Round up of 150th CoR Plenary

The Committee of the Regions (CoR) held its first post-covid fully in-person meeting on the 29th and 30th June 2022. The meeting marked the half way point in the current mandate for the CoR and saw the election of Portugal’s Vasco Alves Cordeiro as President following the end of President Apostolos Tzitzikostas’ two and half year term in office.

The mandate also saw Irish delegation members being elected to new roles with Cllr. Kate Feeney being elected as Third Vice President of Renew Europe’s CoR delegation and Cllr. Kieran McCarthy as Vice President of European Alliance group.

The session itself saw a number of important debates on proposed opinions, with strong Irish contributions throughout. Topics covered include: The EU Enlargement Package 2021, Revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) and the implementation of green budgets at local and regional levels.

Given Russia’s unprovoked and unprecedented attack on Ukraine the EU Enlargement Package debate saw several impassioned contributions from the floor. Members spoke of EU values and the need to support Ukraine as they fight to defend principles of democracy. During his contribution, Cllr. Kieran McCarthy noted that enlargement is “the strongest possible endorsement of the values we hold dear”.

The second day of plenary opened with the debate on the Revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). Following a contribution from rapporteur André Viola, Irish MEP Ciaran Cuffe outlined the importance of the EPBD in the context of a cost of living and energy crisis.

The plenary session was drawn to a close with a series of debates on topics including: Priorities on the forthcoming Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the launch of the Automotive Regions Alliance and the launch of the European Alliance of Cities and Regions for the Reconstruction of Ukraine.

The next plenary session is set to take place in October 2022.

Registration Open – Assembly of European Regions Summer School

The Assembly of European Regions in partnership with Donegal County Council and Údarás na Gaeltachta will host their flagship 2022 Summer Academy event from the 29th of August until the 1st of September.

Marking fifty years since Ireland voted to join the European Community, the event will focus on topics that will shape the next fifty years such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and the war in Ukraine. Such topics as big, existential questions about what Europe stands for, and what future we shape for the next generation.

Building on this, the theme this year focuses on how young people in our regions can be empowered to answer these questions, and shape “A Europe for the Next Generation”. As Europe looks to build back better, this year’s programme will focus on key topics such as climate change, skills and education, cross-border and transnational cohesion and reconciliation, remote working and entrepreneurship.

Through debates, workshops and excursions the programme will explore how regions are best placed to ensure young people lay the building blocks for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future for all.

Additionally, participants will also be given the opportunity to Derry City to learn about the Peace Process, take-in spectacular scenery on Inis Eoin island and Glenveagh National Park, visit the region’s unique rural innovation hubs.

To find out more and to register for the event click here.

Building Europe – Call for Applications

The European Commission has launched a call for applications for local authorities wishing to become partners in communicating the EU as part of the “Building Europe with Local Councillors” network.

The aim of the partnership is to help and encourage local representatives to present EU policies, actions and initiatives objectively and in clear, understandable language to their constituents. The aim is to promote discussion and debate about these European policies, actions and initiatives at a grassroots, citizen level.

A local authority that chooses to take part in the “Building Europe with Local Councillors” network will appoint one locally elected councillor as a member of the network. The authority will also sign a declaration in which the local authority agrees to make the following commitments:

  • Engage regularly in discussions and debate with members of their constituency or local media about the general political initiatives and measures conducted by the EU.
  • Present EU policies, actions and initiatives objectively, based on accurate and trustworthy information.
  • Take part in the day-to-day operations of the network by participating in the online platform, attending seminars and visits offered by the European Commission.

In order to support the local councillors and their authorities in communicating Europe, the European Commission will provide:

  • Communication materials and a regular information updates to help them engage with citizens on EU issues.
  • Access to priority visits of the European Commission Visitors’ Centre in Brussels, physical or digital.
  • Access to an interactive platform to foster interaction with other members of the network.
  • Information about other EU initiatives dedicated to local councillors and local authorities, including in particular the activities of the Committee of the Regions and its Network of Regional and Local EU Councillors, and opportunities to follow and contribute to their activities.

If your local authority is interested in taking part, or wants to find out more click here.

Dublin and Cork chosen among 100 cities to participate in EU Mission for climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030

Dublin and Cork have been chosen from a group of 337 cities to participate in the EU Mission for 100 climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030. All 27 EU Member States are represented in the 100 cities chosen, with 12 additional cities coming from countries associated or with the potential of being associated with Horizon Europe.

Currently, Europe’s urban areas are home to 75% of EU citizens and globally they consume over 65% of the world’s energy, accounting for more than 70% of CO2 emissions. Given this context, it is viewed as essential that cities act as experimentation and innovation ecosystems to help others in their transition to become climate-neutral by 2050.

In a press release issued following the announcement of Dublin’s inclusion within the programme, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cllr Alison Gilliland said “We recognise that we all nationally and internationally have a massive climate imperative and need support to realise our climate-neutral vision. Cities like Dublin are central to realising this vision.”. This sentiment was echoed by Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Colm Kelleher who said, “The prioritisation of climate action will ensure that Cork can play a local role in addressing the most pressing global challenge of our time”.

The 100 cities chosen to participate in the programme will receive €360 million of Horizon Europe funding covering the period 2022-23, to start the innovation paths towards climate neutrality by 2030. The research and innovation actions will address clean mobility, energy efficiency and green urban planning, and offer the possibility to build joint initiatives and ramp up collaborations in synergies with other EU programmes.

However, this is a programme that goes beyond the headline EU funding, as the programme promises to open both Dublin and Cork to opportunities that may have otherwise been off-limits. These opportunities and benefits include tailor-made advice and assistance from a dedicated Mission Platform run by the EU’s Net Zero Cities project, networking opportunities, exchange of best practices between cities and support to engage citizens in the mission.

The next step for Dublin and Cork will be the development of a whole-of-city Climate City Contracts. These contracts will include an overall plan for climate neutrality across all sectors of the city including energy, buildings, waste management and transport, alongside related investment plans. This process will involve citizens, research organisations and the private sector. The clear and visible commitments made by Dublin and Cork in their Climate City Contracts will enable them to engage with the EU, national and regional authorities – and most importantly with their residents in order to deliver on this ambitious objective.

New European Bauhaus: Voucher scheme planned to support cities and regions

The New European Bauhaus initiative, which connects the European Green Deal to our daily lives and living spaces, is as a key opportunity to harness the creative potential of regions and municipalities, provide jobs locally and create accepted and sustainable solutions, the European Committee of the Regions believes. The opinion drafted by Cork City Councillor Kieran McCarthy points out, however, that this requires strong local and regional engagement, which is why the European Commission must ensure that cities and regions are at the centre of the initiative and receive technical assistance and appropriate funding. In this regard, the Commission has confirmed it is developing a voucher scheme as proposed in McCarthy’s opinion.

“The principal concerns of this opinion revolve around issues such as: what is the role of local and regional authorities? What financial resources are being put to this movement or programme? What are the planned indicators?” rapporteur Kieran McCarthy pointed out when presenting his opinion at the CoR plenary session on 27th April.

“The current call for local and regional authorities to get involved is welcome.  Sufficient resources from state budgets and EU cohesion policy programmes need to be allocated at local and regional level for New European Bauhaus”, he insisted, underlining also the need for a New European Bauhaus regional scoreboard to ensure that the initiative is implemented at all levels and supported by regional investments.

The opinion proposes a New European Bauhaus Lab voucher scheme to help cities and regions co-create, prototype and test the tools, solutions and policy actions that will facilitate transformation on the ground. Michaela Magas, member of the EC’s high-level roundtable on the new European Bauhaus, confirmed the European Commission would work together with the CoR on launching 100 vouchers for Bauhaus LABs across EU regions. “I’m grateful for the idea proposed by CoR to model it on the successful Wifi4EU initiative”, Ms Magas said.

The European Commission is also asked to establish better links between the New European Bauhaus and existing conceptual, culture-related, aesthetics-oriented and design-oriented frameworks. This would translate principles into action and enable the initiative to harness the creative, cultural and cultural heritage potential of local and regional authorities to renovate and revitalize neighbourhoods across the EU.

“I believe that the New European Bauhaus must become a real movement which involves local and regional authorities and is not just another top-down project. It must be a project for everyone, not just the few. To be successful, this exercise must be socially, culturally and territorially inclusive”, Mr McCarthy summed up.

EU regions and cities want stronger ties with UK’s devolved administrations and local governments

European Committee of the Regions call for a better appreciation of the role of local and regional authorities in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission, welcomed the ambition of the Committee of the Regions and its members to cooperate with the UK at the local and regional level, albeit within the confines of the type of Brexit chosen by the UK government.

On the 27th April the Committee of the Regions adopted Cllr Michael Murphy’s opinion “Strengthening the EU-UK relationship at sub-national level and remedying the territorial impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU“. The opinion calls on the EU to “address the lack of territorial depth” in the TCA by involving local and regional governments in the monitoring of the agreement and for the CoR-UK Contact Group to be recognised as an official sub-national interlocutor between EU and UK local and regional governments. The recommendations also called on the EU to add to the €5.4 billion already earmarked to support regions most affected by the trade disruptions caused by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Following Cllr. Murphy’s presentation of the opinion, Commissioner Šefčovič, who is overseeing implementation of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) that entered into force in 2021, spoke. He noted that: “While the Committee has no formal role when it comes to EU international agreements, the Commission’s door is always open to listen to the voice of the regions. We look forward to continuing the regular exchanges we have had with the Committee’s UK Contact Group over the past two years, as we move forward with the implementation of the TCA. And we are already working to support the people and businesses most affected by Brexit. For example, the Peace+ initiative helps finance projects across Northern Ireland and the border counties, which are aimed at reconciling communities and contributing to peace. Including co-financing from Ireland and the United Kingdom, funding under Peace + will amount to more than €1 billion.”

Apostolos Tzitzikostas (EL/EPP), President of the European Committee of the Regions and governor of the region of Central Macedonia, said: “Despite Brexit, ties between the EU and the UK remain strong, and so is the desire to retain and develop relationships, in areas of mutual interest such as tackling the climate emergency and the localisation of the Sustainable Development Goals. European local and regional authorities want to channel their voice into the EU-UK Partnership Council. As we understand, and regret, the internal political reasons why the United Kingdom failed to assure a voice to local democracy in the Joint Partnership Council, we encourage the European Commission to remedy to this by organising a structured consultation with local and regional authorities, through the European Committee of the Regions whenever a topic having territorial impact is tackled.”

Cllr. Michael Murphy said: “Brexit will have a negative impact on territorial cooperation, which forged excellent relationships over decades between the cities and regions of the European Union and the UK. We call on both the European Commission and the UK government to recognise the CoR-UK Contact Group as an official sub-national interlocutor in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. We know that cities and regions are continuing to find new ways of maintaining and developing relationships and this is evident through exchange programmes, bilateral cooperation, EU networks and associations. These relationships are needed to address common challenges that know no borders, such as culture, sustainable management of the seas, and the local and regional implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. We very much welcome this continued cooperation.”

The Brexit Adjustment Reserve has set aside €5.4 billion to cover trade losses and the impact on maritime border regions and for fisheries. The CoR opinion drafted by Councillor Murphy calls for the Reserve to be increased, for the eligibility period to be extended and for assessments of the impact on particular sectors and regions. A recent study commissioned by the CoR — “New trade and economic relations between EU-UK: the impact on regions and cities” – concluded the effects were “asymmetric” but the report also found that “almost all regions in the EU are exposed in at least one of the main EU sectors of specialisation with respect to the UK”.

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.

Register for Europe, Let’s Cooperate – Interreg Europe

Registration for the 8th edition of ‘Europe, let’s cooperate’ is now open!

The Interreg Europe programme will open its first call for proposals on the 5th of April. In order to prepare for the call the Europe Let’s Cooperate platform is available now.

The Europe Let’s Cooperate platform helps you get ready for the call on the 5th by offering you:

  • Insights and information about the call and the new programme
  • Networking opportunities to build new contacts and complete your project partnership
  • Tips and inspiration to build a successful project proposal

The Interreg Europe programme has six topics which contributes to EU policy objectives and these are:

  • Smarter Europe
  • Greener Europe
  • More Connected Europe
  • More Social Europe
  • Europe Closer to Citizens
  • Better Cooperation Governance

To see a detailed agenda and register click the link: Europe, let’s cooperate! 2022

Save the Date – LIFE Info Days 2022

The European Climate Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) will be hosting a number of LIFE programme info days from Wednesday the 18th until Friday the 20th of May.

This year marks the LIFE programme’s thirtieth anniversary. The LIFE programme is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action. Created in 1992, it has co-financed thousands of projects. The new LIFE programme 2021-2027 has a budget of €5.4 billion and is divided into four sub-programmes:

  • Nature and biodiversity
  • Circular economy and quality of life
  • Climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • Clean energy transition

The info days, organised by CINEA, will play host to a number of webinars, which will guide applicants and potential applicants through the LIFE programme, Calls for Proposals, and Priority Topics for 2022. Each of these webinars will be followed by a series of Question and Answers sessions.

Those in attendance will also be able to avail of virtual networking opportunities, as well as holding bilateral meetings with CINEA project advisors.

For more information and updates click here: Save the date: #EULife22 Info Days (europa.eu)

The Irish contact point for the LIFE programme is LIFE@decc.gov.ie

Ireland and Wales – Towards Blue Solutions

Bangor University will host an online workshop fostering Irish and Welsh collaboration on issues relating to climate change, resilience and the blue economy.

The event, which is due to take place on Wednesday the 9th of March, will look at understanding perceptions of climate change and impacts on the Irish Sea. The workshop will explore how climate change impacts on the Irish Sea and how this is linked to human health and wellbeing, while also focusing on themes including sustainable aquaculture, fisheries, ecosystem services, marine renewable energy and tourism.

The online workshop will bring together representatives from Irish and Welsh academia, industry, communities, and government. The workshop will look to assess the sustained future cooperation across sectors with a focus on blue economy, whilst ensuring sustainability and resilience in the face of clime change and pollution. The workshop will do this by exploring five key areas:

  1. Future areas of collaboration.
  2. Knowledge gaps.
  3. Industry perspective and needs.
  4. Policy perspective and needs.
  5. Research needs.

The workshop will foster cooperation on the above areas in line with the principles set out in the Ireland Wales Joint Statement and Action Plan. The workshop also promises to broaden its scope to discussing collaborations and partnerships to include organisations in the other nations and regions bordering the Irish Sea, including Scotland, Northern Ireland and the north of England.

Results from existing Ireland Wales INTERREG projects will be highlighted with the intention to foster new connections for collaborative work, particularly around sustainability, specifically sustainability in regard to energy, environment and food. The workshop will look to embed these areas of sustainability and resilience in the context of climate change and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the Wales Well-being for Future Generations Act.

For more information and to register for the event click here: Sustainable and Resilient Irish Sea Resources: Towards Blue Solutions Tickets, Wed 9 Mar 2022 at 09:00 | Eventbrite