Recap of 143th CoR Plenary meeting

The members of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) have brought the 143rd Plenary meeting to a close. The session was again fully remote and took place on 17, 18 and 19th March.

With the meeting opening on St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish delegation members wasted no time in representing Irish interests during a debate on the pandemic, recovery and European democracy with Charles Michel, President of the European Council. Cllr Kieran McCarthy urged for local communities to be at the heart of the priorities for the Conference on the Future of Europe, stating that “if you empower the regions, the EU will be a success.”

Cllr Deidre Forde

A number of Irish members took the floor during the presentation of an opinion on establishing a Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR), stressing that a lot of work needs to be done before it is fit for purpose. Cllr Deidre Forde argued for the “full involvement of regions and local authorities in the planning and implementation of the BAR”.

During the debate on an adequate minimum wage in the EU, Cllr Declan McDonnell expressed the need to recognise the right of everyone “to a decent living from their work” based on upward convergence and “to end wage discrimination”. Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley and Cllr Aoife Breslin expanded on the need to work towards a proper minimum wage to one which values work, lifts people out of poverty, creates a more inclusive society and closes the gender pay gap.

The second day of meetings started with a celebration of European entrepreneurship with the European Entrepreneurial Region (EER) Award Ceremony. The EER label of excellence is awarded by the CoR to regions who have shown outstanding and innovative entrepreneurial policy strategies. The 2021-22 EER winning regions were: Castelo Branco Municipality (Portugal), Gabrovo Municipality (Bulgaria), Helsinki-Uusimaa Region (Finland), Madrid Region (Spain), Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (France) and Silesia Voivodeship (Poland), with a “special mention” to Vukovar-Srijem County, Croatia.

Watch a video of the EER winner regions. You can also read more about each region in this press release.

Further to these points, lively debates on the following topics took place:

  • COVID-19 Pandemic with Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety
  • Trade and EU Recovery
  • Financing and delivering the Renovation Wave in regions, cities and villages with Kadri Simson, Commissioner for Energy
  • Integration of migrants and the fight against radicalisation with Ylva Johansson, Commissioner for Home Affairs​

The following opinions were also discussed and adopted during the 3-day meeting:

  • New pact on migration and asylum
  • Achieving the European Education Area by 2025
  • A new approach to the Atlantic Maritime Strategy – Atlantic Action Plan 2.0
  • Regulation on establishing a Brexit Adjustment Reserve
  • Action plan on critical raw materials
  • Trade policy review
  • Renovation Wave for Europe – Greening our buildings, creating jobs, improving lives

The plenary closed with a discussion of EU matters for local and regional authorities focusing on the coordinated management of borders during the pandemic and the decline of city centres and promotion of SMEs.

PEACE PLUS PUBLIC CONSULTATION

The SEUPB has launched a public consultation for the new PEACE PLUS Programme (2021-2027).

What is the PEACE PLUS Programme?

A hybrid of the PEACE and INTERREG Programmes, PEACE PLUS will continue to support activities that contribute towards a prosperous and stable society in Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland, including activities that promote peace and reconciliation and contribute to the cross border economic and territorial development of the region.

The PEACE PLUS Programme was developed through a stakeholder engagement process, which took place between December 2019 and February 2020. A total of 16 public events were held across the programme area, with over 1,000 people in attendance. Over 300 survey responses were submitted. An infographic summarising the PEACE PLUS consultation process can be found here.

Responding to the Consultation

SEUPB recommends reading the Consultation Information Document and supporting documents, including the Equality Screening exercise and the Strategic Environmental Assessment in advance of completing the survey to help the understanding of the proposed Programme Strategy.

Full information on the programme (including the consultation information document and a link to the survey) is available here.

The consultation started on Wednesday 10 March 2021 and will close at 5pm on Wednesday 12 May 2021.

You can find a copy of the PEACE PLUS Privacy Notice for this survey here.

For further information SEUPB can be contacted on 0044 28 9026 6660 (office reception number) or email PEACEPLUS@seupb.eu.

Consultation on future Interreg NWE programme

Interreg North-West Europe (NWE) has launched a consultation seeking input into redesigning the future programme, which will run from 2021 to 2027. All interested stakeholders are encouraged to provide feedback through an online survey. This includes stakeholders at EU, national, regional, and local levels, as well as the general public.

The feedback received from the consultation will help design the next programming period for Interreg NWE. The responses will be used to fine-tune suggested themes and identify the target audiences for each topic.  A preliminary list of five priorities and nine specific objectives have been outlined so far, and can be seen on this page. However, these are only indicative at this stage and may evolve in the coming months. During the 2014-2020 programming period, Interreg NWE addressed smart and sustainable growth through the themes of innovation, low carbon, and efficiency in resources and materials.

The future Interreg NWE programme will be composed of six participating countries – Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

EU policy closer to citizens:

The EU is committed to listening more closely to citizens. This consultation will help in this endeavor by allowing for meaningful, transparent, accountable and effective policy-making.

The overarching objective of European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) – of which the Interreg family of programmes is a part – is to promote a harmonious economic, social and territorial development of the European Union as a whole.

The survey:

Fill out the survey here: ec.europa.eu/eusurvey/runner/interregnwe-stakeholder-consultation

The survey is open until Sunday 28 March.  

Read more about this consultation.

 

Image Copyright: EC – Audiovisual Service

EU Green Week 2021 – zero pollution ambition

The European Commission announced that the 2021 edition of the EU Green Week will take place from May to June. The Week will open in Lahti, Finland, while the High Level Conference and Partner Events will be held online. This year’s edition will be dedicated to ‘zero pollution ambition’. The theme ties in with the European Green Deal and the adoption of the EU Action Plan ‘Towards a zero pollution ambition for air, water and soil’.

EU Green Week 2021 will be an opportunity to engage with all stakeholders and interested citizens on how we can work together to make the ambition for a zero pollution and toxic-free environment a reality. It is a chance to showcase the achievements of your organisation or city to a wider audience. Events, workshops, guided tours, exibitions, fairs, open days and online events are all eligible for applications. The aim of partner events is to contribute to the public debate and demonstrate the high level of public interest in the issues related to Zero Pollution. In that respect, partner events can cover many different perspectives, for instance:

  • Raising awareness of health and wellbeing benefits brought by a zero pollution/healthier planet
  • Raising awareness of the role that each of us plays in building a zero pollution community
  • Raising awareness on the importance of living within our ecological planetary boundaries
  • Raising awareness of zero pollution production and consumption
  • Exchange of knowledge on how pollution affects people and ecosystems
  • Exchanges on how the EU Zero Pollution Action Plan can support the post-COVID 19 recovery by helping to rebuild a more sustainable EU economy, creating job opportunities and reducing social inequalities
  • Discussions on other relevant European Green Deal initiatives, such as the climate initiatives, the upcoming Chemicals Strategy, as well as initiatives in the field of energy, industry, mobility, agriculture, fisheries, health and biodiversity

Registrations are now open and can be found under the following link. The European Commission will accept applications until 12 March 2021. For more information about the application process, you can consult the partner events guidelines or contact the Green Week helpdesk at ENV-GREENWEEK@ec.europa.eu.

 

CoR meets for the 142nd Plenary Session

With the 142nd Plenary meeting of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) wrapping up, we reflect on a very active 3 days of discussions and debates. One of the themes for this fully virtual plenary meeting which took place on 3-5 February 2021 focused on creating a cohesive and effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic in light of the vaccinations becoming available. How to support the restarting of a new normal that will involve green and digital solutions which will help the continent to become more resilient and future-focused was also contemplated in the deliberations.

Signing of MOU between WHO and CoR

Delegates were able to debate with Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, Regional Director for Europe, WHO on the COVID-19 pandemic vaccination campaign and the role of LRAs in flighting the health crisis. Dr. Kluge urged international solidarity and cooperation in the vaccination campaign for social, economic, moral good of all people. During the plenary meeting, the CoR also signed of a memorandum of understanding with the WHO to reinforce partnership focused on protecting against health emergencies and building better, safer and more resilient cities and regions.

CoR members provided regional input into joining forces to launch and implementation of the new cohesion policy programmes in synergy with recovery tools with Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms. During the discussions it was argued that recovery responses have to apply the partnership principle and multi-level governance to rebalance development and address regions that suffered the most.

Other topics of debate focused on the European Citizens’ Initiative, the restarting of the cultural and creative sectors along with the new European Research Area and the priorities of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Members of the Irish delegation were very active in the debates and provided some key statements. Cllr Deirdre Forde welcomed the increase in supports to the Creative Europe programme and called “on the EU to provide a range of supports to mobilise the sector” while encouraging the involvement of the private sector as well. Cllr Kieran McCarthy emphasised the need for experience-sharing between LRAs and highlighted that existing supports for the culture and creative sectors must be promoted to a greater extent. Newly appointed CoR member Cllr Una Power advised that the EU must work towards creating adaptable workforce and communities that would be in a position to weather out further challenges.

In addition to this, on supporting the cultural and creative sectors, the Mayor of Galway City Council, Cllr Mike Cubbard was invited as a guest speaker and shared his experiences of the city’s accolade as European Capital of Culture in 2020. He expressed the need for concrete plans and EU support for the arts and culture sector.

A number of opinions were also welcomed at the plenary. The topics of these opinions include:

  • European Skills Agenda
  • Youth Employment Support
  • Cross-border public services in Europe
  • Agroecology
  • EU Roma strategic framework for equality, inclusion and innovation for 2020-2030
  • A new ERA for Research and Innovation
  • 8th Environment Action Programme

Further details on the 142nd CoR Plenary sessions can be found on this CoR page.

Public Consultation – Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan

A public consultation is now open to get input into Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan as part of the European Union’s Recovery and Resilience Facility. The EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility aims to help address the economic and social impacts of COVID-19 pandemic while ensuring member states undertake green and digital transitions to boost sustainability and resilience. The Facility is part of the Next Generation EU/Recovery Plan Package agreed by the European Council in July 2020.

Ireland is expected to receive €853 million in grants under the EU Facility in 2021 and 2022, and another set of grants in 2023, depending on the economic developments to between now and then. In order to receive support from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, each member state needs to prepare a national plan for approval by the EU. The Irish government is therefore seeking stakeholder inputs to develop the Plan.

This national Plan must specify the reforms and public investments to be supported by the Facility and has to be submitted to the EU by 30 April 2021. The proposed actions in the Plan must align with EU flagship areas such as climate action and digital transitions, as well as address the challenges laid out in the country-specific recommendations received in 2019 and 2020.

Consultation questions

Parties interested in providing input into the National Recovery and Resilience Plan are invited to make written submissions. The contributions should address key questions related to:

  • what investment and reform areas Ireland should prioritise for inclusion in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan
  • which country-specific recommendations received in 2019 and 2020 Ireland should consider in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.
Deadlines for submissions

Written consultation submissions are being accepted starting on 2nd February and will close at 17.00 on 22nd February 2021.

Submissions are to be emailed to nrrpconsultation@taoiseach.gov.ie and should indicate if you are a representative body, business, adviser, or member of the public.

Further information

Full details, including the list of country-specific recommendations, can be found by downloading the document:

Public Consultation on Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

More information is also available on this page.

News from Celtic Routes

Celtic Routes is a branded collection of tourism experiences that encourages travellers to Ireland and Wales to discover the Celtic Spirit by offering a number of immersive and authentic Celtic experiences in West Wales and South East Ireland. It is an Ireland Wales partnership to deliver a tourism project to boost visitor numbers and spend in the project area, partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund via the Ireland Wales Cooperation programme 2014-2020.

Through cooperation and collaboration with Partners, the project contracted experts to undertake research, create a brand, devise a media plan and create suitable content to populate this plan. It has facilitated Learning Journeys between Partner areas.

Virtual meetings have pivoted and reorganised the Media Plan which is externally managed. Project continues to create content – Film, Video Stories, Comics, Photography for promotion and for stakeholders to use. The Media Plan is scheduled to start on the 1st March 2021, having mostly been suspended for 2020.

The Project Partners successfully sought an extension to the Project until May 2023, and have attained additional funding to facilitate that.

Their media campaigns, a major part of its activity, using current and future content, will continue and expand according to travel restriction changes, stakeholder requirements and economic climate.  To further enhance the appeal of the Celtic Routes, they invest in the creation of experiences and collateral including augmented reality; further website development; photography; copywriting; video and 360 ͦ photography.

Thematic networks will engage, advise, champion, and shape future actions and activities of the Celtic Routes Project.  They will co-design and develop new products and experiences aligned to the Celtic Routes themes.

Learning Journeys will create economic opportunities, and financially support jointly designed and developed activity from the private, third sector and public sector.

 

For more information about Celtic Routes Project, please contact Oonagh Messette, Project Officer, at oonagh.messette@wexfordcoco.ie 

More details available for Life2020 call to NGOs on European Green Deal

A virtual information session was held on the 12th January 2021 giving details on the LIFE2020 call for proposals for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on the European Green Deal (LIFE 2020 NGO4GD). This special call for proposals intended for NGOs was launched in December 2020 and aims to reinforce the capacity of NGOs in the European Union to mobilise and strengthen civil society participation and contribution to the implementation of the European Green Deal. The call recognises the economic crisis provoked by the COVID-19 pandemic and the blow this has had on the capacity of NGOs to taking actions and to contribute to a sustainable future.

More background details about this call’s aims can be found in this IREO post as well as the call announcement page.

Webinar details

Materials from the NGO4GD webinar are now available at the event announcement page. It contains links to the slide presentations and the video recording of the virtual information session.

The recording of this webinar and other events can also be found at the LIFE Programme YouTube Channel.

Any specific questions on this call can be emailed to EASME-LIFE-2020-NGO4GD@ec.europa.eu.

More information about the LIFE programme and its support to NGOs working to protect the environment can also be found here:

Eligibility

The call is open to non-governmental organisations legally registered (prior to 01 January 2018) in an EU Member State and primarily active at national or regional level in the areas of environment and/or climate action. Partnerships will not be allowed and only one proposal per applicant will be taken in consideration. Please refer to the full details of the eligibility criteria listed in the call documents.

Application deadline

The deadline for application submissions is Wednesday 31 March 2021 at 17.00 CET (Brussels). Applications should be sent electronically by email only to the following address: EASME-LIFE-2020-NGO4GD@ec.europa.eu.

 

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Information session and Call for Proposals – CEF Transport MAP

The European Commission launched a call for proposals for the 2020 CEF Transport MAP on 15 December 2020. With a total budget of €200 million, the call will co-finance projects which address missing-links and cross-border connections along the trans-European transport network (TEN-T). Its focus is to address actions that remove transportation bottlenecks, enhances rail connections, bridge transport missing links and improving cross-border segments.

The general objective of the call is to support studies or projects that prepare the implementation of the TEN-T core network, addressing any necessary preparatory measures for the upcoming infrastructure works.

Virtual Information Day

A virtual information session is taking place on the 14th January 2021 at 10:00am CET / 9:00am GMT.

To register your attendance to stream the event, please follow instructions on this page: https://europa.eu/!Hg33th .

Scope

This call is limited to the pre-identified sections of the core TEN-T corridors, as defined in the annex to the CEF Regulation. The eligible modes of transportation included are railway, inland waterways, roads, maritime and inland ports.

Eligibility

All EU Member States are eligible, so long they satisfy the TEN-T Core condition. Project proposals should be submitted either by one or more Member State(s) or, with Member State approval, by a public or private entity.

Deadline for submissions: 22 March 2021 at 17:00 CET

 

More information about this call can be found on this page.

A call flyer also provides additional information.

 

Photo credit: EC – Audiovisual Service

European Commission Proposes Brexit Adjustment Reserve

On 26th December 2020, the European Commission put forward its proposal for a Brexit Adjustment Reserve. As the UK leaves the European Union there are, and will be, implications on businesses, economic sectors, workers, regions and local communities. The Reserve is set up to help mitigate the adverse consequences in Member States and sectors that are worst affected by Brexit. This special instrument will have a maximum resource of €5 billion in 2018 prices and will be separate from the EU Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027.

Objective:

This proposed special fund is designed to exclusively deal with the adverse effects of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union in Member States, regions and sectors, in particular those that are worst affected by Brexit. It should be used on actions that mitigate the impact of Brexit on the economic, social and territorial cohesion.

Who is eligible?

All EU Member States are eligible for funding. The Reserve is designed to be rapid and flexible, and to concentrate on the regions and sectors worst affected by Brexit.

Funding allocation and Scope:

The maximum budget for the Reserve is €5 billion (in 2018 constant prices). The Commission proposes that the funds be allocated in 2 rounds: a larger portion (around €4,244 bn) will be allocated in 2021 as pre-financing; the remaining funds (around €1,126 bn) will be for additional contributions in 2024.

Pre-financing allocation is proposed to take into account two conditions:

  • Trade intensity – the importance of the Member State’s trade with the UK
  • Reliance on UK water for fisheries – the importance to the Member State of fisheries in the UK exclusive economic zone.

The period of eligibility for direct public expenditure runs for 30 months, from 1 July 2020 to 31 December 2022. The Reserve will support expenditures that assist:

  • Businesses and local communities adversely affected by the withdrawal
  • Vulnerable economic sectors
  • Fishing communities
  • Employment and re-skilling
  • Functioning of the border, customs, sanitary, phytosanitary and security controls
  • Certification and authorisation regimes
  • Communications and awareness-raising for citizens and businesses.

Member States have to set up management and control systems and appoint bodies responsible for the management of the Reserve. The European Commission suggests that for simplification reasons, Member States could use bodies managing cohesion policy funding or the European Union Solidarity Fund. Member States will have to submit an implementation report by 30 September 2023 detailing the supported actions and expenditures paid during the eligibility timeframe, as well as present output indicators.

Next steps:

The proposal is subject to negotiations and will have to be adopted by the Parliament and the Council.

Further reading:

Click here to read the Brexit Adjustment Reserve proposal text and annexes.

Click here for a Q&A on the Brexit Adjustment Reserve proposal.

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