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

TEN-T Proposal & Implications for Ireland’s Roads

The Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) policy addresses the implementation and development of a Europe-wide network of railway lines, roads, inland waterways, maritime shipping routes, ports, airports and railroad terminals.

The EU Commission recently published its proposal for a revised TEN-T Regulation. The new proposal updates this transport network and proposes updated infrastructure requirements as well as deadlines to implement these. The proposal contains many new elements compared to the existing 2013 Regulation focused on increased standards.

Contents of Proposal

The proposal contains many new elements compared to the existing 2013 Regulation, including: 

  • High infrastructure standards for all modes applied throughout the entire network.
  • Nine ‘European Transport Corridors’, representing the main arteries of EU transport, that integrate the former Core Network Corridors with the Rail Freight Corridors.
  • Stronger synergies between infrastructure planning and the operation of transport services.
  • Requirements for the deployment of charging and refuelling infrastructure for alternative transport fuels in line with the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation. This would mean sufficient charging capacity for cars, vans and trucks at 60 kilometres distance in each direction by 2025 on the core network and by 2030 for the extended core and comprehensive networks.
  • Providing safe and secure parking areas for commercial drivers, equipped with alternative fuels infrastructure.
  • Use of innovative technologies like 5G to further advance the digitalisation of transport infrastructure, further increasing efficiency, and improving the safety, security and resilience of the network.
  • Increased resilience of the TEN-T network to natural and human-made disasters via climate-proofing requirements and environmental impact assessments for new projects, and to the implications of an accident or breakdown (e.g. by enabling alternative route alignments to the main network).
  • A requirement that environmental assessments for projects on the network must include an assessment of compliance with the “do no significant harm” principle.
  • The requirement for 424 major urban nodes (including Cork, Dublin, and Galway) on the TEN-T network to have sustainable urban mobility plans (SUMPs) by 2025 in order to align their mobility developments on the TEN-T network. The SUMPs will contain measures such as the promotion of zero-emission mobility and the greening of the urban fleet.
  • More transhipment hubs and multimodal passenger terminals in cities to facilitate multimodality, in particular for the last mile of a passenger or freight journey.
  • Connect large airports to rail, where possible high-speed rail.
Implications for Ireland’s Roads

TEN-T network in Ireland

Overall, there is no changes to the TEN T network for roads in Ireland, with the Core and Comprehensive Networks remaining as it has been since 2013.

However, what is changing are the requirements for increased standards and local authorities will be responsible for implementing these changes. For the Core road network (thick red line on map) these standards must be put in place by 2030, whilst for the Comprehensive network (thin red lines on map) these must be completed by 2050.

In the proposal issued by the European Commission, the increased standards for the Core road network (by 2030), include ensuring the use of latest technologies, using low noise road surfaces and ensuring that alternative fuels infrastructure is deployed. For the Comprehensive network (by 2050) there are proposed requirements that roads are specially designed, built or upgraded, that there are rest areas available at a maximum distance of 60 km from each other and that there are safe and secure parking areas available at a maximum distance of 100 km from each other.

Also to note are the requirements for major urban nodes (including Cork, Dublin, and Galway) on the TEN-T network. They need to have sustainable urban mobility plans (SUMPs) in place by 2025 so as they align their mobility developments on the TEN-T network. The SUMPs will contain measures such as the promotion of zero-emission mobility and the greening of the urban fleet.

Next Steps

These proposals will now pass through the EU legislative process and are subject to negotiations and agreement by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers.  The final text may differ, but each Member State is bound by the final agreement and must implement the agreed changes by the agreed timescales.  

Further information

A full overview of the TEN-T Maps can be found here:

Should you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding the proposal, please feel free to contact the EU unit at the Department of Transport in Ireland at: EUCoordination@transport.gov.ie

Public consultation on Irish Just Transition Plan

The Department of Environment, Climate and Communication in association with the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly (EMRA) launched on 20th December 2021 a public consultation on a draft of Ireland’s Territorial Just Transition Plan. The consultation is open until 14 February 2022.

The EU Just Transition Fund (JTF) is a new funding programme from the European Union for the period 2021-2027 that will address the social, economic, employment and environmental impacts of the transition to a carbon-neutral economy. The EU JTF will support the delivery of Ireland’s Climate Action Plan 2021 and its objectives in relation to a ‘just transition’ in the wider Midlands region in response to the end of peat extraction for power generation. The fund may be used to:

  • support enterprises to enhance economic diversification of the wider Midlands
  • train, up-skill and reskill workers affected by the exit from peat
  • invest in research and innovation and the deployment of technology
  • develop systems and infrastructure for clean energy.

This consultation is a key step in the preparation of the EU JTF in Ireland. The conclusions of the survey and the related workshops will inform the drafting of Ireland’s Territorial Just Transition Plan, a document that will be the basis for the implementation of the EU JTF in Ireland, setting out how the fund will be used to invest in the region.

Provide Feedback

A draft Territorial Just Transition Plan has been developed and is available on the consultation page for review. Input on the draft Plan can be provided through an online survey. Additional documentation can also be submitted if needed.

The consultation is open to individuals, communities, businesses and representative bodies in the wider Midlands region of East Galway, North Tipperary, Longford, Laois, Offaly, Westmeath, West Kildare and Roscommon.

The online survey can be found through this page.

Note that the survey is open until midnight 14 February 2022.

Workshops

In addition to the survey responses, there will be two online workshops held on 18 January (10am-12pm) and 25 January (6.30pm-8.30pm) for the general public.

An online workshop specifically dedicated to young people 16 – 24 years old is also planned.

Register to attend the workshops on the public consultation page.

 

Further information on this public consultation can be found on this page:

www.gov.ie/en/consultation/352c3-public-consultation-on-the-eu-just-transition-fund/.

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