National, regional and local liberals gathered at the 8th European Summit of Regions and Cities in Bucharest, Romania to discuss the future of the EU. Our members and young elected liberal politicians set out their views for renewing Europe and how they, through their local and regional authorities, can involve the citizens more effectively. Through several sessions our members contributed to the debates which lead to the Bucharest Declaration, which sets out how local representatives want to shape the future of Europe. 

Our President Bart Somers highlighted how vital it is to raise awareness among EU citizens, and especially young people; about the European dimension of their identity and citizenship in particular through education, culture and youth policies, in order to increase their feeling of belonging to the European project. This is crucial for Somers:

If citizens do not feel part of the European construction then European democracy has no future. Politicians at all levels of government have a responsibility to make this happen. That is why for several years from the ALDE group we have been calling on mayors all over Europe to organise festivities to celebrate Europe Day on the 9th of May. It can be very simple celebrations and to give ideas we have launched a website “Celebrate Europe Day“. I encourage everyone to visit the website and especially to organise events to celebrate Europe Day in their municipality or region.

Somers sees an attack on democracy happening in Europe and around the world, and a role for Mayors to counter this:

There is much that mayors can do to protect the pillars of local democracy from authoritarian leaders. At a summit of liberal mayors last November we proposed a number of measures that mayors can take. Two of them are related to citizen participation:

  • 1. Build trust in the city government by increasing public accountability and having zero-tolerance on corruption.

2. Promote and facilitate civic education, to turn misinformed voters into educated ones.

With these measures we can involve citizens more and strengthen democracy in general and European democracy in particular.

Women at the local level making a difference 

Jasna Gabric, who was recently awarded the Mayor of Distinction title, laid out what young local and regional leaders expect from the EU, while Doreen Huddart shared her views in the “Women in Politics” and taking space in the political arena Facebook live session on how to achieve gender equality. 

Marcelle Hendrickx intervened in the debate on integration, saying that “In terms of social integration, Europe is not just a money lender for acquiring funding. Equally as important is the exchange of knowledge and innovative ideas that cities and regions develop and implement”, while Kate Feeney spoke on how greater political leadership is required in the fight for Climate Action and how EU cities and regions can build a sustainable future. Jennifer Cuffe, one of our Young Elected Representatives of Ireland, engaged in the Facebook live session on Young Elected Leaders on youth participation in elections, talking about her involvement in Irish politics and campaigning at the local level, for example on the issue of abortion, while also discussing Brexit.

Active Subsidiarity 

In Bucharest François Decoster urged for applying the principle of “Active Subsidiarity”.

Active subsidiarity means that the voice of local and regional authorities needs to be heard throughout the legislative process, in particular as the Council and Parliament continue to work on the text long after the CoR opinion has been adopted. The work of the CoR does therefore not end with the adoption of an opinion.

The importance of active subsidiarity is crucial to allow decisions to reflect European added value.

Brexit consultation with Young Elected Politicians

As chair of the Interregional Group on Brexit within the European Committee of the Regions, François Decoster gave an update on the possible consequences of Brexit from his experience as representative of one of the most affected regions, the Hauts-de-France region.

It was an exchange that showed that the issue of Brexit is perceived in a very different way in regions across Europe but that it is at the same time the source of serious worry for the future of Europe as well as a motivation to make the EU’s action more readable and efficient in the eyes of citizens.

Press Coverage

For an overview of our interviewed members, see below the pictures. 

Belgium – Bart Somers on VRT News.

France – François Decoster on Radio Chrétienne France 

France – François Decoster in Gazette du Nord

Estonia – Andres Jaadla in Virumaa Teataja on 14 March and 16 March

Croatia – Valter Flego in Regional Express

Slovakia – David Kapusta in Euractiv Slovakia video

Latvian delegation in lps.lv

Our members delegation consisted of our President Bart Somers, our Vice-Presidents François Decoster and Jasna Gabric, and our members Mart Võrklaev, Michiel Rijsberman, Jerry Lundy, Kate Feeney, Marcelle Hendrickx, Andres Jaadla, Urmas Sukles, Jean-Luc Vanraes, Vytautas Vigelis, Satu Tietari, Frank Cecconi, Marius Ursaciuc, Jean-François Barnier, Maria Elorza, Andris Jaunsleinis, Dainis Turlais, Leonids Salcevics, Gints Kaminskis, Sergejs Maksimovs, Hardijs Vents and Alexander Lielmezs.

The summit was co-organised by the European Committee of the Regions, the Romanian presidency of the Council of the European Union, and the Romanian delegation at the CoR.