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

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CEMR Congress - 20.04.2016

Kick start of CEMR’s Congress in Nicosia
At a time when solutions are being sought for a multitude of crises across Europe – refugee crisis, youth unemployment, public deficit, social exclusion - the 26th Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) Congress got underway on Wednesday 20 April, with speakers affirming the need for a unified vision for the future.

In his welcoming speech at the opening ceremony, CEMR President, Iñigo de la Serna, addressed the 500 participants by stressing that “after several years of crisis which have challenged the European project, Europe is in great need of a renewed ambition and political courage”.

"Having been on the frontline of the fight against the crisis, and as drivers of Europe’s social and economic development, local and regional governments and their elected representatives are the natural leaders of this reflexion work," said CEMR President.

Echoing the words of de la Serna, the Mayor of Nicosia, Constantinos Yiorkadjis said that “during these trying times, Europe needs the political courage to reflect on the past, be inspired by its successes and correct its mistakes”. With an eye on the future, Yiorkadjis added that the “economic sustainability of cities rests on generating creativity which in turn rests on the city’s ability to create an environment and a culture that allows unafraid individuals to be themselves, despite differences in sex, age, skin colour, religion, political beliefs, economic and social status, and sexual orientation”.

The opening ceremony featured video interventions from the President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, who stressed that European institutions have to dialogue with all levels of governance since “our legitimacy depends on that”.

The Presidet of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), Markku Markkula, declared: "We have talked loosely about decentralisation today and for us, that it the key to drive this change – a new model of governance. Local and regional leaders need to be able to sit around the decision-making table and help shape EU – and national – policies where they are affected.​"

The President of Emilia-Romagna and President of CEMR's Italian association (AICCRE), Stefano Bonacini,  focused his speech on the refugee crisis and the need for more solidarity at the European level. Furthermore, he also called for the creation of partnerships with refugees' home countries. 

The President of the Cyprus Union of Municipalities and Mayor of Famagusta, Alexis Galanos, spoke of the vision of a Europe that can boast, inter alia, human, clean, and environmentally friendly cities, free of all forms of discrimination. He also spoke of a vision of Cyprus as “a united country…a model of peaceful coexistence and cooperation between different ethnic and religious communities. I really hope that the time has come to build a Cyprus that will be the land of prosperity and development for all Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, where each citizen enjoys human rights, security and stability, the same as all European citizens.”

The opening plenary also featured a keynote speech from one of the most influential photographers and environmentalists Yann Arthus-Bertrand, a French film director and Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment programme.

The three-day congress, hosted by the Municipality of Nicosia, is the largest event of its kind to take place in Cyprus since the country’s Presidency of the European Council in 2012.

Intended primarily as a meeting place for hundreds of mayors, councillors, presidents of regions in Europe and beyond, this edition of the CEMR congress has taken on added importance due to the breadth of participation -over 500 delegates from around the world and across a variety of sectors- and the whole host of issues facing Europe, including the refugee crisis, migration, climate change, radicalisation, the tightening of local finances or territorial reforms. 

In addition to the opening and the closing plenaries, 30 sessions will take place in a variety of formats, structured along the 7 major themes of the Congress: Governance & Leadership; Economy & Finance; Business, Technology & Innovation; Society & Culture; Environment, Climate & Energy; Cooperation & Partnerships; and EU Integration.
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