Regions are the answer to Europe’s democratic shortfall

#CriticalThinking

Picture of Markku Markkula
Markku Markkula

President of the European Committee of the Regions

The EU needs to answer its democratic deficit by truly bringing a sense of the worth to the everyday lives of its citizens.

The general atmosphere at the moment is for reduced regulation and streamlined governance. I fully support this, but just as there are questions that should be addressed at a local or national level, there are issues that can only be solved at a European level. My notion is to make legislation better, not to simply look at how much regulation we have. New legislation should only be introduced when it has a positive impact on new jobs and the quality of life. Existing regulation should be dismantled according to the same principle. Where the Committee of the Regions can help is with constant assessment, exchange of best practices and monitoring.

We need to emphasise sustainability in all walks of life

Europe will never be a single-format area from the Arctic to the Mediterranean. By allowing our territories to have an influence in Brussels, we can effectively narrow the gap between EU and its citizens. One of the topics very close to my heart is encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit in Europe’s regions and cities and fostering innovative regional ecosystems to build much-needed growth. Terms like smart specialisation and ecosystems can be very abstract, but ultimately it is about identifying the strengths and special features within each area and building new business opportunities. Support for these emerging projects is vital and represents a unique opportunity for regions lagging behind. On top of better regulation, we also need better use of funds and more clarity and synergy between funding programmes. No good project should go unfunded because European bureaucracy has become too complicated.

Europe needs to become more self-sufficient for industry as well as citizens. We need to emphasise sustainability in all walks of life and reduce our dependency on foreign energy and raw materials. Creating a real European energy network and emphasising resource efficiency through the circular economy and waste reduction are just a few ways to achieve these. New business opportunities should be found in this area, too, for the world’s cleanest production to remain in Europe.

These best practises from different sides can then be shared all over Europe through the Committee of the Regions and its members, which are important agents in the EU’s legislative process. It is through our work that 70% of Brussels legislation receives its peer review by local, regional and city voices and vice versa. This is how EU information is spread locally.

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