News from the CoR – 132nd Plenary

Committee of the Regions delegates from 28 Member States met on 5th and 6th December for the 132nd CoR plenary session in Brussels. It was a very busy plenary with 21 adopted opinions, a discussion with Commissioner Corina Cretu on the future of Cohesion Policy, as well as an update on Brexit from European Commission’s Michel Barnier.

 

Cllr Deirdre Forde’s opinion on the Single Market Programme adopted at CoR Plenary

132nd Plenary Session of the European Committee of the Regions

The CoR has called on the European Union to ensure that its plans to create a new single-market programme in 2021 have ‘’the flexibility to respond quickly and proactively to any disturbance in the functioning of the internal market or disruption in trade for SMEs that could, for example, result from the possible adverse impacts of Brexit’’.

The call for flexibility was one of a set of recommendations adopted during the plenary as part of an opinion on the proposed Single Market Programme prepared by Cllr Deirdre Forde (Cork County Council). The opinion was underpinned by the belief that opening up the services sector and digital economy across Europe could strengthen growth in local and regional economies.

While presenting her work, Cllr Forde noted that ‘’SME’s are the motor of the EU’s economy, creating 85% of new jobs over the past five years. We need to remove the handicaps on SMEs and enlarge the market for them. This is even more important because of the uncertainties of Brexit […] and because there will be (further) shocks to the economy’’. She also noted that ‘’the EU should be thinking small first as it pursues its ambition of a truly single market’’. Cllr Forde’s opinion also focused on the need to ensure adequate protection for consumer interests, particularly in the area of financial services.

‘’The EU should be thinking small first as it pursues its ambition of a truly single market’’.

The opinion was widely welcomed by CoR representatives and was adopted unanimously during the plenary. Cllr. Forde’s opinion brings to a total of eight the number of CoR opinions prepared by the Irish delegation in the current mandate.

 

Discussion on Brexit with EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier

132nd Plenary Session of the European Committee of the Regions

The second day of the CoR plenary began with a lively debate between the CoR Members and European Commission’s Chief Brexit Negotiator, Michel Barnier. Mr Barnier took the opportunity to update the CoR delegates on the current state of play, as well as addressing a number of issues raised by members over during the two hour debate. Six members of the Irish delegation contributed to this debate, praising the European Commission and Mr Barnier for his ongoing hard work as well as the commitment to avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland. Cllrs. Michael Murphy, Kate Feeney, Enda Stenson, Deirdre Forde and Declan McDonnell emphasised the importance of protecting the Good Friday Agreement, safeguarding livelihoods in border areas, and protecting Ireland’s trade routes with the rest of Europe. A full video of the debate can be found here.

Speaking about the agreement, Mr Barnier noted that ‘’it is a balanced deal; it is the only one and the best one possible […] and respects the EU’s principles, while taking into account the UK’s red lines’’.

To ensure no hard border on the island of Ireland, and to protect the Good Friday Agreement, the European Commission and UK agreed on a backstop mechanism, also referred to as the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland. As part of the Withdrawal Agreement, a single EU-UK customs territory is established from the end of the transition period until the future relationship becomes applicable. This means that Northern Ireland will remain part of the same customs territory as the rest of the UK with no tariffs, quotas or checks between NI and the rest of the UK.

The Withdrawal Agreement establishes a single EU/UK customs territory if no other solution to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland can be found by the end of the transition period. At the same time, Northern Ireland would also be subject to a regulatory union in order to avoid a hard border and to ensure that goods can continue to move freely across a soft border with no checks.  The European Commission has published a detailed factsheet on the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is now available online.

 

Debate with Commissioner Cretu on regional perspectives of the future of Cohesion Policy in the upcoming Multiannual Financial Framework

The CoR plenary began with a debate on the future of Cohesion Policy with Commissioner Corina Cretu, with responsibility for regional policies.

129th Plenary Session of the European Committee of the Regions

Cohesion policy, with a budget of €351bn in the 2014-2020 programming period, is and will remain the key tool to promote economic, social and territorial cohesion. Representing 34% of the overall EU budget, the funds help reduce disparities and deliver more opportunities for all European citizens across towns and cities.

While negotiations to fully adopt cohesion policy for the 2021-2027 framework are ongoing, the Committee of the Regions calls the co-legislators for simplification of the current rules and committing to no reduction in the level of funding. During the plenary session, the CoR delegation adopted a number of opinions on the future of cohesion policy, including Common Provision Regulation (CPR), European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Cohesion, Fund, European Social Fund (ESF+) and European Territorial Cooperation (ETC).

Commissioner Cretu noted that ‘’the valuable work of the European Committee of the Regions on the future of cohesion policy has contributed to setting the pace for the negotiations’’ and she also welcomed the ‘’constructive approach regarding the Commission’s proposal, in particular the support for a strong partnership principle’’.

MATCH-UP, the role of modal interchange to foster low-carbon mobility

  • Local Transport is crucial to control air pollution and maintain low level of pollutants in our regions
  • The project aims at fostering multimodality at local level to improve public transport

With increasing levels of air pollution, CO2 emissions and traffic congestion in the EU the development of sustainable multimodal mobility becomes one of the EU key challenges. Therefore, the Southern Regional Assembly as a partner in the MATCH-UP project is investigating the integrated strategies that are needed to enhance an effective modal interchange and a higher integration between land use and transport planning processes.

The Southern Regional Assembly hosted the first Irish stakeholder MATCH-UP event in Dublin in October 2018 which was attended by policy makers, national authorities, regional and local authorities, researchers and third level institutions to discuss how to improve local mobility in terms of multimodality and sustainable modes of transport and who strongly agreed that MATCH-UP is relevant for the development of a low carbon strategy for their region, county or city.

MATCH-UP focuses on the optimisation of the places where people change between transport modes, in particular, four main types of low-carbon means of transport: Walking/Cycling, rail transport, green vehicles and public transport. MATCH-UP, a four and a half-year, 5-partners project was approved for a grant of €0.9m by the Interreg Europe Programme late last year and commenced in July 2018 at a meeting in Bologna.

The partnership consists of 4 European regions – Southern & Eastern Ireland, County of Northeim, Germany, Municipality of Funchal, Portugal and Timisoara Municipality, Romania who are working together to share experience, solutions, and good practice to develop and deliver better public policy to reduce carbon emissions and support low carbon urban mobility in designated urban centres.

MATCH-UP is part-funded by the Interreg Europe Programme through the European Regional Development Fund and led by the University of Bologna in Italy.

For further information contact Ms Rose Power, EU Projects Officer, Southern Regional Assembly, rpower@southernassembly.ie

Project co-ordinator – Match-up@unibo.it

MARIE – Mainstreaming Responsible Innovation in Europe

More citizens are involved in science through public engagement. Natural scientists and social scientists have formed collaborations. Users are leading innovation. Open access trends are changing the publishing system. Gender equality has gained political momentum. Together, these efforts form a European-wide approach called Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). It implies that all of society (researchers, citizens, policy makers, businesses, educational institutions, etc) work together during the whole of a research and innovation process to better align the process and its outcomes with the values, needs and expectations of society which is inclusive and creates sustainable research and innovation. The Southern Regional Assembly as a partner in the MARIE project is seeking to improve regional public policies that supports the delivery of Responsible Research and innovation in Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3) sectors.

MARIE, a 5 year, 10-partners project was approved for a grant of €1.62m by the Interreg Europe Programme in 2016 and commenced in February 2017 at a meeting in Cesena, Italy.

The Southern Regional Assembly hosted the MARIE mid-term event in Dublin in October 2018 with over 25 international participants from 7 European countries.  The event provided participants with the opportunity for international learning by sharing strategies, initiatives and RRI presentations from 5 European projects including RRI-Practice, SMART-map, MARINA, RRING and COMPASS.  In addition, participants also attended the Responsible Innovation Summit with expert presentations on responsible investments, responsible data-driven innovation, responsible businesses and ethical impact assessments.

MARIE is part-funded by the Interreg Europe Programme through the European Regional Development Fund and led by CISE – Special Agency of the Chamber of Commerce of Flori-Cesena in Italy. 

For more about the MARIE project go to – www.interregeurope.eu/marie/

For further information contact Ms Rose Power, Southern Regional Assembly, rpower@southernassembly.ie

Project co-ordinator: gbubbolini@vciseonweb.it

Partnerships for Sustainable Cities – Call for Proposals

The EU continues to make a positive impact on sustainable development in partner countries and beyond. European Commission’s Directorate General for International Development is responsible for designing European development policy and delivering aid throughout the world by using a set of financial instruments with a focus quality and effectiveness. EU development policy seeks to foster sustainable development with the primary aim of eradicating poverty.

Local and Regional Authorities (LRAs) play a very important role in this process. Through experience exchanges, information-sharing platforms and peer-to-peer learnings, LRAs from all Member States have the capacity to make positive changes in partner countries and contribute to achieving the sustainable development goals.

DG DEVCO, as part of the ‘Partnerships for Sustainable Cities’ programme, has recently launched a Call for Proposals focusing on promoting ‘’integrated urban development through partnerships build among Local Authorities of the EU Member States and of partner countries in accordance with the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development’’.

 

What is this call about?

The goal of this call is to strengthen urban governance. Proposals should also address at least one more of the following objectives:

  • Ensuring social inclusiveness of cities
  • Improving resilience and greening of cities
  • Improving prosperity and innovation in cities

The call has a budget of €53m, with geographical groupings for partnerships with Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean and the Neighbourhood East and South.

 

Dates for the diary

Further information on the call’s priorities can be found here. Local authorities are encouraged to partner amongst each other for the project.

Concept notes only must be submitted by December 6th at 12:00 (Belgian local time). Outstanding questions can be communicated to EuropeAid-161146@ec.europa.eu.

Irish CoR members meet the Joint Oireachtas Committee on EU Affairs

On 14th November, the Irish delegation of the Committee of the Regions met the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs. The issues on agenda, among other, included Brexit, the future of European funding and subsidiarity. The delegation also updated the Committee on the current political priorities that guide its work on the EU stage.

Meeting today is a positive example of how we can share information and experience and the delegation hopes that we can continue to build on this in the future. 

Head of the Delegation Cllr Michael Murphy noted that the ‘’Irish regions share the same concerns as our European neighbours, whether it is access to broadband; support for new businesses and SMEs; or the question of how regions can retain young people and develop sustainable communities, whether in busy urban areas or in rural and peripheral regions’’. He noted that the challenging times ahead for the EU create the need to improve communication ‘’about the work and the opportunities of the EU, but also how the EU and Member states can better include the local and regional level in policy-making process’’.

Speaking on subsidiarity, one of the focal principles guiding the creation of European legislation, Cllr Mary Freehill noted that the ‘’meeting today is a positive example of how we can share information and experience and the delegation hopes that we can continue to build on this in the future’’.

The recording of this exchange of views will soon be available on the Committee’s website.

URBACT Call for Action Planning Networks

URBACT will launch its Call for Action Planning Networks on 7th January 2019 – supporting cities in addressing policy challenges by producing integrated action plans. All details of the call including the Terms of Reference, guide for project proposals, and the relevant factsheets will be available on the day. Information sessions will be organised in due course. 

For more details on the call, please consult the URBACT website.

Horizon 2020 – Funding for Transport Initiatives

On 22nd October, INEA, European Commission’s Executive Agency for Research and Innovation, hosted an information day on the funding made available in 2019 under Horizon 2020’s transport initiatives. With funds of up to €355m available in the upcoming year, the Commission has published a list of projects which will focus on mobility for growth, automated road transport, green vehicles and next generation batteries. The transport funds in particular aim to fuel the innovation and research needed to support the EU in its ambition for decarbonization and green agenda targets. Further details on priorities for transport under Horizon 2020 can be found here.  

Horizon 2020 is the 8th Framework Programme of the EU dedicated to Research & Innovation, specifically focused on fostering excellence in research and innovation. With a budget of nearly €80bn over the 2014-2020 MFF, the programme contributes to enhancing Europe’s competitiveness and helping in achieving the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy in areas such as energy, transport and digital advancements.

 

Research performed by the Committee of the Regions analyzing the involvement of Local and Regional Authorities in Horizon 2020 has found that LRAs are eligible to participate in virtually all of the programme’s actions [1].

 

Although up to date the largest recipient group of Horizon 2020 were private companies and Higher Education Authorities (approximately 66% of all participants between 2014-2016), there is scope for Local and Regional Authorities to get involved in projects, depending on the types of action. Research performed by the Committee of the Regions analyzing the involvement of Local and Regional Authorities in Horizon 2020 has found that LRAs are eligible to participate in virtually all of the programme’s actions [1]. In short, a detailed analysis of the various calls is needed to fully appreciate opportunities for LRAs to become involved, particularly as research funders, public procurers or managing authorities of regional research & innovation programmes.

Ireland is leading the way when it comes to securing Horizon 2020 funding and Enterprise Ireland is managing the implementation of the Irish strategy for maximizing the country’s participation in Horizon 2020. Up to 2017, Ireland as a whole has secured €424m in funding. The overall aim is to secure €1.25bn in funding until the close of the programme in 2020, representing 1.66% of the total EU budget committed.

Local and regional authorities also have their share of this success. Limerick City and County Council, together with consortium members from Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Romania, Estonia and Spain, secured a €20m funding for their project to work on developing Positive Energy Districts across Europe. The +CityxChange project will allow Limerick to become the first Irish ‘lighthouse smart city’ to develop innovative solutions for sustainable urban environments.

Although the structure of Horizon 2020 is very complex, there are a number of widely available resources to support your understanding the programme. If you wish to access more information, please contact the Irish Regions European Office.

[1] Horizon 2020 and Local and Regional Authorities

Urban Innovative Actions – Fourth Call for Proposals

Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) launched its fourth call for proposals on 15th October 2018. Managed by the French Region Hauts-de-France and part of the ERDF, the overarching mission of the programme is to identify innovative and creative solutions which ‘address issues related to sustainable urban development and are of relevance at Union level’. The budget for this call is between 80-100 million ERDF.

 

According to the UIA, the main aim of the initiative is to provide urban authorities across Europe with space and resources to test unproven ideas addressing interconnected challenges and examine how these respond to the complexity of real life. Projects to be supported need to be innovative, of good quality, designed and implemented with the involvement of key stakeholders, result oriented and transferable. 

UIA encourages urban authorities to move from normal, mainstream ERDF projects and take the risk to transform creative ideas into prototypes that can be tested in real urban settings. The UIA has the capability to support projects that are too risky for traditional funding sources, provided that they are highly experimental.

Who can apply?

According to the Terms of Reference for Call Four, the following bodies are eligible to apply:

  • Any urban authority of a local administrative unit defined according to the degree of urbanization as city, town or suburb comprising at least 50,000 inhabitants;
  • Any association or grouping of urban authorities of local administrative units defined according to the degree of urbanization as city, town or suburb where the total population is at least 50,000 inhabitants. This include cross-border associations of different regions between Member States.

In Ireland the counties are considered as eligible urban authorities under the category “organized agglomerations”. In this case the county can be a Main Urban Authority provided that the majority of the population is living in municipalities (LAUs) composing the county and considered by Eurostat as cities or suburbs/towns (code 1 or 2). In addition, for this 4th Call and only for the topic “Sustainable use of land – nature based solutions”, there is a possibility for municipalities with code 3 (rural) to be included in a proposal as Associated Urban Authorities.

More information on eligibility criteria can be found here (Section 2 – Terms of Reference for the Call) and questions regarding eligibility should be directed towards the UIA secretariat at an early stage. Applicant seminars will be held in Munich on 21 November and in Brussels on 28 November. Registration is available on the UIA website.

What are this call’s topics?

The topics selected by the European Commission for this call are:

  1. Digital Transition, with key focus on implementing smart cities solutions, enabling citizen-centric eGovernment solutions, improving free and fair access to data, speeding up the adoption of agile technologies to modernise cities’ infrastructure (IoT solutions and applications)
  2. Sustainable use of land and nature-based solutions, with particular focus on quality of life, biodiversity, ecosystems and regional planning. Projects are expected to ‘promote sustainable land use through the implementation of nature-based solutions’.
  3. Urban Poverty, including innovative solutions to tackle homelessness, socio-educational inequalities, child poverty and access to basic services, amongst others.
  4. Urban security, focusing on reducing public security threats and as such, at local levels, projects should focus on social integration, community empowerment, resilience or law enforcement.

Applicants should be mindful of the fact that certain topics have been selected for previous calls, and are therefore invited to consult previously approved projects.

More information about the call, further description of the topics, as well as the relevant documentation required for application can be found at https://www.uia-initiative.eu/en/call-proposals. The closing date for applications is 31st January 2019.

Publication by the European Commission of its proposal for the next Multiannual Financial Framework

On May 2nd, the European Commission published its proposal for the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) that will cover the period 2021-2027. Overall, the Commission has proposed a long-term budget of €1,135 billion in commitments (2018 prices) over the period, equivalent to 1.11% of the (now) EU27’s Gross National Income (GNI).

This MFF has to take into account two major challenges: Brexit, which means the EU will lose the UK contribution to its budget and a series of emerging challenges that the EU must now provide the financial means to tackle. As a result, new and increased budgets are proposed for defence and security as well as migration and border management. More established areas such as research and innovation, youth and digitalisation would also benefit from stronger budgets: the Commission has proposed to double the Erasmus+ budget and that Horizon Europe, successor of Horizon 2020, would receive €97.6 billion.

On the other hand, the two biggest areas of expenditure, Cohesion policy (ERDF and ESF) and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) whould however see their budgets cut by around 5% each. Significantly, Cohesion policy will continue to support investment across the EU – including in ‘’More Developed Regions’’ such as Ireland’s – but would henceforth have additional roles in new priorities such as structural reforms to Member State’s economies and the integration of migrants. Regarding the CAP, the two-pillar architecture would be maintained. The Commission proposes to cap direct payments (1st pillar) to farmers in an attempt to redirect financial support to smaller farms and is also seeking to increase national co-financing rates for rural development measures (2nd pillar).

Following on its commitment to bolster the Economic and Monetary Union, the European Commission has proposed several new mechanisms and programmes such as a €25 billion Reform Support Programme (offering financial and technical support for reforms to address economic problems in euro zone countries or countries that want to join the euro) and a €30 billion European Investment Stabilisation Function loan mechanism for euro zone members to absorb large economic shocks not of their own making.

The text includes proposals to further simplify the budget structure, making it more flexible and introduces a new feature – the respect of the rule of law – as a precondition to receive EU funding.

The Commission proposal also foresees a modernising of the sources of funding for the EU budget. As well as removing all national rebates, this envisages an expanded system of‘’own resources’’ including revenues derived from an automatic share of the European Emissions Trading System revenue, a common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB) and national contributions based on the amount of non-recyclable plastic packaging waste.

Now that the proposal is on the table, the decision on the future long-term EU budget will proceed to the Council, acting by unanimity, with the consent of the European Parliament. The two institutions will start the negotiations and the Commission hopes for a quick adoption, before the next European elections that will be held in May 2019.

In parallel, from end of May to mid-June, the European Commission will present detailed proposals for the future sector-specific financial programmes.

Links:

MFF 2021-2027 website: http://ec.europa.eu/budget/mff/index2021-2027_en.cfm

Adoption of Cllr. Kieran McCarthy’s opinion on the Implementation assessment of the urban agenda for the EU in commission

The opinion drafted by Cllr. McCarthy on the Implementation assessment of the urban agenda for the EU has been unanimously adopted by the COTER commission on April 27th.

While welcoming the Urban agenda and its working methods that allow urban authorities to directly engage in EU decision-making, the opinion identifies ways in which the agenda could be improved in the future. It first highlights that there is scope for better synergies and cooperation between the different partnerships and regrets the lack of appropriate funding dedicated to the Agenda. The opinion finally advocates for the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and Cohesion policy beyond 2020 to reflect the role of cities and calls for the development of much stronger awareness-raising for local and regional authorities about existing financing initiatives to support their urban projects.

Background

Launched in May 2016 with the Pact of Amsterdam, the EU Urban agenda is a step towards closer association between cities and the development of EU & national policies. It focuses specifically on three pillars of EU policy-making and implementation: better regulation, better funding and better knowledge. To deliver on the Urban agenda, several thematic partnerships have been set up on topics including air quality, urban mobility, migrants and refugees, climate adaptation or sustainable land use of which Cork city is a member.

The opinion is scheduled to be adopted in plenary in July.