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.”
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.
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.