CALRE 2015 Plenary Assembly
(Milan, 23 October 2015)

“Reinforcing Regionalism and Regionalisation in Europe”

Intervention by Clemens Lammerskitten,
Vice-President of the Congress

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure for me to be here today and speak about the co-operation between CALRE and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities I represent, and the essential link that connects the two organisations: our common objective to reinforce regionalism and regionalisation in Europe, in order to best serve the needs and interests of our citizens.

Let me begin with assuring you that advocating the importance of regionalisation remains one of the main objectives of the Congress, in particular its Chamber of Regions, to which I am also a member. I believe there is no need to go too much into details of the “why” and “how” of creating powerful regions in Europe when addressing the members of CALRE, given the specific mandate of the network.

Our experience at the Congress is that regional autonomy, where it exists, is a strong means of empowering citizens in decisions which are of direct concern for them. Indeed, in quite a number of European Union countries, regions have major – if not exclusive – responsibilities in fields as important as education, health, employment, economic development, environment, infrastructures and cross-border cooperation. They also are responsible for managing national and European funds which express the solidarity between more or less developed territories. In addition, devolution of powers to regions can be an efficient response to separatist tensions which exist throughout our continent, and thus contribute to Europe’s political stability. Therefore, the promotion of devolution, and in particular of regional self-government, is and will remain a major priority for the Congress, and its Chamber of Regions.

The Congress has been preparing two very important reports: Mrs. Mialot Muller from France presented the report on “Trends in regionalisation in Council of Europe member states” this week, during the 29th Session of the Chamber of Regions. This report analyses challenges and common developments in the field of regional self-government. And the report of Mr Lambertz from Belgium on the topic: "Autonomy and borders in an evolving Europe" is currently under preparation. This report deals, among other questions, with procedures and ways of organising rational, fair and transparent interaction between the different levels of government, and the possible circumstances at which there might be a need of changing borders. I am convinced that these reports will be of particular interest to the CALRE members too. We will report back to you at your next meeting about the outcome of these drafts.

We shall not forget that along with European institutional organisations of local and regional authorities, such as the Congress of the Council of Europe and the Committee of the Regions of the European Union, regional associations have an important role in promoting a greater influence of regions in national and European decision-making, and their effective positioning in the multi-level governance system. However, in order to profitably pursue our common objectives and to avoid duplication, co-operation and synergies should be further enhanced between all these institutions and associations. In this connection, the Congress’ Chamber of Regions could serve as a ‘clearing house’ for sharing information and ensuring complementarity of work.

Taking the concrete example of CALRE, the first way to build up this complementarity and synergy could be to foster participation of CALRE representatives, not only in the Congress, but also in the intergovernmental work of the Council of Europe, such as the European Committee on Democracy and Governance (CDDG). This will allow us, in our respective capacities, to push forward our common agenda of promoting regionalism throughout Europe.

The second way is to add an expert dimension to the political work: in the Congress, we have the Group of Independent Experts which is specifically dealing with the European Charter of Local Self-Government, while in the CALRE and other European associations, there is a lot of expertise in many fields of interest for the regions. There is probably scope for improvement in sharing and developing our respective knowledge and networks.

The third way would be to strengthen our cooperation in the field. On its side, the Congress has been developing co-operation programmes linked with its monitoring and post-monitoring activities since 2012 in several member States of the Council of Europe, in the framework of Council of Europe Action Plans or regional initiatives, such as the EU Eastern Partnership. The peer-to-peer approach followed by these activities offers major opportunities for co-operation with European associations and in particular with CALRE and its member regions.

I am convinced that the options I just sketched for you can help extending co-operation between CALRE and the Congress. The Co-operation Agreement our organisations signed in 2010 can certainly provide a basis for common work, but there is still much to be done. Many members of CALRE regions work in the Congress, which gives them the advantage of getting directly involved in the Congress’ activities. In many cases, Congress reports concern areas of interest for the regions with legislative powers, such as the fight against corruption, gender equality and the criteria for standing for elections. Congress members representing regional parliaments could – and should – contribute to the preparation and implementation of such reports.

After all, CALRE and the Congress share the same values and objectives of promoting and strengthening sub-national democracy through powerful regions. And this potential should be exploited to the maximum.

Thank you for your attention!