Local and Regional Leaders gather in Mons to shape the future of Europe

Local and regional leaders gathered in Mons, Belgium for the 10th European Summit of Cities and Regions on 18-19th March 2024 for two days full of deliberations on how subnational governments will shape the future of Europe in 2024 and beyond.

In the vibrant city of Mons, nestled in the heart of Wallonia, the strains of “Ode to Joy” played by the Royal Orchestra of Wallonia softly resonated through the halls of the Lotto Mons Expo Convention last Monday afternoon. As Vasco Alves Cordeiro, President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), inaugurated the 10th European Summit of Cities and Regions, more than 3,500 participants gradually gathered to witness the commencement of this significant event. Among the distinguished speakers were António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, and Alexander de Croo, Prime Minister of Belgium. Over the course of two days, local and regional leaders from across Europe came together to address the common challenges confronting our continent, offering insights and solutions rooted in their respective areas of expertise. Co-organized in collaboration with the Government of Wallonia and the city of Mons, the Summit infused local cultural elements, featuring performances of the traditional Doudou, savory Belgian cuisine, and a concert showcasing the talents of Belgian artists. At the forefront of it all were our CoR members, EU councillors, and Young Elected Politicians, ready to show their liberal and democrat vision of Europe in 2024 and beyond. Explore further by clicking on any of the subjects below to delve into our members’ ideas and visions for the future of Europe.

Building inclusive communities

As European cities grapple with the pressing need for effective integration policies, the challenge of empowering both incoming migrants and host communities to actively participate in shaping a more inclusive future looms large. Anne Rudisuhli, representing Bouches-du-Rhône, France, offered insights into the practical implementation of migrant welcoming initiatives in her region. Her expertise zeroed in on an often over-looked topic – aiding arriving minors, setting an example for other affected regions to follow.

“The unaccompanied minors have been forgotten in the EU migration and asylum pact. This is an urgent matter that needs to be picked up by the European Commission in the next term – we need financial support, we need clear rules and we need to finally abide by the Charter to really protect the rights of the children!”

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Fostering digital innovation ecosystems

In the current era, digital technologies are assuming an ever more prominent role in shaping our everyday experiences. While mastering the safe and responsible utilization of these technologies is undoubtedly crucial, the greater challenge lies in harnessing them to effectively address the economic and societal hurdles we face. This opportunity was addressed by Willy Borsus, Vice-President of the Wallonia Region, during the session dedicated to digital innovation ecosystems.

Discover how Willy Borsus is making the digital transition a reality in Wallonia 👇

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EU elections 2024

In June 2024, nearly 400 million European citizens will engage in the elections for the European Parliament. These elections will determine the MEPs entrusted with representing their interests over the forthcoming five-year period. As local and regional authorities are the politicians closest to the citizens, they bear the responsibility of spreading awareness about the election. François Decoster, Group President of Renew Europe COR, took center stage in the inaugural debate and delivered a stirring address, emphasizing the profound impact of the European Union on improving the lives of its citizens, and to unite against those who challenge the fundamental values upon which the Union was built.

Watch the whole debate: click here.

With the June elections rapidly approaching, citizens are increasingly anxious to determine which political group aligns most closely with their interests. MEP Jordi Canas represented the Renew Europe group in the second debate, engaging with representatives from other political parties to articulate a liberal and democratic vision of a future Europe.

Watch the whole debate: click here.

In a session aimed at enhancing communication strategies for the European elections, Young Elected Politician Martin Hoeck made a significant contribution, while Mayor of Taurage Dovydas Kaminskas delved into strategies for effectively engaging the youth and mobilizing first-time voters.

Finally, Group President Francois Decoster engaged in a Facebook Live session alongside European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova, directing attention towards the crucial issue of combatting disinformation during the upcoming elections.

Gender parity in politics

Despite progress made, only a third of political decision-makers are women across EU regions and cities. While gender-sensitive strategies represent an initial step towards fostering a more inclusive political landscape, further action is imperative. Donatella Porzi, our COR rapporteur on stopping gender-based violence, highlighted the imperative of enhancing work-life balance, aiming to free women from the perceived obligation of having to choose between family and career pursuits. Porzi emphasized the importance of instilling in the next generation of girls the belief that they are empowered to pursue both paths simultaneously.

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Quality public services

Effective public services play a pivotal role in enhancing the quality of life for citizens. Addressing the shortage of accessible housing, Andres Jaadla, our CoR rapporteur for smart, sustainable, and affordable housing, made the case to transform our existing European neighborhoods, as is the case in Estonia to ensure housing accessibility for all segments of society in the near future.

“Lack of affordable housing is a problem almost every city and region faces today, but so far we all failed to see it as a common problem. Yes, it is a competence of the member states, but all member states have this same issue! As CoR rapporteur on this topic, I therefore thank Minister Collignon and the Belgian Presidency for helping us bring this issue to the European level, and for helping to start an open discussion on a European solution to the housing crisis.”

Urmas Klaas, Mayor of Tartu, Estonia, also took the stage in this session to illuminate the profound impact of securing the prestigious title of European Capital of Culture 2024 on his city and its residents.

“European values are the cornerstone of our European Capital of Culture and they are especially important today. Culture gives us self-confidence and culture brings us together.”


Towards a Green Deal 2.0

Amidst unfolding developments, the dynamic landscape of the European Green Deal cannot be ignored. Vincent Chauvet, Mayor of Autun, has steadfastly pursued environmental objectives for years and advocated for a greater involvement of local and regional authorities in the fight against climate change. During this compelling session, he underscored the necessity of standing firm on existing EU policies, advocating for proactive communication rather than retreat. Joining the discourse, Nicola Caputo, Regional Minister for Agriculture in Campania, Italy, highlighted the imperative of safeguarding the EU Green Deal and evolving it amidst recent farmer protests, in order to preserve sustainable farming for our citizens.

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Preparing regions and cities against crises

In the face of mounting crises, François Decoster, Mayor of Saint-Omer, shed light on his city’s efforts to combat recent floods. He noted the need of integrating disaster resilience into EU policies, thereby ensuring that we as a Union are prepared to tackle crises of the future.

“Climate change prepares us for the unforeseeable. In this uncertainty, we need to invent new tools that need to be particularly agile.”

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The European Summit of Cities and Regions takes place every 2 years and brings together elected representatives from regional and local authorities to discuss the main challenges confronting the European Union. This 10th edition organized by the European Committee of the Regions together with the Walloon Region and the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union in Mons, Belgium brought together more than 3500 participants, from 59 countries, and all 5 continents as well as over 4000 live views worldwide. It featured several plenary sessions with high-level speakers, culminated in the adoption of the Mons Declaration with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo – a testament to the collective vision of regions and cities for the future of Europe, and ended by honoring the recipient of the 2023 Mayor Pawel Adamowicz Award, presented by European Commissioner Vera Jourova.

To find out more about the Mons Summit and watch all the recorded sessions, click here.

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