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

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Governance and citizenship

Europe Day - 09.05.2017

Christiane Overmans: “We need to take Europe beyond the town halls and into the streets of our cities”
The debate launched by the European Commission on the future of Europe is a critical initiative to reconnect European institutions and citizens. But this debate must be conducted with towns and regions: they can play a fundamental role in demonstrating to citizens the day-to-day benefits of European cooperation. 

To mark Europe Day, we are presenting the views* of Christiane Overmans, Bonn city councillor and vice-president of CEMR, to know what expectations a local leader has for Europe by 2030.

Our debate in the next 15 years should be headlined: How can we [Europeans] master our challenges and which role should local and regional governments have to this end?” she told CEMR.

Europe cannot work through the only prism of nation states any longer, but rather on the basis of a strong relationship between the EU, its territories and its citizens. How can towns and regions be involved in Europe’s future? 

Local and regional politicians should take the lead to form a new European political culture. This process should involve direct discussions, taking Europe beyond the town halls into the streets of our cities. This is an immediate necessity!

On top of it all, by 2030 the EU should guarantee that the principle of subsidiarity (similar to the Lisbon Treaty) for local self-government is implemented and financed with local governments’ own tax resources, in all European countries. Furthermore, the EU should ensure the possibility for local cooperation throughout Europe, regardless of national views and directives.

A number of key issues faced by Europe’s towns and regions - unemployment or demographic change - depend on economic and social policies. To reinforce the EU’s social dimension, how could we reconnect the citizens with the European project? 

Many of the current problems could have been foreseen, or are the outcome of an excessively economic view the European integration. Over the next 15 years, we should learn to see change as a chance without neglecting our traditions and diversity. 

In this regard, it is crucial to acknowledge local and regional governments as a constituent element of the European Union, thereby respecting local self-government as mentioned in the European treaties. 

By 2030, the EU should have built a more inclusive and fairer Union and common sustainability standards. It should also have set a common migration policy and equal educational offers for all. 

Global challenges – security, migration or climate change – require a more integrated Union to act more efficiently.  How do you see the role of the European Union on the global stage? 

Among the strengths of Europe is its credibility in action and teaming up with other parts of the world – through climate, biodiversity or peaceful ways out of conflicts and crises.

We have learned to integrate stronger and weaker members within our European team. This experience should now help us become a power of global integration. No single goal can be addressed by just one city, by one nation, by one actor alone. Whenever we can find a good solution, we should go for it without national vanities.

By 2030, Europe will have developed its traditional capacities further, to be an innovative and resilient recognised partner in the world and to find creative, original European, joint solutions - beyond political and religious ideologies. Moreover, I expect local self-government and cooperation beyond national borders to be strengthened.

What would be your message to Europeans for the next period? 

Europe has a future if we succeed in modernizing the way we act and think, no country in Europe will have a prosperous and peaceful future when politicians stick to methods and solutions of the 19th century. Europe is a family – we all have to compromise – and whatever we decide to do will be relevant for everybody else. 
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