in the enlargement process has been proven during previous enlargements and must be a reference point in the implementation of the current strategy to create a dynamic for lasting democracy at local and regional level  (13)  (14).

Convincing examples of the relevance of multilevel governance can also be found in the regional approach to the European neighbourhood policy (e.g. the Mediterranean Dimension, the Eastern Partnership, the Black Sea Synergy initiative and the Northern Dimension), as well as the European wider neighbourhood policy (incorporating the EU's outermost regions), which is intended to be supported by effective cooperation at local and regional level. It is in this way that the Euro-Mediterranean Local and Regional Assembly (ARLEM), part of the governance of the Union for the Mediterranean, a Local and Regional Assembly for Eastern Europe and the Southern Caucasus for the Eastern Partnership proposed by the European Commission or a permanent territorial Forum for the Northern Dimension suggested by the Committee of the Regions could add an integrated and operational dynamic to the neighbourhood policy.

III.   Local and regional authorities as partners of the Union for the Mediterranean

In order to give the renewed Euro-Mediterranean Partnership a territorial dimension and to ensure local and regional political representation within it, the Committee of the Regions has decided to set up the Euro-Mediterranean Local and Regional Assembly (ARLEM).

The Euro-Mediterranean Heads of State and Government who met in Paris on 13 July 2008 supported the political initiative of the Committee of the Regions. ARLEM aims to enhance this partnership through a local and regional dimension and, consequently, to guarantee appropriate representation of local and regional authorities and their active participation in its governance. It enables local and regional authorities to produce concrete results and to make this partnership a tangible reality for citizens.

ARLEM consists of an equal number of local and regional representatives of the EU and its Mediterranean partners and aims to be recognised as a consultative assembly of the new governance of the Union for the Mediterranean. It will also focus on the participation of local and regional authorities in specific projects in a wide range of areas such as business development, the environment, energy, transport, education, culture, migration, health and decentralised cooperation. By promoting the exchange of good practices, it will encourage territorial cooperation and offer new paths for dialogue.

Moreover, traditional multilateralism, characterised by collaboration between national governments and the United Nations, is developing and expanding due to the systematic collaboration of local and regional authorities. Given this observation, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has set up ‘a platform for innovative partnerships’ (15).

Multilevel governance no longer takes a sectoral approach, but rather a territorial approach to development strategies in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, given the constraints of overly centralising, sectoral and vertical approaches, which have for too long predominated in development aid (16). Diplomacy by towns and cities forms another lever for political cooperation in the framework of the European Union's external action that should not be ignored because it allows major diplomatic and political obstacles to be overcome.

Twinnings and programmes for border region cooperation have become an essential tool in the accession and pre-accession process and in the framework of the neighbourhood policy. In the context of globalisation, they perpetuate the values of European integration by developing new forms of solidarity (17).

By recognising the contribution of territorial governance and decentralised cooperation, international and European institutions have in recent years strengthened the role of local and regional authorities in global governance  (18).

To put multilevel governance into practice, the Committee of the Regions:

Undertakes to:

evaluate the experiences of local and regional authorities during previous enlargements, assisted by its working groups on the Western Balkans, Turkey and Croatia, and by the Joint Consultative Committee for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia;

develop the political and operational potential of local and regional assemblies in support of the European neighbourhood policy; insists in this respect on the importance of interinstitutional cooperation and coordination with the other existing mechanisms;

drive, in partnership with the European Commission, the ‘decentralised cooperation stock exchange’, in the form of an Internet portal, in order to organise, using virtual means, the exchange of information between European local and regional authorities active in development cooperation, thus helping to match up the projects of European local and regional authorities and developing countries (19);

strengthen its institutional position as a body of the European Union which is responsible for the development of local and regional democracy in the framework of the EU's external policy, through electoral observation missions in Europe and third countries, and reinforce its cooperation to this end with the European Commission and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

Calls on the European Commission to:

consider adopting a voluntary political charter on the involvement of local and regional authorities in the enlargement process, which would form a common reference for developing the pre-accession aid instrument in line with the needs of local and regional authorities and for reinforcing cross-border cooperation and the institutional and administrative capacity of the local and regional structures of candidate and potential candidate countries (20).

Stimulating participatory democracy

Governance is increasingly assuming a network structure and favours a horizontal cooperation dynamic. This development is ideal for taking account of the many active networks at local and regional level in Europe and throughout the world. Connecting them with the European process in order to contribute to the success of common policies and their ownership by the citizens is the task that falls to the Committee of the Regions with regard to these opinion multipliers.

IV.   Open Days: European Week of Regions and Cities

Each year the Committee of the Regions and the Directorate-General for Regional Policy of the European Commission organise Open Days in Brussels as part of the ‘European Week of Regions and Cities’. Within the framework of an interinstitutional partnership extended to the presidency of the Union and to the European Parliament, this event brings together over 7 000 participants and nearly 250 partners. Official partners for the event are regions and their liaison offices in Brussels, together with numerous local partners, such as local associations and research institutes. These partners play a leading role in organising the numerous seminars, workshops and much of the Open Days' main programme.

On a theme linked to the Community agenda and to the European priorities of local and regional authorities, events, seminars, workshops, media-targeted activities and exhibitions bring together, with European, national, regional and local politicians, experts and representatives of socioeconomic circles, trade unions, financial organisations and civil society.

This event in Brussels is accompanied by events in the partner cities and regions, thereby encouraging the exchange of experiences, the interconnection of networks and the comparison of ideas and expertise (21).

Networks, organisations and associations of local and regional authorities help to mobilise these authorities within the European process and involve them in the operational mechanisms of territorial cooperation (22). Since the Committee of the Regions was set up, the collaboration pursued with the main European and national associations of local and regional authorities and certain thematic networks has allowed a complementary balance to be established between its institutional role and that of these organisations. In taking forward its work, and in promotion of the objectives and measures set out in the White Paper, the Committee of the Regions will strive to work in partnership with the European associations of local and regional government.

Multilevel governance also looks as though it could be extremely useful for promoting active citizenship and could provide a decentralised communication policy that is more in line with the public's real and immediate expectations, by gradually helping to bridge the gap separating people from the Community institutions and their political leaders.

The principal aims of decentralised communication on Europe are to foster the integration of the European dimension into policy management at local and regional level and to facilitate interaction with local and regional media and the use of innovative, new communication technologies, particularly Web 2.0 resources, at local and regional level. It will also stimulate the organisation of political debates and public meetings on Europe at local and regional level, thereby fostering active citizenship and encouraging people to get involved in European matters.

To put multilevel governance into practice, the Committee of the Regions:

Undertakes to:

develop a sustained approach for collaboration with relevant networks at local and regional level, which foster interconnection and interaction in European society between the political, economic, associative and cultural spheres, and take account of the best participation practices at local and regional level;

help to implement a genuine decentralised communication policy, the scope of which was recognised in the joint declaration of the European Parliament, European Commission and Council on ‘Communicating Europe in partnership’ (23), which depends on the political involvement of institutional actors to constantly drive the European debate in European cities and regions and report the decisions taken at Community level;

establish an action plan which differentiates between the communication tools according to the set objectives and political areas concerned, so that communication on strategy and common policies is coherent with their result for citizens at local and regional level, and submit the appropriate recommendations to the Interinstitutional Group on Information (IGI) (24);

propose methods and tools to be used at local and regional level in order to bridge the communication gap and encourage increased coverage by local and regional media of the impact of EU policies on the daily life of citizens and to boost their potential for communication, information and mediation on Europe by using new communication tools, particularly the Web 2.0 instrument.

Recommends:

establishing appropriate tools to support participatory democracy, particularly in the framework of the Lisbon Strategy, social agenda, Gothenburg Strategy and development of ‘Local Agenda 21type mechanisms, which are participatory and integrated mechanisms developing long-term strategic plans (25);

exploring the scope for cooperation, once the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force, between itself, local and regional authorities and the other EU institutions with regard to developing the instrument of a European Citizens initiative in order to realise its potential to foster a genuine European political debate and thus improve the legitimacy of the EU's multilevel governance system;

improving European civic education through the know-how of local and regional authorities.

Calls on the European Commission:

to take account of new parameters in its evaluation of the opinion of European citizens (Eurobarometer), as these parameters indicate the real engagement of local and regional authorities in the functioning of the European Union and the implementation of common policies and strategies.

Invites:

the Member States to implement more inclusive e-governance for cities and regions and the latter to convey, via their communication policy and their system of e-governance, an increased awareness of the achievements of the European Union and its challenges for the citizens;

the Community institutions to put in place a Web 2.0 type communication strategy and use the new Internet social sites such as YouTube/EU Tube.

4.   Reinforcing the effectiveness of Community action

Multilevel governance aims to reinforce Community action in those areas which are at the heart of European citizens' concerns. In an area as cohesive as the European Union, any Community measure has a direct impact on the regions and their inhabitants. Striking a balance between the Community's goals and the territorial impact of these policies is thus crucial. The White Paper's recommendations will therefore aim to match the Community's ambitions more closely to the practical and diverse management and planning situations faced by local and regional elected representatives when implementing major Community policies.

Choosing appropriate instruments is the key factor in guaranteeing the effectiveness of the Community method and in developing the standards of European governance by affording greater importance to differentiation and specialisation. Linking these instruments between the different tiers of government therefore guarantees coherence in the Community action. The processes of consultation, experimentation and territorial impact analysis, the open method of coordination and the legal instruments for establishing contracts, such as regional pacts or the European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation, must be developed in order to counteract the negative effects of the concentration of decision-making power, dispersal of action and dilution of results. These mechanisms and instruments form new ways of achieving the strategic goals of the European Union.

Designing and implementing common policies in partnership

This flexible form of governance can be successfully adapted, using various mechanisms, to the different common policies according to their characteristics. Cohesion policy is regarded as a good example of multilevel governance and environment policy has been a laboratory for certain mechanisms and practices.

V.   European cohesion policy: leverage effects for Community policies

For 20 years cohesion policy has consistently proven its added value and has become for citizens, through the development of specific projects, the perfect example of European solidarity. It has developed over time: created to accompany the launch of the single market in order to ensure the development of the weakest regions, it has helped to mitigate the socioeconomic disparities generated by successive enlargements of the Union. It has also become an important tool for supporting the strategy for growth and jobs in all the EU territories. Recently it has been required to support the European Economic Recovery Plan.

European cohesion policy, which currently represents one-third of the Community budget, has a real financial leverage and interinstitutional partnership effect, boosted by the use of public-private partnerships and financial tools of the European Investment Bank. The leverage effect of European cohesion policy can also be seen in its capacity to encourage harmony at European level between local, regional and national strategic development priorities.

Another notable aspect of the leverage effect associated with the use of the Structural Funds is the reinforcement of the institutional abilities of governments. By stimulating their management capacity and harmonising their procedures at European level, cohesion policy has encouraged the implementation of Community policies. Finally, due to the virtues of the partnership and cooperation between public institutions and civil society actors, cohesion policy has led to the establishment of comprehensive solutions to differing situations within the European Union.

To provide a broader definition of territorial cohesion that takes into account the new challenges faced by regional and local authorities (globalisation, climate change, energy security, immigration, etc.), the specific objectives for which European funding is given need to be defined in a more flexible way which allows for the fact that each region has very different characteristics and each has its own competitiveness and sustainability strategy.

Furthermore, in the policy fields where the European Union does not have explicit responsibility but where Community policy does have an effect, such as housing policy and large segments of services of general interest, multilevel governance is a tool which enables the cross-cutting nature of these fields to be seen and makes it possible to transcend an overly rigid interpretation of the division of responsibilities in order to reach common objectives whilst maintaining due regard for the constitutional and administrative diversity of the respective Member States.

To put multilevel governance into practice, the Committee of the Regions:

Undertakes to:

plan and launch initiatives aimed at disseminating good practices in the area of partnership, linked to the definition of local, regional, national and supranational political priorities in the Member States, and support all the initiatives launched by the Member States, the European Parliament and the European Commission in order to apply the principle of partnership with local and regional authorities, not only during the policy implementation phase but also, and above all, during the preparation of these policies;

propose interinstitutional mechanisms reinforcing the political and strategic nature of the evaluation of European cohesion policy, by consolidating the reports drawn up at national and regional level within a European framework of analysis and projection.

Recommends:

reinforcing the partnership practice, both vertically between ‘local and regional authorities — national government and European Union’ and horizontally between ‘local and regional authorities — civil society’, particularly in the context of social dialogue, ensuring that Europeans can participate through the bodies which have been set up for the purpose by the different public authorities, especially those authorities which — due to their geographic location or the principle of subsidiarity — are closest to the European people. This will allow different social groups to put forward their opinions on aspects of EU initiatives and make suggestions;

simplifying and rationalising administrative procedures in order to establish a legal, administrative and financial framework that is capable of innovative action, and creating new tools to foster regional innovation and increase methods of financing (venture capital, business angels, micro-credits, etc.);

reinforcing the administrative capabilities of local and regional authorities in order to guarantee competent management of projects and increase exchanges of good practices in the European Union in terms of regional governance;

Calls on the European Commission to:

study on a case-by-case basis the possible changes to Community policies in terms of a reinforced partnership;

encourage coordination between the actions of the Structural Funds, sectoral programmes and rural development programmes;

evaluate the progress made in simplifying and decentralising the management of the Structural Funds during the period 2007-2013, looking in particular at the proportionality of administrative burdens with regard to the type and size of the action and to the effects these have on local and regional authorities.

Coordinating the European process

The coordinated action of the various levels of government, on the one hand, and the coordination of policies and instruments, on the other hand, are vital to improve European governance and the implementation of Community strategies. The economic crisis and the agreement on the urgent need for a coordinated EU response underline the essential nature of coordination, but also illustrate the persistent difficulties in ensuring such joint action because of a lack of coordination and mutual trust. The crisis is therefore a test for the process of European integration. The challenge is whether the EU has the capacity to coordinate the political action in aid of recovery in order to propose a more balanced alternative of sustainable development and territorial cohesion through the cooperation of various actors, the direct involvement of local and regional authorities and recourse to the public-private partnership (26). The mechanisms of European integration through the Community method and intergovernmental cooperation must be coordinated based on European recovery instruments of a financial, economic, social and regional nature and improved coordination of crisis management policies (extra flexibility in the European Structural Funds, the European Globalisation Adjustment fund, support from the EIB, etc) and post-crisis policies (innovation policies, industrial policy, etc.) (26).

The Community method is the best way to guarantee the implementation of multilevel governance. However, without calling into question its predominance, the open method of coordination, which seeks to enhance the Community method based on the institutional triangle and exclusive legislative initiative of the Commission, in areas where the European Union is only empowered to coordinate or support, has been used for a number of years. Used on a case-by-case basis, it would offer a way of encouraging cooperation, exchanging good practices and agreeing on common objectives and strategies for the Member States, while taking into account the subsidiarity principle.

The open method of coordination has not yet, however, with regard to its initial objectives, provided the expected added value and has not proven satisfactory for local and regional authorities, which are not sufficiently involved. On the other hand, the latter consider that it could be extended, provided that it becomes more inclusive, like other areas of action.

VI.   The Lisbon Monitoring Platform of the Committee of the Regions

In 2006 the Committee of the Regions set up a Lisbon Monitoring Platform (LMP), which now consists of over one hundred regions and cities from 26 Member States. This exchange and evaluation network monitors the involvement of local and regional authorities in the governance of the Lisbon Strategy and its link with cohesion policy.

In its monitoring report: ‘Achieving the Lisbon goals through coordinated and integrated territorial policymaking’, it underlines the need for all the relevant government levels to step up a gear towards the synchronisation and integration of their policy agendas and to adopt a wider range of legal tools.

During the European Summit of the Regions and Cities in Prague on 5-6 March 2009 the Committee of the Regions specifically launched a consultation process on the future strategy for growth and jobs, with a view to the local and regional authorities participating upstream of its design (www.lisbon.cor.europa.eu).

In order to improve the framework conditions for businesses, particularly SMEs, the Committee of the Regions intends to create an innovative prize designed to identify the most enterprising regions across the European Union. The label of ‘the most enterprising European region’ awarded each year will give the regions an incentive to develop a strategic plan of long-term economic and social reforms that will be widely supported by the population and local stakeholders.

In this way the Committee of the Regions aims to give added impetus to the launch of the new strategy for growth and jobs post-Lisbon, while ensuring the widespread use of the 10 principles of the ‘Small Business Act’ of the European Union at local and regional level.

The Lisbon Strategy undeniably lacks coordination and continues to represent an exclusively top-down approach. The Lisbon paradox highlighted by the Committee of the Regions' LMP reveals that the level of involvement of local and regional authorities has been insufficient and underlines the urgent need to introduce a more decentralised Community strategy for growth and jobs, based on the potential of the regions and cities, which, due to their know-how, are the main drivers of innovation, research and education in Europe (27).

The recovery of the European economy also requires the goals of the ‘Small Business Act’ for Europe to be achieved. This must involve a partnership with the local and regional authorities (28).

To put multilevel governance into practice, the Committee of the Regions:

Undertakes to:

examine the opinions on an open method of regionalised coordination and determine the areas of Community action in which the open method of coordination would be most appropriate for the local and regional authorities, by considering, in particular, immigration and integration policy, innovation and education;

present to the European Council in March 2010 the results of the consultation with local and regional authorities on the future of the Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs.

Calls:

on the Member States to support the open method of coordination through local or regional action plans and, conversely, to help ensure that regional and local plans are taken into account in national plans and are the subject of multilevel written agreements; and, as a result, calls on the European Commission to recognise the existence of regional and local contact points in the context of monitoring the open method of coordination.

Invites the Commission and the Member States to:

reform the open method of coordination to make it more inclusive, by developing, in conjunction with regional and local authorities, more effective participatory governance indicators and territorial indicators (29);

identify, in close collaboration with local and regional authorities, the obstacles to the application of the single market which are currently being faced by the regions, cities and municipalities, and the appropriate solutions to adapt the single market to the current economic and social context;

ensure the local and regional authorities are properly involved in revising the Lisbon Strategy post-2010.

Developing integrated policies

The integrated approach guarantees the effectiveness of common policies. It involves a vertical dimension, which presupposes better coordination and cooperation between the different tiers of government, and a horizontal dimension, which imposes a coherent implementation of sectoral policies to ensure sustainable development and synergy with the other relevant policies of the European Union.

Implementing territorial cohesion as a Community objective is therefore fundamental for the future of common policies. The scope of territorial cohesion must take account of three dimensions: firstly, a reform dimension by ‘reducing existing disparities’ and ensuring all Europeans have equal access to essential public services wherever they live; secondly, a prevention dimension to make sectoral policies which have a spatial impact more coherent by striving for the full use of the endogenous resources of less favoured areas, thereby helping the population to continue living in these areas and thirdly, an incentive dimension by improving ‘territorial integration’ and encouraging cooperation.

Territorial cohesion, which with the Treaty of Lisbon becomes a responsibility shared between the European Union and Member States, must be present in all sectoral policies and must become an incarnation of multilevel governance. Urban governance is also vital for the successful implementation of sustainable development strategies in urban areas, not only to coordinate all the tiers of government but also to involve local players. Urban governance in an integrated approach must tackle the three pillars of sustainable development — the environment, the economy and social issues — in order to guarantee real social and territorial cohesion. Other common policies are also appropriate to foster an integrated and coherent approach. Integrated strategies should be drawn up for rural areas which are based on multi-level governance and are designed to boost sustainable development and competitiveness. These strategies should contain measures designed to tackle the regions' natural handicaps, together with the imbalances between these areas and urban areas.

VII.   An integrated maritime policy for the European Union

The development of an integrated maritime policy for the EU represents one of the rare examples at European level of an attempted common approach to several sectoral policies based on a territorial typology. The process, which began with the Green Paper in 2006 and continued with the Blue Paper, has heavily involved local and regional players interested in developing an integrated approach to the management of maritime areas: transport, environment, renewable energies and economic development are some of the sectors covered by a policy born of the ambition to integrate, in a horizontal manner, the requirements linked to sustainable development and to the safety of our seas, at last recognised as natural and economic resources that are crucial to the European continent.

This ambition must be accompanied by appropriate mechanisms to reinforce the federating effect of an integrated maritime political vision. In this regard, the Committee of the Regions believes that it is necessary to change the EU's financing mechanism to a single simplified system, which would bring together all maritime issues — or the majority of them — within a European Coast and Island Fund, and to create a European marine platform, uniting local and regional authorities and the relevant players to give an instrument which can help divide up the responsibilities and disseminate good practices.

Optimising the reinforced culture of consultation

Since 2002 steps have been taken to develop the reinforced culture of consultation called for in the White Paper on European Governance, which recognised that ‘investment in good consultation “upstream” may produce better legislation which is adopted more rapidly and easier to apply and enforce’.

The dialogue that takes place between the European Commission and stakeholders prior to the presentation of proposals and the adoption of political initiatives can take several different forms:

consultation as part of the legislative process, particularly with the Committee of the Regions, as the institutional representative of local and regional authorities;

mechanisms for sectoral consultation, which take account of the specific conditions for EU intervention in its various policy fields;

the establishment of a coherent consultation framework with minimum standards for consultation;

structured dialogue with the associations representing local and regional authorities.

To put multilevel governance into practice, the Committee of the Regions:

Undertakes to:

develop cooperation with the European Commission and European and national associations of local and regional authorities within the framework of Structured Dialogue in the phase for preparing the legislative work programme of the European Commission;

work with the other EU Institutions to develop an effective impact assessment of its activities, in order to strengthen its role as an advisory body under the Treaties and to demonstrate the added-value it brings to EU decision-making.

Calls on the European Commission to:

report on the follow-up given to its political recommendations in the form of oral and written questions.

Better lawmaking

The coordination of the legislative process proposed in the ‘Better Lawmaking’ action programme and supported in the interinstitutional agreement on ‘Better Lawmaking’ adopted by the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission in 2003 must take full account of the contribution of local and regional authorities and the legal and policy instruments that they advocate in its strategy for improving legislation.

Based on the Treaties, and pending the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the existing internal and Community mechanisms allow the establishment of an agreed and coordinated approach to monitoring and controlling the principle of subsidiarity. In a number of Member States, an internal reform process has also begun, which reinforces the intervention of regional legislative assemblies in the mechanisms advocated in the Protocol on the Application of the Principles of Subsidiarity and Proportionality of the Treaty of Lisbon so that they can act as a component part of the parliamentary mechanism in their country or as chambers of the national parliament. This approach should be extended, in accordance with national constitutional structures.

Furthermore, the capacity of local and regional authorities to understand Community law must be strengthened in order to reinforce legal certainty within the European Union and facilitate the correct transposition of Community legislation. In that regard, the need to more closely involve local and regional authorities is motivated by the fact that the effects of a Community directive or regulation may vary significantly from one Member State to another due to its internal territorial organisation, the degree of autonomy of local and regional authorities and the extent of their responsibilities. The difficulties encountered during the transposition of the Directives on landfill of waste (30) and award of public works contracts, public supply contracts and public service contracts (31) are important examples of the need to involve local and regional authorities throughout the process of formulating Community legislation (32).

Impact assessments of draft legislation are a key tool for achieving better Community legislation. An impact assessment must pay attention to the implementation and maintenance of regulations. It is very important here that the territorial aspect of new legislation should have a key position in the Commission's current impact assessments. In order to assess this territorial aspect properly, the Commission's departments should explain the consequences of new legislation for the regions and municipalities in good time. The Committee of the Regions can play a key role here.

VIII.   The Subsidiarity Monitoring Network of the Committee of the Regions: a useful tool for reinforcing democratic responsibility and participation in the lawmaking process of the European Union

The principle of subsidiarity seeks to ensure that, in areas of non-exclusive Community responsibility, decisions are taken at the most appropriate level. As a result, in these areas, tests must be carried out to ensure that Community action is justified with regard to the options available at national, regional or local level.

The Subsidiarity Monitoring Network set up by the Committee of the Regions, which currently consists of 96 members (local and regional authorities, national and regional parliaments, associations of local and regional authorities), conducts online consultations via its Internet site. It has the following objectives:

Organise consultations with partners in the network on European Commission documents and proposals, which help to analyse the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality and assess the impact of measures proposed. In so doing, the Network aids communication between local and regional authorities and the Committee of the Regions with regard to the European legislative process;

Serve as an information point allowing local and regional authorities to access more quickly information of interest to them in connection with the EU and to give them an additional route for making their voices heard;

Help the Committee of the Regions to broaden its consultation base by giving it access to the political and administrative structures of the regions and cities of Europe and by placing these resources at the disposal of its rapporteurs;

Involve members of the Subsidiarity Monitoring Network in future studies on the territorial impact of the Commission's proposals, at an early stage in the pre-legislative process.

To put multilevel governance into practice, the Committee of the Regions:

Undertakes to:

increase its involvement in the process of monitoring the ‘Better Lawmaking’ action plan and develop its internal policy process and its consultations through interactive platforms in order to obtain reliable information on how the local and regional dimension is taken into account in the preparation of legislation;

strengthen its interinstitutional relations throughout the legislative process with the Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament;

develop with national parliaments and regional legislative assemblies a ‘modus operandi ’ in order to enhance the position of local and regional authorities in all Member States both in the ex-ante phase and in the context of the early warning system (33);

contribute to the work of the High Level Group of Independent Stakeholders on Administrative Burdens, give an opinion on the suggestions that it makes and plan to set up a High Level Group of Local and Regional Authorities.

Calls for:

the ‘Better Lawmaking’ interinstitutional agreement between the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission to be accompanied by a memorandum of understanding with the Committee of the Regions on implementing certain evaluation and consultation mechanisms in particular.

Calls on the European Commission to:

continue the efforts being made to simplify the regulatory environment, particularly in terms of cohesion policy, and introduce a regional aspect in national action plans to simplify legislation;

ensure ready access for local and regional authorities to comitology and to groups of experts responsible for implementing the ‘Better Lawmaking’ action plan (34)  (35).

Invites the Member States to:

set up a mechanism for consulting local and regional authorities with a view to facilitating the transposition of European legislation;

ensure that when European legislation is transposed and applied, the internal distribution of competences is respected;

through the Council of Europe, continue to work towards the proposed Charter for Regional Democracy.

Evaluating the territorial impact of Community intervention

Evaluation mechanisms can determine whether decisions have been taken and applied at the appropriate level, identify the right political instruments and define the scope and scale of Community intervention. Vital work has been started to define the concept of territorial impact, determine the common objectives that can be adapted to the specific characteristics of the regions, and develop appropriate quantitative and qualitative indicators. This may also help to give specific content to the principle of territorial cohesion.

To put multilevel governance into practice, the Committee of the Regions:

Undertakes to:

reinforce cooperation with the European Commission in implementing its cooperation agreement in order to convey the reasoned opinions of local and regional authorities on the impact analysis of Commission proposals at an early stage in the legislative process;

set up, with the support of the European Commission's impact analysis committee, a technical ‘high level group’ responsible for evaluating the territorial impact of major Community policies in order to adopt measures likely to improve legislation, simplify administrative procedures and increase the acceptance of Community policies by the citizens.

Recommends:

that the territorial impact analysis should become standard practice through the involvement, upstream of the policy decision, of the various actors concerned in order to understand the economic, social and environmental repercussions on the regions of Community legislative and non-legislative proposals;

reinforcing the territorial impact evaluation mechanisms ready for when substantial modifications are proposed to the original proposals during the legislative process;

developing the conditions for an ex-post evaluation in order to examine the local and regional impact of certain directives, or even the implementation at local and regional level of European legislative acts and have the findings incorporated by the Commission into its evaluation report;

that European and national statistics should reflect the diversity of the territorial situation in order to more accurately understand the impact of policies on the regions.

Calls on the European Commission to:

ensure that its various road maps, established to measure the progress of certain key policies for European integration, include the variable of multilevel governance so as to evaluate the true impact of Community intervention, and stresses in this respect the need to reinforce the local and regional dimension of the Internal Market road map.

Developing the potential of territorial cooperation

Strengthening territorial cooperation is vital to meet the objectives of economic, social and territorial cohesion. Substantial efforts need to be made over the next few years to foster opportunities for vertical and horizontal partnership underpinned by a political, legal and financial framework for transnational cooperation enabling cooperation between several regions in different European states.

Within a geographic framework, cooperation enables political authorities and administrations at different levels to collaborate and promote common interests by improving living conditions for the populations concerned and pooling resources and know-how.

In view of the upcoming consolidation of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation and the revision of its regulations, the Committee of the Regions is drawing up proposals on how to get the best added value from this instrument.

IX.   The European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC)

The EGTC is a new European legal instrument (Regulation (EC) No 1082/2006) designed to stabilise territorial cooperation between the different tiers of government and across borders. It is particularly relevant in view of strengthening territorial cohesion policy. Around 30 EGTCs are being set up in Europe and six have already been established.

The dimension of multilevel governance is at the heart of the process to launch, establish and manage an EGTC. The latter allows public authorities to be brought together, according to a variable institutional geometry, by virtue of their levels of responsibility and to promote an enlarged partnership with socioeconomic actors. The areas of application of the EGTC, according to emerging experience, are varied: from health to civil defence, from economic development to the protection and promotion of natural resources, from training to research and innovation policy, etc.

The Committee of the Regions is working in concert with local and regional authorities, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Member States to optimise the potential of this tool and facilitate the creation of a public space for communication, information, analysis, research and pooling of expertise.

The European Union's internal strategy is also aimed at developing macro-regions. However, this innovative approach requires a high level of coherence in its design and integration within the European process and must without question be supported by a form of multilevel governance which defines a new type of partnership bringing together the strategic approaches of the internal and external policies of the Union. The lessons learnt from the implementation of the Strategy for the Baltic Sea region and from the forthcoming launch of the Strategy for the Danube, together with the possibilities created by the wider neighbourhood plan drawn up for the outermost regions, will be essential in determining the relevance of these macro-regions with regard to European governance, development of territorial cooperation and the objective of territorial cohesion.

X.   Strategy for the Baltic Sea region

The Strategy for the Baltic Sea region aims to reinvigorate cooperation within this maritime area in order to improve the environmental status of the region, support its sustainable economic development, increase its level of accessibility and add to its level of security. This integrated and participatory strategy, which is currently being developed, is a typical example of the implementation of multi-sectoral policies, led by numerous actors and focused on a European macro-region. It aims to integrate the different lines of programming and financing at European, national and infranational level, with the possibility of using the cohesion policy programmes as a reference framework.

Governance will determine the degree of success of this strategy. Its development demands a multilevel approach, with reinforced cooperation between the European, national, regional and local levels and also at cross-border level and between the public and private sectors (36).

To put multilevel governance into practice, the Committee of the Regions:

Undertakes to:

evaluate the relevance of macro-regional development strategies in the light of the involvement of local and regional authorities in their design, preparation, implementation, communication to the citizens and evaluation phases, and in their respective action plans, and in this case demand sufficient provision in the Community budget for appropriate financial mechanisms and resources;

cooperate with the European Commission, Member States and other institutions involved on a major action involving communication and operational support for the implementation of new EGTCs and for the exchange of good practices in the context of those EGTCs already established;

make its contribution with a view to a possible revision of Regulation (EC) No 1082/2006 on the EGTC, based on the experience of its Group of Experts (37), particularly with regard to greater integration of the socioeconomic partners, easier implementation at the external borders of the EU, greater flexibility in the installation procedures, a reference in the main European legislative texts particularly affected by the cross-border dimension (e.g. cross-border health), planning of stimulus measures, including legal, economic and financial stimuli, whether at European level or at national level, and promotion of this tool in the Community legislation in Europe.

Recommends:

that additional resources should be allocated to the three aspects of territorial cooperation, due to its indisputable contribution to the process of European integration.

Calls:

on the European Commission to announce, in its next evaluation/revision report on the EGTC Regulation, how it plans to fully exploit this legal tool;

on the European Commission and the Member States to increase awareness of this tool by very significantly expanding the internal information within the Directorates-General and Ministries and by enhancing its added value;

on the Member States to work closely with the regional and local authorities in the process of setting up EGCTs so that they can be rolled out and implemented diligently in accordance with the letter and spirit of Regulation 1082/2006.

Encouraging innovative and partnership-based methods of governance

Economic, technological and societal developments force mentalities and practices to change. The Community method should be enriched by innovative and experimental practices benefiting from the experience and expertise of local and regional elected representatives who are, more often than not, required to implement the common policies and apply Community legislation.

In that regard, experimentation is an instrument of good governance which enables actions to be implemented on a small scale to test their impact, with a view to wider implementation if the results are convincing, and allows policy-makers to base their decisions on data which has already been verified at the level of their territorial impact.

Furthermore, the establishment of contracts which has generated, within Community regional policy, a phenomenon of ownership of the European strategic priorities by the national, local and regional levels and which has reinforced coordination of the public policies introduced and their administrative capacities should be extended to other European policies.

To put multilevel governance into practice, the Committee of the Regions:

Undertakes to:

submit proposals to support the use of experimentation at local and regional level in certain areas of intervention of the European Union, such as the strategy for growth and jobs, the social agenda, integration policy, innovation policy, cohesion policy, sustainable development and civil defence;

develop lines of action to make more frequent use of the method of controlled experimentation in order to understand the effects of wide-ranging reforms of the common policies, particularly the common agricultural policy;

defend the prospect of concluding contracts of agreed objectives, as envisaged in 2001, by proposing to readjust the political and legal terms of implementation, particularly with the aid of flexible and diversified tripartite instruments. In doing so, it is especially important to fully respect the Member States' institutional and procedural autonomy in transposing and above all implementing Community law.

Recommends:

establishing European territorial pacts capable of bringing together, on a voluntary basis, the different competent tiers of government in order to adapt the implementation of the major political priorities and objectives of the European Union on a partnership basis with the local and regional authorities (38);

planning for European territorial pacts to include the commitment of an institution or agency of the European Union, the commitment of national authorities and one or more local and regional authorities, the identification of the European political objectives to be achieved, their breakdown into concrete aims in the region in question, a monitoring system and, finally, the definition of a budgetary structure bringing together the contributions of the various parties needed to achieve this.

Invites:

any discussion of the issue of funding European territorial pacts to be focused on potential synergies between, on the one hand, at European level, existing budget headings in the policy areas concerned and the Structural Funds and, on the other hand, budget resources available at local, regional and national level, without creating an additional Community regional policy instrument or applying for additional funding to achieve the aim in question;

local and regional authorities interested in committing to such a process to indicate their interest as part of the consultation on the implementation of the White Paper.

5.   Implementing and monitoring the White Paper

By publishing this White Paper, the Committee of the Regions has taken the initiative to submit its vision of the Community method, based on a mode of governance which involves local and regional authorities in the formulation and implementation of Community policies . This vision is based on progress made following the European Commission's White Paper on European Governance adopted in 2001 and sets out the stakes and challenges of shared governance in Europe. The development of a European culture of multilevel governance is a permanent challenge. It will therefore regularly evaluate the progress made in its implementation and will present, every three years, a report on the state of multilevel governance within the European Union.

On the publication of the White Paper, the Committee of the Regions will commence a process of consultation with the Community institutions with a view to clarifying the lines and commitments presented.

It is also beginning a general consultation in order to gather the opinions of the authorities, associations and interested parties and invites them to submit their observations on the best way to implement multilevel governance in Europe. Comments may be submitted up to 30 November 2009 to the following address:

Comité des régions de l'Union européenne

Cellule de prospective

Bureau VMA 0635

Rue Belliard/Belliardstraat 101

1040 Bruxelles/Brussel

BELGIQUE/BELGIË

or by email to: governance@cor.europa.eu (39)

Based on the results of the general consultation and the lessons learnt from its consultation with the institutions and stakeholders, the Committee of the Regions will draw up an action plan to implement its recommendations.

Brussels, 17 June 2009

The President

of the Committee of the Regions

Luc VAN DEN BRANDE


(1)  Declaration on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the signature of the Treaties of Rome, Berlin, 25 March 2007.

(2)  Declaration for Europe of the Committee of the Regions — DI/CdR 55/2007 fin.

(3)  Local and regional authorities represent:

16 % of the GDP of the EU-27;

1/3 of public spending;

2/3 of all public investment expenditure;

56 % of public employment (Dexia figures — http://www.dexia.be/fr/particulier/press/pressrelease20090205-localauthorities.htm).

(4)  In its report of 17/09/2008 on governance and partnership at national and regional levels and a basis for projects in the sphere of regional policy (A6-0356/2008), the European Parliament ‘calls on the Committee of the Regions to step up its efforts to develop the practice of governance, in both quantitative and qualitative terms’.

(5)  The process of preparing this White Paper has involved contributions from the academic world, through the Ateliers of the Committee of the Regions (www.cor.europa.eu/ateliers), and a preliminary consultation of the main European associations of local and regional authorities.

(6)  European Parliament report on governance and partnership at national and regional levels and a basis for projects in the sphere of regional policy (A6- 0356/2008).

(7)  Eurobarometer: Committee of the Regions: http://www.cor.europa.eu/ and European Commission: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb_special_en.htm.

(8)  European Commission White Paper (COM(2001)428 final).

(9)  The Committee of the Regions and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe of the Council of Europe cooperate to this end under a cooperation agreement.

(10)  In its White Paper on European Governance, the European Commission proposed a reinvigorated Community method as a method for the future, which ‘means ensuring that the Commission proposes and executes policy; the Council and European Parliament take decisions; and national and regional actors are involved in the EU policy process’ (COM(2001)428 final).

(11)  In a report on ‘Realising the Charter of Fundamental Rights’, ordered by the Committee of the Regions from Birmingham University, initial proposals are made on increasing citizens' awareness of their rights and examples of good practice applied by local and regional authorities are presented (CdR 6623/2008).

(12)  In its opinion on Parliament's new role and responsibilities implementing the Treaty of Lisbon, the Committee on Regional Development of the European Parliament stresses the importance of its relations with the Committee of the Regions (PE404.556v02-00 (30/05/2008)).

(13)  Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the added value of participation by local and regional authorities in the enlargement process (CdR 93/2008 fin).

(14)  The United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) association regularly publishes reports on decentralisation and local democracy in the world.

(15)  ART GOLD is an international cooperation initiative that brings together the programmes and activities of several United Nations agencies (UNDP, UNESCO, UNIFEM, UNCDF, WHO, UNOPS, etc.) in favour of a new multilateralism.

(16)  The Forum of Global Associations of Regions (FOGAR) and the FAO have signed a memorandum of understanding.

(17)  The Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) has developed an Internet portal to encourage twinnings: www.twinning.org.

(18)  Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee and Committee of the Regions: ‘Local Authorities: Actors for development’ (SEC(2008)2570).

(19)  Draft opinion of the Committee of the Regions on Local authorities: Actors for Development (CdR 312/2008 rev. 1).

(20)  Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the added value of participation by local and regional authorities in the enlargement process' (CdR 93/2008 fin).

(21)  http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/conferences/od2009/index.cfm

(22)  

The Assembly of European Regions (AER) has set up a programme of interregional cooperation which has the goal of developing European awareness, promoting the Europe of the regions and mobilising regional businesses to take on trainees.

The European Association of Elected Representatives from Mountain Regions (AEM) is developing an interregional cooperation project for mountain regions within the INTERREG programme.

The Association of European Border Regions (AEBR) has set up a network of cross-border regions for the exchange of good practices in order to develop concrete proposals which may be realised within Community programmes.

(23)  Communicating Europe in partnership: European Parliament decision of 9 October 2008 and joint declaration of the European Parliament, European Commission and Council (P6Ta(2008) 0463).

(24)  The Committee of the Regions is already proposing a communication tool kit for members of the Committee of the Regions and local and regional authorities in order to explain European Union policies to the citizens (CdR 234/2008 fin).

(25)  Further to an initiative launched in 2002 during the Johannesburg Summit on sustainable development, the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CRPM) and FOGAR (Forum of Global Associations of Regions) became active members of the Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development (nrg 4SD).

(26)  Conclusions of the European Summit of the Regions and Cities, Prague, 5-6 March 2009 (CdR 86/2009 fin).

(27)  EUROCITIES is conducting a project with the support of the European Commission through the Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development, which facilitates the exchange of good practices, expertise and application in sustainable urban development.

(28)  Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the theme ‘Think Small First’ — A ‘Small Business Act’ for Europe, 12 and 13 February 2009 (CdR 246/2008 fin).

(29)  The Committee of the Regions ‘recommends that new indicators be designed allowing territorial disparities to be better taken into account in all public policies’ and ‘recommends that new tools and specifically indicators be developed to meet the requirements of implementing territorial cohesion, not least by means of sub-regional analyses’. Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion (CdR 274/2008 fin).

‘In order to develop suitable regional strategies and policy responses, appropriate instruments are needed to take account of territorial disparities in public policies (for example, disposable income per capita to take account of transfers in addition to GDP per capita, tax revenues and accessibility of different services …, demographic structure and population settlement patterns …, or even the creation of composite human development indices)’. Opinion on the Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion (CdR 274/2008 fin).

(30)  Council Directive 1999/31/EC of 26 April 1999 on the landfill of waste (OJ L 182, 16.7.1999, p. 1-19); Directive 2006/12/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2006 on waste (OJ L 114, 27.04.2006, p. 9-21).

(31)  Directive 2004/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31 March 2004 on the coordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts, public supply contracts and public service contracts (OJ L 134, 30.4.2004, p. 114-240).

(32)  A study has been entrusted to the European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA) on the theme of ‘The impact of Community law at local level’. This will examine in particular these two practical cases, with the results being presented to the High Level Group on Governance and the EU under the Swedish Presidency in October 2009.

(33)  The Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies (CALRE) has set up a technical and political network for monitoring the application of the principle of subsidiarity.

(34)  Report of the High Level Seminar on Local Governance (Biarritz, 14-16 September 2008).

(35)  The Conference of Presidents of Regions with Legislative Power (REGLEG) organises exchanges of good practices on the participation of experts representing regions with legislative power in the context of the comitology procedure and within the groups of experts of the Commission and also the working groups of the Council.

(36)  Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the Role of local and regional authorities within the new Baltic Sea strategy (CdR 381/2008 fin).

(37)

monitoring the adoption and implementation of the Regulation's provisions at Member State level;

facilitating the exchange of experiences on the establishment of EGTCs at territorial level and sharing knowledge of best practices in the field;

monitoring the adoption and implementation of the Regulation's provisions at Member State level;

facilitating the exchange of experiences on the establishment of EGTCs at territorial level and sharing knowledge of best practices in the field;

identifying the potential exploitation of the EGTC as a tool for cohesive territorial development;

(37)

monitoring the adoption and implementation of the Regulation's provisions at Member State level;

facilitating the exchange of experiences on the establishment of EGTCs at territorial level and sharing knowledge of best practices in the field;

identifying the potential exploitation of the EGTC as a tool for cohesive territorial development;

monitoring the adoption and implementation of the Regulation's provisions at Member State level;

facilitating the exchange of experiences on the establishment of EGTCs at territorial level and sharing knowledge of best practices in the field;

identifying the potential exploitation of the EGTC as a tool for cohesive territorial development;

improving communication on EGTC opportunities and challenges at territorial level. Website: www.cor.europa.eu/egtc.htm.

(37)

monitoring the adoption and implementation of the Regulation's provisions at Member State level;

facilitating the exchange of experiences on the establishment of EGTCs at territorial level and sharing knowledge of best practices in the field;

identifying the potential exploitation of the EGTC as a tool for cohesive territorial development;

improving communication on EGTC opportunities and challenges at territorial level. Website: www.cor.europa.eu/egtc.htm.

(38)  Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the Establishment of European territorial pacts: proposal for a revision of the tripartite contracts and agreements (CdR 135/2006 fin).

(39)  The process of monitoring the White Paper will be accompanied by the activities of the Ateliers of the Committee of the Regions www.cor.europa.eu/ateliers.


4.9.2009   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 211/28


Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on one year after Lisbon: the Africa-EU partnership at work and The EU, Africa and China: towards trilateral dialogue and cooperation

(2009/C 211/02)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

salutes the efforts made by European and African stakeholders since the launch of the EU-Africa partnership and stresses the need to continue, accelerate, strengthen and expand the initiatives already under way within the context of the eight partnerships;

proposes that the Committee of the Regions be involved in the work of the groups responsible for implementing the thematic partnerships, in particular for governance, the MDG, climate change, migration, mobility and employment; stresses the need to equip the EU with statistical and evaluation instruments relating to the decentralised cooperation activities undertaken by LRAs; recalls that the conference on decentralised cooperation must be the key forum for dialogue between the CoR and the Commission and that, in this context, particular prominence should be given to the EU-Africa partnership;

welcomes the Commission communication on cooperation between the EU, Africa and China and points out the differences in goals and methods that currently exist between the EU's development aid policy and that of China on the African continent; these differences make enhanced cooperation all the more necessary, whilst maintaining strict criteria of good governance and respect for human rights;

considers that work should start immediately on establishing arrangements for involving African, European and Chinese local and regional authorities in the EU/Africa/China trialogue, in particular as regards determining the themes for cooperation;

stresses, in the context of the current economic and financial crisis, the need to maintain and increase the funds set aside for development aid to Africa.

Rapporteur

:

Mr Jean-Louis Destans

President of the General Council of the Eure

Reference documents

One year after Lisbon: The Africa-EU partnership at work

COM(2008) 617 final

The EU, Africa and China: Towards trilateral dialogue and cooperation

COM(2008) 654 final

I.   POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS,

A.   General comments

On the EU-Africa partnership

1.

welcomes the publication of the European Commission communication entitled One year after Lisbon: The Africa-EU partnership at work, which is an assessment of the first year of implementation of the 2008-2010 action plan and its eight thematic partnerships aimed at putting the joint EU-Africa strategy into practice;

2.

salutes the efforts made by European and African stakeholders since the launch of the common strategy in December 2007, which have made it possible to lay the foundations for cooperation ‘beyond development’, ‘beyond Africa’ and ‘beyond institutions’;

3.

stresses that these first positive steps must not conceal the need to continue, accelerate, strengthen and expand the initiatives already under way within the context of the eight partnerships. The development and cooperation strategy between the Union and Africa cannot provide the expected results without a constant and increased commitment by both sides. The results of the first year of implementation must be an encouragement to European and African stakeholders to intensify their efforts and contribute to the long-term success of the strategy;

4.

welcomes the adoption of a joint report by the EU and the African Union on 21 November last year, which endorses the European Commission's conclusions;

5.

notes with interest the Commission's work in not only taking stock of the past, but also making recommendations for the future with a view to:

overcoming the difficulties encountered in implementing the action plan;

promoting collective ownership by all stakeholders;

developing a holistic, cross-cutting approach to the African continent;

encouraging EU/Africa coordination and cooperation in international bodies;

enhancing communication on the aims and achievements of the partnership so as to ensure greater transparency and strong public support in Africa and Europe;

6.

points out that, across all of these recommendations and all three pillars of the partnership, in particular those entitled ‘beyond development’ and ‘beyond institutions’, the added value that the Committee of the Regions and European and African local authorities can bring is clear and is recognised, and that the Commission should have emphasised this in its communication;

On trilateral dialogue and cooperation between the EU, Africa and China

7.

welcomes the Commission communication The EU, Africa and China: Towards trilateral dialogue and cooperation and stresses the importance of the dynamic that has been set in motion, which constitutes a first step towards the creation of synergies for Africa;

8.

considers that it is essential for Africa's future that cooperation be started between the EU and China. Both of these have developed bilateral partnerships with Africa and are its first and third biggest trading partners respectively and the two biggest direct investors in that continent;

9.

considers that this trilateral approach needs placing in a worldwide context, including the large emerging countries;

10.

points out the differences in goals and methods that currently exist between the EU's development aid policy and that of China on the African continent; these differences make enhanced cooperation all the more necessary;

11.

calls on the African Union, African countries and the local and regional authorities of Africa to fully assume their role in establishing the themes of cooperation and the launch of this trialogue. This must not simply be a matter of coordinating European and Chinese policies;

12.

encourages Africa's continental, national, regional and local leaders to make proposals for cooperation in the areas that they believe to be most likely to meet Africa's development challenges;

13.

recalls that, in this area, a flexible and pragmatic approach should be adopted in order to list all the possible areas for cooperation, without excluding certain areas from the outset;

14.

highlights the importance of the cooperation theme entitled Environment and Sustainable Management of Natural Resources, considering the policies of intensive exploitation of energy resources that are being carried out in Africa;

15.

is amazed that the European Commission did not put more emphasis on health, education and research in the themes for cooperation it proposes. These are key areas for Africa's long-term development and are priorities for action laid down by the United Nations and the EU-Africa partnership. The Committee therefore calls on the Commission to beef up its proposals in this area;

16.

recommends that the African Union be treated as a key partner in this trilateral relationship so as to promote a coherent, holistic approach that transcends national divides;

17.

welcomes the holding of an EU-China summit in Prague in May 2009, and calls on the Council to:

mention EU-Africa-China trilateral cooperation so as to flesh out the Commission's proposals;

strengthen the prospects for cooperation in the areas for health, education and research;

take account of proposals made by African stakeholders;

18.

stresses that the EU must maintain its strict criteria of good governance and respect for human rights in the conduct of its development aid policy for Africa, whether this is conducted by means of bilateral EU-Africa cooperation or trilateral EU-Africa-China cooperation;

19.

considers that this conditionality must be applied dynamically and progressively in such a way as to take account of progress made and policies put in place by African countries to promote good governance and respect for human rights;

20.

emphasises that trilateral EU/Africa/China cooperation must not consist of alignment with China's goals and methods, as such an approach would not necessarily be compatible with the EU's values and principles or with Africa's long-term interests, though this does not rule out looking for areas of shared interest;

21.

affirms the long-term role of the Committee of the Regions and of European, African and Chinese local and regional authorities in putting the EU-Africa-China trialogue into practice. This must become more tangible, whereas the trend is for bilateral EU-Africa, Africa-China and EU-China relations to develop;

22.

considers that the arrangements for implementing trilateral cooperation and dialogue must take account of and be appropriate to the economic and social circumstances of each region or territory, and that the LRAs of the EU, Africa and China should be involved in defining these arrangements;

23.

states that tools for follow-up and monitoring of the implementation of trilateral cooperation and dialogue should be created so as to ensure that commitments made by the various parties are kept;

The impact of the economic and financial crisis

24.

is concerned about the implications of the international economic and financial crisis for Africa, whereas attention is focused on the situation in developed countries;

25.

is concerned that developing countries continue to be relegated to second place. In particular, Africa is outrageously under-represented at the G20, which prevents it from influencing international decisions aimed at mitigating the economic crisis, despite this having a disproportionate direct and indirect impact on that continent;

26.

recalls that the crisis has a disproportionate direct and indirect impact on Africa due to the fragility of that continent's social and economic models. The direct impact is reflected in such things as a fall in exports of raw materials from African countries as a result of the global economic slowdown, a collapse in foreign investment, a risk that the food crisis will be made worse by the credit squeeze, and a loss of revenue due to a fall in remittances by African emigrants who are affected by unemployment in developed countries. The indirect impact is mainly reflected by a reduction in development aid and a reorientation of developed country loans towards supporting domestic economic activity;

27.

recalls that the impact of the economic crisis on the African continent is expected, according to IMF calculations, to lead to a slowdown in economic growth, which is expected to be no higher than 3 % in 2009, thus ending the average 6 % growth seen in the last five years and the gradual recovery of the economic, political and social situation in Africa;

28.

considers that the crisis will be all the tougher in Africa due to the weakness of social policies and that it may cause humanitarian, political and social crises that will cause instability in the region and could spark new conflicts;

29.

stresses, in this context, the importance of the EU-Africa partnership and the proposed EU-Africa-China cooperation, and the need to maintain and increase the funds set aside for development aid to Africa;

30.

regrets that certain Member States have already announced a reduction in their development aid, which amounts to heaping crisis upon crisis in Africa;

31.

affirms, in this difficult financial context, the pivotal role of European local and regional authorities, whose action is not limited to providing significant financial aid, but goes beyond this to include the transfer of knowledge and experience and cooperation on specific projects;

B.   The role of local and regional authorities in the EU-Africa partnership

The specific nature of local and regional authorities

32.

welcomes the involvement of civil society and non-traditional actors in the EU-Africa partnership and the Commission's proposal to launch consultative discussions with key non-institutional actors, including civil society, academia and the private sector, to enable them to play an active role in the implementation and monitoring of the Joint Strategy;

33.

reminds the Commission that local and regional authorities need to be distinguished from civil society, that European LRAs have relations with their African counterparts, that they cooperate in such areas as education, municipal services (water and refuse), infrastructure, transport, communications, territorial economic development and support for local governance; that through these projects, they have gained skills, know-how and experience in sectors that are especially important to Africa's economic, social and political development;

34.

takes the view that it is therefore essential to give a greater role to European local and regional authorities in the EU-Africa partnership and to make best use of their experience;

35.

believes that, through its previous communications, such as that entitled Local authorities: actors for development, the Commission has openly recognised the role that local and regional authorities play in international cooperation directed at developing countries; that the European Development Days held from 15 to 17 November 2008 enabled the LRAs and the Committee of the Regions to demonstrate the importance of their contribution to development and the need to allow them to act at European and international level in the areas for which they are responsible;

36.

considers that once it is recognised by the Commission, this role needs to be reflected in each of the EU's cooperation strategies, not least vis-à-vis Africa and in the EU/Africa/China trialogue;

37.

therefore requests the Commission to broaden and extend the consultation of civil society and non-traditional actors to local and regional authorities, whose involvement is essential, and to the international associations that represent them, to ensure that European and African LRAs participate in the formulation of development policies;

38.

undertakes to encourage and support coordination efforts by African local and regional authorities at national and sub-national level to strengthen the structured dialogue between the CoR and European and African local and regional authorities;

Involving local and regional authorities in the partnership

39.

believes that, in the context of the EU-Africa partnership, European and African local and regional authorities should be involved at three levels:

the formulation of cooperation policies with the Committee of the Regions, which should be involved in drafting a road map for implementing the partnership;

the implementation of cooperation projects, so as to help coordinate European Union, African Union, national and LRA initiatives;

the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the partnership to ensure its collective ownership and public support;

40.

proposes, with this in mind, that the Committee of the Regions be involved in the work of the groups responsible for implementing the thematic partnership, which are made up of the Member States most directly involved, the Commission and the Council Secretariat. The Committee of the Regions recalls that it is involved in the group responsible for democratic governance and human rights and that this involvement should be extended, in particular to the other partnerships in respect of which LRAs have an important role to play, i.e. the Partnership for the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the partnership on climate change, and the partnership on migration, mobility and employment;

41.

recalls that there are currently no precise, detailed and comprehensive statistics on the total sum that LRAs devote to development cooperation, nor on the priority areas for cooperation or the human resources used; that such information is essential to ensuring the coherence and synergy of such initiatives with the aims of the EU-Africa partnership;

42.

therefore stresses the need to equip the EU with statistical and evaluation instruments relating to the decentralised cooperation activities undertaken by European LRAs, particularly in Africa, taking account of the fact that LRAs' activities cannot be measured solely in financial terms, given the significance of the non-material assistance that they provide;

43.

is pleased that the Commission now sees the need to create an ‘exchange’ for the purpose of decentralised cooperation so as to promote the exchange of information and the emergence of new local decentralised cooperation partnerships that are consistent with what is already being done;

44.

again points out that it is prepared to set up and run, in partnership with the Commission, the above-mentioned ‘exchange’ in the form of an internet portal, which would in a sense form an extension to the annual conference on decentralised cooperation;

45.

recalls that the conference on decentralised cooperation must be the key forum for dialogue and strategic policy discussion on decentralised cooperation measures; and that, in this context, particular prominence should be given to EU-Africa relations so as to help strengthen the culture of working together between European and African LRAs, more detailed knowledge of local development issues, and the emergence of strategic guidelines in connection with the EU-Africa partnership;

Promoting the involvement of African local and regional authorities in the partnership

46.

considers that the involvement of LRAs in the EU-Africa partnership should not be limited to European authorities alone;

47.

stresses that the process of decentralisation under way and the phenomenon of intensive urbanisation in Africa places LRAs at the heart of the development challenges, as do the consequences of the economic and financial crisis in Africa, which will be felt most acutely at local level;

48.

considers that the involvement of African local and regional authorities must be taken into consideration in the context of efforts to make development policies more effective and coherent;

49.

therefore calls on the Commission to consult, as well as civil society, non-traditional actors and European LRAs, African local and regional authorities and the national associations that represent them;

50.

encourages the international associations of African local authorities to enhance coordination with the African Union and African countries so as to strengthen the synergy between measures undertaken at national and sub-national level in Africa;

51.

highlights the role of local and regional authorities, both in Europe and in Africa, in raising public awareness of the issue of development by getting local associations of citizens who care about development issues involved in their specific cooperation projects; and that they thus contribute to the success of the partnership, which depends heavily on public support in the North and the South for the objectives of cooperation and development;

Partnership in the area of democratic governance and human rights

52.

recalls that there can be no real democratic governance without meaningful participation of local and regional authorities in the decision-making process;

53.

points out that LRAs, through the projects they initiate, promote the strengthening of democracy and the formulation of good governance policies, as shown by the principles and action points set out in the European Charter in Support of Local Governance;

54.

emphasises that, thanks to their cooperation in the context of projects aimed at resolving everyday issues, local and regional authorities can help boost confidence in local democracy;

55.

highlights the principle concerning the role of decentralised cooperation in development policy reform, namely that better governance is the key to a successful development policy and the key element of good governance is a recognition that the best decisions are taken as near to grassroots level as possible;

Partnership for the Millennium Development Goals (MDG)

56.

draws attention to the fact that many EU local and regional authorities have links with their counterparts in African countries based around development issues. They have thus acquired expertise, particularly in such areas as education, health, research, municipal services (water and refuse), small-scale fishing and aquaculture, infrastructure, transport, communications, rural development, regional economic development and activities to support the development of local authorities and political decentralisation;

57.

points out that LRAs help to strengthen the financial and strategic foundations for the achievement of the MDG, thanks to the funding and non-material assistance that they allocate to projects with their partners in Africa and other developing countries;

58.

calls on the Commission to increase funding for and provide better information on the funding instruments and programmes for LRAs' development cooperation measures, as the funds that they release for specific projects directly benefit grass-roots communities and thus help in a more direct and less bureaucratic way to improve the situation on the ground;

59.

commits to promoting the Non-state Actors and Local Authorities in Development programme among LRAs so that they can fully exploit its potential and, where appropriate, propose amendments to the relevant rules so as to make it easier for LRAs to use;

Partnership on climate change

60.

welcomes the fact that the partnership on climate change involves the local level, in particular in the Green Wall for the Sahara Initiative, and states that the measures taken must be appropriate to specific local situations and needs, which can vary significantly between and indeed within countries;

61.

points out that decentralised development cooperation undertaken by local and regional authorities, by virtue of the many areas in which it works and the diversity of public and private-sector stakeholders it can bring together, is a strong driving force for local and regional development;

62.

considers that LRAs can thus stimulate the organisation of production, distribution channels or economic activities that respect people and the environment;

Partnership on migration, mobility and employment

63.

points out that local and regional authorities are on the front line with regard to immigration, both in terms of the problems caused by illegal immigration (reception and management of new arrivals, illegal employment, crime and urban security) and in terms of the services they are required to provide to residents (healthcare, education, etc.) and integration policy;

64.

notes that the experience some of them have of cross-border and international cooperation, in particular those that are particularly exposed to the problems and consequences of migration, could prove very useful in providing answers to questions relating to migration and mobility;

The other partnerships

65.

considers that the added value of LRAs in the other partnerships should not be ignored and that they can, by virtue of their proximity to the relevant populations, play a significant role; with this in mind, it stresses:

regarding the partnership for peace and security, that it is essential to support any measures to raise public awareness of conflicts that exist on either of the continents and to draw their attention to the particular problems faced by refugees;

regarding the partnership for energy, that it is necessary to promote decentralised cooperation measures that focus on renewable energy and the reduction of waste through micro-projects or awareness raising campaigns among stakeholders in the battle against disorderly behaviour in such areas as the production of domestic waste;

regarding the partnership on science, information society and space, that it is essential to pay particular attention to supporting the emergence of locally-based projects aimed at bridging the digital divide;

66.

considers that, in the light of these comments, the Commission should prioritise its financial support towards decentralised cooperation measures that meet the objectives of the EU-Africa partnership;

C.   The role of local and regional authorities in the trilateral dialogue and cooperation between the EU, Africa and China

67.

considers that work should start immediately on establishing arrangements for involving African, European and Chinese local and regional authorities in the EU/Africa/China trialogue, in particular as regards determining the themes for cooperation;

68.

considers that the themes for cooperation in the trialogue should be expanded, taking account of the expertise and experience of LRAs, in particular in areas for which they are usually responsible, such as education, water, urban transport, waste management, energy and sustainable development, which are key areas for Africa's long-term development and the achievement of the MDG;

69.

points out that structural differences exist between European, African and Chinese LRAs, whether in terms of competences, size or financial resources, which makes it all the more necessary to involve LRAs in the partnership quickly so as to foster the development of a culture of working together;

70.

agrees that dialogue needs to be organised at continental, regional and country level, but that it is also important to develop it at sub-national level;

71.

undertakes to promote trilateral cooperation projects between LRAs in the EU, Africa and China, drawing on its existing contacts and supporting the identification of new partners and new decentralised cooperation measures.

Brussels, 17 June 2009

The President

of the Committee of the Regions

Luc VAN DEN BRANDE


4.9.2009   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 211/34


Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on enlargement strategy and main challenges 2008-2009: potential candidate countries

(2009/C 211/03)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

Calls on the European Commission to include more information on reforms and inclusion of local and regional authorities in the enlargement process. Decentralisation in accordance to the acquis and progress made by local authorities deserve more attention in the country reports.

Calls on the European Commission to support programmes to inform citizens on the challenges, benefits and impact that future EU membership will have on their lives.

Calls on the European Commission to work faster towards lifting the visa regime for the countries that recently made progress in fulfilling required criteria defined in those countries' roadmaps.

Calls on EU Member States to continue providing their support to local authorities in potential candidate countries in further capacity-building of an impartial and accountable civil service.

Calls on all countries concerned to make additional efforts towards embracing European values, reforms and accepting dialogue as a means of reconciliation.

Recalls that the progress of potential candidate countries towards candidate status should only take place when they have demonstrated progress in accordance with established criteria.

Rapporteur

:

Councillor Gordon Keymer (UK/EPP)

Member of Tandridge District Council

Reference document

‘Enlargement strategy and main challenges 2008-2009’

COM (2008) 674 final

I.   POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

A.   General recommendations

General progress and timetable

1.

Welcomes the European Commission's Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2008-2009 reports on potential candidate countries.

2.

Calls on the European Commission to include more information on reforms and inclusion of local and regional authorities in the enlargement process. Decentralisation in accordance to the acquis and progress made by local authorities deserve more attention in the country reports.

3.

Notes that local and regional authorities in potential candidate countries remain somewhat detached from the process of enlargement and do not fully benefit from it, which inevitably impacts on their citizens. Calls on the European Commission to support programmes to inform citizens on the challenges, benefits and impact that future EU membership will have on their lives.

4.

Notes a contradiction between the promotion of people-to-people contacts on the one hand, and the application of strict visa regimes on the other. Calls on the European Commission to work faster towards lifting the visa regime for the countries that recently made progress in fulfilling required criteria defined in those countries' roadmaps.

5.

Calls on EU Member States to continue providing their support to local authorities in potential candidate countries in further capacity-building of an impartial and accountable civil service.

6.

Calls on the European Commission to assist governments of countries concerned in managing the current financial and economical crisis as it will inevitably have direct impact on local authorities and the citizens that they serve.

7.

Calls on EU Member States to provide continuing support to the process of enlargement as it ‘serves the EU's strategic interests in stability, security and conflict prevention’ (1).

8.

Calls on all countries concerned to make additional efforts towards embracing European values, reforms and accepting dialogue as a means of reconciliation. Particularly urges potential candidate countries to continue working on resolving bilateral issues including border disputes and providing for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. Local and regional authorities are the best placed spheres of government to implement such changes.

9.

Supports the development of road transport networks and revitalisation of regional airports in view of the potential benefits of employment, access, tourism and more balanced regional economical development and regeneration.

10.

Recalls that the progress of potential candidate countries towards candidate status should only take place when they have demonstrated progress in accordance with established criteria.

B.   Country specific remarks

Albania

11.

Welcomes the completed ratification process of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between EU states and Albania.

12.

Welcomes the transfer of responsibilities for VAT, local taxation, water supply and sanitation as well social protection and social inclusion from central government to municipalities. However, expresses concern about the ability of municipalities to manage these new competences.

13.

Considers that there is an urgent need for further capacity building of local authorities, local government associations and particularly the Department of Public Administration in the central government, which is responsible for drafting strategies on administrative reforms of local governments.

14.

Notes a particular need for further capacity building of municipal financial services as local tax and revenue collection is very limited and hopes that these issues will be addressed in the forthcoming fiscal decentralisation.

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)

15.

Welcomes the signing of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the EU and BiH and encourages authorities in BiH to work continuously towards fulfilling its obligations under the Agreement along the lines of the draft action plan for implementation.

16.

Welcomes the fact that recent local elections held in BiH were in line with the international standards of good practice. Nevertheless, notices deep divisions along the ethnic lines.

17.

Welcomes recent reforms of local government in both entities which aligned local legislature with the European Charter of Local Self-Government and recommendations of the Venice Commission.

18.

Regrets the lack of communication between governments of entities on aspects of EU accession, which has had a negative impact on the speed of reforms and does not allow for a proper flow of information to local governments.

19.

Notes that municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have good cross-entity communication and calls on the European Commission to continue supporting ‘joint projects’ particularly in the area of capacity building of local authorities and local government associations.

Montenegro

20.

Welcomes Montenegro's application for candidate status and calls on EU Member States to authorise the European Commission to start with the assessment process.

21.

Calls on the European Commission to support the major infrastructure project to build a North-South motorway as it will also immensely improve the development of communities in Montenegro

22.

Notes the limited administrative capacity of local authorities and considers that a further capacity of both local authorities and the Union of Municipalities (Montenegro's local government association) is needed and calls on the European Commission to support peer-to-peer exchange of know-how projects.

Serbia

23.

Welcomes the increasing consultation by the central government of the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities (Serbia's local government association) and the setting up of a Department for EU integration within the Standing Conference which will develop an action plan for the inclusion of local authorities in the accession process.

24.

Calls on the Serbian government to continue working on decentralisation. Moving in the right direction would be a resolution of the issue of municipal property rights. At present local authorities in Serbia do not own their properties.

25.

Calls on the European Commission and the Serbian government to continue to support capacity-building of local authorities through additional funding and training to enable them to carry out their increased duties and responsibilities

26.

Calls on the European Commission to continue supporting local government capacity building programmes such as the ‘Exchange’ programme of the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities in Serbia.

Kosovo (under UN SC Resolution 1244)

27.

Welcomes the work undertaken by numerous international and local organisations in promoting a better future for Kosovo and considers that the lack of progress on decentralisation remains one of the key obstacles for democratic governance in Kosovo.

28.

Believes that there is need for concrete improvements for the people of Kosovo. Further development of public transport and transport networks is needed particularly in areas where the return of refugees and internally displaced people is expected.

29.

Would like to see greater confidence-building activities between different ethnic groups in Kosovo and encouragement to participate in local decision-taking processes. Of particular concern is the low turnout at local elections.

Brussels, 17 June 2009

The President

of the Committee of the Regions

Luc VAN DEN BRANDE


(1)  COM (2008) 674 final.


4.9.2009   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 211/37


Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the enlargement strategy and main challenges 2008-2009: candidate countries

(2009/C 211/04)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

Underlines its full support for the measures and reforms introduced by the candidate countries in order to meet the membership criteria.

Highlights the importance of the enlargement processes for the stable and democratic development of candidate countries, and is also aware of the added value for the EU.

Draws attention to the key importance of good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation in the stabilisation and accession process. Calls on the candidate countries to increase their efforts to resolve outstanding issues with neighbouring states calmly and as a matter of priority, so that solutions acceptable to all parties can be found.

Draws attention to the need to involve local and regional authorities and their associations in the accession process at an early stage; with their knowledge and experience they can contribute new and added value to the enlargement process.

Recommends intensifying cooperation between local and regional authorities in the Member States and candidate countries, and believes that special attention needs to be paid to fostering public support for the accession process both in the Member States and candidate countries.

Rapporteur

:

Jasmina Vidmar (SL/ALDE)

Member of the Maribor City Council

Reference document

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament – Enlargement strategy and main challenges 2008-2009

COM(2008) 674 final

I.   POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

1.

Underlines its full support for the measures and reforms introduced by the candidate countries in order to meet the membership criteria.

2.

Highlights the importance of the enlargement processes for the stable and democratic development of candidate countries, and is also aware of the added value for the EU.

3.

Welcomes the progress achieved thanks to the numerous reforms being carried out in the candidate countries, which enhance the rule of law and modernise economic and social structures.

4.

Believes candidate countries should be encouraged to make further efforts and draw on their full potential when implementing reforms, so as to ensure that the accession process moves forward smoothly and more quickly.

5.

Welcomes the efforts being made to improve the quality of the enlargement process and its transparency, including the benchmarks that have been set for the opening and closing of negotiation chapters.

6.

Draws attention to the key importance of good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation in the stabilisation and accession process. Calls on the candidate countries to increase their efforts to resolve outstanding issues with neighbouring states calmly and as a matter of priority, so that solutions acceptable to all parties can be found.

7.

Welcomes the general progress made by Croatia in adopting and implementing reforms for EU membership, and believes that it is possible to keep to the proposed timetable for reaching the final stage of negotiations by the end of 2009, provided that Croatia meets all the necessary criteria.

8.

Highlights the need for Croatia to increase its efforts to reform the judiciary, fight corruption and organised crime, safeguard minority rights, support the return of refugees and cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

9.

Notes the progress made by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in reforming the judiciary and police, meeting the requirements set out in the Stability and Association Agreement and developing a multi-ethnic society.

10.

Notes the shortcomings in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's endeavours to meet the political criteria, as outlined in the European Commission's progress report for 2008; welcomes the progress made in conducting presidential and local elections in the beginning of 2009 in a manner that met most international standards; therefore believes that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia should be given a date for starting the membership negotiations with the EU provided the necessary conditions are met.

11.

Takes note of the ongoing efforts in Turkey to achieve reform in the area of fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, and calls on Turkey to adopt a constructive approach towards efforts to reach agreement on the reunification of Cyprus.

12.

Draws attention to the need to involve local and regional authorities and their associations in the accession process at an early stage; with their knowledge and experience they can contribute new and added value to the enlargement process.

13.

Welcomes the positive cross-border cooperation between local and regional authorities that has taken place to date, and calls on these authorities to boost such cooperation, since, besides increasing prosperity, it also allows direct contact and better mutual understanding to be achieved between people in Member States and non-member states. Stresses the opportunities offered in this regard by the European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) and therefore invites the competent national authorities to take the appropriate steps for allowing the participation of partners in the candidate countries to future EGTCs as allowed by the Regulation (EC) 1082/2006.

14.

Welcomes the improved coordination between the IPA's support mechanisms and those of other international financial institutions and donors, and believes that further harmonisation of the various support mechanisms will help to improve their effectiveness.

15.

Recommends intensifying cooperation between local and regional authorities in the Member States and candidate countries, and believes that special attention needs to be paid to fostering public support for the accession process both in the Member States and candidate countries.

16.

Recognises the importance of the use of the existing networks of local authorities such as NALAS (Network of Associations of Local Authorities in South-East Europe) in its work with the candidate countries. Coordination and sharing of experience between the working groups of the CoR and the Joint Consultative committee covering the region could be fostered with the involvement of NALAS with the objective of comparing integration processes and decentralisation efforts in the region.

CROATIA

Progress achieved by Croatia in the accession process

17.

Welcomes the fact that the final stage of negotiations with Croatia will be opened shortly, provided it can meet the criteria for membership; encourages Croatia to speed up its reforms in several key areas.

18.

Believes that progress has been made in fighting corruption thanks to improvements in the legal framework and the activities of the Office for the fight against corruption and organised crime. Notes, however, that corruption remains a serious problem, and therefore recommends that additional efforts be made to boost coordination and independent monitoring, as well as to increase the administrative capacities of bodies that fight corruption.

19.

Welcomes the legal guarantees and general recognition of media freedom and pluralism. Has been following the cases involving physical attacks, threats and the exertion of political pressure on journalists with concern. Notes, that some additional appropriate measures have been undertaken, and calls on the authorities to take further steps to guarantee a safe working environment for journalists and to facilitate free and independent reporting.

20.

Notes that Croatia has been cooperating with the ICTY and calls on Croatian authorities to grant the Tribunal access to the remaining documents it requests.

21.

Encourages Croatia to resolve the border issues with Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Welcomes the readiness of Croatia and Slovenia to resolve their border issues with the help of the European Commission in conformity with the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the UN Charter.

22.

Considers the implementation of the constitutional law on minorities, coupled with the adoption of an action plan, as an important step in the introduction of legal frameworks which support the integration of minority groups in society. Highlights the importance of providing adequate information, financial resources and administrative support to allow the law to be successfully implemented at local and regional level.

23.

Believes that progress has been made with the return of refugees and internally displaced people, and underlines that for the accelerated return and integration of refugees and displaced persons in addition to providing an adequate living environment further measures are needed to improve access to the labour market and reduce hostility in some localities.

Boosting local and regional authorities' capacities

24.

Welcomes the ratification of the European Charter on Local Self-Government, but believes that further efforts need to be made to fully implement the charter's provisions.

25.

Welcomes the improvements that have been made to legal frameworks in public administration, and deems the adoption of the law on civil servants to be a step forward in efforts to depoliticise the civil service, introduce better administration and outline the rights and duties of civil servants.

26.

Notes that local and regional authorities and their associations are not adequately involved in the decisions being taken on legislation and implementing provisions that regulate the working methods, financing and organisation of local and regional authorities. Calls on the national authorities to set up procedures that allow them to be adequately represented in the legislative process.

27.

Believes that local and regional authorities and their associations must be involved in the process of implementing the Community acquis, and should be regularly informed about the progress made towards membership. Stresses that local and regional authorities must be well prepared to take on the obligations of future EU membership, as well as to benefit from the opportunities it offers.

28.

Draws attention to the delays incurred in devolution, and stresses that improving the capacity of local administration is key to a successful transfer of responsibilities to the local and regional level.

29.

Notes that the financial resources available to local and regional authorities are inadequate to meet the numerous, demanding tasks resulting from the urgent need for devolution. Therefore recommends that appropriate measure be adopted to improve the financial situation of local and regional authorities.

30.

Believes that the legal framework for inter-municipal cooperation needs to be improved to allow municipalities to cooperate with each other following devolution.

31.

Supports the initiative by municipal and regional associations to transform the working group into a joint consultative committee in order to improve the dialogue between local and regional authorities of Croatia and the Member States.

THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA

Progress achieved by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the accession process

32.

Welcomes the progress achieved in certain areas, and in meeting the requirements of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, and encourages the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to comply with the political criteria and fully implement the key priorities of the accession partnership. Recommends that a date for the start of membership negotiations be set if the necessary criteria, including good neighbourly relations, are met.

33.

Believes that the adoption of the new anti-corruption programme and action plan is expected to lead to progress in the fight against corruption. However, points out that corruption remains a widespread phenomenon, and therefore calls for additional efforts to be made to fight corruption and organised crime.

34.

Believes that the Ohrid Framework Agreement represents a guarantee that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will respect ethnic minority rights, and appreciates the progress achieved with the adoption of the law on languages which regulates and widens the use of minority languages. However, regrets the lack of further progress on the rights of the Roma community and highlights the repeated cases of discrimination of Roma. Calls for further steps to be taken to improve Roma's social integration and reduce discrimination.

35.

Welcomes the visa facilitation and readmission agreement reached with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and is confident that the progress achieved in meeting the benchmarks will be sufficient to submit a proposal to abolish the visa requirements for citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

36.

Encourages the good neighbourly relations, and reiterates its support to the efforts by the UN special representative, Matthew Nimetz, considering the country's name. Following the elections, urges the new president of the country to reach a compromise agreement between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece regarding the country's name. Calls on the national authorities of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to avoid actions which could risk undermining efforts to reach a mutually acceptable solution on the name issue. This issue should however not influence the decision for the opening of the accession negotiations, but it will significantly contribute to the accession process.

37.

Considers that some progress has been achieved on gender equality, and welcomes the setting up of equal opportunities commissions in numerous local authorities. Calls for further efforts to be made to prevent family and sexual violence, reduce discrimination, and guarantee more equal participation at elections.

38.

Takes note of the introduction of commissions for inter-ethnic relations at local level, but is aware of the difficulties which an unclear mandate and lack of financial resources are causing. Calls on the authorities to remove the obstacles that hamper these commissions.

Boosting local authorities' capacities

39.

Welcomes the continuation of fiscal devolution and the further reduction of local authority debt, as well as the improvement in tax collection rates. Points out, however, that the financial resources available are still inadequate to ensure tasks at local level are carried out to a high standard.

40.

Welcomes the adoption of a law on regional development, and calls for financial resources to be provided that will secure balanced regional development, as well as for the establishment of councils for regional development. Underlines the importance of improving the possibility for enhanced coordination between different administrative structures.

41.

Draws attention to the need for more effective and consistent dialogue between national and local authorities on areas such as education, state owned properties and others that are important for the development and work of local authorities, and recommends that this dialogue be enhanced.

42.

Highlights the importance of setting up appropriate instruments to increase the administrative capacities of local authorities and the transparency of local administration.

43.

Notes that devolution is continuing and believes the process needs to be speeded up. Points out that the standard at which tasks and services are carried out risks being reduced, if devolution of these responsibilities and tasks is not accompanied by adequate financial means. Therefore expects the financial resources needed to carry out devolved tasks to be provided.

44.

Takes note of the draft law on inter-municipal cooperation and recommends it be adopted as soon as possible.

45.

Believes that some progress has been achieved in the reform of public administration, and highlights the importance of setting up appropriate instruments to increase the capacities of local authorities and make the activity of local administration more transparent.

46.

Notes the changes that have been made to the national system for the coordination of training, as well as the adoption of the training strategy for civil servants at local and regional level. Believes that it is important to involve ZELS (local government association) in the training system to guarantee successful and quality training of civil servants.

47.

Welcomes the fact that already more than 70 municipalities have adopted codes of conduct for civil servants at local level, which represent local civil servants' commitment to high standards of work, and calls on the remaining municipalities to follow suit on this urgent issue.

TURKEY

Progress achieved by Turkey in the accession procedure

48.

Welcomes the government's commitment to continue the accession process and expects effective political and constitutional reforms to be drawn up that will continue to draw Turkey closer to international and European standards. Believes that additional efforts need to be made to ensure respect for diversity and to solve problems through dialogue and compromise.

49.

Notes that limited progress has been achieved in the fight against corruption and organised crime, and stresses that the adoption of basic documents and establishment of adequate institutional frameworks need to be backed up by full political support if improvements are to be achieved.

50.

Underlines that, taking into account the substantial financial EU support to Turkey, in the purpose of enabling the country to cope with the enormous increase of illegal migrants flows coming through its territory to the EU, the negotiations on an EU-Turkey readmission agreement remain a priority. These should resume at the earliest in order to conclude an agreement as rapidly as possible. Also notes, that in this respect, the adequate and effective implementation of existing bilateral agreements with Member States is of particular importance.

51.

Underlines that the ratification of international instruments for the protection of human rights and liberties needs to be speeded up, and expects the constitutional court to reach a decision as quickly as possible; also calls for the introduction of an Ombudsman.

52.

Welcomes the efforts that are being made to protect freedom of expression better, but stresses that the implementation of these legal changes needs to be speeded up, and that all restrictions on or obstacles to press freedom and the freedom of assembly need to be removed.

53.

Welcomes the start of television program broadcasting in the Kurdish language as well as the plans for broadcasting in the Armenian language; draws attention to the fact that EU standards on cultural and religious diversity and respect and protection of minorities have not been met entirely. Therefore expects appropriate legal and practical steps to be taken towards full recognition of minority rights.

54.

Stresses that equality for women must be turned into a practical reality in political life, education, access to the labour market and health services, and calls for the implementation of the provisions in the law on municipalities that foresee the introduction of a specified number of shelters as a means of protecting women from domestic violence and honour killings.

55.

Insists that only structures and measures compatible with a State governed by the rule of law be used to guarantee public law and order. Underlines that the monopoly on the use of force must lie with the State and that its use, which is reserved for state bodies, must not be transferred to sections of the civilian population.

56.

Stresses the need for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus question based on UN Security Council resolutions and on the principles on which the European Union is founded; welcomes the renewed commitment of the leaders of the two communities to a negotiated solution and supports the ongoing direct negotiations by the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus.

57.

Highlights in regard to relations between Greece and Turkey, that the latter has committed itself to good neighbourly relations and therefore calls on the Turkish government to make efforts to resolve any outstanding dispute peacefully and in accordance with the UN Charter, other relevant international conventions and bilateral agreements and obligations.

Boosting local authorities' capacities

58.

Stresses the importance of involving local authorities in the accession process and in the planning and implementation of the required reforms and legal adjustments as early as possible, and recommends adequate information provision and coordination between the local and national levels.

59.

Welcomes the adoption of amendments to the law on municipalities and hopes that it will enable municipalities to operate and organise themselves more effectively.

60.

Welcomes the fact that the financial capacities of the municipalities have been enhanced with the adoption of the law increasing municipal revenues and the implementation of the laws on local administration, and expects further initiatives to be taken to boost municipalities financially; this would enable them to carry out their duties more effectively.

61.

Regrets that no progress has been made on the adoption of a framework law on public administration, and draws attention to the importance of devolution in providing good government for the public.

62.

Believes that further efforts need to be made to allow town and city councils to operate more effectively as platforms for public involvement in local government decision-making.

63.

Underlines the importance of devolution and of strengthening local authorities' ability to carry out the duties devolved to them, as well as stepping up accountability and transparency.

64.

Regrets the occurrence of violent clashes during the latest municipal elections, especially in the Kurdish regions, in which several people were killed, and calls on the responsible authorities to do everything in their power in future to ensure that elections are held democratically, transparently and peacefully.

65.

Once more, highlights the need to set up a joint consultative committee of the CoR and Turkey as a key facility for the exchange of experience, knowledge and information on the involvement of local and regional authorities in the accession process.

Brussels, 17 June 2009

The President

of the Committee of the Regions

Luc VAN DEN BRANDE


4.9.2009   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 211/43


Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on Strengthening the Global Approach to Migration: increasing Coordination, Coherence and Synergies

(2009/C 211/05)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

The CoR believes that Regional and Local Authorities are on the front line in elaborating, implementing, evaluating and monitoring migration policy and thus should be considered as central partners in its development.

It underlines that a stronger inter-institutional partnership is to be promoted, both by the Member States and by the Community institutions.

Considers that a stronger focus should be placed on the capacity-building of Local and Regional Authorities, because they play a key role in the design and management of migration policy and in particular in fostering cooperation with third-country administrations responsible for employment and immigration; this approach has been recalled by the CoR in its earlier opinions.

The CoR points out that already existing tools and institutional structures, such as the Committee of the Regions' initiative — Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM), the Council of Europe and other relevant networks, should be involved when dealing with migration issues.

It stresses the need for enhanced integration of migrants in the host societies, because migrants are key players for the development of both their countries of origin and destination.

Moreover it stresses the need for common efforts to put in place a better management of external borders in particular of the Southern maritime borders and of all regions confronted with massive influxes of migrants being in critical humanitarian conditions.

The CoR emphasises the role of the Immigration Liaison Officers Network in achieving the objectives set in the Communication; in parallel calls the Commission to ensure that competent Local and Regional Authorities can have access to and benefit from the exchange of best practices and the information gathered through the Network.

Finally it welcomes the extension of the Global Approach to other countries and regions, such as Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and encourages the European Commission to proceed further in this direction, emphasising the need to define modalities of the dialogue with these regions and thereby paving the way also for closer cooperation and coordination with Africa, and South and South-Eastern regions neighbouring the EU.

Rapporteur

:

Arnoldas Abramavičius (LT/EPP), Mayor of Zarasai District Municipality

Reference document

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on Strengthening the Global Approach to Migration: increasing Coordination, Coherence and Synergies

COM(2008) 611 final

I.   POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

The role of Local and Regional Authorities

1.

Believes that Regional and Local Authorities are on the front line in elaborating, implementing, evaluating and monitoring migration policy and thus should be considered as central partners in its development;

2.

Recalls the fact that Local and Regional Authorities hold either shared and/or exclusive competencies in this field; therefore their consultation by the Member States and the European Commission should be compulsory, and should also be done in the prelegislative process as well as in the consultative procedure involving the Committee of the Regions;

3.

Underlines that a stronger inter-institutional partnership is to be promoted, both by the Member States and by the Community institutions;

4.

Considers that a stronger focus should be placed on the capacity-building of Local and Regional Authorities, because they play a key role in the design and management of migration policy and in particular in fostering cooperation with third-country administrations responsible for employment and immigration; this approach has been recalled by the CoR in its earlier opinions (1);

5.

Regrets that the crucial role played by Local and Regional Authorities in cross-border territorial cooperation in the migration field is not sufficiently acknowledged;

6.

Points out that a more detailed evaluation should be made for initiatives such as exploration of new scientific methodologies for gathering and exchanging information on migratory routes, as well as on integration policies and their consequences for Local and Regional Authorities in relation to financial and administrative burden;

7.

Calls on the European Commission to work to improve the production and dissemination of reliable, up to date, quantitative and qualitative information which is the primary source for drafting individual Member States' immigration profiles;

8.

Welcomes the idea that explicit reference should be placed on the need for increasing human and financial resources in the field of monitoring the implementation of existing legislation, as this represents a central element for achieving a better regulatory environment;

9.

Considers that the Commission's intention to support local organizations working with migrants in the countries of origin should be directly geared to local and regional contexts, in order to improve the awareness of opportunities in the home countries; therefore, recommends to involve Local and Regional Authorities and their national associations particularly in partner countries and other third countries developing a common migration policy implementation;

10.

Points out that already existing tools and institutional structures, such as the Committee of the Regions' initiative — Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM), the Council of Europe and other relevant networks, should be involved when dealing with migration issues;

11.

Recommends, with regards to defining migration policies, to adopt an inclusive approach so that the European Commission's Communication should explicitly mention all actors concerned at local, regional and central levels contributing to the conception of policies and ensuring their effectiveness in the implementation stage;

12.

Points out that the conclusions of the 2009 Summit of Regions and Cities held in Prague called for an integrated and comprehensive approach to migration and integration, based on the efforts of Local and Regional Authorities.

13.

Believes that a common European migration policy in those areas in which Member States believe it is justified, must not prevent more generous rules from being introduced in Member States;

Steps towards strengthening the global approach to migration

General recommendations

14.

Considers that EU migration policy is an inherently cross-cutting, multifaceted phenomenon and is thus a shared responsibility of the European Union and the different levels of governance in the individual Member States and third countries; they should act together according to the principles of democracy, subsidiarity, solidarity and mutual trust, to the specificities of different regional and local contexts, respecting human rights and the fundamental values lying at the core of the EU;

15.

Welcomes the aim to promote a coherent Global Approach to Migration, where reinforcement of political dialogue and practical cooperation among EU Member States and third countries and regions is an essential issue, but consistency with the basic principles and the overreaching objectives of EU social, economic and foreign development policies should be ensured;

16.

Emphasises that the guidelines identified in the earlier EU documents (2) remain valid, particularly as regards the three components (good management of legal migration, fight against irregular immigration, the relationship between migration and development) and the need for their balanced implementation;

17.

Points out that only European and national levels are emphasised in the European Commission's draft Communication; stresses that greater emphasis should be placed on the Local and Regional Authorities and their role in implementing a global migration policy;

18.

Calls for greater attention to be devoted to the particularly vulnerable circumstances of immigrant women, which has been addressed in the Committee of Regions opinion in 2007 (CdR 296/2007) ;

19.

Supports the conclusions of the Council of the European Union of December 2008 (3), recalling the need to ensure greater coherence in funding so as to ensure the swift implementation of the foreseen measures; recommends to make use of the existing Community funds to improve cooperation between EU Local and Regional Authorities and their counterparts in the countries of origin;

Concerning Legal economic migration and mobility

20.

Agrees that mobility should remain one of the crucial elements of legal migration and stresses the need to be further promoted by Local and Regional Authorities, including the extension of pilot Mobility Partnerships such as with Moldova and Cape Verde;

21.

Invites Local and Regional Authorities to be fully involved in the collection of information on regular migratory flows, disseminated through interactive portals such as the forthcoming EU Immigration Portal, the European Job Mobility Portal, the EURES Network and the European Researchers Mobility Portal and the European Migration Network, which would contribute towards ensuring the local and regional specificities are properly reflected in the development of migration policies;

22.

Supports the Commission proposals to step up initiatives aimed at fostering more flexible and efficient solutions for migrants related to the labour market, by exploring inter alia new initiatives on the portability of pension rights, recognition of foreign qualifications and social inclusion of migrants;

23.

Stresses the need for enhanced integration of migrants in the host societies, because migrants are key players for the development of both their countries of origin and destination;

24.

Welcomes the creation of a network of migration observatories, as foreseen in the General Affairs Council conclusions adopted on 8 December 2008, as it increases further the standing of the Migration Profiles as a key tool for the common EU immigration policy; in this respect Local and Regional Authorities should be directly involved in the work of these observatories and act as key players in setting them up and implementing their activities.

Concerning fight against irregular migration

25.

Welcomes the extension of the FRONTEX mandate to support third countries on border control, as already foreseen in a previous CoR opinion (CdR 210/2008);

26.

Supports the idea put forward in the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, of examining the possibility of setting up a European system of border guards;

27.

Points out that a reference should be made in the EC Communication on the involvement, in the Rapid Border Intervention Teams, of local and regional administrations, in particular of those most affected by migratory inflows;

28.

Stresses the need for common efforts to put in place a better management of external borders in particular of the Southern maritime borders and of all regions confronted with massive influxes of migrants being in critical humanitarian conditions;

29.

Emphasises the role of the Immigration Liaison Officers Network in achieving the objectives set in the Communication; in parallel calls the Commission to ensure that competent Local and Regional Authorities can have access to and benefit from the exchange of best practices and the information gathered through the Network;

30.

Agrees with the Commission's proposal to give priority to the implementation of the Ouagadougou Action Plan on fighting human trafficking, in particular of women and children where the role of local and regional associations is crucial in developing anti- trafficking strategies and action plans.

Concerning migration and development

31.

Supports twinning programmes between public and private sector employers and institutions from EU member states and countries of origin, aiming to support circular migration and fight the ‘brain drain’; recommends that Local and Regional Authorities could put forward their valuable expertise and knowledge in order to help migrants reintegrate in home country labour markets;

32.

Agrees with the Commission proposal to acquire a better understanding of the scale and impact of ‘brain drain’ which is in line with the specific requests voiced by the Local and Regional Authorities in a previous CoR opinion (CdR 296/2007);

33.

Stresses that further efforts exploring the link between climate change and migration should be made;

34.

Stresses the importance of Local and Regional Authorities in fostering territorial economic development, building democracy and good governance, as well as of their involvement in the elaboration and implementation of cooperation programmes in the migration field;

35.

Welcomes the EC-UN Joint Migration and Development Initiative (JMDI), supporting civil society organizations and local authorities seeking to contribute to linking migration and development with a view to maximising positive synergies between local and regional actors;

36.

Emphasises that the participation of Local and Regional Authorities, through their national and regional associations, in networks and platforms of cooperation and involving Local and Regional Authorities and associations of third countries, would contribute significantly to the achievement of more effective cooperation in the training of law enforcement officials, twinning programmes, data collection and dissemination, monitoring of migratory flows and similar projects;

37.

Stresses the significance of establishing permanent platforms of cooperation, dialogue and exchange among Local and Regional Authorities and associations, particularly of the northern, southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean; the establishment of the Euro- Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly could serve as an example for further development;

38.

Emphasises that the role and the contribution of diasporas to the development of their countries of origin, for example through remittance transfers and the development of associations and their networking, require more systematic attention.

Concerning geographical approach

39.

Supports the position of the Council of the European Union (4) on the establishment of a tripartite dialogue between countries of origin, destination and transit in different geographical areas, which must be explored while using and extending existing tools such as mobility partnerships, bilateral channels, cooperation frameworks such as ECOWAS, the Rabat process, pilot mobility partnerships and others, while concrete tools and means should be diversified according to the practical needs of the regions and third countries and their practical needs and possibilities;

40.

Welcomes the extension of the Global Approach to other countries and regions, such as Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and encourages the European Commission to proceed further in this direction, emphasising the need to define modalities of the dialogue with these regions and thereby paving the way also for closer cooperation and coordination with Africa, and South and South-Eastern regions neighbouring the EU.

Brussels, 17 June 2009.

The President

of the Committee of the Regions

Luc VAN DEN BRANDE


(1)  CdR opinion on ‘A Common Immigration Policy for Europe’, CdR 210/2008 fin.

(2)  COM(2007) 248 final; COM(2007) 780 final; COM(2008) 359 final; Council of the European Union, ‘European Pact on Immigration and Asylum’, No 13440/08, ASIM 72, Brussels, 24.09.2008, Lima Declaration, May 18, 2008

(3)  2914th General Affairs Council Meeting, Brussels, 8 December 2008

(4)  2914th General Affairs Council Meeting, Brussels, 8 December 2008, para. .22


4.9.2009   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 211/47


Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on a new impetus for halting biodiversity loss

(2009/C 211/06)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

notes the failure of policies to stem the erosion of biodiversity in Europe by 2010, which requires a proactive strategy which must be reflected in a systemic approach and supported over the long-term, well beyond 2010. This strategy must fully involve local and regional authorities, with Member States providing them with the necessary legal and financial means;

calls on the European Union, the Member States and local and regional authorities to set up a strict system of eco-conditionality for grants and funding. It urges the Commission to encourage the Member States both to review their systems of taxation and to make national promotional funds more supportive for biodiversity;

considers that the Natura 2000 network sites need to be consolidated in most countries and calls on the Member States to assume their responsibilities for marine areas and groundwater in this regard. Tailored management plans for Natura 2000 sites involving local and regional authorities and owners of private land and resources need to be drawn up and implemented;

considers that an ‘environmental framework’ as a genuine natural infrastructure needs to be urgently created and calls for action to ensure that all measures taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions do not have a damaging effect on biological diversity. Furthermore, it believes that only at European level a strategy for combating invasive species can hope to be effective;

considers that a biodiversity conservation strategy can only be successful if it is embraced by the general public and encourages local and regional authorities to get involved and be assisted in setting up high quality awareness-raising and training programmes.

Rapporteur

:

Mr René Souchon (FR/PES), President of Auvergne Regional Council

Reference Documents

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — A mid-term assessment of implementing the EC Biodiversity Action Plan

COM(2008) 864 final

and the

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — Towards an EU Strategy on Invasive Species

COM(2008) 789 final

I.   POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

1.

notes that — according to the opinion of scientists and researchers — plant and animal species are disappearing at a far faster rate than has ever been witnessed since life began;

2.

notes the seminal importance of biodiversity for the survival of mankind, particularly through ecosystem systems, for both future and current generations, but also for the present generation;

3.

highlights as of now the impact of climate change on the development and distribution of living species;

4.

points out that man is incapable of living in a purely mineral environment, and therefore concludes that changes in or the erosion of biodiversity will have a dramatic impact on mankind;

5.

notes already the negative social and economic effects of the loss of biodiversity and declining ecosystems;

6.

points out that the major causes for the erosion of biodiversity include the increasingly artificial state of soils, the fragmentation of natural areas, and the development of populations of exotic plant and animal species, more intensive agriculture, climate change and various forms of pollution;

7.

notes that biodiversity must be managed and conserved at local and regional level if it is to be safeguarded worldwide, and recognises that, if this is to be achieved, it is important to bring together all local stakeholders involved in protecting biodiversity: especially businesses, organisations, owners and administrators of rural areas, scientists, political decision-makers, local and regional authorities;

General comments and role of local and regional authorities

8.

believes that the consequences for mankind of the loss of biodiversity can, like the consequences of climate change, be extremely serious;

9.

notes the failure of policies to stem the erosion of biodiversity in Europe by 2010, due to the clear gap between the promises made and the action actually taken and the measures employed;

10.

notes, however, the success of certain individual measures, such as the plans to safeguard certain species of animals and plants (Egyptian vulture, otter, Brent goose (Branta Bernicula)) and environments (Rhineland alluvial forests, the Thames), the management plans applied in a number of labelled areas;

11.

believes that there is an urgent need to give a new impetus to strategies and programmes, e.g. as part of the implementation by all Member States of the European Landscape Convention, which seek to achieve or contribute to the sustainable conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services in order that the means employed may produce tangible results;

12.

to this end, believes that it is necessary to get local and regional authorities closely involved in both the formulation and the implementation of such programmes and, accordingly, to provide them with the legal and financial means which are commensurate with their responsibilities in the context of sustainability;

13.

notes that the way in which different societies behave towards the environment and their natural resources (use or exploitation of resources, land occupation, land use) is above all shaped by how nature is perceived in their cultural traditions; the Committee calls on the EU to work towards developing a new cultural vision for biological diversity which embraces, as part of a general framework, both an ethical approach, highlighting the intrinsic value of nature, the heritage of mankind, and a more utilitarian approach, which focuses on the services provided by ecosystems;

14.

notes that the conservation of biological diversity and ecosystem services (protection against soil erosion, water purification) requires a proactive strategy which must be reflected in a systemic approach (i.e. a coordinated approach which brings together a number of active inter-related elements) and supported over the long-term or well beyond 2010. This strategy must fully involve local and regional authorities;

15.

urges that the conservation of biological diversity be treated as a consideration which unifies land use planning and management policy well beyond 2010, in both rural and urban areas;

16.

calls for the incorporation of the conservation of biodiversity as a key aspect within European policies, strategies and programmes well beyond 2010. A cross-cutting theme integrated with others, it should be viewed as a guiding principle which ensures the necessary coordination between the various spatial planning and land use policies, requiring close cooperation between the different Commission DGs and the firm involvement of local and regional authorities;

17.

welcomes the robust method adopted by the Member States and by the Commission, which has produced a mid-term report analysing the state of biodiversity and the implementation of national action plans; this method is founded on a self-assessment of the projects implemented by the Member States, which the Commission has compiled into an overall consistent vision;

18.

welcomes the European Parliament's resolution, 2008/2210(INI), adopted unanimously on 3 February 2009, which recognises the need for a European network of nature areas, known as wilderness areas, i.e. areas which have been changed little by human activity, and congratulates the Czech presidency on holding a ‘Conference on Wilderness and Large Natural Habitat Areas in Europe’ on 27 and 28 May 2009;

19.

notes that, according to the principle of subsidiarity, the sustainable conservation of biological diversity and ecosystem services requires both measures at local level as well as a global recognition due to the functioning of ecosystems which surpasses administrative borders and that the services provided to the population are particularly dependent on;

20.

urges the Member States to strictly enforce the provisions of the SEA (Strategic Environmental Assessment, Directive 2001/42/CE) and of the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment, Directive 85/337/EC) as well as the Natura 2000 procedures so as to minimise the pressures on nature areas and on biological diversity;

21.

considers that a strategy for the conservation of biological diversity must be ambitious if it is to achieve the objective of stemming the erosion of biological diversity. It must comprise economic and financial chapters, and provide incentives for local and regional authorities and landowners. The strategies to be followed must be designed and implemented at all the different levels of the various natural systems to ensure they are consistent and applied by everybody;

22.

calls on the European Union, the Member States and the local and regional authorities to set up a strict system of eco-conditionality for grants and funding, based on clear indicators such as those being developed within the framework of SEBI2010, which take account of biodiversity and its interaction with other areas;

23.

urges the Commission to encourage the Member States both to review their systems of taxation and to adapt national promotional funds for supporting business and communities to make them more biodiversity-friendly, e.g. by lowering the VAT rates on organic farm produce or produce sourced from Natura 2000 sites. It would be particularly desirable to:

23.1

on the one hand, lower or even abolish certain taxes as well as subsidies which encourage action that has an adverse effect on biodiversity, in order to achieve an internal compatibility with laws and national codes promoting biodiversity;

23.2

on the other hand, increase subsidies and widen the scope of tax breaks which encourage action that stimulates biodiversity;

24.

calls on the Commission to highlight the requirements to conserve biodiversity and the related ecosystem services, alongside criteria for health and the wellbeing of inhabitants, in the discussions underway at European level on the revision of the criteria used to calculate GDP (which measures only financial flow and not the importance of stored capital); for example, the costs of work caused by pollution, be it accidental or otherwise, should be deductible, and not included in the tax base, as is currently the case;

25.

calls for the sustained continuation, well beyond 2010, of the action taken to stem the erosion of biodiversity;

26.

considers that the response to the current economic crisis, which involves comprehensive restructuring measures, requires biological diversity parameters to be fully integrated. The importance of this environmental issue must be better taken into account at all levels of regional administration, and, above all, across all areas of economic activity as well;

Biodiversity in the European Union

27.

stresses the strong need for energetic and coordinated action at European level, replicated at all levels, particularly regional level, to ensure it is as close as possible to the citizen;

28.

stresses the originality and strength of the Natura 2000 approach, based on close cooperation between scientists and politicians, and which is geared towards the sustainable use of natural resources. It welcomes the designated sites, which cover approximately 20 % of Europe's territory;

29.

considers, however, that the network of SAC (Special Area of Conservation, Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC) and SPA (Special Protection Area, Birds Directive 79/409/EEC) sites needs to be consolidated in most countries: the poor quality of the scientific reference data undermines any efforts to assess the extent to which such Natura 2000 land sites meet the criteria of the Habitats and Birds Directives. Furthermore, it calls on the Member States to assume their responsibilities with regard to marine areas and groundwater,

30.

emphasises the particular importance of estuarine ecosystems which are key habitats for the biological diversity of both marine and freshwater-based ecosystems, and urges that they be given greater attention by means of a compulsory integrated management plan, at least for those belonging to the NATURA 2000-network;

31.

stresses the need to focus intensely on the quality of soils and their diversity; soil is the earth's only environmental compartment through which all flows of materials and energy pass; such flows are an integral part of the dynamics of every ecosystem and, accordingly, of all species. The Directive's section on biological diversity, which is in the process of being developed, should therefore be substantially strengthened;

32.

calls for particular attention to be paid to the preservation of the level and quality of the water table, which is of such importance for both the biological quality and diversity of soils (especially for agriculture) and for the supply of drinking water to local populations;

33.

calls for working relations to be strengthened between experts, irrespective of whether they are members of scientific bodies or other nature organisations and political decision-makers; if they are to be effective in meeting the target of biodiversity conservation, the decisions and successful implementation of programmes depend as much on the skills of scientific experts as on the competence of those who have local political responsibilities;

34.

considers that the Natura 2000 sites will only be able to fully contribute to the sustainable conservation of biological diversity if a specially tailored natural heritage management plan involving local and regional authorities and owners of private land and resources is drawn up and implemented; the fact that probably as much as a half of all species and over three-quarters of European conservation habitats have an unfavourable conservation status bears witness to the urgent need to manage such sites;

35.

considers that the Natura 2000 network and all of the wilderness areas must be fully incorporated into the biodiversity conservation spatial strategies implemented by the Member States and by local and regional authorities;

36.

calls for the urgent creation of an ‘environmental framework’ a genuine natural infrastructure ensuring working links between Natura 2000 sites and wilderness areas as a matter of priority, as well as in urban areas and peri-urban agricultural areas, by mobilising the various local and regional authorities, including the regions. Existing and future linear land use developments (motorways, rail lines) should respect this environmental infrastructure so as to prevent the fragmentation of such natural areas and should be incorporated into the new Common Agricultural Policy;

37.

notes that, given the very nature of biological diversity, the biodiversity of Natura 2000 sites is subjected to substantial pressure from neighbouring areas and considers that the management and utilisation of areas adjacent to Natura 2000 sites should ensure that a sustainable contribution is made to conserving the biological diversity and ecosystem services on these sites;

38.

stresses the need to review in depth and strengthen policies in the area of fisheries (CFP) and agriculture (CAP) and to initiate a policy for forests introducing biological diversity and eco-conditionality requirements for all aid;

39.

believes that Appendix I of Directive 2001/1/EC on the prevention and reduction of pollution should also include all aquaculture activity in both freshwater and marine environments, particularly where they are intensive;

40.

suggests reviewing the criteria used to define indications of geographical origin (IGO): the cultural practices concerned must embrace the requirements of biodiversity and its evolution;

41.

welcomes the decision of the Council of the European Union of 2 March 2009 on the application of the precautionary principle for genetically modified organisms (Charter of Florence, signed on 4 February 2005), and calls for its stringent application with the maximum possible transparency, in accordance with the Aarhus Convention (signed on 25 June 1998);

42.

voices concern at the probable consequences of energy crop cultivation, such as the large surface areas needed for biofuel crops, which will increase the incentive to cultivate areas of fallow-land and wilderness areas, for instance through the lifting of the requirement in August 2008 to set aside land and which will contribute to the deforestation of the countries of southern Europe. The CoR proposes that the Commission set up a means of assessing the impact of biofuel crops on biodiversity, the environment and ecosystems;

43.

notes that species, ecosystems and flows of related materials span administrative borders, particularly national borders, and therefore draws attention to the existence of Natura 2000 sites which are divided by a national border; accordingly, it suggests creating, at European level, a cross-border spatial status or label (Crossborder Natura 2000, nature reserve or regional park) in order to ensure the consistent management of biodiversity and the ecosystem concerned;

44.

considers that a biodiversity conservation strategy can only be successful if it is embraced by the general public, from the ordinary citizen to key economic players and political leaders in the regions. This will require a high quality awareness-raising and training programme, which will employ not only state of the art communication methods (internet) but also school curricula; local and regional authorities, and particularly the regions, who are closest to the citizens, must be encouraged to get involved and be assisted in this role;

45.

recommends rewarding best practices which promote biological diversity and its evolution;

Invasive species in particular

46.

welcomes the fact that the Commission has given significant consideration to the problem of exotic species that have become invasive, and which represent a serious danger to local biodiversity;

47.

repeats its recommendation (CoR 159/2006 final) to seek urgent action to tackle invasive species through a clear and proactive strategy, with the participation of local and regional authorities; believes it is vital to draw up an ad hoc directive;

48.

considers that only a European level strategy for combating invasive species can hope to be effective; this implies the firm and coordinated participation of every Member State, particularly in terms of drafting legislation, and their local and regional authorities, particularly in terms of formulating measures to combat such species; considers, in fact, that the regional level is best placed to take effective action to monitor, prevent and eliminate invasive species;

49.

notes the lack of specially adapted legislation, despite the existence of specific texts in other fields at European level, which is the appropriate level for controlling the introduction of exotic animal and plant species;

50.

regrets the variety and differences in national level measures and regulations which severely hampers the effectiveness of strategies to combat invasive exotic species and calls on the Member States to draft the legislation needed to develop a coordinated and overall approach;

51.

believes there is an urgent need to introduce strict measures to control imports of species which are non-indigenous to Europe or, at the very least, voluntary imports; equally, it draws attention to the reasons which govern or underlie the relevant decisions and calls for high levels of ethical vigilance;

The EU and global biodiversity

52.

acknowledges the particular responsibility of the European Union vis-à-vis global biodiversity, in the light of both its history and its trade relations and, accordingly, recognises its duty to lead by example in this field;

53.

draws particular attention to the significant risks inherent in opening up the markets to the distribution of potentially invasive natural or genetically modified species; therefore, urges the inclusion of biodiversity conservation requirements in all international trade agreements;

54.

calls on the Member States to assume their full responsibilities with regard to their land and marine nature areas located beyond Europe, particularly those areas which are especially abundant in living organisms and have original ecosystems, irrespective of how distant they may be;

55.

urges support for international cooperation between regions aimed at backing action, especially economic or educational campaigns, which promote the sustainable conservation of biodiversity at a level enabling the regions to both encourage and support their implementation;

56.

stresses the importance of setting up an international panel of experts in the field of biodiversity based to a large degree on existing bodies such as the European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity, IUCN or the IPBES (under construction);

Biodiversity and climate change

57.

notes the determining influence of climatic conditions on species and ecosystems and, therefore, on biodiversity, which — for example in the case of ecologically unstable systems — makes it necessary to take into account a system-based approach rather than a species-based approach. Investing in a natural environment might lead for instance to the development of new ecosystems;

58.

calls for action to ensure that all measures taken to curb greenhouse gas emissions do not have a damaging effect on biological diversity;

59.

believes there is a need to bring centres of production, especially food production, closer to the consumer in order to, on the one hand, lower the energy costs generated by long-distance transport and, on the other hand, improve the alimentary self-sufficiency and independence of individual countries;

60.

noting, at the same time, the way in which species contribute to the flow of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly CO2, across the planet, calls for the inclusion in all biodiversity conservation programmes of a commitment to curb greenhouse gas emissions, for example by conserving habitat types that reduce CO2 and increase O2, such as forest habitats or humid zones (marshlands, peat bogs);

61.

notes the renewed interest in forests, which are once again being considered as sources of renewable energy, and stresses the need to ensure that this does not lead to new practices (mono-cultivation, with short rotation cycles) which may harm biodiversity;

62.

insists on the fact that investments and current investments and activities in the field of renewable energy production that cause changes in habitat or have a damaging effect on biodiversity (especially mini power plants and hydroelectric power plants) should use natural resources, whilst meeting basic criteria guaranteeing the survival and continuity of the river environment's potential biodiversity. A fall in an activity's yield as a result of respecting biodiversity should never imply a right to receive public aid as compensation, since this is a fixed obligation. Firm guarantees should also be provided for the environmental corridor, represented by the flow of water and the flood plain, to ensure that communities are not cut off;

The knowledge base

63.

stresses the need for access to reliable information on biodiversity, its health and on the condition of ecosystems; this knowledge must be accessible to as many people as possible;

64.

stresses the importance of research in the field of natural and environmental science. To this end, an integrated network of protected areas and/or wilderness zones should be set up to create an observatory of changes in the natural world, particularly those influenced by climate change;

65.

suggests developing research to improve how to gauge and analyse the real value (in cultural as well as economic terms) of biodiversity and ecosystem services; such research should bring together teams of researchers from a variety of disciplines so as to adopt a systematic approach, in order to achieve an overall vision which takes account of both natural and cultural aspects;

66.

stresses the need to recognise and identify at national and regional level the major causes for the erosion of biological diversity and the related decline in ecosystem services with a view to elaborating and implementing effective conservation strategies;

67.

emphasises the absolute necessity of formulating or completing a set of relevant indicators (e.g. SEBI-2010), coordinated at European level, for the operational monitoring of the health and evolution of biological diversity, and of ecosystems;

68.

calls on the Member States to re-establish and reform education in the natural sciences, particularly at higher education level, and in the areas of fieldwork, and the identification of species and ecosystems;

69.

calls on the Member States to include education on biodiversity within higher technical education courses and vocational training programmes (spatial planning, agriculture, infrastructure construction, economics, urban planning etc);

Key supporting measures

70.

insists on the absolute need to endow local, regional and national authorities with the human, financial and technical means necessary to support programmes which are sustainable, i.e. beyond 2010, in order to ensure the conservation of biodiversity over the long-term;

71.

calls for an increase in the corresponding budgetary envelopes and a simplification of the approval procedures without reducing the benefits for biological diversity, in particular LIFE+, as well as the better use of funding from FEDER, FEADER, FED to promote the conservation of biodiversity;

72.

urges the strict enforcement of stringent eco-conditionality requirements when allocating financial support based on criteria which include clear and reliable indicators such as those derived from SEBI-2010;

73.

urges local administration and specialists to work together in close cooperation from the very beginning of a project so as to ensure a ‘systemic’ approach (i.e. a coordinated approach which brings together a number of active inter-related elements), be they from the Commission, from the Member States or from local and regional authorities;

74.

stresses the urgent need to conduct scientific research programmes, particularly in the fields of natural and environmental sciences, in order to provide the knowledge needed to achieve the objective of stemming the erosion of biodiversity and highlights the importance of focusing skills training schemes and scientific career development programmes (e.g. through European scholarships) on subjects related to biodiversity, in both the life sciences and social sciences;

75.

underlines the importance of educational campaigns, in particular for pupils, students and young people generally, which seek to achieve genuine public awareness of these issues i.e. campaigns which cover all sections of society, problems and how best to manage biodiversity. Such campaigns should use as their cornerstone the close proximity of local and regional authorities to the citizen;

Monitoring

76.

notes that the tangible results of a policy for conserving biodiversity should be viewed over the long term, well beyond 2010, and perhaps even 2020; accordingly, any assessment of achievements after a two-year period will ascertain only how effectively such campaigns have been implemented;

77.

notes that the assessment of biodiversity should not be based solely on the number of living species but should also take full account of how they interact with one another, the complexity of the ecosystems and how they operate;

78.

calls on environmental associations to be encouraged to put their knowledge to good use in the process of monitoring and reporting on changes in biodiversity and to pass this information on to the local and regional authorities;

79.

calls for the establishment of a major ‘Biodiversity Observatory’ (which could form part of a beefed-up European Thematic Centre for Nature Conservation) as a continuation of the approach employed for the present mid-term assessment. It would be desirable for this observatory to be supported by observatories at national, regional and other sub-national levels.

Brussels, 18 June 2009

The President

of the Committee of the Regions

Luc VAN DEN BRANDE


4.9.2009   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 211/54


Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the management of bio-waste in the European Union

(2009/C 211/07)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

suggests that measures and restrictions relating to bio-waste management should be determined at Member State level. The competent authorities, which in many Member States are local and regional authorities, should be free to choose bio-waste management methods that are adapted to local needs, safe for the environment and effective;

emphasises that the overall goal is to prevent the production of bio-waste. It suggests that efforts be made to increase awareness, to curb the amount of food discarded, to support forward-looking town planning, ‘smart gardening’ and home composting as well as to consider public procurement as an important means in this regard;

believes that national measures to limit the volume of bio-waste that may be landfilled above the thresholds set out by the EU, combined with EU support for investment in infrastructure, will accelerate the transition from landfill to other, more sustainable, methods of bio-waste treatment;

calls for separate collection of bio-waste, partly as a means of quality assurance, with methods of bio-waste collection to be determined by local circumstances and be introduced in the Member States as one of several means of developing bio-waste management;

believes that the form of and the framework for selective collection and recycling objectives must be fixed by the EU, with each Member State being able to specify national targets based on its circumstances and needs. Non-legislative targets at EU level should be phased in, since fertiliser production requires quality-assured management of bio-waste. Quality standards for compost and compost-like output from bio-waste should be EU-wide in the case of substances that might be harmful to the environment and human health.

Rapporteur

:

Mona-Lisa Norrman (SE/PES), Member of Jämtland County Council

Reference document

Green Paper on the management of bio-waste in the European Union

COM(2008) 811 final

I.   POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

General comments

1.

The CoR welcomes the Green Paper and its overarching objective of breaking the link between economic growth and increasing volumes of waste in the EU. This is also an important goal in the EU's strategy for sustainable development, which aims to combine high environmental standards and social cohesion with a sustainable and dynamic economy.

2.

The CoR notes that waste production and waste management present an environmental and health problem in the EU as well as globally, which directly implicates local and regional authorities in their general roles as decision-makers and organisers. The Committee also points out that all those who manage waste are responsible for ensuring a high level of environmental and human health protection. Waste management should thus be regarded as a service of general economic interest within the meaning of Article 86(2) of the EC Treaty.

3.

The CoR emphasises that the overall goal is to prevent the production of bio-waste as far as possible. The EU institutions and the Member States must ensure that this objective of general interest is achieved in accordance with Article 16 of the EC Treaty.

4.

The CoR notes that the transport of waste represents a significant proportion of transport in the EU, as well as creating climate problems, and must therefore be cut to a minimum. Bio-waste should therefore be managed in accordance with the principles set out in Article 174(2) of the EC Treaty, namely that environmental degradation should be prevented at source. It is therefore important that transport and infrastructure factors be taken into account when managing bio-waste. An important tool here is provided by the waste management plans drawn up under Directive 2008/98/EC on waste.

5.

The CoR notes that the Green Paper covers a wide range of policy areas, from waste, climate, energy and transport to farming, consumption and food production, as well as competition and free movement. The Committee trusts that, in its further work on developing the management of bio-waste, the Commission will, in line with Article 6 of the EC Treaty, incorporate environmental protection factors into the respective policy areas that are relevant to bio-waste management.

6.

The Committee believes it is important to support the development of a market for bio-waste and that this market should preferably be local. Bio-waste should be recognised as a valuable natural resource that can produce compost, which is vital to keep soil productive, reduce the use of energy-intensive artificial fertilisers and increase the soil's ability to hold water (and therefore reduce run-off and flash flooding). The CoR feels that the market for bio-waste should be based on principles set out in the Treaty: the precautionary principle, the principle that preventive action should be taken, and the ‘polluter pays’ principle. These are important prerequisites for ensuring that the Commission's future bio-waste management proposals meet public expectations and demands for credible action on waste. The market for bio-waste must be developed and analysed in order to avert any over- or under-supply from a national or EU perspective. The national waste management plans are an important instrument here.

7.

The CoR agrees with the Commission that the competent authorities in the Member States should be free to choose waste management methods on the basis of local and regional requirements. This is important to ensure the development of bio-waste management methods that are adapted to local needs, safe for the environment and effective. Important factors include climate, geology and soil conditions, demand for fertiliser and energy, population density and volume of waste, material factors such as infrastructure, as well as local commitment and effective dialogue between the competent authorities and other stakeholders, not least the general public. In this area it is clear that the subsidiarity principle, the principle of local self-government and the proximity principle play an important role in realising the EU's objectives.

8.

In the Green Paper, bio-waste is defined as it is in Article 3(4) of the EU Waste Directive. The CoR can understand the Commission's reservations about defining bio-waste too broadly, since this could hamper efforts to minimise the volume of bio-waste and streamline its management. However, the Committee urges the Commission to consider the implications of the definition proposed in the Green Paper.

9.

The CoR would remind the Commission that expanding society's infrastructure for managing waste, including bio-waste, presents a challenge for both public and private operators. Well-designed waste management plans approved by national, regional or local authorities provide a tool for creating an effective waste infrastructure. It is important that these plans be coordinated with other plans relating to public amenities. Waste management plans can also be developed, among other things, for monitoring bio-waste treatment in the Member States, and as a basis for sharing experience.

10.

The development of bio-waste management methods that are adapted to local needs, safe for the environment and effective requires financial support and increased investment in R&D. The CoR would like EU funding to be provided so as to expand infrastructure adapted to local needs and build up markets for sustainable bio-waste management. EU funding in this area must be accompanied by benchmarking and relevant research, and comply with socio-economic principles.

Assessment of the initiative

Question 1: Waste prevention

11.

Much of the bio-waste covered by the Green Paper definition is produced as a result of society's food consumption and production. A statistic quoted for the United Kingdom is that up to 35 % of food bought by households is thrown away. Household purchases are increasingly determined by trends, the development of ‘fast food’, and pre-prepared or convenience foods, as well as the need to save time and money by buying in bulk. The CoR suggests that efforts be made to increase awareness among both producers and consumers of the link between consumption and production, as well as costs, waste, the environment and health. Measures should also be taken to curb the amount of food discarded by the food industry, shops, restaurants, the healthcare sector, schools, etc. The Committee would like to see more R&D in the area of sustainable production and consumption.

12.

The CoR recommends that measures be taken to elucidate and highlight the connection between bio-waste production and EU legislation, funding and policies on farming and food.

13.

The CoR believes that creating the conditions for sustainable consumption and production through forward-looking town planning is an important factor in the development of sustainable cities. One example would be increasing the number of food shops where people actually live, instead of locating them away from residential areas. Town planning that is based mainly on a small-scale approach promotes more sustainable shopping practices and so should hinder the production of bio-waste.

14.

The CoR believes the development of ‘smart gardening’ should be supported, as well as R&D in this area. Composting with local nutrient recycling from the management of gardens, parks or green zones reduces transport of waste, improves quality assurance and makes bio-waste management safer. Home composting should be developed as far as possible, with the aim of establishing local bio-waste cycles as well as supporting and capitalising on the commitment of ordinary people.

15.

The CoR points out that public procurement, which accounts for 14 % of the EU's GDP, is an important means of preventing bio-waste production. Steps should be taken to develop dialogue between the public sector and producers of goods and services relevant to the production and management of bio-waste. Technology procurement must be developed in the food sector so that products and services can be devised in collaboration between producers and consumers.

Question 2: Restricting the amount of biodegradable waste allowed on landfill sites

16.

The CoR notes that local and regional authorities have made significant financial investment and have developed associated long-term strategies and partnerships to meet EU environmental requirements, in particular the Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC). These must be recognised when considering future biowaste initiatives to ensure that they are not jeopardised.

17.

The CoR points out that administrative, political and economic — as well as geographical and climate — conditions vary widely between the 27 Member States. This would suggest that measures and restrictions relating to bio-waste management should be determined at Member State level.

18.

The CoR notes that regardless of whether the Member States focus on nutrient recycling through composting or anaerobic digestion, biogas production or incineration of bio-waste to produce energy, and regardless of whether this investment is private or public, these efforts create a burden for public finances in the form of capital investment and/or high payments for waste management.

19.

The Committee notes that there has been positive experience with rules set at national level to limit the volume of bio-waste that may be landfilled above the thresholds set out in the EU Landfill Directive. In Sweden, landfilling of both combustible and organic waste has been banned since 2002 and 2005 respectively. These rules have led to a substantial reduction in landfilling of bio-waste and have accelerated the development and expansion of bio-waste treatment higher up the waste hierarchy.

20.

The CoR notes that there is reason to believe national measures to restrict landfilling of bio-waste, combined with EU support for investment in infrastructure, would accelerate the transition from landfill to other, more sustainable, methods of bio-waste treatment. Countries with the most favourable administrative, political and economic conditions have a good basis for achieving the shift, whereas other Member States may need support in this process. In order to make the shift, the EU must ensure that the authorities responsible for bio-waste management, which is a service of general economic interest, can if necessary invest in their own facilities without being hindered by EU competition or internal market rules. The Committee believes it necessary to establish additional measures that would limit the quantity of landfilled waste, restricting the amount of organic matter with a fast fermentation rate in landfilled waste and making its stability a requirement, or economic measures that would penalise landfill (charging for landfill).

Question 3: Bio-waste management options

21.

The Committee notes that the need for energy and heating, nutrient recycling and production of biogas must be determined on the basis of local and regional circumstances. The choice of methods for bio-waste management must therefore take place at a local or regional level.

22.

The CoR stresses that the competent authorities, which in many Member States are local and regional authorities, have to plan waste management on the basis of their remit and responsibilities, determining the most appropriate treatment methods. They must also be given the legal and financial means to conduct the planning of this service of general economic interest. Any decisions to cooperate at regional level and with private players should not be obstructed by competition and internal market rules. The Commission is responsible for establishing a good balance between freedom of movement and environmental and climate considerations. The precautionary principle, the principle that preventive action should be taken and the ‘polluter pays’ principle must underpin any Commission proposal in this area. Life-cycle analyses are an important tool here for developing a comprehensive decision-making process.

23.

The CoR points out that the EU's ambitious climate targets require the development of modern techniques for harnessing and producing sustainable energy. Extracting biogas from bio-waste diverts waste from landfill. For biogas to become a fully sustainable energy source at local level, biogas produced from bio-waste must be produced in sufficient quantities and it must be possible to distribute it effectively.

24.

The CoR notes that there is also substantial untapped potential for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in the local transport sector. This is influenced among other things by the increasingly rigorous environmental requirements in public procurement. Biogas represents part of this potential, which includes:

public transport based on energy-efficient vehicles powered by biogas;

biogas-powered freight vehicles and machinery;

car pooling using biogas vehicles;

biogas-powered taxis.

25.

The CoR notes that choosing treatment methods for bio-waste diverted from landfill requires more consistent use of life-cycle analyses. Here methods must be developed and the relevant issues addressed.

Question 4: Energy recovery from bio-waste

26.

The CoR believes a crucial prerequisite for bio-waste incineration to become a viable alternative in the waste hierarchy is that it be coupled with energy generation. Incineration of bio-waste is an alternative to the production of fertiliser principally when the quality of bio-waste cannot be guaranteed, i.e. for waste not selectively collected but containing bio-waste.

27.

The Committee points out that many Member States have extensive local infrastructure for distributing district heating, for instance from waste incineration. Such infrastructure is being expanded to keep pace with the increased need for heating, cooling and electricity, and is also linked to the increasing amount of waste produced.

Question 5: Bio-waste recycling

28.

The CoR believes that the selective collection and recycling objectives for different waste fractions promote environment-friendly development of bio-waste treatment. The form of and framework for these objectives must be fixed by the EU, with each Member State being able to specify national targets based on local, regional and national circumstances and needs. Non-legislative targets at EU level should be phased in, since fertiliser production requires quality-assured management of bio-waste. This is only possible if the raw material for the production of fertilisers is selected, i.e. through the selective collection of bio-waste. The technology and logistics involved take time to develop and apply, and R&D investment is required at both national and EU level.

29.

The CoR believes that the precautionary principle must be uppermost to protect human health, in the treatment and use of bio-waste in relation to its possible indirect return to the food/food processing chain and in its utilisation in imported foods and feedstuffs.

30.

The CoR points out that the need to use fertiliser, on farmland for instance, varies between the Member States, depending on geology, soil type and soil use. Bio-waste management must therefore be appropriate to local and regional conditions and needs.

31.

It makes sense to coordinate the production of fertilisers and biogas by using residues from biogas production as fertilisers. Fertilisers or biogas can be produced not only from what the Green Paper calls bio-waste, but also from farming and forestry, manure, waste water sludge or other biological waste such as natural fibres, paper or wood waste. The CoR notes that, where all types of bio-waste are managed on an integrated basis, it is important to have a comprehensive approach and system that embraces all aspects of sustainable development.

Question 6: Measures to strengthen the use of compost/digestate

32.

The CoR calls for separate collection of bio-waste, partly as a means of quality assurance. However, methods of bio-waste collection should be determined by local circumstances and be introduced in the Member States as one of several means of developing bio-waste management.

33.

The Committee considers that, in those cases where the organic content of soil must be increased to improve fertility, the best way to manage bio-waste is selective collection and subsequent treatment via anaerobic digestion and composting of digested matter or other processes, obtaining high-quality compost, and thus successfully recovering materials and energy.

34.

The Committee observes that a critical reason for not using bio-waste as fertiliser is the available scope for quality assurance. Another important factor is public/consumer understanding of the need for an effective recycling-based economy and the opportunities that it provides.

35.

The CoR believes that quality standards for compost and compost-like output from bio-waste should be EU-wide in the case of substances that might be harmful to the environment and human health. Account must also be taken of the area over which the compost and compost-like output is to be used, the type of land on which it is to be used, volumes and concentrations of compost, etc. To do this, the land on which compost and compost-like output is to be used must also be graded. There are two quality categories for output from bio-waste:

biowaste output added to land for food production;

biowaste output added to parkland, green zones and forest soil.

36.

The CoR points out that one way of promoting the greater use of bio-waste as fertiliser is to declare its contents, in particular components such as mull and nutrients.

37.

The CoR notes that the main argument for using bio-waste to improve soil is the need to return plant nutrients to agricultural and other land. However, conditions and needs vary here between the Member States, and it is therefore important that local needs and circumstances determine the choice between (1) returning quality-assured bio-waste to agricultural or other land or (2) using bio-waste to produce energy through incineration.

Question 7: Regulatory framework for operational standards for bio-waste treatment plants

38.

The CoR notes that the requirements imposed on bio-waste treatment plants should be based on prevailing environmental standards, but should also be adapted to local and regional conditions and needs.

Question 8: Advantages and disadvantages of developing different management methods

39.

The CoR would like to see further investment in research and development, which is required in order to identify the advantages and disadvantages of different bio-waste management methods, and also to develop new techniques and methods. Research should cover all aspects of bio-waste treatment, from consumption and production to technical factors and its environmental safety.

Brussels, 18 June 2009.

The President

of the Committee of the Regions

Luc VAN DEN BRANDE


4.9.2009   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 211/59


Resolution of the Committee of the Regions on the European response to the crisis in the automotive Sector

Adopted on 18 June 2009

(2009/C 211/08)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

Understanding the gravity of the automotive crisis

1.

is concerned about the territorial impact of the automotive crisis that is hitting the automotive industry of the European Union as a whole and is affecting regions in different ways,

2.

underlines the knock-on effects of the crisis on supply chains, SMEs and communities across local and regional authorities,

3.

underlines the commitment of local and regional authorities to define and implement measures in order to attenuate the effects of the crisis,

The EU contribution to responding to the crisis

4.

welcomes this year's 25 March resolution of the European Parliament on the future of the automotive industry,

5.

stresses that the automotive industry is of particular importance for Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) and employment in Europe and represents one of the main economic pillars in several European regions,

6.

requests the European Commission to make a proposal for a common European approach involving local and regional authorities and a wide range of social actors and stakeholders be developed for the automotive sector, taking into account pre-existing structural problems,

7.

stresses the danger of protectionism in the context of the economic crisis,

8.

underlines the importance of an action to maintain jobs and attenuate the social impact of the crisis on workers and affected employment areas, notably by extending and facilitating access to the European Social Fund and to the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, and stresses the importance of promoting, through skills training, the employability of workers,

9.

regrets the inadequacy of existing instruments to respond to the specific problems of Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) and, in particular, automotive suppliers regardless of their size,

10.

demands improved implementation of legal and financing mechanisms at the European level to ensure that SMEs fully benefit from existing or new funding opportunities,

11.

asks the European Commission to promote networking between regions highly specialized in the automotive sector through the ‘Regions for economic change’ instrument or any other instrument for territorial or technical cooperation,

Towards a greener automotive industry

12.

welcomes the European Commission proposal on the ‘Green Car’ initiative, which respects the principle of sustainable development and encourages regional involvement in the coordination of research and innovation efforts in this field,

13.

highlights the importance of ensuring sufficient public funding to boost in particular all actions in the field of RDI, environmentally-friendly technologies and skills improvement in the automotive labour force,

14.

encourages all relevant stakeholders to promote initiatives which result in the renewal of the fleet as well as increasing the number of information campaigns on the economic and environmental advantages of energy efficient vehicles,

Promoting constructive dialogue with local and regional authorities

15.

demands that the rules of the internal market be observed, as well as the coherence between national and/or regional policies, such as national consumer credit schemes,

16.

confirms there is a need to deepen and extend the ongoing dialogue and discussions on the future of the automotive sector and when necessary contributing to the emergence of new industries,

For a better recognition of the territorial dimension of the crisis

17.

invites the European Commission to integrate representatives of the Committee of the Regions into the ‘Cars 21’ high-level group,

18.

stresses the need for reliable and comparable data on the automotive industry,

19.

demands that local and regional authorities be more consulted by Member States in their action in support of the automotive industry, such as participating in a constructive dialogue with car manufacturers, suppliers, employees' organisations and national or European authorities,

20.

demands that automotive industries enter into dialogue with employee organisations at the regional or local level; demands that talks with Regional and Local Authorities are organised before major and extraordinary decisions are taken if there would be a strong or unexpected impact on the socio-economic structure of any given territory,

Next steps

21.

invites the relevant CoR commission to discuss the European response to the automotive crisis,

22.

invites regional and local authorities across the EU to modernise their own car-fleets and support the renewal of those of their dependant organisations or contract partners, in order to achieve reduction in harmful emissions, boost demand for new technologies and send a clear signal to the suppliers within their territories,

23.

asks its President to forward this resolution to the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council and the Presidencies of the European Union.

Brussels, 18 June 2009.

The President

of the Committee of the Regions

Luc VAN DEN BRANDE


4.9.2009   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 211/61


Resolution of the committee of the Regions on climate change: the road to Copenhagen

Adopted on 18 June 2009

(2009/C 211/09)

THE CLIMATE CHANGE CHALLENGE FOR LOCAL AND REGIONAL AUTHORITIES

The Committee of the Regions:

1.

recalls that climate change is one of the most important political challenges facing mankind. In this respect, local and regional authorities have a key role to play in the fight against climate change, not least because they most often bear the social and economic costs involved;

2.

stresses that the economic crisis must not be an argument for reducing efforts but, on the contrary, for stepping up action to fight climate change. The economic crisis should be an opportunity for strengthening the technical know-how and developing activities aimed at addressing climate change;

3.

emphasises that many local and regional authorities already make a key contribution to the success of European climate and energy policy initiatives and play a crucial role in implementing the respective policies through measures in the field of public transport, traffic and energy infrastructure, housing, spatial planning, energy efficiency and public communication;

4.

underlines the vulnerability of European regions to climate change and the fact that their ability to adapt to it varies greatly, mainly because of differences in socioeconomic development, natural conditions and population density; mountain regions; coastal zones, outermost and island regions, and many semi-arid areas in the Mediterranean Basin are among those regions most vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change;

5.

is convinced that the cost of policy measures to reduce climate change will be significantly lower than the estimated costs of climate change;

6.

considers that an effective climate policy could prevent the social inequalities that are a consequence of climate change;

7.

emphasises that the transition to a carbon-free economy represents a significant step for growth and job creation, in particular for local and regional authorities;

NEXT STEPS IN INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE NEGOTIATIONS

8.

urges the European Union to step up its efforts at the highest political level to boost the international coalition against climate change and guarantee Post-Kyoto agreements based on ambitious, transparent and legally binding reduction targets;

9.

underlines the need to ensure that the CoR is represented in the EU delegation at the UNFCCC COP 15 conference in Copenhagen in December 2009 as the voice of the European local and regional authorities;

10.

expresses its concern that the latest draft negotiation paper of the ad hoc working group on long-term cooperative action under the Convention (AWG-LCA), while acknowledging the importance of subnational efforts in adapting to climate change, remains silent on their role in mitigation and on any long-term vision of how to tackle climate change;

GENERAL POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

11.

calls on the European Commission and the Member States to apply the subsidiarity principle when developing and negotiating new policy on climate-change-related issues that may have significant impact on local and regional authorities and their citizens, and to ensure the provision of sufficient financial and human capacity when assigning responsibilities to the various different levels ;

12.

stresses the need for active awareness-raising campaigns to be launched with the full support of the regional and local authorities which have a direct channel of communication to the citizens.

13.

thus welcomes the EU's commitment to a synergy of efforts aimed at climate change mitigation and adaptation in accordance with the Lisbon Agenda and the Gothenburg Agreement, but calls for the new post-2010 Lisbon Strategy to move away from the current position, where three parallel processes are in place, and to pursue a single development framework covering the social, economic and environmental action of the European Union;

14.

recommends that consistent investments be made with regard to green infrastructure: broader use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in administration; energy efficient renovation of old public and private buildings; new forms of transport. The use of energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling must also be encouraged. It is also essential to use green procurement as well as to improve security of energy supplies.

15.

considers that adaptation and mitigation must be mainstreamed into all existing EU policy frameworks as an explicit objective, including EU agricultural and rural development policies, including avoiding deforestation, transport, biodiversity, water and waste management, and funding programmes in areas such as cohesion policy;

16.

calls for a revision of the post-2013 EU budget, programmes, policies and especially key legislation in the light of the changing parameters that climate change will bring;

17.

recommends that, in order to develop suitable policy responses to climate change, consideration be given to whether new sustainability measuring indicators need to be developed and taken into account as parameters in the new generation of Structural Funds;

18.

stresses that local and regional authorities must be fully involved in the conception, development, adoption and implementation of national climate change strategies and actions plans;

19.

reiterates its full political support for the Covenant of Mayors — launched by the European Commission together with the Committee of the Regions — as a response by cities to global warming, in which they formally pledge to reduce their CO2 emissions beyond the EU 2020 objectives, and calls for the Covenant to be open to all relevant subnational authorities. Urges that the Covenant of Mayors be further developed and that appropriate resources be made available to develop expertise and strategies that are tailored to the specific needs of local authorities;

ADAPTATION

20.

recommends that the Community budget framework be such that all European local and regional authorities are equally well-equipped to face climate change and have the resources needed to prevent its causes and adapt to its consequences, in particular for the benefit of the hardest hit people and economic players;

MITIGATION

21.

believes that the ‘polluter-pays’ principle must be applied in all Community policies relating to environmental protection and the climate by internalising the environmental cost of goods and services;

22.

endorses the principle of cooperation and solidarity between Member States as introduced in the new EU Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) between countries that are technologically more advanced (whose industrial sectors are more energy- efficient) and less-developed countries (whose economies have a higher energy consumption and need to increase their growth rates);

23.

considers that, despite the progress made, it is necessary to further increase the transparency and long-term reliability of the EU ETS and to remain attentive to the social and environmental repercussions that the proposed measures will have, especially at regional and local level;

24.

recommends that due consideration be given to the demands of regional development policies and notes that, in order to promote a more transparent and effective carbon market, a number of industrial installations could be thoroughly restructured so as to rid the production system of the least efficient installations or those that are already in crisis; on that note, calls for action to support the process of industrial renewal and retraining for the workers concerned;

25.

notes that , alongside the emission allowance scheme, much more needs to be done in particular to effect a switch to environmentally sound modes of transport; calls on national governments to expand rail and waterway infrastructure and promote intermodal transport generally;

26.

considering the European transport sector's high dependency on oil, regrets that the Second Strategic Energy Review does not put forward any transport efficiency proposals in parallel with the Energy Efficiency Package, not least in areas such as rail and other public transport modes, energy-efficient vehicles, car sharing, eco-driving, getting more people to cycle etc;

27.

believes that energy policy and climate protection policy are closely interrelated and must be coordinated, given that 80 % of CO2 emissions in Europe come from the production of energy;

28.

regrets the failure to introduce a binding energy efficiency target in the 2008 climate change and energy package, which is the missing link in moves to achieve the necessary CO2 reduction;

29.

highlights the variation in progress across EU cities and regions in reducing CO2 emissions and energy consumption in recent years. Account should be taken of differing levels of energy intensity in consumption and production and the associated greenhouse gas emissions situations across and within Member States, particularly between urban and rural areas;

30.

considers that regional climate action plans and/or sustainable energy plans could provide the link between the local and national initiatives which must introduce practical instruments to achieve the targets; adequate financing must also be made available;

31.

recommends the provision of further resources and measures, in addition to the use of European Structural Funds, as useful means of fostering adaptation policy and measures directed at mitigation, such as energy saving and renewable energy, to improve the energy performance of buildings and to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. This would increase support for European climate policy;

32.

calls for an increase in Research funding for carbon capture technologies which should be used in combination with the other mitigation measures to achieve the necessary deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

33.

wishes to ensure that support schemes are accessible to renewable energy producers at all levels, including small installations, and believes that, for consistency's sake, support for renewable energy should be targeted towards the reduction in the use of fossil fuels;

PROTECTION OF VULNERABLE CITIZENS

34.

considers that, by promoting sustainable energy and energy efficiency, the Covenant of Mayors can spur the cities and regions on to implement changes to protect their most vulnerable citizens, particularly those on low and fixed incomes, from the effect of high energy prices and from suffering fuel poverty. In doing so, care should be taken to avoid subsidising energy use and to allow scope for strong incentives to improve energy efficiency and, as far as possible, reduce energy use;

35.

strongly supports the need to protect the most vulnerable citizens in society from the possible rise in the price of energy sources — electricity in particular — including moves to help them make their homes more energy-efficient.

The Committee instructs its president to submit this resolution to the Czech and Swedish presidencies, to the European Commission and Members States and to the UN counterparts.

Brussels, 18 June 2009.

The President

of the Committee of the Regions

Luc VAN DEN BRANDE


APPENDIX

List of recent CoR opinions with direct or indirect relevance for the issue of climate change

‘The European economic recovery plan and the role of local and regional authorities’ CdR 12/2009 fin

‘The energy performance of buildings and the second strategic energy review’ CdR 8/2009 fin

‘The Green Paper on territorial cohesion’ CdR 274/2008 fin

‘The fifth progress report on economic and social cohesion’ CdR 273/2008 fin

‘How regions contribute to achieving climate change and energy goals with a special focus on the covenant of mayors’ CdR 241/2008 fin

‘Addressing the challenge of energy efficiency through information and communication technologies’ CdR 254/2008 fin

CoR outlook opinion on ‘The Lisbon growth and jobs strategy’ CdR 245/2008 fin

‘The Commission's legislative proposals for the post-healthcheck Common Agricultural Policy’ CdR 162/2008 fin

‘Emission allowance trading’ CdR 161/2008 fin

‘Promotion of renewable energy’ CdR 160/2008 fin

CoR outlook opinion on ‘The contribution of local and regional authorities to the European Union's sustainable development strategy’ CdR 85/2008 fin

‘An integrated maritime policy for the European Union’ CdR 22/2008 fin

‘The third legislative package on European electricity and gas markets’ CdR 21/2008 fin

‘Reforming the budget. Changing Europe’ CdR 16/2008 fin

‘Addressing the challenge of water scarcity and droughts’ CdR 313/2007 fin

‘A strategy for the outermost regions: achievements and future prospects’ CdR 309/2007 fin

‘Green Paper on urban transport’ CdR 236/2007 fin

‘The Common Agricultural Policy healthcheck’ CdR 197/2007 fin

‘Adapting to climate change in Europe: options for EU actions’ CdR 118/2007 fin

‘The energy package’ CdR 111/2007 fin

‘Limiting global climate change to 2 degrees Celsius and the inclusion of aviation in the emission trading system’ CdR 110/2007 fin


III Preparatory acts

Committee of the Regions

80th plenary session 17 and 18 June 2009

4.9.2009   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 211/65


Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the maritime and coastal package

(2009/C 211/10)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

considers that European maritime policy requires a holistic, cross-sectoral approach, based on maritime spatial planning to address the increasingly intensive use of the sea and foster harmonious coexistence of conflicting interests in a limited, fragile space;

considers that this planning calls for an innovative governance tool, designed in a spirit of multi-level governance and compliance with subsidiarity. It thus points out the important role that local and regional authorities have to play with respect to maritime spatial planning, as funding authorities for certain projects and as the local bodies best placed to organise the harmonious coexistence of uses;

welcomes the steps taken by the Commission in the area of maritime planning and its willingness to draw up common principles at European level. It considers that the role of the European Union could develop into a standard-setting one, in terms both of method and of principles, inter alia by drawing on the existing regional conventions;

supports the Commission's wish to complete the single market so as to make sea transport more attractive and more competitive. However, it regrets that the concrete measures proposed are largely focused on economic aspects. It calls for the social and environmental aspects to be taken fully into consideration;

reiterates its request for an appraisal to be made of the option of revising the EU financial system towards one single simplified system for all maritime issues within a European Coastal and Island Fund in the context of the discussions on the next financial framework 2014-2020;

welcomes the clarification initiative regarding funding for the motorways of the sea, but would like to see a more ambitious, comprehensive assessment of the type of operations and investment eligible for European subsidies, given that the measures taken in recent years have not achieved the expected results, especially with regard to the short-term viability of services.

Rapporteur

:

Michel Delebarre, Mayor of Dunkirk (FR/PES)

Reference(s)

Roadmap for Maritime Spatial Planning: Achieving Common Principles in the EU COM(2008) 791 final. Commission Communication of 25.11.2008

Strategic goals and recommendations for the EU's maritime transport policy until 2018. COM(2009) 8 final. Commission Communication of 21.1.2009

Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on reporting formalities for ships arriving in and/or departing from ports of the Member States of the Community and repealing Directive 2002/6/EC. COM(2009) 11 final. 21.1.2009

Communication and action plan with a view to establishing a European maritime transport space without barriers. COM(2009) 10 final. 21.1.2009

Communication from the Commission providing guidance on State aid complementary to Community funding for the launching of the motorways of the sea (2008/C 317/8)

I.   POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS,

1.

recognises the significant advances made by the Commission and pays tribute to the effective implementation of the action plan and the integrated approach taken. It considers that European maritime policy requires a holistic cross-sectoral approach that ‘covers all aspects of people's relationship with the oceans and seas’ (1);

2.

recalls that the European Union's coastal regions and towns are home to almost half of Europe's population (2) and contribute around 40 % to Europe's GDP. Local and regional authorities have a variety of competences in areas connected with maritime policy and are the appropriate level to foster coordination of the various sectoral policies on the ground. In addition, local and regional authorities in coastal areas have a special responsibility concerning spatial planning in those areas: they have to manage the tension resulting from usage conflicts on the coast and at sea, and aim for sustainable development and a level of employment that are compatible with the need to protect the marine environment. Consequently, they have developed expertise in integrated strategic planning in this type of territory, including policies as varied as transport, port development, security, urban development, maritime spatial planning, vocational training and Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM);

3.

considers that a form of governance that more directly involves local and regional players is necessary for the proper implementation of European maritime policy. Governance that is truly based on partnership for maritime policy, including every level of decision-making and civil society, will make it possible to detect any conflicts sufficiently early and to find locally appropriate solutions;

4.

shares the view expressed by the Commission in the Communication on guidelines for maritime governance (3) that not only do coastal regions benefit from an integrated approach to maritime policy, they can also be adversely affected by the absence of this kind of approach;

5.

believes that links need to be established between the territorial cohesion objective and development of the integrated maritime policy, in particular to ensure more coherent regional development in coastal and island areas, and also inland and towards inland ports; and that future funding of specific initiatives in these regions needs to be better coordinated;

6.

repeats in this connection its request ‘for an appraisal to be made of the option of revising the EU financial system towards one single simplified system for all or most of the maritime issues within a European Coastal and Island Fund’ in the context of the discussions on the next financial framework 2014-2020 (4);

7.

fully supports the Commission's initiative to create a database of projects in maritime regions which will include information on the beneficiaries of all Community funds, and feels that this is essential in order to ensure transparency in this field and promote exchange of good practice; it wishes to be involved in managing the database, which should become operational between now and 2010;

Maritime spatial planning  (5)

8.

welcomes the road map and supports the Commission's proposals on the development of the ten planning principles, which could over time become shared principles that apply across all Member States;

9.

approves of the European Commission's efforts for integrated policy-making with the Blue Book offering a clear way forward with regards to managing marine and coastal resources across Europe. Encourages the Commission to go further in that respect and clarify how Maritime Spatial Planning ties in with other actions launched by the European Union, particularly with regard to Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora, the Water Framework Directive, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive or the European Parliament and Council Recommendation concerning Integrated Coastal Zone Management. Maritime Spatial Planning should contribute to increasing synergies between these pieces of legislation to avoid potential confusion or overlaps;

10.

considers that strategic planning and the organisation of governance need to go before the detailed spatial arrangements for each area. Strategic planning is a key phase in the planning process in that it helps to reconcile the ends and the means and to guide planning. This stage of building together will enable the principles and guidelines to be sketched out and the priorities for planning, and the arbitration this process implies, to be determined;

11.

considers that the implementation of an innovative governance tool, designed in a spirit of multi-level governance and compliance with subsidiarity, is essential to setting strategic guidelines for spatial planning. This must of necessity happen at several levels, from the maritime basin to the local level. Also points out that whilst the ecosystemic approach adopted by the Commission (6) is supported by a consensus, it does not necessarily suit all maritime activities. The CoR would therefore like the Commission to include in its future proposals the maritime basin or regional sea scale, which is large enough to avoid this trap;

12.

stresses that the purpose of maritime spatial planning is to cover all the activities that take place in that space, going beyond national borders so as to fit better with the ecosystemic realities, and that it is therefore an essential instrument of integrated maritime policy. Considers that this measure is essential to address the increasingly intense use of the sea and foster harmonious coexistence of conflicting interests in a limited, fragile space. Notes however that sea transport must rise to the challenge of reconciling maritime spatial planning and the principle of freedom of the seas as enshrined in the conventions of the International Maritime Organisation;

13.

accepts that maritime spatial planning is a useful tool for reconciling the requirements of each activity and making best use of the sea whilst guaranteeing sustainable protection of ecosystems. Clear rules known to all will foster long-term investment and thus help increase the contribution made by maritime activities to achieving the objectives of competitiveness and promoting growth and employment under the Lisbon strategy. In this context, would like the Commission to go as far as possible in determining the principles for arbitration so as to ensure the transparency of this process by means of predetermined rules established in close consultation with maritime regions and flexible enough to take account of the specifics of maritime basins;

14.

welcomes the steps taken by the Commission in the area of maritime planning and its willingness to draw up common principles at European level. Considers that the European Union has a driving and coordinating role in this area and that the consultation process organised by the Commission in 2009 will make it possible to better understand the challenges and to propose guidelines that are likely to promote a common approach. With this in mind, suggests that the Commission draws up a White Paper following these consultations;

15.

considers that the role of the European Union could develop into a standard-setting one, in terms both of method and of principles, so as to ensure genuine coordination of maritime planning in the relevant countries. In this connection, the CoR refers to the experiments already being carried out in certain regions, for example in the Mediterranean under the Barcelona Convention on the protection of the marine environment and, more specifically, the seventh protocol, under which the Member States involved have decided to jointly practice Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) for the Mediterranean, adopting binding instruments. Beyond encouraging a common approach to maritime spatial planning, the European Union could help the existing regional conventions in each maritime basin to sign up to the idea of integrated and sustainable maritime development in association with each maritime region concerned;

16.

strongly encourages the Commission to support pilot projects in each maritime basin so as to test the validity of the proposed principles against the diversity of regional seas. Recalls that the outermost regions, which cover a significant proportion of the European maritime space, must be fully involved in this measure;

17.

highlights the important role that local and regional authorities have to play with respect to maritime spatial planning, particularly as funding authorities for certain projects, but also as the local bodies best placed to organise the harmonious coexistence of uses. Established marine and coastal partnerships and maritime networks have a vital role to play to contribute to facilitate the development and implementation of maritime spatial planning in the Member States. Whilst Member States are usually responsible for administering territorial waters and EEZs (7), local authorities are involved by virtue of their competences and responsibilities for water management… and sometimes as managers of port authorities or protected areas. In general terms, they are responsible for fostering balanced, fair development, from which the maritime area cannot be separated;

18.

also stresses the need to carry out maritime and terrestrial planning in a coordinated, coherent manner so as to properly manage the land-sea interface, especially along the coastline. In this connection, recalls the work carried out under ICZM;

19.

recalls that Europe's regions and cities are already initiating cross-border and transnational cooperation, for example under the Interreg programmes, which enables them to carry out joint projects connected to maritime management. Further considers that EGTCs could be well placed to provide useful opportunities for regional cooperation;

20.

welcomes the setting up by the Commission of a European Marine Observation and Data Network, which is expected to result in a prototype European Atlas of the Seas by the end of 2009 and hopes that this forthcoming Atlas can be cross-fertilised with the new Google Ocean tool, which was presented in February 2009;

21.

regrets that the Commission does not sufficiently develop the issue of subsidiarity. As things stand, the Commission proposal is founded on a number of legal bases (including those relating to transport policy and sustainable development). However, spatial planning policies have hitherto been considered, on the basis of the Treaty of Nice, as an exclusive competence of the Member States. However, if the Lisbon Treaty were to enter into force in the future, and in line with the new objective of territorial cohesion, the question arises, for example, as to whether Article 352 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (which corresponds to Article 308 TEC [Treaty of Nice]) could provide a legal basis for future regulatory acts in the area of maritime spatial planning;

Sea transport

22.

considers that whilst sea transport is a key part of the European economy, a source of revenue, employment, and human and technological know-how, and a factor of environmental performance and competitiveness, it does require certain precautions as regards maritime safety. The significance of this form of transport for a sustainable economy must continue to be enhanced by removing the impediments it faces compared to other transport modes and by imposing environmental requirements. Whilst sea transport is particularly exposed to the vagaries of the financial economy, this does not detract from the fact that it is the prime vector of the real economy. Moreover, once the latter begins to recover, Europe's ports will need to be in a position to meet the needs of the maritime industry in terms of facilities and services. Over the last decade, Europe's port facilities have not kept pace with most ports elsewhere in the world, particularly in Asia. Europe must therefore bring its port facilities up to speed, also in terms of sustainable development, so that it can meet the future challenges of world trade;

23.

supports the wish to complete the single market so as to make sea transport more attractive and more competitive. Regrets, however, that the concrete measures are largely focused on this issue. Would, in particular, like to see the social and environmental aspects taken fully into consideration;

24.

stresses that sea transport policy must be designed as a component of the logistical chain of which it is part. This presupposes that ports are considered as essential hubs between different modes of transport used by goods travelling from one point to another in Europe or elsewhere. Ports should not therefore be seen as merely a point of departure or a final destination, but rather as a determining factor in a door-to-door transport process;

25.

emphasises the need to make ports into real points of reference in the virtual management of the transport chain, and thus make them capable of anticipating the management of flows of goods. This means that information systems that optimise transport and logistics services through real-time tracking of goods must not be interrupted during port transit. To this end, the interoperability of port operating systems with each other and with internal platforms needs to be researched or developed where it does not already exist;

26.

welcomes the Commission's willingness to bring the level of administrative and customs constraints on sea transport into line with that faced by other modes of transport. For example, it is utterly unrealistic to call for the transfer of freight from road to sea in accordance with the motorways of the sea concept when the formalities relating to the loading or unloading of heavy goods vehicles onto ships put off potential users of this option. Regulations should therefore be reduced to a level that reflects the specific nature of sea transport (openness of the seas and thus the blurring of borders at ports, particular dangers to the marine environment in the event of accidents, etc.);

Maritime strategy 2018  (8)

27.

welcomes the recommendations made by the Commission in the key parts of the text, i.e.:

supporting international sea trade in fair conditions through the observance of universal rules

supporting the maritime professions (training, skills, professionalisation, etc.) and complying with the measures adopted by the ILO on the fair treatment of seafarers, their living conditions and remuneration

progressing towards zero-waste, zero-emission maritime transport and bringing it fully into line with the principle of sustainable of development

ensuring the long-term safety and security of sea transport through compliance with the rules and the development of preventive actions;

28.

wonders, however, about the European Union's ability to implement these given the breadth of the area they cover. Therefore suggests to the Commission that it prioritise the issues and set priorities with regard to actions to be undertaken, jointly drawing up a detailed road map with the Member States and all the stakeholders as soon as possible and in any case before the end of 2009;

29.

regrets that the concrete proposals relate only to the liberalisation of commercial transactions with the aim of enhancing competitiveness and productivity. Notes that the preservation of the environment and guarantees of better social standards for seafarers appear only in the list of broad principles, and that no timetable nor concrete action is proposed;

30.

stresses that sea transport is a sustainable means of transport that makes a key contribution to combating climate change and atmospheric pollution and, more generally, to the greening of transport. Considers the development of a more environment-friendly transport system to be a policy priority. The CoR considers that modal shift towards sea transport makes it possible to respond both to increasing demand for (passenger and freight) transport and to requirements connected with combating climate change. In particular, the CoR regrets that international sea transport is still excluded from the mechanisms of the Kyoto protocol and from the timetable for reducing greenhouse gases. Therefore encourages the IMO to propose, not least with a view to the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December 2009, binding rules on greenhouse gas emissions that would apply to all vessels, regardless of their flag, with a view to their adoption in 2011. The European Commission should undertake to support uniform and transparent environmental certification for ships and ports, such as the ESI Environmental Ship Index, which is being developed by the World Ports Climate Initiative. However, in order to avoid, as far as possible, putting the European shipping industry at a competitive disadvantage, the European Union should make it a priority that any binding rules be adopted at international level. In addition, an assessment should be made of the potential effects of introducing differentiated port fees linked to pollution;

31.

stresses that the aim of greening sea transport must also, beyond measures aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of ships, lead to the measurement and reduction of the environmental impact of port and logistical facilities. Notes in this respect that, whilst it is essential to speed up the procedures for port development in order to ensure the competitiveness of Europe's ports, this must not happen at the expense of the quality of environmental assessments, with due regard to the need to define specific legislation that is not open to different interpretations and, hence, to distortions in competition. Proper urban integration of maritime, port and logistical activities must be considered as a fully-fledged objective of European maritime policy;

32.

considers that sea transport must be a leading sector in the greening of transport and, in this context, calls on the European Union to provide strong support for research and innovation to improve the environmental performance of ships and ports; for example, the issue of avoiding water pollution caused by ships should be taken into consideration;

33.

points out that the implementation of the recommendations requires the provision of significant resources and calls on the Commission to evaluate the cost of the proposed measures, to specify how they might be funded, and to suggest how this might be divided up amongst the various stakeholders. Considers that sea transport, being more ecologically sustainable than, for example, road transport, should be supported by EU funding and calls upon the European Union to take all necessary steps to ensure that the Community economic resources needed are provided;

34.

asks that the next revision of the Trans-European Transport Network should enable a higher priority to be given to port investment and to connecting ports with their hinterlands, under the EU budget: structural funds, TEN-T heading and Marco Polo. The compromises agreed between the Member States and the Commission have led to an imbalance to the detriment of the maritime and port element. The European port map must in future be better balanced between categories of ports (recognition of the value of small and medium ports so as to improve their accessibility) and between regions (centre/periphery), and the full set of Community financial instruments must contribute to this;

35.

considers that the aim of maintaining rules of fair competition between the various modes of transport means internalising external (in particular environmental) costs and that, in the absence of such internalisation, the rules of the market cannot be left alone to regulate the flows of sea traffic;

36.

also recalls the issue of differentiated support for island areas of the EU, which are highly dependent on this form of transport for their competitiveness and for their involvement in international and intra-EU trade. Restates its wish that ‘the EU's island areas be connected to the motorways of the sea system in order to improve their access to the single market’ (9);

37.

supports the proposal of creating a Task Force in order to identify how to strike the right balance between the employment conditions of seafarers and the competitiveness of the European fleet. Proposes that its task be broadened to define a minimum social standard, with the aim of making the human factor a fully-fledged development factor, as it considers that training, professionalism, and living and working conditions of crews are the key to success for any measures aimed at ensuring the competitiveness of maritime services, maritime safety and security, and respect for the environment. In this connection, it calls on the European Union to develop a specific mechanism for regulating and supervising job placement agencies (known as manning agencies) based on the ILO Conventions, similar to those introduced for training centres on the basis of the STCW Convention;

38.

joins with the Commission in stressing the crucial nature of training issues for all maritime sectors and endorses the proposals made on this point. It welcomes, in particular, the proposal to set up an Erasmus-type system in the maritime sector, and calls on the Commission to fine-tune the proposal so that its terms and scope of application are clarified, in particular the issue of how to extend it beyond officer training to all young people undergoing maritime training;

39.

considers that proposals concerning maritime human resources, skills and know-how must be aimed at the entire maritime sector, including its land-based extensions, i.e. port jobs or jobs connected with logistical and pre- or post-transport activities. It would therefore be desirable to establish, at European level, a general framework establishing a code of good practice that everyone will strive to achieve, but also setting a certain number of limits, thus doing away with — by way of example — the principle of self handling for transhipment operations. Such a framework can only be envisaged if it can be flexibly applied to each port. The rejection, on two occasions, of the directive on the liberalisation of port services is a reminder that any regulatory initiative, which will by definition be rigid, is doomed to failure;

40.

calls on the Commission to specify how to avoid distortions in competition between ports in connection with the cost of security measures;

41.

would ask the Commission to specify how to avoid distortions in competition between ports in respect of the requirements introduced by European directives, among other things in relation to security;

42.

subscribes to the proposals on maritime safety and notes the significant progress made in harmonising these matters. Stresses that the recent adoption by the European Parliament of the Third Maritime Package (Erika III) demonstrates the ability to harmonise the rules on sea transport. It is concerned about new maritime transport risks, particularly those posed by accidents to container ships or chemical tankers, especially now that ships are getting larger, and calls on the Commission to specify the measures planned or already adopted to address this issue;

43.

considers that the straits through which most worldwide traffic passes require a specific approach aimed at better coordinating the management of these spaces, which face significant risks that local actors are required to deal with directly. The economic and environmental impact of a shipping accident in a major strait such as that of Dover would be considerable, not only for the maritime regions concerned but also for Europe as a whole;

44.

points out that national practices in the area of customs and veterinary inspection are likely to cause distortions in competition and would therefore like closer monitoring by the Commission of the transposition of directives so as to ensure that they are being properly interpreted;

45.

stresses the importance of the external dimension of maritime policy, especially in the transport sector. Considers that harmonisation of the operating rules under the different European flags would make it possible to strengthen the European Union's position within the International Maritime Organisation and to take a further step towards worldwide harmonisation of the rules governing sea transport. In this connection, would like the EU to make its voice heard more effectively in international bodies (IMO, WTO and ILO) so that European sea transport can develop in a fairer, more transparent competitive environment. Encourages the Commission in its efforts to coordinate the positions of Member States at the IMO and calls for observer status to be granted to the European Union at that organisation;

46.

has doubts about the timeframe chosen for this Maritime Strategy, namely 2009-2018. Calls for this to be brought in line (at a later date) with the timetable for the new Lisbon Strategy post-2010;

Maritime space without barriers

47.

shares the aim of abolishing or simplifying some or all of the administrative procedures that are hindering the development of Short Sea Shipping within the European Union whilst ensuring a high standard of safety and environmental protection;

48.

welcomes the Commission's willingness to set up a maritime transport space without barriers to enable the completion of the single market in the area of sea transport, but regrets that it does not refer to ‘a common maritime space, going beyond the abolition of administrative and fiscal barriers for ships moving between European ports’;

49.

would like social aspects to be taken fully into consideration, and the European Union to do more to ensure compliance with international rules on employment law and environmental protection, so that fair competition is maintained at global level. It therefore believes that the measures proposed by the Commission are only the first stage in creating a genuine common maritime transport space. To this end, it welcomes the possible ways forward mentioned in the Commission Communication of 21 January 2009 and calls on the Commission to present the next steps in creating a common maritime transport space without delay;

50.

welcomes the proposed guidelines on simplification, harmonisation, single windows and electronic transmission. Considers that ships registered under the flag of a Member State and travelling between two European Union ports should not be subject to more onerous paperwork requirements than other means of transport, provided that safety and security aspects specific to sea transport do not require otherwise;

51.

highlights the efforts already made in the area of reporting formalities and dematerialisation. Welcomes the willingness to continue simplification and harmonisation of administrative (notably customs, veterinary and plant health) procedures among Member States;

52.

regrets the Commission's unfortunate statement to the effect that ‘pilotage services can be a serious problem’. It points out the importance of pilotage services for maritime safety in ports and port approaches. It therefore calls on the EU and the Member States to be very rigorous in defining the framework for issuing pilotage exemptions;

53.

calls on the Commission to take all necessary steps to avoid distortions arising from differences in interpretation in the application of procedures that have already been harmonised;

54.

welcomes the objective of a single window, but points out that this objective will require significant investment to equip all those involved in the sector. Considers that the European SafeSeaNet network is a priority with a view to rationalising and speeding up the exchange of documents between those involved in sea transport. Considers that support for equipping port communities is indispensable for ensuring the efficacy of document exchange systems and the success of that European network; similarly, it draws the Commission's attention to the effects of some of the proposed measures on small and medium-sized ports, and calls on it to take the necessary steps to ensure that these measures do not lead to distortion of competition which could upset the balance of the European port network;

State aid complementary to Community funding for the launching of the motorways of the sea  (10)

55.

welcomes the clarification initiative undertaken by the Commission concerning the link between the various State aid measures that can complement Community funding for the launching of the motorways of the sea. Stresses the indispensable, determining role of public funding for the development of short sea shipping. Recalls that the aims of relieving congestion on the road network and reducing the impact of freight on the environment justifies strong support from the public authorities for projects connected with the motorways of the sea. With this in mind, the ability given to provide State aid at national, regional or local level must be welcomed, but must not be considered a satisfactory answer to the inadequacy of the European funding allocated to the motorways of the sea;

56.

regrets that the criteria adopted by the Commission for evaluating projects relate mainly to the short-term viability of the service, whereas this is very difficult to achieve within a short time, firstly because of the significance of the initial investment required, and secondly because of the uncertainty concerning the occupancy of ships, as demonstrated by the experiment carried out between the ports of Toulon and Civitavecchia (Rome) from 2005 to 2008;

57.

is concerned about the lack of a comprehensive assessment of the nature of operations and investment eligible for European subsidies, given that the measures taken in recent years have not achieved the expected results. Aside from their complexity, some aspects of the proposed funding mechanisms seem to be inappropriate or of very limited use with regard to the needs created by the launch of a motorways of the sea service;

58.

suggests that ships built or acquired by a shipping operator and assigned to a motorway of the sea could — by way of derogation — be treated as infrastructure, despite their mobile nature. These ships could then be subsidised in the same way as certain road and railway investments. However, according to ECJ case law and in particular to the Ferring (case C-53/00) and the Altmark judgements (case C-280/00), this should not result in financial support for the operation of those ships which would go beyond financial compensation for public service obligations. The environmental stakes connected with the motorways of the sea concept are such that exceptional measures must be envisaged. The expected benefits of the modal shift from land to sea transport will only be achieved if that shift actually happens. With this in mind, the idea of transferring funding in anticipation of modal shift does not seem incongruous;

59.

would like private operators (ship owners, logisticians, shipping operators) — who have a key role in the process of implementing the concept of motorways of the sea — to be fully involved and listened to in the context of an in-depth analysis of the obstacles to their decision-making concerning the launch of a motorways of the sea service;

60.

to this end, calls for the offices set up by the Member States to promote short sea shipping (National Competence Centres) to be given greater recognition and have their remit expanded. This would require the human and financial resources made available to them to be revised upwards, for example through partnership agreements with regional authorities in maritime areas and private sector stakeholders in the transport chain: ship owners, logisticians, shippers, etc.;

61.

considers that the system of State aid complementary to Community funding for the launching of the motorways of the sea could, for the sake of clarity, have been included in the document on the Community Guidelines for State aids for maritime transport;

62.

more generally, calls on the Commission to look into aligning all the rules on state aid and Community funding for the development of the motorways of the sea;

63.

agrees with the Commission that ‘fixing a pre-determined amount of public funding that can be relied on is essential for potential bidders’. Points out, in this connection, that the repayment clauses may also constitute a brake on economic operators, who are faced with the threat of having to repay financial aid at the end of projects if the objectives have not been met. Agrees that State aid for motorways of the sea must be conditional on the achievement of specific objectives, but suggests that the Commission should look into including graduated objectives in the implementation of projects relating to motorways of the sea, on which continued public funding would depend;

64.

calls on the Commission to disseminate information very widely, beyond official publications, so as to raise awareness among operators of the soundness of its policy and, on this occasion, to make it clear that it is determined, whilst being careful not to generate flagrant distortions in competition, to address the major challenge of modal shift from road to sea through appropriate measures, fully in line with its stated ambitions in the area of sustainable development;

Reporting formalities applicable to ships arriving in or departing from ports of the Member States

65.

recognises that the simplification of administrative procedures by making the electronic transmission of information and the rationalisation of reporting formalities standard will help to make sea transport more attractive;

66.

points out that these measures also have a beneficial effect on environmental and maritime safety, as they free the crew from administrative tasks, allowing them to concentrate on keeping watch. Moreover, electronic data transmission enables the authorities to have real-time updates on the information necessary to respond appropriately in the event of an accident;

67.

welcomes the choice of a process of gradual harmonisation, which ensures connection and consistency with the timetable of the International Maritime Organisation, which continues to be the relevant level. An illustration of this is the proposal of a transitional European form aimed at harmonising requests for security information whilst awaiting a harmonised form at international level. In this connection, the Committee of the Regions supports the request made to delegations of Member States of the European Union to FAL committee meetings to ‘make an effort to ensure that the forms required under the FAL Convention and those required under existing Community legislation are in alignment’;

68.

supports the aim of making the use of the electronic data exchange system widespread by 15 February 2013, but points out that significant investments will need to be made to ensure that the entire maritime transport chain is equipped. The costs of developing information transmission systems are significant for small ports. Therefore calls on the Commission to specify what financial assistance might be given in this connection;

69.

agrees with the Commission that the simplification and harmonisation of administrative formalities and documents play an important role in promoting short sea shipping, and therefore welcomes the exemption from FAL forms of ships travelling between European Union ports. Where possible, the ISPS code should be adapted with short sea shipping operators in mind;

70.

regrets that the issue of combating illegal immigration, which significantly slows operating procedures and gives rise to considerable costs in some places, is not taken into consideration;

71.

also calls for the adoption by all Member States of the full provisions of the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) and the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), which define, for the international community as a whole, common rules on rescue and first aid obligations — of Member States and with EU support — towards shipwreck victims and seafarers at risk of being shipwrecked, or who have been abandoned in the European maritime space. Considers, however, that the adoption of these rules must be accompanied by the EU-level establishment of appropriate solidarity-based mechanisms, since the management of illicit maritime migration cannot be left solely to those EU Member States that have a coastline vulnerable to migration. Would at the same time stress that efforts to improve search and rescue operations for migrants and refugees in distress at sea are only one facet of the response to the broader issue of illicit maritime migration.

Brussels, 17 June 2009

The President

of the Committee of the Regions

Luc VAN DEN BRANDE


(1)  See CdR 22/2008, An Integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union, point 1.

(2)  Population living within 50 km of the sea or the ocean.

(3)  Guidelines for an Integrated Approach to Maritime Policy: Towards best practice in integrated maritime governance and stakeholder consultation. COM(2008)395 final.

(4)  See CdR 22/2008, point 14.

(5)  See COM(2008) 791 final.

(6)  For example in its Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

(7)  Exclusive Economic Zones.

(8)  See COM(2009) 8 final.

(9)  See CdR 119/2006: Mid-term review of the transport White Paper, point 4.4.

(10)  See 2008/C 317/8.


4.9.2009   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 211/73


Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on community fisheries control system

(2009/C 211/11)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

strongly welcomes the root and branch reform of the control system of the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and calls upon the Council and on the European Commission to take into account the diversity and specific characteristics of different fleets and fishing regions;

believes that a culture of natural compliance with fisheries rules would be fostered only if the control measures are implemented on a dialogue and consensus basis rather than being imposed through a top-down process. It welcomes new measures provided by the regulation to force Member States to comply with the objectives of the CFP, however, the proportionality of such measures should be well reflected upon. The CoR rejects the refusal of quota transfers or exchanges in this regard;

urges clarification on the scope of the new provisions on recreational fisheries with regard to licenses and authorisation. Such fishing, if unregulated could endanger fish stocks on recovery plans. However, the response of the regulation must be proportionate and not excessive;

being particularly concerned about sustainable and profitable small-scale fishery, seeks clarification on new provisions which oblige boats of 10-15 metres length to install a VMS, keep an electronic logbook, and complete electronic landing declarations. It rejects fitting AIS to all fishing vessels exceeding 15 metres length and calls for boats less than 10 metres long that use only static fishing gear to be exempted from certification of engine power.

Rapporteur

:

Sir Simon DAY (UK/EPP), Member of Devon County Council

Reference documents

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the proposal for a Council Regulation establishing a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy — COM(2008) 718 final

Proposal for a Council Regulation establishing a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy, COM(2008) 721 final — 2008/0216 (CNS)

I.   POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

1.

strongly welcomes the overhaul of the control system of the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The current control system is inefficient, expensive and complex and does not produce the desired results.

2.

endorses the stated aims: simplification, harmonisation, making controls more effective at lower cost, developing a culture of compliance.

3.

considers that a root and branch reform is needed and that option 3, a new regulation, is the most realistic.

A.   Taking into account the regional and local dimension

4.

calls upon the Council and on the European Commission to take into account the diversity and specific characteristics of different fleets and fishing regions, as stipulated in recital 18 of the proposal.

5.

urges that specific consideration should be given to the needs of peripheral maritime regions particularly dependent on fisheries. Flexibility and the possibility for taking specific action tailored to particular circumstances and to the region concerned are pre-requisites (1).

6.

stresses that the decentralisation of CFP, reflected in the creation of the Regional Advisory Councils (RACs) and in the restructuring of DG Mare of the European Commission, emphasises the increasing need to deploy the new policy framework for control on a regional seas basis. This calls for greater capacity of the European Commission to service the diversity implicit in the regional model.

7.

highlights the changes which the new fisheries control system will bring to local and regional authorities responsible for fisheries control. The new system can only be implemented successfully on the ground, if Member States properly assign the modified competences to all administrative levels involved. Pre-requisites are sufficient financial and human resources for sound organisational structures, equipped with sufficient means for control and for promoting a natural culture of compliance and tools for the coordinated deployment of those means.

B.   A new, common approach to control and monitoring

General provisions

8.

supports clarification on the respective responsibilities of the Member States and regions, the Commission and the Community Fisheries Control Agency (CFCA), to avoid duplication of tasks. The European Commission will continue to provide for the monitoring measures needed to ensure that fisheries rules are adhered uniformly in all regions.

9.

welcomes the new provisions on strengthening strategic programming, tactical targeting and sampling strategies in fisheries control, including a systematic risk analysis. To avoid an uncoordinated application of this new tool, the CoR strongly supports assistance of monitoring authorities by developing uniform risk management methodologies at all levels, as foreseen for example by the CFCA in Art. 112.

10.

in particular welcomes the new obligation for Member States to set up a single authority within each Member State (Art. 5 (5)) responsible for effective coordination of all control instruments at all levels.

Reducing the administrative burden and costs

11.

anticipates a substantial reduction of 30 % of the operational costs, thus increasing the cost effectiveness of the Member States' and regions' control systems, provided full use is made of modern technologies and streamlined control systems. However, if such reductions do not materialise, any increased financial burden placed on Member States or regions should be met from within the EU budget particularly given the disproportionate responsibility of some Members States and regions to police the CFP relative to their quotas.

12.

urges the Council to emphasise achieving cost effectiveness by establishing coastal public structures which better integrate fisheries governance with that of other marine activities, as well as by coastal member states and adjacent regions setting up joint fisheries control inspectorates.

13.

recently has recommended to integrate fisheries inspectorates with tasks such as environment inspectorates, frontier control, sea rescue services, and civil protection (2) and welcomes the new provision of establishing an integrated maritime surveillance network. (Art. 4, Art 112 (Art. 17g on competences of CFCA)

Increased use of modern technologies

14.

cautiously welcomes the emphasis in the proposal to increase the use of modern technologies and efficient data validation systems, including Vessel Monitoring and other suitable and cost-efficient Systems (Art. 9-11), which partly reflects a previous recommendation of the CoR (3). However, although electronic monitoring is a key component of cost-effective fisheries enforcement and management systems should not be duplicated. Installations should be proportionate to vessel size and voyage duration and location. In particular, the CoR is concerned that the AIS system is for safety of navigation and is not suitable for fisheries control.

15.

Technologies are constantly developing and the CoR insists the regulation be made future-proof with efficient regulatory mechanism for adapting technical change. It calls for local and regional authorities and producer organisations to be involved in pilot projects on traceability tools, such as genetic analysis (Art. 13(1)).

Monitoring of fisheries and of marketing

16.

emphasises that controls at sea must be maintained, being currently the only method where fishing gear and TCM, mesh size, etc. can be appropriately monitored, often regulated by provisions on environmental impacts of fisheries.

17.

advocates a double track approach, which strives for balance between controls at sea and on land. It should include a) improvements in relevant and efficient controls at sea and b) improved control and inspection at land focusing on key ports, including improvements of the control of imported fish. The provision of more reliable landings data is crucial to benefit the stock assessment process.

18.

with fleet management continuing to be a critical element of the CFP, the CoR welcomes the new instruments on the monitoring, certification and cross checking of engine power with the exception of boats of less than 10 metres long that use only static fishing gears (Art. 30-32).

19.

being particularly concerned about sustainable and profitable small-scale fishery, seeks clarification on new provisions which oblige boats of 10-15 metres length to install a VMS (Art. 9), keep an electronic logbook (Art. 14), and complete electronic landing declarations (Art. 21), with derogations however possible to be introduced by the Member States. In order to support those smaller vessels in meeting the new provisions, the CoR must insist on wider exemptions or for EU and national funding to be increased for this purpose.

20.

encourages projects at local/regional level for voluntary, funded, introduction of the above mentioned monitoring systems or similar, in boats smaller then 10/15 metres, e.g. in view of the management of marine protected areas and conservation zones.

21.

agrees that, in order to ensure an adequate level of control, Member States and regions should monitor small vessels below 10 metres via a sampling plan. However, the CoR seeks clarification of sampling plans to be, ‘as far as possible, standardised within regions’ (Art. 16(2) and 22 (2)).

22.

welcomes the new common standards for the monitoring of marketing, seeking full traceability of landings. This in the interest of reducing illegal landings of fish as well as of consumers by providing them with relevant production information at each stage of marketing (Art. 51).

Specific monitoring of multi-annual plans and technical measures

23.

asks that local and regional control authorities and stakeholders be associated in the definition of ‘designated ports’ (Art. 34), and in the setting up of national and regional control action programmes, applicable to each multiannual plan (Art. 36).

24.

Calls again for improved control of technical measures which aim at reducing and even eliminating discards, whilst taking local circumstances into account and providing incentives (4). However, there seems no benefit in delaying the return of necessary discards to the sea and only estimates of quantities should be recorded.

25.

welcomes the new, advanced vessel monitoring system proposed for marine protected areas (Art. 39), which provide public authorities with better tools to fulfil their management obligations for these sites. However, marine protected areas should also be well-defined and their purpose well-publicised to ensure that only those vessels not authorised to fish in such areas are monitored.

Monitoring of recreational fisheries

26.

urges the Council to clarify the scope of the new Article 47 on recreational fisheries. Such fishing, if unregulated could endanger fish stocks on recovery plans, e.g. by professional fishing tourism, or at times when commercial fishing is closed.

C.   A culture of compliance

27.

calls for stronger reference within recital 5 of the regulation on the development of a culture of natural compliance with fisheries rules determined among all stakeholders involved. It should be considered as the cornerstone of any effective reform of the control system.

28.

believes that ‘Compliance Culture’ would be fostered only if the control measures are implemented on a dialogue and consensus basis rather than being imposed through a top-down process. There is need to develop a coherent partnership between fishermen, control authorities, research establishments, NGOs and fishing industry, with the RACs and local groups established under Axis 4 of the EFF to assist this sort of cooperation. The CoR has stressed that fishermen must be given responsibility for monitoring fishing and fishing rights (5).

29.

urges the European Commission to use its best endeavours to ensure that the culture of compliance is adhered by all international partners and other waters where EU vessels operate.

30.

considers simplification of fisheries control rules to be a primary objective (6) and welcomes the substantial move made by the Commission in this regard. This reduces the administrative burden for public authorities and the private sector, making the rules easier to monitor. It also increases confidence by stakeholders, thus fostering a culture of compliance.

Introduction of harmonised deterrent sanctions

31.

welcomes the introduction of harmonised and deterrent administrative sanctions for serious infringements (Art. 82), including establishing a penalty point system (Art. 84), which can result in the suspension or withdrawal of a fishing licence, as well as the creation of national registers of infringements (Art. 85).

32.

believes that this all reflects previous calls of the CoR for harmonising the dissuasive and penal measures (7) and helps to correct the arbitrary nature of the present system, stops the ‘crime pays’ policy, and reduces the migration of offenders to Member States where the penalties are lowest.

33.

calls upon Member States and regions to harmonise their sanctions of infringements committed within trans-boundary fishing regions, e.g., for trans-boundary marine protected areas.

34.

acknowledges calls for subsidies to be used as an additional element for sanction besides fines, with vessels which have committed multiple and serious infringements barred from public assistance or subsidies. However, developing a culture of compliance would be greatly assisted through positive incentives such as extra ‘days at sea’, or other awards, in return for participation in schemes such as use of more selective gears, support for real time closures, participation in stock avoidance plans, etc.

Cooperation between Member States, with the European Commission and the CFCA

35.

welcomes the reinforced provisions for improving cooperation between bodies of fishery control in the Member States/regions and with the Commission, including a modern approach to exchange of data. The CFCA should play a key role in facilitating this approach.

36.

takes note of progress in developing joint deployment plans at sea. However, similar progress in the case of on land inspections does not appear to be as well developed. Furthermore, co-operation with the competent services of third countries has to be put in place while ensuring that they possess the means and competences required.

37.

believes that the new secure websites to be set up for data exchange (Articles 106-108), and systematic cross-checks of all available data (Art. 102) will increase the European Commission's capacity to evaluate how well the CFP is actually enforced by Member States.

38.

in the past has supported the establishment of a ‘European fisheries inspectorate’ (8) and welcomes in this regard the extension of the mandate of the Community Fisheries Control Agency (CFCA) as provided by Article 112 of the draft regulation. However, the CoR insists that the foreseen CFCA assistance to national, regional and local fishing control authorities should cover standardization of control and inspection procedures at sea and on land, verifying national training standards, conducting work-shops and seminars, as well as include a ‘helpdesk’ service where Member States, the RACs or professional organizations could go to query the extent and meaning of the regulation.

D.   Effective application of CFP rules

New standards for surveillance and inspections

39.

acknowledges the need to increase not only the level of sanctions, but also the detection rates of the control systems in place by inspections and surveillance bodies. The CoR welcomes in this regard the new provisions on standardising surveillance and observers schemes, as well as the admissibility of surveillance and observers reports (Art. 61-64).

40.

supports the possibility for a Member State to inspect its vessels or vessels of another Member State now also in coastal waters below 12 nautical miles as well as to carry out inspections on the territory of another Member State (Art. 71-73). The CoR encourages local and regional control bodies operating in border areas to create synergies by seeking close cooperation in their inspection activities, with swift application of authorisation procedures provided by Art. 72.

Increase in the powers of the Commission evaluation, management and control

41.

supports some increase in the use of existing powers of the European Commission where it is aiming to achieve a level playing field for controls, with the primary responsibility for control of the CFP to remain with the Member States. The CoR welcomes with caution the additional powers given to the European Commission in carrying out autonomous inspections (Art. 90) as well as audit of national control systems (Art. 92). On the other hand, the scope of new powers attributed to the European Commission in establishing a specific control action plan for deficient Member States to improve their implementation of the CFP (Art. 94(4)) needs to be clarified.

42.

calls upon the European Commission to avoid any tendency to engage in microdecisions. Transferring to the Commission the power of real time closures (Art. 45) is questioned in this regard although species affected by over fishing could benefit.

43.

stresses that obtaining extra power should be based on a redefined cooperation with the Member States, as well as within the European Commission on capacity-building in DG MARE and the CFCA, but also increased institutional coherence with DG Environment of the European Commission.

Measures to ensure compliance by Member States

44.

acknowledges that bad implementation by one Member State can undermine, in particular for migrant fish species, a sound management of the common fish resource. The CoR notes that the only procedure currently available to the Commission in case of failure of a Member State is the infringement procedure, which is very lengthy and does not guarantee sanctions.

45.

welcomes in this regard the new measures provided by the regulation to force Member States to comply with the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy, including closure on the Commission's initiative of the fisheries concerned (Art. 96), financial measures against Member States such as suspension and cancellation of Community financial assistance (Art. 95). However, the CoR is concerned that an extended scope involving deduction of quota (Art. 98) and the refusal of quota transfers (Art. 99) may mean that the Commission could unilaterally alter relative stability of TACs and quotas among the Member States.

46.

believes that the proportionality of such measures should however be well reflected upon. The CoR is concerned whether the EU's coastal regions and their fishing industries rather than the Member States would have to bear the cost.

47.

urges the European Commission to continue in parallel a more cooperative approach started by the new memoranda of understanding which it has signed with some Member States and which contain clearly defined benchmarks for improvements in the fisheries control systems in the Member States concerned. Local and regional control bodies should be associated in the setting up of such memoranda.

II.   RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AMENDMENTS

Amendment 1

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Recital 29

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

(29)

Powers should be conferred to the Commission to close a fishery when the quota of a Member State or a TAC itself is exhausted. The Commission should also be empowered to deduct quotas and refuse quota transfers or quota exchanges to ensure the achievement of the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy by the Member States.

(29)

Powers should be conferred to the Commission to close a fishery when the quota of a Member State or a TAC itself is exhausted. The Commission should also be empowered to deduct quotas and refuse quota transfers or quota exchanges to ensure the achievement of the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy by the Member States.

Reason

The CoR acknowledges that a Member State that allows a fleet repeatedly to exceed its quota or that fails to take the measures necessary to ensure compliance with the rules of the common fisheries policy should be penalised. Nevertheless, the mechanisms for doing so should not involve the deduction of quotas and refusal of quota transfers or quota exchanges, since this would not affect the Member State that is failing to comply but would affect fleets which may be totally uninvolved in the infringements, and even — in the case of quota exchanges — other Member States that have nothing to do with the violation in question. Furthermore, these measures would mean that the Commission could unilaterally alter the relative stability among the Member States.

Amendment 2

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 4 — point 21

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

(21)

Vessel Monitoring System data’ means data on the fishing vessel identification, geographical position, date, time, course and speed transmitted by satellite-tracking devices installed on-board fishing vessels to the Fisheries Monitoring Centre of the flag State;

(21)

Vessel Monitoring System data’ means data on the fishing vessel identification, geographical position, date, time, course and speed transmitted by satellite-tracking or similar terrestrial-based monitoring systems devices installed on-board fishing vessels to the Fisheries Monitoring Centre of the flag State;

Reason

The definition proposed would preclude the use, after suitable testing, of less expensive, but equally efficient means of VMS that might be more suited to fishing vessels exceeding 10m overall length up to 15m overall length and operating close enough to terrestrial-based monitoring systems. The CoR amends this definition and relevant sub-paragraphs of Article 9 (see amendment 7).

Amendment 3

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 4 — new point after point 24

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

 

Serious infringement’ means types of conduct considered to be particularly detrimental to the proper application of the rules of the CFP, in particular in areas such as stock conservation, monitoring of fishing activities and marketing of fisheries products, in particular those activities listed in Article 42, paragraph 1 of COUNCIL REGULATION (EC) No 1005/2008.

Reason

The CoR seeks clarification on which infringements are considered ‘serious’, so that Art. 82 would apply. Further attention should be paid to different interpretations by the Member States and relevant criteria should be aligned as much as possible.

Amendment 4

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 4 — new point after point 24

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

 

Auction centre’ means the natural or legal person who is registered and authorised as a fish auction centre where fish is first sold by competitive bidding or by direct sales to registered buyers.

Reason

The CoR notes that no definition of ‘auction centre’ is proposed, yet Article 52 requires certain stocks to be first sold at an auction centre. ‘Auction’ should not be limited to ‘competitive bidding’ for the purposes of this regulation.

Amendment 5

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 4 — new point after point 24

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

 

Recreational Fisheries’ means fisheries, other than commercial and authorised fisheries, which practise large-scale recreational fishing from an unlicensed vessel or vessels on the open sea, taking from fish stocks which are subjects to multiannual plans.

Reason

Article 47 refers to ‘recreational fisheries’. Article 47 may be re-drafted by the Commission, but the CoR proposes this definition of ‘recreational fisheries’ to clarify the present drafted context.

However, non-commercial recreational fisheries normally means any fisheries in marine waters including, inter alia, sports fishing, recreational fishing and tournaments, conducted from a vessel which is not required to have a Community fishing licence pursuant to Commission Regulation (EC) No 1281/2005 of 3 August 2005.

Amendment 6

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 5 — paragraph 6

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

6.   The payment of contributions from the European Fisheries Fund pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 1198/2006 and of Community financial contributions to measures referred to in Article 8, paragraph a, of Council Regulation (EC) No 861/2006 shall be conditional upon respect by the Member States of their obligation to ensure compliance with and enforcement of the rules on conservation, control, inspection and enforcement under the Common Fisheries Policy related to, or having an impact on the effectiveness of, the measures being financed, and to operate and maintain an effective inspection, monitoring, surveillance and enforcement regime to this effect.

6.   The payment of contributions from the European Fisheries Fund pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 1198/2006 and of Community financial contributions to measures referred to in Article 8, paragraph a, of Council Regulation (EC) No 861/2006 shall be conditional upon respect by the Member States of their obligation to ensure compliance with and enforcement of the rules on conservation, control, inspection and enforcement under the Common Fisheries Policy related to, or having an impact on the effectiveness of, the measures being financed, and to operate and maintain an effective inspection, monitoring, surveillance and enforcement regime to this effect.

Reason

The CoR believes that better regulation is about incentives as well as penalties. Failure to ensure full compliance with the rules of the CFP should be handled proportionately with only serious failures dealt with at appropriate judicial level. It is not acceptable for the payment of EFF funds to be linked to wholesale compliance with control obligations. This paragraph creates great legal uncertainty. (Note Article 95.)

Amendment 7

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 9 — paragraph 1

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

1.   Member States shall operate a satellite-based Vessel Monitoring System for effective monitoring of fishing activities of the fishing vessels flying their flag regardless where they are and of fishing activities in their waters. Member States shall ensure the regular monitoring of the accuracy of this data and shall act promptly whenever data are found to be inaccurate.

1.   Member States shall operate a satellite-based Vessel Monitoring System and where appropriate a terrestrial-based monitoring system, for effective monitoring of fishing activities of the fishing vessels flying their flag regardless where they are and of fishing activities in their waters. Member States shall ensure the regular monitoring of the accuracy of this data and shall act promptly whenever data are found to be inaccurate.

Reason

See Amendment 2.

Amendment 8

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 10

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

Article 10

Automatic Identification System

1.   A fishing vessel exceeding 15 meters length overall shall be fitted with and maintain in operation an Automatic Identification System which meets the performance standards drawn up by the International Maritime Organisation according to chapter V, Regulation 19, section 2.4.5 of the 1974 SOLAS Convention in its up-to-date version.

2.   Member States shall use the Automatic Identification System data for the purpose of cross-checking with other available data in accordance with Articles 102 and 103. For that purpose Member States shall ensure that data from the Automatic Identification System for fishing vessels flying their flag are available to their national fisheries control authorities. Member States shall ensure the regular monitoring of the accuracy of those data and shall act promptly whenever data are found to be inaccurate.

Article 10

Automatic Identification System

1.   A fishing vessel exceeding 15 meters length overall shall be fitted with and maintain in operation an Automatic Identification System which meets the performance standards drawn up by the International Maritime Organisation according to chapter V, Regulation 19, section 2.4.5 of the 1974 SOLAS Convention in its up-to-date version.

2.   Member States shall use the Automatic Identification System data for the purpose of cross-checking with other available data in accordance with Articles 102 and 103. For that purpose Member States shall ensure that data from the Automatic Identification System for fishing vessels flying their flag are available to their national fisheries control authorities. Member States shall ensure the regular monitoring of the accuracy of those data and shall act promptly whenever data are found to be inaccurate.

Reason

The International Maritime Organization's (IMO) International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requires Automatic Identification Systems to be fitted aboard international voyaging ships with gross tonnage (GT) of 300 or more and all passenger ships regardless of size. 40,000 vessels are now fitted with AIS worldwide with the aim to enhance the safety of navigation and security in the international maritime transport sector. Fitting AIS to all fishing vessels exceeding 15 metres length overall would undoubtedly saturate the system and cause its efficacy in the field of maritime safety to be undermined.

Amendment 9

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 14 — paragraph 1

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

1.   Without prejudice to specific rules, the masters of Community fishing vessels exceeding 10 meters length overall shall keep a logbook of their operations, indicating specifically all quantities greater than 15 kg of live-weight equivalent of each species caught and kept on board, the date and the relevant geographical area, expressed by reference to a sub-area and division or sub-division, or where applicable statistical rectangle in which catch limits apply pursuant to Community legislation, of these catches and the type of gear used. The quantities of each species discarded at sea shall also be recorded in the logbook. The accuracy of the data recorded in the logbook shall be the responsibility of the master.

1.   Without prejudice to specific rules, the masters of Community fishing vessels exceeding 10 meters length overall shall keep a paper logbook of their operations, indicating specifically all quantities greater than 15 50 kg of live-weight equivalent of each species caught and kept on board, the date and the relevant geographical area, expressed by reference to a sub-area and division or sub-division, or where applicable statistical rectangle in which catch limits apply pursuant to Community legislation, of these catches and the type of gear used. The quantities of each species discarded at sea shall also be recorded in the logbook Estimated quantities of each species discarded at sea may be recorded in the logbook for evaluation purposes. The accuracy of the data recorded in the logbook shall be the responsibility of the master.

Reason

The CoR considers it necessary for legal clarification to add the word ‘paper’, taking into account Article 15, as amended.

The CoR considers that the quantitative restrictions in this Article place a new and exceptional burden on fishing vessel masters and, in relation to recording discards, has no bearing on the uptake of fishing opportunities. The text from Council Regulation (EEC) No 2847/93 provides that ‘The quantities discarded at sea may be recorded for evaluation purposes.’ The CoR recommends the use of this text.

Amendment 10

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 14 — paragraph 3

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

3.   The permitted margin of tolerance in estimates recorded in the logbook of the quantities in kilograms of fish retained on board shall be 5 %.

3.   The permitted margin of tolerance in estimates of species the subjects of TACs and quotas recorded in the logbook of the quantities in kilograms of fish retained on board shall be 5 12 %.

Reason

The CoR notes that the margin of tolerance is an arbitrary figure for which there is no scientific justification. Practical tests conducted by MRAG on fishing vessels have shown widely differing margins with few correlation factors. If a single figure is to be accepted it should be efficacious and proportionate to monitoring requirements. The CoR considers the proposed margin is impracticable; a compromise between the current system and the margin for recovery stocks should be adopted. The Regulation should apply only to TAC species.

Amendment 11

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 15 — paragraphs 1 and 2

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

Article 15

Electronic recording and transmission of logbook data

1.   The master of a Community fishing vessel exceeding 10 meters length overall shall record by electronic means fisheries logbook information and shall send it by electronic means to the competent authority of the flag Member State at least once a day

2.   Paragraph 1 shall apply to Community fishing vessels exceeding 15 meters length and up to 24 meters length overall as from 1 July 2011, and to Community fishing vessels exceeding 10 meters length and up to 15 meters length overall as from 1 January 2012. Community vessels up to 15 meters length overall may be exempted from paragraph 1 if they:

a)

operate exclusively within the territorial seas of the flag Member State, or

b)

never spend more than 24 hours at sea taken from the time of departure to the return to port.

Article 15

Electronic recording and transmission of logbook data

1.   The master of a Community fishing vessel exceeding 10 15 meters length overall shall record by electronic means fisheries logbook information and shall send it by electronic means to the competent authority of the flag Member State at least once a day

2.   Paragraph 1 shall apply to Community fishing vessels exceeding 15 meters length and up to 24 meters length overall as from 1 July 2011, and to Community fishing vessels exceeding 10 meters length and up to 15 meters length overall as from 1 January 2012. Community vessels up to 15 meters length overall may be exempted from paragraph 1 if they:

a)

operate exclusively within the territorial seas of the flag Member State, or

b)

never spend more than 24 hours at sea taken from the time of departure to the return to port.

Reason

The CoR considers that fishing vessels exceeding 10m length overall up to 15m length overall, are of insufficient size to facilitate the safe and cost-effective use of electronic fisheries logbooks.

Amendment 12

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 17 — paragraph 1

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

1.   Without prejudice to specific provisions contained in multiannual plans, masters of Community fishing vessels or their representatives shall notify the competent authorities of the Member State whose port or landing facilities they wish to use at least 4 hours before the estimated time of arrival at the port, unless the competent authorities have given permission for an earlier entry, of the following information:

a)

vessel identification;

b)

name of the designated port of destination and the purposes of the call, such as landing, transhipment, access to services;

c)

fishing authorisation or, where appropriate, authorisation to support fishing operations or to tranship fishery products;

d)

dates of the fishing trip and the areas in which the catches were taken;

e)

estimated date and time of arrival at port;

f)

the quantities of each species retained on board, including zero catches returns;

g)

the quantities for each species to be landed or transhipped.

1.   Without prejudice to specific provisions contained in multiannual plans, masters of Community fishing vessels exceeding 15 meters overall length or their representatives shall notify the competent authorities of the Member State whose port or landing facilities they wish to use at least 4 hours before the estimated time of arrival at the port, unless the competent authorities have given permission for an earlier entry, of the following information:

a)

vessel identification;

b)

name of the designated port of destination and the purposes of the call, such as landing, transhipment, access to services;

c)

fishing authorisation or, where appropriate, authorisation to support fishing operations or to tranship fishery products;

d)

dates of the fishing trip and the areas in which the catches were taken;

e)

estimated date and time of arrival at port;

f)

the quantities of each species retained on board, including zero catches returns;

g)

the quantities for each species to be landed or transhipped.

Reason

The CoR considers that smaller fishing vessels up to 15m length overall, are of insufficient size to require, for reasons of safety, notification 4 hours before the estimated time of arrival at the port. The requirement to record what has not been caught is beyond comprehension.

Amendment 13

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 21 — paragraph 2

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

2.   Without prejudice to specific provisions contained in multiannual plans, the master or his representative of a Community fishing vessel exceeding 10 meters length overall shall transmit landing declaration data by electronic means to the competent authorities of the flag Member State within 2 hours after completion of the landing.

2.   Without prejudice to specific provisions contained in multiannual plans, the master or his representative of a Community fishing vessel exceeding 10 meters length overall shall transmit landing declaration data by electronic means if exceeding 15 meters overall length and otherwise by paper, to the competent authorities of the flag Member State within 2 48 hours after completion of the landing.

Reason

The CoR notes that the information on a landing declaration must be certified accurate by the master, requiring sorting and weighing of the catch. This onerous requirement might have considerable cost implications in landing ports without auction facilities and particularly for smaller vessels landing in peripheral maritime regions. The interval laid down in Article 8 of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2847/93 is 48 hours. The CoR proposes the use of this text.

Amendment 14

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 23 — paragraph 3

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

3.   All catches of a stock or a group of stocks subject to quota made by Community fishing vessels shall be charged against the quota applicable to the flag Member State for the stock or group of stocks in question, irrespective of the place of landing.

3.   All catches landings of a stock or a group of stocks subject to quota made by Community fishing vessels shall be charged against the quota applicable to the flag Member State for the stock or group of stocks in question, irrespective of the place of landing.

Reason

The CoR notes that, whilst national quotas are arrived at from the amount known as Total Allowable Catch, the amount is and should continue to be counted at the point of landing and first sale. Discards should not be deducted from the national quota.

Amendment 15

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 31 — paragraph 1

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

1.   New engines, replacement engines and engines that have been technically modified shall be officially approved by the Member States' authorities for not being capable of producing more power than stated in the engine certificate. Such approvals shall only be issued if the engine is not capable of producing more than the stated power.

1.   with the exception for boats of less than 10metres long that use only static fishing gears, n New engines, replacement engines and engines that have been technically modified shall be officially approved by the Member States' authorities for not being capable of producing more power than stated in the engine certificate. Such approvals shall only be issued if the engine is not capable of producing more than the stated power.

Reason

It is not appropriate to certify engine power for all fishing vessels which for the most part are used for small-scale coastal fishing; therefore boats less than 10 metres long that use only static fishing gear, should be exempted from this requirement. The specification provided by the engine manufacturer should be regarded as sufficient. Only in the case of trawling is engine power of decisive importance for fishing efficiency.

Amendment 16

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 37 — paragraph 2, introductory wording

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

2.   In fisheries in which it is allowed to have more than two types of gear on board, the gear which is not used shall be stowed so that it may not readily be used in accordance with the following conditions:

2.   In fisheries in which it is allowed to have more than two or more types of gear on board, the gear which is not used shall be stowed so that it may not readily be used in accordance with the following conditions:

Reason

The CoR believes this may be an error in the draft. Second or more unused gear should be stowed.

Amendment 17

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 40 — paragraphs 1 and 2

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

Article 40

Transit through a Marine Protected Area

1.   Transit through a Marine Protected Area is allowed for all fishing vessels subject to the following conditions:

a)

all gears carried on board are lashed and stowed during the transit; and

b)

the speed during transit is not less than 6 knots.

2.   Masters of Community fishing vessels intending to transit a Marine Protected Area shall communicate the following data in the form of a transit report, to the authorities of the flag Member State and to the coastal Member State:

a)

the name of the vessel, external identification mark, radio call sign and name of the master of the vessel;

b)

the coordinates of the geographical location of the vessel to which the communication refers;

c)

the date and time of each entry into a Marine Protected Area, and

d)

the date and time of each exit from a Marine Protected Area.

Article 40

Transit through a Marine Protected Area

1.   Protected Area, for fishing vessels not otherwise authorised to fish within the area, is allowed for all fishing vessels subject to the following conditions:

a)

all gears carried on board are lashed and stowed during the transit; and

b)

the speed during transit is not less than 6 knots.

2.   Masters of Community fishing vessels intending to transit, or if authorised to fish in a Marine Protected Area shall communicate the following data in the form of a transit report, to the authorities of the flag Member State and to the coastal Member State:

a)

the name of the vessel, external identification mark, radio call sign and name of the master of the vessel;

b)

the coordinates of the geographical location of the vessel to which the communication refers;

c)

the date and time of each entry into a Marine Protected Area, and

d)

the date and time of each exit from a Marine Protected Area.

Reason

The CoR is very concerned about the legal status of Marine Protected Areas as defined in Article 4 and as proposed in Articles 39 and 40. Marine Protected Areas, as proposed would have the same status as a ‘No Take Zone’. A ‘transit’ rule should apply only to those vessels not otherwise authorised under article 7 (c). The CoR questions the monitoring requirements in Article 39 and the terms of Articles 4 and 40 and proposes the amendment.

Amendment 18

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 41 — paragraph 1

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

1.   The master of a fishing vessel shall record all discards above 15 kg of live weight equivalents in volume and shall communicate, where possible by electronic means, this information without delay to its competent authorities.

1.   The master of a fishing vessel shall may record all discards above 15 kg of live weight equivalents in volume and shall communicate, where possible by electronic means, this information without delay to its competent authorities estimated quantities of each species discarded at sea in the logbook for evaluation purposes.

Reason

The text from Council Regulation (EEC) No 2847/93 provides that ‘The quantities discarded at sea may be recorded for evaluation purposes’. The CoR recommends the use of the amended text. It would be unreasonable to require recording all discards above 15 kg and communicating them to competent authorities. The CoR believes that necessary discards should be returned to the sea without delay to allow maximum survival possibility.

Amendment 19

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 47

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

Article 47

Recreational fisheries

1.   Recreational fisheries on a vessel in Community waters on a stock subject to a multiannual plan shall be subject to an authorisation for that vessel issued by the flag Member State.

2.   Catches in recreational fisheries on stocks subject to a multiannual plan shall be registered by the flag Member State.

3.   Catches of species subject to a multiannual plan by recreational fisheries shall be counted against the relevant quotas of the flag Member State. The Member States concerned shall establish a share from such quotas to be used exclusively for the purpose of recreational fisheries.

4.   The marketing of catches from a recreational fishery shall be prohibited except for philanthropic purposes.

Article 47

Recreational fisheries

1.   Recreational fisheries on an unlicensed vessel in Community waters on a stock subject to a multiannual plan shall be subject to an authorisation for that vessel issued by the flag Member State.

2.   Catches in recreational fisheries on stocks subject to a multiannual plan shall be registered by the flag Member State.

3.   Catches of species subject to a multiannual plan by recreational fisheries shall be counted against the relevant quotas of the flag Member State. The Member States concerned shall establish a share from such quotas to be used exclusively for the purpose of recreational fisheries.

4.   The marketing of catches from a recreational fishery shall be prohibited except for philanthropic purposes.

Reason

The CoR proposes a definition for recreational fisheries at Article 4 (27). The text proposed here clarifies the position with regard to licenses and authorisation.

As highlighted in point 26 of the policy recommendations, such fishing, if unregulated could endanger fish stocks on recovery plans, e.g. by professional fishing tourism, or at times when commercial fishing is closed. However, deleting paragraphs 3 and 4 ensures the response of the regulation is proportionate and not excessive.

Amendment 20

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 52 — paragraphs 2 and 3

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

2.   Other fisheries products shall only be sold at an auction centre or to bodies or persons authorised by Member States.

3.   The buyer of fisheries products from a fishing vessel at first sale shall be registered with the authorities of the Member State where the first sale takes place. For the purpose of registration, each buyer shall be identified according to his VAT number in national databases.

2.   Other fisheries products shall only be sold at an auction centre or to bodies or persons authorised by Member States.

3.   The buyer of fisheries products from a fishing vessel at first sale shall be registered with the authorities of the Member State where the first sale takes place. For the purpose of registration, each buyer shall be identified according to his registration number or VAT number in national databases.

Reason

The CoR believes that VAT number may not always be relevant, but a registration number is generated by the Member State.

Amendment 21

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 53 — paragraph 1

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

1.   All registered buyers purchasing fishery and aquaculture products shall ensure that all lots received are weighed on scales approved by the competent authorities. The weighing shall be carried out prior to the fish being sorted, processed, held in storage and transported from the place of landing or resold.

1.   All registered buyers purchasing fishery and aquaculture products shall ensure that representative samples of all lots received are weighed on scales approved by the competent authorities. The weighing shall be carried out at the time of sorting, but prior to the fish being sorted, processed, held in storage and transported from the place of landing or resold.

Reason

The CoR is concerned that if every box of fish is weighed, unnecessary handling and delays might affect negatively fish quality.

Amendment 22

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 53 — paragraph 3

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

3.   By way of derogation from paragraph 1, Member States may permit fresh fish to be weighed after transport from the place of landing provided that the fish could not have been weighed on landing and provided they are transported to a destination on the territory of the Member State that is no more than 20 kilometers from the place of landing.

3.   By way of derogation from paragraph 1, Member States may permit fresh fish to be weighed after transport from the place of landing provided that the fish could not have been weighed on landing and provided they are transported to a destination on the territory of the Member State that is no more than 20 100 kilometers from the place of landing.

Reason

The CoR is concerned that the Commission may be proposing unnecessarily burdensome requirements on the industry that might be a disincentive to fostering a culture of compliance.

Amendment 23

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 54 — paragraph 1

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

1.   Registered buyers, registered auctions or other bodies or persons which are responsible for the first marketing of fishery products landed in a Member State, shall submit electronically, within 2 hours after the first sale, a sales note to the competent authorities of the Member State in whose territory the first sale takes place. If this Member State is not the flag State of the vessel that landed the fish, it shall ensure that a copy of the sales note is submitted to the competent authorities of the flag Member State upon receipt of the relevant information. The accuracy of the sales note shall be the responsibility of these buyers, auctions, bodies or persons.

1.   Registered buyers, registered auctions or other bodies or persons which are responsible for the first marketing of fishery products landed in a Member State, shall submit electronically, within 2 48 hours after the first sale, a sales note to the competent authorities of the Member State in whose territory the first sale takes place. If this Member State is not the flag State of the vessel that landed the fish, it shall ensure that a copy of the sales note is submitted to the competent authorities of the flag Member State upon receipt of the relevant information. The accuracy of the sales note shall be the responsibility of these buyers, auctions, bodies or persons.

Reason

Marketing fish requires attention to quality and delivery times to customers should be minimised. The CoR believes it is not practical to reduce from 48 hours to 2 hours the interval between first sale and submission of declarations to the authorities.

Amendment 24

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 82 — paragraphs 2 and 3

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

2.   In addition, for all serious infringements which level cannot be linked to the value of the fishery products obtained by committing the serious infringement, Member States shall ensure that a natural person having committed or a legal person held liable for a serious infringement is punishable by an administrative fine of a minimum of at least 5 000 EUR and a maximum of at least 300 000 EUR for each serious infringement. The flag Member State shall be immediately notified of the sanction imposed.

3.   In case of a repeated serious infringement within a 5 year period, a Member State shall impose an administrative fine of a minimum of at least 10 000 EUR and a maximum of at least 600 000 EUR.

2.   In addition, for all serious infringements which level cannot be linked to the value of the fishery products obtained by committing the serious infringement, Member States shall ensure that a natural person having committed or a legal person held liable for a serious infringement is punishable by an administrative fine of a minimum of at least 5 000 EUR and a maximum of at least300 000 EUR for each serious infringement. The flag Member State shall be immediately notified of the sanction imposed.

3.   In case of a repeated serious infringement within a 5 one year period, a Member State shall impose an administrative fine of a minimum of at least 10 000 EUR and a maximum of at least600 000 EUR.

Reason

The CoR believes each Member State judiciary should set the penalty up to the maximum. The words ‘at least’ are superfluous in combination with the word ‘maximum’. In the interests of uniformity, the CoR notes that Article 76 refers only to ‘one year’.

Amendment 25

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 99

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

Article 99

Refusal of quota transfers

The Commission may deny the transfer of quotas for stocks of a Member State to the following year in accordance with Article 3 of Council Regulation (EC) No 847/96 of 6 May 1996 introducing additional conditions for year-to-year management of TACs and quotas if:

a)

the quota to be transferred has been overfished by the Member State concerned in any one of the immediately preceding two years or

b)

the quota refers to a stock that is under a multiannual plan or is caught in association with a stock under a multiannual plan and there has been an overfishing of that quota or of quotas for stocks under a multiannual plan in association with which that stock is caught, by the fleet of that Member State in one of the immediately preceding five years or

c)

the Member State concerned does not take appropriate measures to ensure a proper management of the fishing opportunities of the stocks concerned, in particular by not operating a computerized validation system as referred to in Article 102 or by insufficiently operating the systems providing the data for this validation system.

Article 99

Refusal of quota transfers

The Commission may deny the transfer of quotas for stocks of a Member State to the following year in accordance with Article 3 of Council Regulation (EC) No 847/96 of 6 May 1996 introducing additional conditions for year-to-year management of TACs and quotas if:

a)

the quota to be transferred has been overfished by the Member State concerned in any one of the immediately preceding two years or

b)

the quota refers to a stock that is under a multiannual plan or is caught in association with a stock under a multiannual plan and there has been an overfishing of that quota or of quotas for stocks under a multiannual plan in association with which that stock is caught, by the fleet of that Member State in one of the immediately preceding five years or

c)

the Member State concerned does not take appropriate measures to ensure a proper management of the fishing opportunities of the stocks concerned, in particular by not operating a computerized validation system as referred to in Article 102 or by insufficiently operating the systems providing the data for this validation system.

Reason

The CoR is very concerned that refusal of quota transfers is being proposed as punishment. There is danger that the Commission may alter unilaterally the relative stability of TACs and quotas among the Member States.

Amendment 26

Proposal for a Council Regulation, Article 100

Text proposed by the Commission

CoR amendment

Article 100

Refusal of quota exchanges

The Commission may exclude the possibility to exchange quotas according to Article 20 paragraph 5 of Regulation (EC) No 2371/2002:

a)

for quotas for which there was an overfishing of more than 10 % of the quotas available to one of the Member State concerned in one of the immediately preceding two years or

b)

if the Member State concerned does not take appropriate measures to ensure a proper management of the fishing opportunities of the stocks concerned, in particular by not operating a computerized validation system as referred to in Article 102 or by insufficiently operating the systems providing the data for this validation system.

Article 100

Refusal of quota exchanges

The Commission may exclude the possibility to exchange quotas according to Article 20 paragraph 5 of Regulation (EC) No 2371/2002:

a)

for quotas for which there was an overfishing of more than 10 % of the quotas available to one of the Member State concerned in one of the immediately preceding two years or

b)

if the Member State concerned does not take appropriate measures to ensure a proper management of the fishing opportunities of the stocks concerned, in particular by not operating a computerized validation system as referred to in Article 102 or by insufficiently operating the systems providing the data for this validation system.

Reason

The CoR is very concerned that refusal of quota exchanges is being proposed as punishment. There is danger that the Commission may alter unilaterally the relative stability of TACs and quotas among the Member States.

Brussels, 18 June 2009

The President

of the Committee of the Regions

Luc VAN DEN BRANDE


(1)  CdR 22/2008 fin, CdR 258/2006 fin, Cdr 153/2001 fin.

(2)  CdR 22/2008 fin, CdR 258/2006 fin.

(3)  CdR 258/2006 fin.

(4)  CdR 22/2008 fin, CdR 252/2004 fin, CdR 189/2002 fin, CdR 153/2001 fin.

(5)  CdR 189/2002 fin.

(6)  CdR 153/2001 fin.

(7)  CdR 258/2006 fin, CdR 189/2002 fin, CdR 153/2001 fin.

(8)  CdR 153/2001 fin.


4.9.2009   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 211/90


Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on non-discrimination, equal opportunities and the implementation of the principle of equal treatment between persons

(2009/C 211/12)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS:

endorses the Commission's renewed commitment to presenting new proposals for implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation: firmly backs the principle that discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation has no place in an enlightened society bound by fundamental rights

identifies non-discrimination mainstreaming and individual well-being as essential priorities in support of an increasingly diverse Europe, following the EU enlargement process, migration, social changes such as demographic ageing, and new familial trends

reiterates that achieving equality mainstreaming is only possible through the genuine involvement of local and regional authorities; as the main service providers (particularly in the public health, social care and education sectors), these authorities play a key role in identifying and providing information about the emerging needs of vulnerable groups of people

emphasises the need to set up a body within each regional government to monitor respect for rights and equal opportunities in the practical application of the principle of equal opportunities and in all regional measures part-financed by the EU.

Rapporteur

Mrs Claudette Abela Baldacchino (MT/PES), Deputy Mayor, Qrendi Local Council

Reference documents

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on Non-discrimination and equal opportunities: A renewed commitment

COM(2008) 420 final

Proposal for a Council Directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation

COM(2008) 426 final

I.   POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

1.

endorses the Commission's renewed commitment to presenting new proposals for implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation: firmly backs the principle that discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation has no place in an enlightened society bound by fundamental rights;

2.

identifies non-discrimination mainstreaming and individual well-being as essential priorities in support of an increasingly diverse Europe, following the EU enlargement process, migration, social changes such as demographic ageing, and new familial trends;

3.

recalls that although considerable progress has been made in combating discrimination on the grounds of gender, disability and race in the past decade, the scope of protection against discrimination needs to be extended to all grounds covered by Article 13;

4.

endorses the Commission's renewed commitment to equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, race, disability, age or sexual orientation, and stresses that this must be based on recognition of and respect for shared European fundamental values;

5.

points out that it is necessary to consider whether non-discrimination mainstreaming can be achieved through legislation allowing for reasonable accommodation on the one hand and concerted adjustment in policies and procedures on the other;

6.

points out that awareness raising and education, particularly education for diversity, are important strategic measures that improve social relationships and strengthen social cohesion;

7.

acknowledges the central importance that the media play in fostering an objective debate and reporting on diversity and stresses the responsibility that the media bear in promoting social cohesion through the celebration of diversity;

Local/regional and CoR relevance

8.

reiterates that achieving equality mainstreaming is only possible through the genuine involvement of local and regional authorities; as the main service providers (particularly in the public health, social care and education sectors), these authorities play a key role in identifying and providing information about the emerging needs of vulnerable groups of people;

9.

emphasises the need to set up a body within each regional government to monitor respect for rights and equal opportunities in the practical application of the principle of equal opportunities and in all regional measures part-financed by the EU;

10.

emphasises that local and regional authorities are, in view of their closeness to the public and their responsibilities for most social and economic aspects of people's daily lives, well-placed to put into practice the values and structures of the proposed Directive;

11.

believes that equality mainstreaming and non-discrimination in society at large can only be achieved through joint efforts with civil society and integration policies at all levels of government;

12.

notes that effective and concrete action to promote equal treatment needs to exist and be co-ordinated at all levels of public administration. Furthermore, acknowledges that dialogue through mediation is an effective tool enabling citizens and institutions to build new social relations to make equal treatment a real possibility;

Subsidiarity, Proportionality and Regulation

13.

highlights the key role of local and regional decentralisation and subsidiarity for increased participation and more effective involvement of citizens, in particular of those who may be discriminated against in policy or programme development and implementation;

14.

recalls the need to respect the principle of proportionality as regards provisions for remedies and enforcement, for example in relation to limits to sanctions and the burden of proof;

15.

draws attention to the fact that the scope of the directive as regards discrimination on grounds of age has not been clearly defined. A number of public services and rights are granted on the basis of age, which is often used as an objective criterion in legislation and administration. The directive's current wording could render legal and administrative provisions such as these legally contentious or even illegal;

16.

stresses the need to reduce administrative burdens, and to take into account the impact of the proposed Directive on economic actors, for example SMEs, and also consumers;

17.

notes the fact that the proposed Directive does not call into question national competencies to define the relations between church and state or related institutions and organisations, the content of teaching activities and the organisation of their educational systems, and to legislate on the recognition of marital or family status, reproductive rights, adoption or other similar questions;

Enhancing the legal framework

18.

acknowledges the need to consider whether stronger EU anti-discrimination legislation is necessary to ensure equal treatment and protection for everyone living and/or working in Europe;

19.

notes the aim to achieve full equality in practice for vulnerable groups in education, social protection, social benefits, and access to goods and services;

20.

encourages the enforcement, where such enforcement is lacking, of legal provisions to prohibit physical or sexual abuse as well as exploitation;

21.

identifies the need for sound legal procedures to protect minority groups from violence and other attacks due to their vulnerability;

22.

points out that legal protection is fundamental but reiterates that mediated settlements are more desirable, as the process of mediation has an educational and empowering function for citizens and enables institutions and service providers to change and improve;

23.

calls upon the Commission and all other responsible authorities to enhance and promote not only the institution of mediation, in particular social and cultural mediation at the local and regional level, but also to foster intercultural competencies for service providers and their employees, particularly in the public sector;

24.

points out that human trafficking and commercial exploitation of women and children are still widespread in numerous Member States; and that this modern form of human slavery undermines shared European values and fundamental human rights;

25.

reiterates the need for effective measures to counteract such objectionable practices and calls for current legislation to be strengthened and more effectively enforced; also advocates mobilising appropriate services and practices to inform migrants, particularly women and children, about possible fraudulent migration opportunities and exploitation; urges closer networking through common approaches and strategies at local and regional levels; and recommends that victims be given social assistance, mainly through independent organisations and associations;

26.

points out that under Article 3 of the proposed Directive, the ban on discrimination is also to cover all persons in the private sector, and feels that the term ‘private sector’ should be defined, as there could be problems with its interpretation. In doing so, it is important to ensure constitutional protection for property ownership and the associated autonomy of private law at national and EU level;

27.

points out that when establishing the existence of a disproportionate burden, the various needs of people with disabilities must also be taken into account, regardless of whether they are physical, mental, sensory or learning difficulties, as must the extent of the disability;

Strengthening policy tools

28.

recalls that anti-discrimination legislation has to be combined with policy tools that challenge unequal treatment, stereotypes and denigration in order to effectively tackle complex, multiple and diverse patterns of discrimination;

29.

emphasises that the proposed Directive should accentuate equality mainstreaming, to ensure that all forms of discrimination are taken in account when drafting public policies, analysing their impact and raising awareness;

30.

stresses that equality issues must be addressed in all plans, policies and programmes, and accentuates the relevance of mainstreaming tools, especially consultation and direct involvement of all stakeholders and under-represented groups in society;

31.

deems that social dialogue, both at European level, and with NGOs and other representative organisations, is vital to facilitating change, since diverse social realities and solutions are identified through shared knowledge, skills and best practice;

32.

believes that cooperation with the Council of Europe's Committee on Social Cohesion could help to ensure effective implementation of the principles of equality mainstreaming and acknowledges the work of the existing working group set up by the Commission and the Council of Europe on intercultural competencies in social services;

33.

reaffirms the importance of inclusiveness for local and regional authorities and accentuates the role of specific measures to ensure equitable and fair access for persons and groups at risk of social exclusion from goods and service;

34.

urges the effective mobilisation of available instruments under the Structural Funds to support measures to facilitate social inclusion and to promote accessibility to the labour market, to goods and services and to participation in society at large;

35.

supports awareness-raising programmes aimed at educating stakeholders on their rights and obligations and at challenging discrimination and harassment;

36.

notes and welcomes the existence in many Member States of services accessible to all children meant to inform and guide them with regard to their rights; calls upon all Member States to provide such facilities to children while highlighting the need to educate children, not least about the relationship between rights and responsibilities;

37.

advocates that further information about the difficulties and needs of vulnerable groups is needed, in particular about unaccompanied immigrant minors, human trafficking, children's' rights, low-income workers, low-income households, as well as discrimination on grounds of religion/belief and sexual orientation;

38.

considers the collection of data on equality issues important in providing a holistic explanation of the current situation with regard to discrimination; supports the development of common criteria for data collection and analysis so as to obtain reliable and comparable data and statistics without undue additional bureaucracy;

Developing targeted approaches

39.

endorses specific responses tailored to each form of discrimination since the various forms of discrimination differ from one another considerably;

40.

points out that certain citizens in some Member States are faced with multiple discriminatory obstacles, namely: a lack of adequate healthcare, pension schemes and retirement mechanisms, and the inaccessibility of a wide range of convenient and economical goods and services due to real impediments in using modern technology such as the internet;

41.

encourages public and private service providers to ensure user friendly services in a way that is respectful of dignity and commensurate to individual capabilities, while providing adequate information on technological aspects;

42.

reiterates that the proposed Directive should also provide women outside the labour market with stronger protection given that sexual harassment, abuse and violence represent a persistent challenge to women's dignity and safety;

43.

argues that as a result of gender stereotypes, as well as structural and cultural barriers in formal education, the media and politics, women are still at a higher risk of poverty and social exclusion, due to the gender pay gap, as well as disadvantageous social welfare provisions and pension entitlements;

44.

demands legislation and policies against: homophobia (especially hate speech and hate crime), barriers to accessing housing, direct discrimination in healthcare services, as well as bullying and harassment in educational establishments, employment and vocational training;

45.

stresses the need to enhance social inclusion and the participation of LGBT in society at large;

46.

suggests that reasonable accommodation to the disabled and for disadvantaged persons has to be broadened to improve their access to and participation in educational or vocational training, healthcare services, housing, transport, shops, leisure activities and access to other goods and services in a proportional way, to ensure they are treated equally and to avoid undue bureaucracy and the abuse of complaints procedures;

47.

notes that persons with mental health problems are more likely to be socially excluded and stereotyped, and therefore calls on Member States to pay particular attention to these groups, and to make greater efforts to help people with mental health problems; in particular, children suffering from mental health difficulties should be provided with support which meets their needs;

48.

insists that individuals and groups suffering discrimination should receive adequate attention, with the necessary support to mitigate their difficulties in accessing and remaining in education, training, leisure and culture, as key elements for social participation;

Addressing multiple discrimination

49.

states that European legislation should take better account of multiple discrimination, primarily by defining this phenomenon clearly, in order to protect and address the needs of groups and individuals who are at risk of multiple discrimination (migrants, especially women and children, Roma children, unaccompanied minors, asylum seekers, the disabled, persons suffering from mental health problems, older persons from ethnic minorities, etc.);

50.

in the context of local and regional authority policies, calls for the promotion and support of specialised equality centres and observatories with responsibility for addressing all forms of discrimination and safeguarding the rights of people with multiple characteristics and identities, and may experience multiple discrimination, and for assisting victims, conducting surveys, publishing reports on multiple discrimination, and carrying out all functions in the areas covered by the proposed Directive;

Access to quality employment

51.

discrimination can prevent individuals from achieving their full potential and they therefore risk ending up in low income jobs, which consequently bring about further difficulties in accessing goods and services such as education and housing, thus leading to poverty and social exclusion;

52.

insists that barriers to securing paid employment are some of the main causes of inequality and social exclusion, and that very often precarious and low-income jobs are taken up by people in vulnerable situations, such as young and older workers, migrants and persons with disabilities;

53.

supports voluntary charters and other incentives encouraging businesses to adopt working methods which foster non-discrimination and equal opportunities, for example the promotion of diversity management in businesses, which not only benefit employers, but also employees and customers;

54.

while the principles of non-discrimination and equal treatment are universal, the Committee of the Regions draws special attention to the particularly vulnerable position of children and Roma in Europe;

Social inclusion of Roma

55.

reiterates the need to enhance the participation of and recognition for the contribution of Roma in employment and training on one hand and the shared responsibility needed in order to improve their access to goods and services such as housing and health, reduce their risk of poverty, reduce their risks of suffering violence and abuse, and protect Roma children from suffering health problems, becoming involved in child prostitution, sexual abuse or child trafficking;

56.

acknowledges the importance of targeted measures to reduce or abolish discriminatory practices against Roma, in order to promote equal treatment of Roma and accelerate their process of social inclusion;

57.

calls for the effective use of the European Social Fund for: constructive campaigns and awareness-raising of the importance of the Roma's contribution to society; further job creation schemes, literacy campaigns, vocational training, scholarships for students in secondary and higher education; services catering specifically to their needs (for instance women's healthcare) and other services that are indispensable for the social inclusion of Roma children, such as well-organised care services and protection, and vocational education (especially language skills);

58.

recommends that the Commission step up efforts to combat gender discrimination in the fields of education, healthcare, social services and social protection; demands that the same level of protection be provided against all forms of discrimination and that the Commission present a timetable for achieving this objective;

The Committee of the Regions' recommendations

59.

sees stereotypes in education, employment and the media as significant barriers to equal treatment and social inclusion, and urges their eradication. It is vital to ensure that children at a young age learn respect for and befriend students from different ethnic or religious minorities as well as students with disabilities;

60.

argues that the recommendations set out in the proposed Directive should be complemented by practical training sessions and conferences with stakeholders to inform them about the full potential of equality mainstreaming in achieving equal treatment;

61.

highlights the importance of training professionals from various sectors (doctors, teachers, media professionals, etc.) and personnel of public authorities at all levels, as well as from the service industry, in intercultural competencies and in social and cultural mediation, in order to eliminate any discriminatory, insulting or insensitive behaviour, to question stereotypes and to sensitise such professionals to the specific needs of persons having different characteristics and needs;

62.

is concerned about male and female migrants, who are at higher risk of poverty and social exclusion due to exploitation at their workplace, and believes that providing ethnic minorities with education (especially in language skills) and vocational training would encourage male and female migrants to look for better jobs;

63.

is particularly concerned about migrant women since: they are at risk of physical or sexual abuse for the purposes of employment, marriage, or prostitution; they need to be aware of the actual situations and dangers in potential host countries, to prevent them from falling prey to human trafficking; and their protection and integration has to be further enhanced to ensure their effective enjoyment of human rights;

64.

proposes creating a specific fund for unaccompanied immigrant minors which will help the regions responsible to look after them, to offer them the same opportunities as other children their age and integrate them into the host society, thus avoiding the dual discrimination they may suffer on account of being minors and immigrants.

65.

Points out that asylum seeking is a social problem with economic and other implications and should be treated as such, primarily by promoting the social integration of asylum seekers — especially minors and youth — through shared responsibilities and equal opportunities in accessing goods and services;

66.

endorses the implementation of active education and training schemes to promote non-discrimination and equal opportunities and to help reach the Lisbon targets, through the ongoing renewal of skills and a commitment to lifelong learning;

67.

notes that groups with different requirements necessitate tailor-made provisions, for instance: vocational training for the Roma, migrants and older unemployed persons to ensure their inclusion in the labour market; IT training for older persons to enhance their consumer or purchasing power; literacy campaigns targeted at rural and poor women and children; guidance for disabled persons, low-income workers, and children of low-income workers, and so on;

68.

underscores the need to develop promotional and awareness-raising campaigns bringing the recommendations of the proposed Directive to the attention of all, informing stakeholders about their rights and obligations, and explaining specific measures and processes implemented to assist victims;

69.

highlights the key role of equality bodies and organisations representing the interests of people at risk of discrimination and unequal treatment, in disseminating information, mainly by publishing culturally sensitive and group-specific material, online information campaigns and conferences, and points out that information must be clearly targeted to specific groups;

70.

reiterates that the implementing the proposed Directive requires adequate human and financial resources (mainly through PROGRESS funds) if it is to cover all forms of discrimination;

71.

calls upon all LRAs to promote non-discrimination at local and regional level by promoting respect for human rights, and building trust through constructive dialogue that empowers people, democratises societies while minimising polarisation and strengthening social cohesion. Furthermore, the Committee of the Regions should promote the value of diversity, celebrate its dynamic nature as a source of innovation and creativity, progress and well being for all, consistent with the fundamental values of human rights, the rule of law and democracy;

Brussels, 18 June 2009

The President

of the Committee of the Regions

Luc VAN DEN BRANDE