Europe of the Regions

A reality that deserves to grow

The claim that in contemporary Europe the Regions play a secondary role describes just a part of the picture. Or rather, it is a reality on paper. A Paper with a capital P, since the Treaties grant something more than a consultative role to the Regions, regardless of the administrative-juridical form that is ascribed to them in the framework of EU27 institutional legal systems.In fact the Committee of the Regions of the European Union (CoR) is a consultative organ representing local authorities, which is tasked with presenting Opinions on the legislative proposals presented by the executive Commission upon consultation by the Council of Ministers and/or on its own initiative. Indeed, CoR Opinions are not considered binding for the Community’s decisional process, while the poor political bearing of most of its 344 members completes the picture. Despite a limiting theory, practical developments of diverse proportions have occurred over the past years. Moreover, the Europe of the Regions represents a concrete reality, at least in those areas where the Regions are granted extensive powers (autonomous and federal) within their Member States. This, for example, is the case of Germany, Belgium, Spain and Italy, Countries whose regions are ever more present in Brussels and which – most of all – directly negotiate with the Commission most of the programs and investments funded by the European Union. Thus the Regions are not only the final recipients of the Structural Funds, allocated prior to consultation with competent national authorities. Indeed, the direct contact between the Regions and the EU has become the rule, while national contribution often amounts to the mere accompaniment of regional delegations.Indeed, the post-2013 regional and cohesion development reform proposal envisages an alarming scenario: decreased budget, lower opportunities to bridge social-economic disparities across European regions, which are ever-increasing. Nonetheless, the comparison with the past cannot – and must not – be made on the bases of the amount of allocated funding. Rather, it must be based on quality, which has hardly ever met expectations and commitments. It’s not only a question of money-squandering, it also entails the inability, at national and regional level, to thoroughly manage investments.For this reason, cutting regional policies – which is likely to be inevitable and unsurprising to the light of past experience and given the current economic situation – ought to be viewed as an opportunity for the Regions and for European regionalism to “become adult”. This is why regional bodies are called to intensify their negotiation-capacity, along with their planning, expense and Community budget-management potential. The ongoing political circumstance is favourable to a more incisive role by the Regions. Such role is welcomed by the EU and by most national governments, (in fact, it would constitute a concrete support to national apparatus). Moreover, citizens have been demanding it for a long time. As it is best to have a Euro well spent at local level than 10 Euros scattered to the four winds.

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