Decoster promotes integration policies with Chancellor Merkel

The European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC) kicked off this week with Chancellor Merkel and President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen leading a long list of high level guest appearances, including European Commissioners Frans Timmermans, Paolo Gentiloni, Nicolas Schmit, Elisa Ferreira and President of the European Investment Bank Werner Hoyer.

During the exchange with Chancellor Merkel, Renew Europe CoR President, François Decoster focused on the new Pact for Migration and Asylum, urging the Chancellor to reach an agreement during the German Presidency, and highlighting how dependent the EU’s migration policy is on successful integration policies at the local level. Decoster, who featured in a New York Times article in 2018, because of his dynamic and creative approach to integration of migrants in his town of Saint Omer, said:

We need to reinforce the concept of solidarity. The EU’s approach to migration must be solidarity and shared responsibility-based, sustainable in the long term and human rights compliant.Solidarity is a cardinal principle of the EU, which must be respected, not just between Member States, but also towards migrants and towards and between local authorities that face the task of helping migrants on a daily basis”

Decoster was one of the first to actively discuss and promote the concept of solidarity, for instance in his Migration report dating back to 2015. For years, his city of Saint.-Omer was also the only town in that region of France with a “Terre d’Asile” center for underage refugees.

In defense of LGBT

Decoster also added, talking about the resolutions hostile to LGBT+ in Poland:

We followed with great worry the development in Poland where several municipalities, provinces and counties have adopted resolutions creating a climate of discrimination and possible persecution of the LGBT+ community, what NGOs have come to call LGTB free zones

Decoster continued:
We support the decision by the European Commission to stop funding of twinning projects of these municipalities. We even want to take a step further and believe that no EU funding should be granted to authorities not sharing basic EU values such as inclusion, tolerance and non-discrimination

Citing his own experiences as Mayor, Decoster concluded:
My own city of Saint-Omer has embraced equality and diversity and has grown more tolerant, open and successful because of it. We have welcomed citizens from all over the EU, including of course thousands of Poles, and we are more prosperous because of it. Our cultures and identity have not in any way diminished – in fact they have become richer

Annual Local and Regional Barometer

Coinciding with this year’s EWRC, the European Committee of the Regions is launching the first EU Local and Regional Barometer, which provides a snapshot of the situation on the ground, and makes a number of recommendations. Welcoming the launch of this report the President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen said:

Local authorities were the first line of defence when the crisis hit. And Europeans know what their Mayors, governors or councillors have done for them. They will be at the core of our recovery

In her reply, Renew Europe Vice-President, Ulrika Landergren said:
We need to focus on competence development in industries in transition, such as the vehicle industry. For producing electric cars, buses and self-driven cars, advanced digital skills are needed. Our focus needs to be put on existing staff and innovative knowledge in university curricula to help our citizens develop digital skills

She also asked von der Leyen what the EU can do to put pressure on Polish authorities to abolish the resolutions hostile to LGBT+ citizens, and if that is not done to cease also other kind of EU funding to these local and regional authorities, in particular the European Structural and Investment Funds.

The EWRC is the EU’s largest annual event organised jointly by the European Committee of the Regions and the European Commission, attracting in normal circumstances up to 7000 people from all over the EU and beyond. This year, because of COVID-19, most of it is taking place online.

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