Round up of CoR’s 157th Plenary

Coinciding with the 21st edition of the European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC), The Committee of the Regions (CoR) held its 157th Plenary session between the 9th and 11th of October. The session marked the penultimate Plenary of the year and featured strong Irish engagement over the course the three-day session, including the presentation and adoption of Irish Delegation member Cllr. Dan Boyle’s opinion on the European Consumers’ Protection Package.

The formal opening of the EWRC coincided with the start of the CoR Plenary and featured contributions from President of the European Committee of the Regions’ Vasco Alves Cordeiro, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira, as well as Chair of the Committee on Regional Development of the European Parliament Younous Omarjee.

Day two began with statements on the on-going Israel/Palestine conflict. Following the statements, the Plenary session formally opened with a debate on a Health Union for Europe and its regions. This debate saw the first Irish intervention of the day when Cllr. Kate Feeney urged for a “Common [European] approach to mental health” and suggested that in order to achieve this “our cities and regions must be supported”.

Following the sessions opening debate there was a presentation of five opinions, including Irish Delegation Cllr. Dan Boyle’s European Consumers’ Protection Package. Cllr. Boyle’s opinion seeks to amend the European Commission’s proposals for a right to repair to include a local and regional perspective. The aim of the proposal is to ensure that consumers are empowered to make better informed decisions and play an active role in the ecological transition. Cllr. Boyle asserts in the opinion that granting consumers the right to repair would be instrumental in advancing Europe’s industrial transition and strengthening its resilience and open strategic autonomy.

The opinion was adopted with several amendments.

The afternoon saw several Irish Delegations interventions on the Plenary floor.

During the debate on “UNFCCC COP28: the role of subnational authorities in keeping climate ambition on track”, Cllr. Aoife Breslin intervened highlighting the value of clear and understandable language in discussions surrounding climate change, noting “there is an onus on us as local leaders to be concise and consistent in our language used when talking about the threat posed by climate change”.

Speaking during the debate on the “Review and proposal for the revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027”, Cllr. Kieran McCarthy urged that any revision to the MFF would ensure that “funds are more accessible” to local and regional authorities.

Following voting on the five opinions the Plenary was presented a draft resolution on the SDGs in EU regions and cities in the aftermath of the EU Voluntary Review and 2023 UN discussions. During this debate Head of Delegation Cllr. Michael Murphy welcomed the resolution noting that it will act as a “milestone for future work”.

The final Irish intervention of the day came from Cllr. Kieran McCarthy speaking on the opinion “Mentoring: A Powerful and Meaningful Tool for the Europe of Tomorrow”. During the debate Cllr. McCarthy highlighted the work done by the Cork Enterprise Office and their mentoring programme, noting that the programme benefits from EU ERDF funding.

Cllr. McCarthy also intervened during the opening debate of day three, on “The State of Regions and Cities”. Cllr. McCarthy used his intervention to make an impassioned call for Europe to work with its local and regional authorities.

The final Irish intervention of the Plenary session was delivered by Cllr. Una Power, who speaking during the debate on the reconstruction of Ukraine and in the context of the #InternationalDayOfTheGirl urged that “women are considered in the reconstruction of Ukraine and it’s cities”.

The final Plenary session of the year is due to take place on 28th and 30th of November.

Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly Visit

Coinciding with the 156th CoR plenary session, the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly (EMRA) undertook a two-day study visit to Brussels. The delegation, consisting of eight councillors and Chief Executive Jim Conway embarked on a whirlwind tour of the EU in their two-days meeting MEPS, EU officials and Irish Permanent Representation staff.

Starting their visit in the European Parliament, the MEPs began by meeting Barry Andrews MEP, Colm Markey MEP, Ciaran Cuffe MEP, as well as Clare Daly MEP. Staff from both Frances Fitzgerald MEP and Maria Walsh MEP offices’ made themselves available to the delegation to speak about their work.

Following a packed morning, the delegation made their way to the European Parliament’s hemicycle to see the conclusion of the 156th CoR plenary session.

The afternoon found the delegation making their way to the Committee of the Regions for a meeting Michael Collins, Deputy Director of the CoR. During their meeting Michael gave the delegation an overview of the work of the CoR as well as outlining the role of the Regional Assembly in the CoR’s work.

The first day’s meetings were rounded out with a presentation from DG Regio Representatives Carmen Gonazalez and Miia Jouppi who spoke to the delegation about EU Regional Policy programmes including the Just Transition Programme, European Regional Development Funding and the New European Bauhaus programme.

The delegation visited the Irish Permanent Representation on the second day of their visit to meet Fionnuala Bourke. Fionnuala spoke to the delegation about her role as Cohesion Policy Attache as well as the need to increase the Irish presence in top jobs in EU institutions.

The visit concluded with a meeting with DG Regio official Tatiana Gouveia Coelho de Oliveira who spoke to the delegation about the New European Bauhaus initiative.

Southern Regional Assembly Visit Brussels

The Southern Regional Assembly (SRA) undertook a two-day study visit to Brussels. The study visit found the delegation of eight councillors and three assembly staff undertaking a packed two-day itinerary with MEPs and European institute representatives.

Starting on Wednesday the 28th, the delegation began their visit with a presentation from Michael O’Conchuir, Secretary General of the European Alliance group who provided an engaging overview of the work of the European Committee of the Regions and the impact of the Irish Delegation.

This was followed by two presentations from Commission officials firstly from DG Regio official Kai Stryczynski, who offered an analysis of the role of Cohesion Policy in Ireland. This was followed by an introduction to the New European Bauhaus from fellow DG Regio official Tatiana Gouveia Coelho de Oliveira.

In the afternoon the delegation met their regional representatives in the European Parliament. Starting with Sean Kelly MEP, the delegation would also meet Billy Kelleher MEP, Deirdre Clune MEP and Chris MacManus MEP.

The delegation began the second day of their visit meeting Grace O’Sullivan MEP to discuss the forthcoming Nature Restoration Law. This was followed by a meeting with Alessandro Giordani, Head of Unit at DG Communication, who introduced the delegation to the Network of EU Councillors.

The visit was rounded out with a presentation from Enterprise Ireland’s Grainne Ryan, Enterprise Ireland about the opportunities for local government in the Horizon Europe programme. Concluding the visit IBEC’s Neil Wolloghby offered an overview of Irish business interests in EU policy.

156th Plenary Session Roundup

The Committee of the Regions (CoR) held its 156th plenary session on the 5th and 6th of July in the European Parliament’s Hemicycle. The session marked the fourth plenary of the year and the final meeting before the Summer recess. The session featured ten opinions and six debates.

Following President Vasco Alves Cordeiro formally opening the two-day session, the plenary began with a debate on the role of local and regional authorities in the defence of democracy. The debate was held in the context of a package of measures announced by Commission President aimed at defending democracy from covert foreign influence. This was followed by an opinion of a similar theme by rapporteur-general Gustaw Marek Brezezin on the role of local and regional authorities in countering disinformation and foreign information manipulation and interference.

The key vote of day one was the proposal to allow certain meetings to be held remotely. This was on the context of the establishment of a new ad hoc committee.

From an Irish perspective the highlight of the day was Cllr Una Power’s opinion on ambient air quality, which was debated alongside Asa Agren Wikstrom’s Revision of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive. Following a close vote Cllr Power’s opinion was passed with a several amendments.

Day one was rounded out with discussions on two opinions, firstly Isolde Ries opinion on Critical Raw Materials and following this, Josef Frey’s opinion on the reform of the EU electricity market design, which seeks to speed up the clean energy transition.

Day two began with a Local Matters debate on sustainable mobility in local areas, a topic which drew support from across the house as representatives from the ECR, PES and the EPP spoke on the topic.

This was followed by a debate on the role of US and EU subnational governments with Robin Vos, President of the National Conference of State Legislature. Cllr. Emma Blain used the debate to thank President Vos for his engagement with the CoR as well as noting that she looks forward to welcoming him to Dublin in August.

The plenary was rounded out with debates on the EU Enlargement Package, fostering the potential synergies of EU Green Deal initiatives for regions and cities and a debate on the forthcoming Net Zero Industry Act.

The next plenary session will take place in conjunction with the week of cities and regions on the 10th and 11th of October.

Round up of CoR’s 155th Plenary

The Committee of the Regions (CoR) held its 155th plenary session on the 24th and 25th of May. The session marked the third plenary of the year and the penultimate meeting before the summer recess. The session featured six opinions and five debates including a debate and opinion on the mid-term review of the Multiannual Financial Framework.

Following President Vasco Alves Cordeiro’s formal opening of the two-day session, the plenary began with a debate on ‘Promoting equality, diversity and inclusion at local and regional level’ in the context of May being EU diversity month. This was followed by an opinion from Italian CoR Member Michele Pais on interoperability across the Union. Interoperability being Member States’ ability to share citizens information across borders to allow for better access to public services across the EU.

Following the aforementioned debate on the Midterm review of the Multiannual Financial Framework and the subsequent vote on the opinion, the plenary adjourned for the evening.

The second day opened with a debate on zero long-term unemployment. This debate took place in the context that despite recent improvement in trends on the European labour market, long-term unemployment rates are still 36.2% on average in the EU-27 in 2021, according to OECD figures, with rates per Member State varying between 20% and 60%.

Day two’s key debate was Cllr. Joke Schauvliege’s opinion on the legislative framework for sustainable food systems. The framework looks at the challenges of sustainable food systems while recognising the inextricable links between healthy people, healthy societies and a healthy planet. The strategy also looks to contribute to the EU’s efforts to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Given the broad scope of the opinion it led to a wide-ranging debate on the floor, with three of four amendments proposed by Irish delegation members, thus ensuring that human health is protected within the framework.

The plenary session finished with two EU Local Matters on water scarcity and implementing REPowerEU. Followed by a final debate on a more resilient, more inclusive and more democratic Europe.

The next plenary session will take place on the 5th and 6th of July.

Round up of CoR’s 154th Plenary

The Committee of the Regions (CoR) held its 154th plenary session on the 15th and 16th March. The session marked the second plenary of the year and featured several debates on opinions and resolutions as well as a key vote on the CoR’s draft budget for 2024.

Opening the two-day session, CoR President Vasco Alves Cordeiro wished the Irish Delegation a happy Saint Patrick’s Day. Following the formal opening, the plenary began with a debate on harnessing talent in Europe’s Regions, this debate taking place in the context of the European Year of Skills. Other key highlights throughout the day included the CoR opinion on short-term rentals (Airbnbs) and the sustainable use of pesticides.

Day one also saw a crucial debate on the CoR’s draft budget for 2024, which was subsequently approved.

From an Irish perspective the highlight of the first day of the plenary session was Cllr. Aoife Breslin’s contribution to the EU Local Matters debate. Speaking under her proposed topic ‘Encouraging integration at local and regional level’, Cllr. Breslin noted that “it is crucial in order to ensure interaction on a local and regional level that there is engagement with local elected representatives establishing proper communication structures and investment”.

Day two of the March plenary session focused on two opinions, Amending the Directive on Asbestos and the European Media Freedom Act. Following the acceptance of these two opinions and a resolution on Harnessing Talent in the EU the CoR hosted a Cohesion Alliance event.

Speaking during the event, Irish Delegation Member Cllr. Una Power noted the importance of adjusting implementation of the Cohesion policy to our changing needs and political priorities.

The next plenary session will take place in May 2023.

Round up of 149th CoR Plenary

The Committee of the Regions (CoR) held a hybrid meeting for the second plenary of 2022 on the 27th-28th April 2022. It was a packed agenda with a number of contributions from Irish CoR members, as well two opinions adopted by Irish members.

The session opened with debates on the war in Ukraine. The debate featured contributions from Ukrainian regional and local leaders. During the debate the CoR called for “robust sanctions against Russia”, while also demanding the “immediate release of Ukrainian mayors and civil servants kidnapped by Russian occupation forces”. The CoR also committed to offering the expertise of the EU’s regions and cities to help Ukraine’s local and regional authorities in reconstruction efforts.

Directly following this, Cllr Michael Murphy presented his opinion “Strengthening the EU-UK relationship at sub-national level and remedying the territorial impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU” for adoption. The opinion saw wide support across the CoR, with guest Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission, also welcoming the opinion as well as the ambition of the CoR and its members to cooperating with the UK at the local and regional level.

Cllr. Kieran McCarthy’s opinion “New European Bauhaus – Beautiful, Sustainable, Together” followed. The opinion was once again widely supported by members. The New European Bauhaus initiative seeks to connect the European Green Deal to our daily lives, looking to harness the creative potential of regions and cities. However, Cllr McCarthy’s opinion sets out that this shall only be possible with strong local and regional engagement. He therefore urged the European Commission to put cities and regions at the heart of the initiative and ensure that they receive the requisite technical assistance and funding.

Elsewhere, Cllr Una Power delivered a considered contribution to the plenary debate on the opinion “Towards a socially fair implementation of the Green Deal”. During her contribution Cllr Power noted that “by lifting up those most at risk we protect those most vulnerable communities”.

The second day of plenary saw a number of debates including a new strategy for universities, amending the renewable energy directive, and a discussion on how cities and regions can help accelerate the energy transition.

Finally, the members debated and voted on the preliminary draft estimates of the CoR expenditure and revenue for 2023.

The next plenary session is due to take place in June 2022.

Round up of 148th CoR Plenary

The Committee of the Regions (CoR) held a remote meeting for the first plenary of 2022 on 26-27 January 2022. It was a lively session with many contributions from Irish CoR Members. 

The session was formally opened by the Head of the Irish Delegation to the CoR Michael Murphy. In his opening address he paid tribute to the former President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, who he described as, ‘A true European who wanted to close the gap between institutions and citizens.’

In relation to EU matters for local and regional authorities Cllr Una Power stated that, ‘We must talk about a Europe that is protected from climate change, when it comes to strategic autonomy that is an incredibly important part of our work going forward.’

The second day included a debate on the EU Green Deal: Sustainable smart mobility in our regions, cities and villages. Cllr Declan McDonnell declared that, ‘Connectivity and accessibility are essential in ensuring social, economic and territorial cohesion, transport affordability must be taken into consideration when devising new policies.’

Henriette Reker, the Mayor of Cologne, was named as the first Laureate of the Mayor Paweł Adamowicz Award created in honour of Mayor Paweł Adamowicz of Gdańsk. Cllr Kate Feeney reflected, ‘We are all reminded of the fragility of human life…our vulnerability pushes us to strive for better.’

In relation to the report on the impact of CoR opinions Cllr Kieran McCarthy commented, ‘I’m pleased to see that despite the challenges of the pandemic we did manage as an institution to strengthen our links with our institutions and increase our influence on processes.’

Further to the above, lively discussions took place on topics such as an EU strategic framework on health and safety at work 2021-2027, local and regional authorities accelerating the implementation of the EU Pollinators Initiative, a long-term vision for rural areas, debate on cohesion implementation, towards zero emission road transport, debate on the Conference on the Future of Europe, gender equality and climate change, and the Action Plan: Towards Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil.

Members will reconvene for the next plenary in April 2022.


Read more on this CoR page.

Recap of the 147th CoR Plenary

The Committee of the Regions (CoR) held its last plenary session of 2021 on 1-2 December. We reflect below on this very active session with engaging discussions and debates.

Kicking off proceedings on the first day of the 147th CoR Plenary session was a debate on Strengthening European democracy in the context of the Conference on the Future of Europe with statements from Herman Van Rompuy. The debate focused on the future of democracy and highlighted how the conference can provide an opportunity to bring the EU closer to its citizens.

Cllr McCarthy makes a contribution following a statement from French President Macron during 147th CoR plenary session.

This was followed by a statement from French President Emmanuel Macron, who discussed European values and the renewal of democracy. (The statement can be viewed here.) Cllr Kieran McCarthy spoke about the relationship between the EU and the UK and the need for bottom-up smart inclusive development, calling for more subsidiarity and less centralisation of budgets and decision-making across the EU.

Eradicating homelessness in the European Union proved a popular opinion with many contributions from Irish Members. Cllr Kate Feeney spoke on the acute homelessness crisis in Ireland, the success of Housing First, the need for an EU wide definition of homelessness and homelessness in the LGBTIQ community. Cllr Declan McDonnell provided an overview of the homelessness crisis in Galway and the need for long term supports and a comprehensive winter response. Cllr Dan Boyle commented on economic policies where the cost of rental or purchase of a property is beyond many people. He highlighted the need for an integrated response to the homelessness crisis and that the CoR can identify and encourage best practice.

Cllr Feeney at 147th CoR Plenary, December 2021

Cllr Feeney makes a statement during the CoR plenary session, December 2021.

Nominees for the 2021 Mayor Pawel Adamowicz Award presented to the CoR, the award will be presented on the 27th of January 2022.

A draft resolution was presented on the 2022 work programme of the European Commission and the CoR political priorities for 2022. Cllr McCarthy highlighted the importance for local and regional authorities and the need to promote digital cohesion.

During the debate on the 2022 European Year of Youth Cllr McCarthy acknowledged the suffering of young people during the pandemic and the need to listen and speak with young people.

In relation to the debate on local and regional authorities and the refugees’ emergency Cllr Boyle highlighted the lack of an integrated and coordinate approach, and the need to be less reactive and more considered.

On the implementation of cohesion policy, Cllr McCarthy stressed the need for local and regional resilience scoreboards to see how regions are doing on a wide range of issues.

During the debate on the fight against disinformation, Cllr Boyle emphasised the need to put in place the highest standards of ethics ensuring the quality of the discourse improves.

Concerning the gender dimension of structural and cohesion funds in 2021-2027, Cllr Boyle welcomed the opinion and emphasised the lack of a comprehensive gender equality strategy.

Further to the above, lively discussions took place on topics such as:

  • Better Regulation
  • Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan
  • Implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Facility
  • European Approach to Artificial Intelligence
  • EU action plan for organic farming
  • Sustainable blue economy and aquaculture
  • Updating the new Industrial Strategy for Europe
  • The role of nuclear power in the clean energy transition
  • European Commission Report on Competition Policy in 2020

With this plenary session, the CoR wrapped up business for 2021. Members will reconvene for the next plenary in January 2022.

Further details on the 147th CoR Plenary sessions can be found on this CoR page.

Recap of the 145th CoR plenary session

The CoR held its last plenary session before the Summer holidays on 30th June and 1st July. A number of important debates were held on topics including the Conference on the Future of Europe, Better Regulation and promoting European Values.

Most notably, a debate on the Conference on the Future of Europe took place with high-level representatives from the Executive Board of CoFoE Guy Verhofstadt, Manfred Weber and Iratxe Garcia Perez, MEPs. It was highlighted that the Conference must listen to all voices, and that the CoR has an important role to play in the Conference through its members and local and regional leaders from all over the EU.   

During a debate on Better Regulation, Foresight and the European Commissions’ Work Programme for 2022 with Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission, the regions, cities and villages asked for a strong role in running EU investment for recovery to ensure that funds reach those most affected by the pandemic. The CoR reiterated its commitment to improve EU legislation by contributing to the Fit for Future (F4F) platform. In a resolution with proposals for the 2022 European Commission Work Programme , CoR members requested that the European Commission ensures that local and regional authorities are involved in the implementation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRPs) in order to effectively address the pandemic’s consequences on the ground. 

Furthermore, the CoR adopted its resolution on a Vision for Europe – Future of Cross Border Cooperation. During adoption, Cllr Kieran McCarthy highlighted that in current times cross-border cooperation defines the essence of the European project and that the EU must invest more in connecting people and territories along land and maritime borders. In the resolution, the CoR commits its support for cross-border cooperation in enhancing territorial cohesion, links, exchanges and collaboration between territories and cities across the EU and presents its vision for cross-border cooperation which is split into a number of priority areas.  

Further to the above, lively and animated debates on the following topics took place:

  • Debate on Promoting the European Values through Culture and Education with Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President of the European Commission for Promoting our European Way of Life 
  • Debate on the European Democracy Action Plan with  Věra Jourová, Vice-President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency 

With this plenary session the CoR wrapped up business for the Summer months and Members will reconvene for the next plenary in October 2021, which will take place during the European Week of Regions and Cities.