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

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Governance and citizenship

EU policy-making - 21.03.2018

The time has come to make the role of cities official
Cities and, more broadly, local government associations attract more and more attention from EU lawmakers and the international community. The concern is: there is no legal basis as yet to allow cities and their representative associations to be formally and systematically involved in EU decision-making.

This is what MEP Michal Ujazdowski and counterparts from different political groups want to put on the table with a report on the “Role of cities in the institutional framework of the Union”. It will be put to the vote in the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee before summer. Once adopted, the draft report will make its way to Strasbourg for adoption in plenary.

While discussions are moving forward at the Parliament, here is why we believe local government associations, such as the Council of European Municipalities and Regions, should be fully recognised as contributors to European Governance, providing advice and technical expertise at the earliest stages of policy making.

If you think about it, local government associations have three solid arguments in favour of having a formal role in the institutional framework of the Union: proximity, pre-legislative input and expertise.

By their very nature, mayors and local councillors are in a unique position to understand citizens’ needs and make EU legislation rooted in reality. But on their own, mayors or councillors are limited in their efforts to provide Europe-wide expertise and presence, crucial to effective policy-making. Only local government associations, with strong connections to the issues on the ground, can do this.

They are the best placed to provide valuable and targeted input throughout the legislative process, but also in the pre-legislative stage when policy options are still being defined. This technical insight and advice is based on the knowledge of thousands of local leaders, practitioners and experts who are confronted with the reality on the ground.

This stance is shared by a great number of MEPs, including Jan Olbrycht, Chair of the Urban Intergroup of the European Parliament, who, in his draft opinion report on the same issue, calls for “local government associations’ closer involvement in relevant Commission expert groups and Council working groups”.

A longstanding pledge

Back in 2001, the Commission, in its White Paper on Governance, expressed the need for more systematic dialogue with representatives of local and regional government through their national and European associations at an early stage in policy making.

15 years later, some of the White Paper’s hopes became a reality with the arrival of the EU Urban Agenda, which led to the creation of 12 partnerships.

This model of governance in partnership is the way to go. It allows member states, the Commission, the Parliament, and local governments, on an equal basis, to review existing legislation and shape future policies.

But the story doesn’t end there. It is now up to the Commission and the Council to demonstrate how the concrete proposals that emerge from the EU Urban Agenda Partnerships can be taken on board in future legislative proposals.

In a Europe facing much division, member states and the European institutions must deepen their roots in local communities. And who else than local government and their associations to constitute the necessary link to Europeans. The Parliament will hopefully recognise that this way of policy-making could be a game-changer. Let’s hope that the Commission and the Council will follow suit.
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