François Decoster’s proposal for establishing an exchange programme for 2018-2020 for local and regional representatives, supported by Mercedes Bresso MEP, received unanimous support in the European Committee of the Regions. It aims at better informing, assisting and training elected representatives on how the EU works and how European funds can be used.
Local and regional representatives are often expected from the start of their mandate to apply European legislation in a wide range of fields at the local level, whether in terms of funding, policy, managing joint projects… Many local councilors unfortunately don’t have the necessary training or background to carry out these tasks. This is a gap that François Decoster, vice president of ALDE in the European Committee of the Regions tries to address with his “Erasmus” proposal for local and regional elected officials.
“By introducing this European training and exchange programme we encourage exchanges between European authorities to achieve real European added value: the officials will become more effective ambassadors for cooperation, building a more European spirit while citizens will reap the benefits of their representatives’ knowledge of and access to new tools and funds.
“The aim of the programme would be that after short basic training (a couple of days), local and regional elected representatives would be able to cooperate with elected representatives working on the same topics in different Member States in order to improve their knowledge of European legislation, exchange good practices, launch new local and regional initiatives and understand the ins and outs as well as the spirit of European integration, so that they can better explain to their constituents why and how the European project can benefit them.
Decoster received support across party lines for his initiative from Mercedes Bresso MEP, who was, as then CoR President, promoting such a pilot project, launched in 2012, and from a unanimous European Committee of the Regions plenary.
“The reasons to support this initiative back then are more or less the same ones as today: we need better prepared, more qualified and more “European” politicians at all levels, but more importantly at local and regional level. It is vital that they are fully ready for the task. This Erasmus initiative would thus allow local and regional representatives to improve their knowledge about the instruments and opportunities of the current and future EU Cohesion Policy, which is needed to deliver results and yield benefits for the European citizens and the EU in general.
On the question of funding, the CoR suggests that the costs could be shared by EU budgets, the local authorities of the elected representatives taking part and, if need be, training bodies receiving public funds in some Member States.
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