Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)
European section of United Cities and Local Governments


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Congress of European Municipalities and Regions

CEMR statutory affairs - 18.05.2003

CEMR General assembly (14-16 May) adopts Poznan Declaration, discusses future of Cohesion policy, migration and twinning
The Council of European Municipalities and Regions has held its three-yearly General Assembly in Poznan (Poland) on 14-16 May 2003.
The General assembly gathered some 700 local and regional representatives from all over Europe and was formally opened by the host, the Mayor of Poznan, Ryszard Grobelny.
It culminated with the unanimous adoption of the Poznan Declaration in which CEMR calls for a greater recognition by the EU of the role of local and regional authorities.
 
The first article of the Declaration is entitled A politically strong Europe. It states that 'the current international situation and the divisions that have opened up between Europeans obliges us once again to take the path towards unity.
 
The European Constitution in this respect provides a unique opportunity to achieve the construction of a politically strong, united Europe, respectful of its diversities and active on the international scene". CEMR therefore invites the heads of states and governments to adopt an approach aimed at providing the Union with strong political institutions, adding that the 'European Constitution must above all take up the democratic challenge" through the respect of the principles of local self-government as set out in the European Charter of Local self-Government. It also expresses the hope that the role of local and regional governments will be explicitly recognised in the future Constitution.
 
In the Poznan Declaration, CEMR reiterates its support of the new enlargement, recalling that local and regional governments will have an essential role to play in making it a success; it states that the Union's priority should be to reduce inequalities between the regions and reiterates its opposition to a re-nationalisation of cohesion policies.
CEMR delegates also adopted a similar call to be sent to the Convention on the future of Europe.
Prior to the opening of the General Assembly, CEMR Policy committee met to take several decisions. It accepted the candidature of the Macedonian association of local authorities as CEMR newest member and granted the association of local authorities from Serbia the status of associate member.
The Policy Committee also chose Innsbruck as the venue of CEMR next General Assembly in 2006. The Mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, was chosen as one of CEMR's three executive vice presidents.
 
Cohesion policy workshop : Imagining the future
 
On the second day, Thursday 15 May, two workshops took place.
The first, chaired by French Senator and CEMR vice President Louis Le Pensec, focused on Cohesion policy and the role of regional and local authorities as engines of development. Over two hundred delegates took part in it.
The representative of the EC Commission, Gabriella Hernandez Martin pleaded for direct interventions of local authorities in some programmes : 'We could envisage some programmes being conducted by regions and cities. Besides, if regional structures differ widely from one Member state to another, local structures are usually relatively similar in all Member states. We could reinforce the role of local authorities in Objectives 1 and 2 of the Structural Funds". She added that in future, the Cohesion policy should give the priority to the environment, the development of infrastructure in candidate countries and the development of the capacity of public authorities to manage Structural Funds.
 
Member of Silesia regional parliament, Jan Olbrycht, answered several speakers from current Member states who had expressed their fears of the impact of the enlargement on existing Objective 1 regions : 'The key is for existing and future Objective 1 regions to meet, to talk together, frankly, openly, in order to present one common front. Rivalry between regions or between cities and towns would only reinforce the national level. The cohesion policy is not about money; it is about improving European citizen's quality of life".
There was an overall consensus on opposition to re-nationalisation of Cohesion policy and on urban policies to be mainstreamed within regional policy.
 
Workshops on migration, sustainable development and education
 
Delegates at the migration and asylum workshop expressed the need for common strategies to be drawn at European level. They recalled that often local and regional governments have to implement decisions on migration and integration and thus need the necessary resources to tackle the issue.
The workshop on sustainable development saw several speakers calling for a united approach ('Think together, act together") involving all spheres of government and all actors.
The workshop on education called for harmonization of aspects education in Europe (diplomas, benchmark) and better co-operation between the different levels of governments, schools and other educational establishments.
 
Twinning, the roots of European cooperation
 
The workshops were followed by a session on twinning chaired by Mayor of Karlstad (Sweden) Andres Knape. The main theme was to show how twinning can help applicant countries for EU membership while bringing together citizens of all over Europe. Several concrete examples of twinning were presented to the delegates such as the partnership between Lublin (Poland), Brest (Belarus) and Lutsk (Ukraine) and the twinning of Hydra (Greece) and Eregly (Turkey).
 
The Golden Stars awards ceremony followed, organized by the DG Culture and Education of the EC Commission. the Golden Stars aim at encouraging twinning by rewarding the best realizations in that field.
 
The Poznan General assembly concluded with a debate between young Europeans from different countries and local and regional leaders. The students expressed their concerns ranging from employment to criminality and the shape of the European Union in ten years time.
 
The next CEMR General assembly will be held in Innsbruck in 2006.
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