In a special report with several interviews we look how, for local and regional stakeholders, the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) is a chance to address the most prominent issues in Europe’s regions and cities and translate these into proposals for the future of the EU.
During our multiplex-event, local citizen’s panels indicated an appetite for ambitious EU reforms in the process of CoFoE, and how many policies could benefit from a bottom-up approach. In the city of Autun with Mayor Vincent Chauvet for instance, Citizens called for harmonisation at the EU level of rules for accessibility, in particular in transport and establishments open to the public, as well as in public administrations. Another key issue raised was direct EU funding. “We strongly believe that European funding should be as close to citizens as possible” argues Michiel Rijsberman, our Coordinator in the CoR’s Territorial Cohesion (COTER) and Regional Minister of Flevoland, since regions and cities have long demanded to have more direct access to bloc euros, so far with limited success.
The EU is also more than just a bank account, says our President and Mayor of Saint-Omer, François Decoster. Elected local officials are crucial in bringing the EU closer to the citizens and showing them it is not just about receiving funds. Convinced that it is essential to talk about Europe at the local level, Decoster set up ‘correspondents’ to bring European news to the public.
In Bratislava, Mayor Matús Vallo, sees cities and regions stepping up for democracy: “For democracy to function, it is very important that people trust their local representatives. They should see trustworthy politics and transparent institutions in places where they live. Where national governments fail, it is the cities and regions, who stand by people and democracy” he said in his interview.
In Germany, Dietmar Brockes insists that North Rhine-Westphalia remains the model region for industrial transformation, as it goes through digital and green transitions, and still aims to master these structural transformations to stay competitive.
CoFoE has the potential to make the voices of European citizens from across different communities and regions heard. This special report looks at what they expect from the EU for their future development. It was carried out in collaboration with Euractiv.