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Tourism in Montenegro will change because of the pandemic, Montenegrin local leaders say

​The pandemic's impact on tourism highlighted in meeting that also brings to the fore concerns about a loss of EU expertise and continued rule-of-law failings.Montenegro must overcome a period of political tension and administrative disruption and "do its homework" on issues related to the rule of law if it is to maintain the pace of its bid to join the European Union, local and regional leaders from Montenegro were told at a meeting and the European Committee of the Regions on 10 June.The meeting of the Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) of the European Committee of the Regions and Montenegro, which was created to support local authorities in Montenegro in their preparations for membership of the European Union, was held against a backdrop of significant political change and economic problems linked to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Montenegro's tourism-based economy.Aleksandar Kašćelan, Co-Chair of the JCC Montenegro and mayor of Cetinje, said that the "most recent enlargement package showed that the EU's door is still open to Western Balkans countries", but – he continued – "the question remains how much of a priority the Western Balkans still is". He urged the EU "to directly support local and regional authorities in Montenegro, with thematic programmes focused on the needs of our communities".Vanja Starovlah of the Union of Municipalities of Montenegro said that "it is clear that local self-governments are in the shadow of other stakeholders" in the EU accession process, and urged the EU to support them "through special instruments" and to make "decentralisation [a] permanent dimension of EU support to the Western Balkans".Bojan Vujovićć, Montenegro's Deputy Chief Negotiator with the EU, underlined the country's commitment to EU membership, while Barbara Jesús-Gimeno of the European Commission noted that the "unprecedented change of the ruling majority" had been followed by a period of "political tension" that had led to boycotts of the Parliament. "It is now essential that all political forces, both at national and local levels, find a way to put differences aside and look for solutions to take Montenegro forward on its EU path," she said. She also stated that Montenegro's collaboration with the EU is currently being hampered by the loss of "a lot of EU expertise…through resignations and dismissals". Looking ahead, Ms Jesús-Gimeno said that the EU was "ready to expand" its cooperation with local authorities. Overall, Montenegro now needed to produce "concrete results in line with goal of EU membership", emphasising that progress on rule-of-law issues – such as media freedom, judicial reform, and the fight against corruption and organised crime – would "determine the pace" of Montenegro's accession. "The best way to convince EU member states" to advance membership talks is for countries in the Western Balkans "to do their homework".In a debate focused on coronavirus pandemic and its impact, Roberto Ciambetti (IT/ECR), President of the Veneto Regional Council and Co-Chair of the JCC Montenegro, said that the pandemic crisis had shown that economies heavily dependent on tourism – such as his region and Montenegro – would need to be "more creative". The pandemic had delayed plans to launch city partnerships and region-to-region collaboration between Montenegro and EU; the first practical steps are expected to be taken this year. Veneto remains interested in sharing its experience, he said, a point emphasised in a presentation made by the Veneto region's director of tourism, Mauro Giovanni Viti. Peer-to-peer cooperation between the local and regional authorities from the EU and those from Montenegro remains one of the most promising paths. Montenegrin local politicians underscored the dramatic impact of the pandemic on the economy as a whole and, in particular, on the mainstay of the economy, tourism. Mr Kašćelan said that tourism slumped by 55% in 2020, and said that tourism is not expected to return to 2019's record levels until 2026 at the earliest. Montenegrin delegates – including the deputy mayor of Podgorica, Slađana Vujačić, Petar Smolović, Mayor of Bijelo Polje, and Ranko Mišnić, Mayor of Mojkovac – said that they believe that Montenegro's tourism industry will need to change. They outlined a vision of a tourism sector that would draw on the country's full potential and seek to extend the tourism season. Such changes would expand tourism from the beaches to mountain regions and national parks, and develop rural tourism to complement the urban attractions of the country. Mr Smolović noted that even in June one of Montenegrin's peaks – Bobotov Kuk – has snow on it, underlining the potential for year-round tourism.Ms Jesús-Gimeno described Montenegro as the Western Balkan country worst affected by the pandemic. She said that, to support Montenegro in its response, the EU – "Montenegro's biggest donor, investor and trading partner" – had provided €53 million under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance, as well as €60m in macro-financial assistance. Montenegro has also received support from the EU Solidarity Fund and the European Emergency Crisis Response Mechanism.In October 2020, the European Commission unveiled an Economic Investment Plan for the Western Balkans that it hopes will lead to €9 billion in investment. The Economic Investment Plan forms part of a €14.2 bn package of funding for the region that the EU's member states and European Parliament approved on 2 June. ​​Adblock test (Why?)

Renovation Wave: cities and regions at the forefront of renovating the building stock

​​The upgrade of the energy performance of buildings is crucial to achieve the climate objectives of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 ​ The path towards a decarbonised and clean energy system in Europe starts at the local and regional level. Buildings are one of the largest sources of energy consumption, and local and regional authorities play a key role in driving energy efficiency in this sector. For this reason, this first 2021 YEPs info session on the European Green Deal focused on the Renovation Wave, the new strategy of the EU to renovate the entire building stock and make it compatible with the climate goals. The session was organized in three main debates: - the first one on the objectives of the Renovation Wave and the CoR's work on the European Green Deal, - the second one presented the Covenant of Mayors initiative and its support to local and regional authorities, - and the third one focused on the financial tools at disposal to implement the renovation of buildings at local level. Rafał Trzaskowski (PL/EPP), President of the capital city of Warsaw, Climate Pact Ambassador, member of the Political Board of the Covenant of Mayors and rapporteur of the CoR opinion on the European Climate Pact shared Warsaw's experience in implementing the Renovation Wave. "Local and regional authorities play an essential role in making the green transition happen. It is us who implement 90% of climate adaptation measures and 70% of climate mitigation policies, so if the renovation wave does not happen at local and regional level, it will not happen at all. It is us who also have the highest level of people's trust. Therefore, we should lead by example in the renovation of public buildings like local administration buildings, hospitals, social housing and schools. But to be able to do so we need more tools and resources and a greater decentralization of the decision making processes" , said Mr Trzaskowski. Frédéric Boyer , Head of the European Office of the Covenant of Mayors, presented the Covenant of Mayors' initiative and stressed the need to consider local and regional authorities when drafting energy and climate EU legislation to ensure the success of its implementation. He encouraged the YEPs to join the Covenant and to be the drivers of the green transition in their cities and regions by starting to renovate public buildings. Marcin Idczak , from the European Investment Bank, Céline Tougeron, project coordinator at the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) and Francisco Gonçalves, coordinator of the European City Facility Initiative of Energy Cities, presented different programs and mechanisms to finance projects to upgrade and renovate buildings. Examples included the European Local Energy Assistance (ELENA), the Joint Assistance to Support Projects in European Regions (JASPERS) or the LIFE Clean Energy Transition sub-programme. Contact:David Crous / [email protected] Lopez Domenech / [email protected] ​​​ Adblock test (Why?)

Children’s rights in the EU are best promoted at local level

​​Jari Andersson, member of Sastamala City Council (FI/EPP) has drafted an opinion for the European Committee of the Regions on the EU strategy on the rights of the child and the European Child Guarantee. Mr Andersson's opinion was adopted on Wednesday at the meeting of the Commission for Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture (SEDEC) of the CoR. Last week, the Council of the EU adopted a recommendation on a European Child Guarantee to safeguard the right of all people under the age of 18 to early childhood education, education, healthcare, adequate nutrition and decent housing. The European Committee of the Regions, representing cities and regions in EU decision-making, stresses that local and regional authorities play an important role in providing basic services and combatting poverty and therefore the Commission and the Member States must ensure that all levels of government are involved in implementing the Child Guarantee. "Every child must have the right to an adequate standard of living and equal opportunities from an early age. Strengthening the socio-economic inclusion of children is essential to reduce poverty and disadvantage between generations. Regions, cities and municipalities have an important part to play in tackling child poverty and abuse and a crucial role in preventing exclusion," rapporteur Jari Andersson said. The opinion calls for specific measures to ensure access to quality education, including for children from more disadvantaged families. The European Commission and the Member States are urged to step up cooperation with local and regional authorities and to ensure that initiatives supporting the objectives of the EU strategy on the rights of the child and the European Child Guarantee are properly funded, particularly through the European Social Fund. In his opinion, the rapporteur Mr Andersson also stresses the need to ensure that children are able to participate in decisions affecting their lives and to be heard in a way that is appropriate to their age and maturity. The specific rights of children should also be safeguarded in the legal system and detention during migration procedures should only be used as a last resort in exceptional cases. The opinion is to be submitted for adoption at the CoR plenary session in October 2021. The SEDEC commission meeting also discussed the European Youth Capital initiative, the role of education and culture in strengthening European values and citizenship, and the European Platform on Combatting Homelessness launched by the European Commission in Lisbon on Monday 21 June. SEDEC Commission chair and member of Kerava City Council Anne Karjalainen (FI/PES) attended the launch event and signed the Declaration on Combatting Homelessness on behalf of the CoR. Mikko Aaltonen (FI/PES), Member of Tampere City Council, was appointed rapporteur for an upcoming CoR opinion on this topic.Contact:Lauri Ouvinen Tel. +32 [email protected] Adblock test (Why?)

Migrant integration at the subnational level

​​​A joint survey of the European Committee of the Regions and the OECD ​The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and the OECD have joined forces to collect and analyse views and experiences concerning migrant integration at the subnational level through a survey aimed at local and regional authorities involved in the design and implementation of integration policies within their remits, for example concerning education, health, cultural links, employment, housing, commerce. The purpose of this survey is to gather views and experiences of local and regional authorities involved in integration tasks in various fields of their competences so as to inform the advisory work of the European Committee of the Regions and its members in the area of migrant integration and inclusiveness and facilitate evidence-based policies. Let us know the views and experiences of your region, city or municipality concerning migrant integration.  Fill in the survey​ _______________ Contact: Contact Person: CIVEX Secretariat Organizer: European Committee of the Regions, CIVEX Commission Email: [email protected] ​Adblock test (Why?)

Cohesion policy: cities and regions warn against delays and trends towards centralisation as a result of the pandemic

​Local and regional authorities from several countries feel under-represented in preparatory processesThe full respect of the "partnership principle" and its implementation under the new instruments financed by Next Generation EU, such as the Just Transition Fund and the Recovery and Resilience Facility, are among the main requests included in the opinion adopted today by the members of the European Committee of the Region’s (CoR) Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget (COTER). Members were also briefed on the progress of the European Year of Rail and exchanged views on an opinion about the gender dimension of structural and cohesion funds 2021-2027.Partnership agreements and operational programmes are cornerstones of cohesion policy, laying out the Member States' strategies on how to use cohesion policy funding to strengthen economic, social and territorial cohesion by reducing disparities between regions. In order to ensure that cohesion policy successfully meets citizens' needs on the ground, the full involvement of local and regional authorities, socio-economic partners and civil society at all stages of the preparation and implementation of these key documents is of paramount importance.A recent study commissioned by the CoR shows, however, that there is still much room for improvement when it comes to the involvement of partners. The study found that the potential of partnerships is still under-exploited in a number of countries with some local and regional authorities still lacking direct involvement in all stages of the programming periods.The findings of the study fed into a draft opinion adopted during the COTER commission meeting. The vote took place on the eve of the final adoption of the cohesion policy legislative package in the European Parliament, which incorporated some recommendations given by the CoR. The rapporteur Juraj Droba (SK/ECR), President of the Bratislava Region, said: “The preparation of the new programming period is at a crucial stage and partnership agreements and operational programs are currently being developed in individual countries. If their ambition is to contribute greatly to solving the key challenges of the territory, the effective involvement of local and regional authorities in their preparation is a necessary prerequisite. The opinion aims to emphasise the importance of the principles of partnership and multilevel governance in the programming process and to send a clear political signal that the voices of regions and cities should be heard as full partners in it."Members of the COTER commission regret that the outbreak of the pandemic has delayed the drafting of partnership agreements and operational programmes, and call for an immediate acceleration of the preparatory work. Moreover, they warn against trends towards centralisation in the programming and implementation of Structural Funds as a result of the pandemic and the parallel running of two programming periods, the 2014-20 period and the new 2021-27 period.The opinion will be up for final adoption during the CoR's plenary session in October.During the meeting, COTER members were also updated on the progress of the European Year of Rail 2021 (EYR) by Matthew Baldwin, Deputy Director-General of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE), as well as on the recent Council conclusions on 'Putting rail at the forefront of Smart and Sustainable Mobility'. The COTER commission has been actively involved in the EYR from the outset, working together with the Commission to support the active involvement of the regional level and organizing several local events in cooperation with CoR members.DG MOVE also provided an update on the Connecting Europe Express train which is set to embark on a month-long journey through 23 Member States. In a letter to the CoR's president Apostolos Tzitzikostas, EU Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean invited all CoR members to participate in the project and visit the train on its route.In addition, members exchanged views on a draft opinion on 'The gender dimension of structural and cohesion funds 2021-2027, with a focus on the preparation of the operational programmes' by rapporteur Donatella Porzi (IT/PES). It is scheduled for adoption by the COTER commission at its next meeting on 28 October.Background2021 is the European Year of Rail (EYR). The EYR feeds into the EU's overarching goal set out under the Green Deal of encouraging a 'shift to rail' across the EU. The CoR, the COTER commission and its members are organizing several events as part of the initiative, including a local event in L'Aquila, in the Italian Abruzzo Region, that will be taking place on 23 June. English and Italian translations will be available during the event.On Europe Day (9 May) the European Commission announced the route and destinations of the Connecting Europe Express. The train will set out in Lisbon on 2 September and arrive in Paris on 7 October, passing through 23 Member States and 3 neighbouring European countries during its journey. President Apostolos Tzitzikostas and all members of the CoR have been invited to join the project and many are expected to visit the train along its route.An interactive map showing members' best practices contributing to the EU's Green Deal, including multiple transport related stories, can be found here.Contact:Tobias KolonkoTel. +32 2 [email protected]​Adblock test (Why?)

The CoR and the Joint Research Centre step up their cooperation to pilot Smart Specialisation Strategies for Sustainability in EU regions

​​The EU’s pilot initiative “Smart Specialisation Strategies for Sustainability" (S4) was launched in Seville today by the President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), Apostolos Tzitzikostas, and the Director for Growth and Innovation of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC), Mikel Landabaso. The initiative represents a voluntary update to the Smart Specialisation Strategies, with a stronger focus on sustainability. The JRC and CoR will cooperate on the piloting of S4 methodology in more than ten regions in Europe.The CoR President's visit to the Joint Research Centre's premises in Seville this morning underlined the excellent collaboration between the two bodies, following the signature of a Joint Action Plan in November 2020. Key topics discussed included implementing Smart Specialisation Strategies for Sustainability as a key vehicle for the recovery, supporting cities and regions in the localisation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and extending the so-called Sevilla Process – a co-creation approach developed by the JRC in the field of environmental norms for industry – to support the decarbonisation of European industry.Speaking from Seville, President Tzitzikostas also intervened in today's Knowledge Exchange Platform seminar focusing on the role of regions and cities in the European Research Area (ERA) and the opportunities arising from Horizon Europe. The event was organised in the context of the European Research and Innovation Days."The Joint Research Centre is the EU hub for excellence in science and innovation, our cooperation is already very effective and we will strengthen it in the future. Improved synergies between smart specialisation, cohesion policy and other EU programmes such as Horizon are needed to reinforce recovery, sustainable growth, digitalisation and job creation in regions and cities. Strong political leadership and a bottom-up and place-based approach are needed to ensure ownership in order deliver results on the ground. Co-funding from EU programmes such as Horizon has given a boost to regional research & innovation activities, bringing growth and jobs to regions and cities across Europe and solutions to our societal challenges. The Knowledge Exchange Platform is an important tool to improve access to excellence to all regions and a central initiative of our Joint Action Plan with Commissioner Mariya Gabriel's services'', President Tzitzikostas said.In a video message, Commissioner Mariya Gabriel said: "Regions and cities have an important role to play in the construction of a renewed and reinforced European Research Area. We also need their active engagement in Horizon Europe to tackle our global challenges together. The first event of the relaunched Knowledge Exchange Platform today will give us the opportunity to discuss how to contribute jointly to a green and sustainable Europe."More information:The JRC Smart Specialisation platform is one of the main policy tools for achieving Priority A. “No one left behind, evidence-based policymaking in the Regions” in the Joint Action Plan CoR – JRC. S4 builds on the Smart Specialisation framework prepared with regions in 2012. As emphasised in a joint workshop JRC – CoR held in April this year, Smart Specialisation will have a major role over the programming period 2021-2027, as a tool supporting research and innovation of all regions in Europe, and it will serve as a pivotal vehicle for recovery towards the new green and digital economy.The JRC and the CoR discussed how cities and local authorities can be better supported in their quest towards recovery and sustainability, including the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. They agreed to cooperate in providing local governments with knowledge and tangible methods to achieve the global goals, and in embedding local ownership of sustainability challenges and solutions. Another topic on the table was the Sevilla Process, which has contributed to the reduction of emissions and increased resource efficiency from over 52.000 large industrial installations across Europe. Made up of fact-based discussions in long and intense stakeholders meetings with Member States, industry, and environmental NGOs, the JRC is now discussing the possible use of this co-creation approach to assess the most promising breakthrough technologies for decarbonisation of energy-intensive industries.In November 2020, the CoR signed a Joint Action Plan with Commissioner Gabriel's services (DG EAC, DG RTD and JRC). It aims to provide regions and cities with the latest data and knowledge and to help them tackle innovation divide and brain drain, address educational inequalities and deliver EU's political priorities, such as the Green Deal. Aligning the Knowledge Exchange Platform (KEP) initiative with the priorities of the European Research Area (ERA) is key part of the Action Plan. The KEP 2.0 aims to assist cities and regions to become active drivers of change and innovation leaders, to valorise new knowledge created through Horizon Europe and to multiply the outreach of the ERA and bring its main concepts and messages closer to citizens. The CoR will participate in the mapping of knowledge ecosystems across the EU to form the ERA Hubs – structures bringing together regional stakeholders.Contact:Lauri OuvinenTel. +32 [email protected]​Adblock test (Why?)

National recovery plans can make the Green Deal real but only if cities and regions are fully brought on board

The Green Deal Going Local working group of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) held its sixth meeting today with the green recovery as its top priority. Members discussed the importance of involving local and regional authorities in the implementation phase of the national recovery and resilience plans (NRRPs) which will support the European green transition in the next years. The meeting took place while the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen continues her tour through the EU capitals to hand over the endorsement of NRRPs to European leaders, and "make" the recovery "real". Opening the meeting, Juan Espadas (ES/PES), Mayor of Seville and Chair of the Green Deal Going Local Working Group and of the CoR's ENVE commission, said: "The post-pandemic recovery and the EU Green Deal must run in parallel. The Next Generation EU funds are the right response to build a greener and more sustainable Europe, but achieving this will require strengthening multi-level governance and fully involving local and regional authorities. Cities and regions have the knowledge and ideas for green recovery projects but also the overview of territorial disparities. They will guarantee a just transition that leaves no one behind."Michael Murphy (IE/EPP), Chair of the CoR's ECON commission and member of Tipperary County Council, said:  "Indeed green local recovery is essential. Local and regional authorities have key remits in the field of green transition. This is one of the reasons why the ECON Commission has strongly advocated for the involvement of regions and cities in the National Recovery and Resilience Plans. We have had a reasonably positive dialogue with the European Commission and a promising one in particular with the European Parliament on this matter. This has led to the obligation for Member states to report on the consultation of local and regional authorities to draft the NRRPs."Members exchanged views on the Resilience Recovery Facility (RRF) with Florian Flackenecker, from the European Commission's Recovery & Resilience Task Force, who recalled the importance of using the recovery resources not only to invest but also to carry out reforms able to build a medium to long-term resilience rather than a short-term recovery. Mr Flackenecker celebrated the fact that all the NRRPs already endorsed by the European Commission exceed the minimum 37% dedicated to support climate investments and reforms, and highlighted that local and regional authorities will be key in the implementation of the plans and in achieving their objectives.Last week, the European Commission endorsed the first bunch of national recovery and resilience plans with the CoR requesting the Council of the EU to quickly greenlight national plans so that the first resources can reach concrete projects on the ground by July, helping to boost the digital and green transitions and to strengthen cohesion.József Kóbor (HU/EA), the representative of European Alliance in the Green Deal Going Local working group said: "The active involvement of local and regional authorities in the implementation of national recovery plans will be critical for the success of the Green Deal. Cities and municipalities like my own, Pecs, are taking ambitious actions to improve energy efficiency of buildings and electrify public transport, to name just two. It is crucial that money is wisely spent on sustainable investments that match the needs of European territories and we call for monitoring systems to track the implementation of climate action and green recovery at local and regional level."The representative of The Greens in the Green Deal Going Local working group, Bernd Voss (DE/The Greens), said:  "The biggest mistake would be to see the social dimension pinned against the green recovery. The two must be addressed jointly. Courts across Europe are becoming ever clearer: Climate protection is more than just a basic right, it is also a fundamental necessity if we want to shape Europe and rebuild in a socially and just way. It is a question of freedom for us and future generations. It is a matter of intergenerational equality and freedom."Tjisse Stelpstra (NL/ECR), representing the ECR in the working group, stated: "All levels of government are required to achieve the goals of the European Green Deal and economic recovery from the COVID-pandemic. Local and regional authorities and their citizens need to be involved in the National Recovery and Resilience Plans. Furthermore, when talking about the Green Deal, we should not forget about combining sustainability with economic growth."Arianna Maria Censi (IT/PES), member of the Milan Municipal Council shared Milan's experience in urban reforestation: "Environmental sustainability affects not only our own lives, but those of future generations. In this context, the Metropolitan City of Milan, as part of the ForestaMi project, will contribute to planting 3 million trees by 2030 in the Milan metropolitan area. This is not only an important intervention of sustainable forestation, CO2 abatement and development of green infrastructures, but also an attempt to return services of social value to the territory, whose ultimate goal is the well-being of citizens and local communities, contributing to physical and mental health."The meeting included a presentation of the Network of European Regions Using Space Technologies (NEREUS) Władysław Ortyl (PL/ECR), President of the Podkarpackie Region and Vice-President of NEREUS, said: "The visibility of regions as important players in economic life, in particular in space, is becoming more relevant and important. Local and regional authorities can play a key role in the coordination of space policies and NEREUS is a reflection of that. Our flagship project is Copernicus for Regions, which demonstrates how regions use space data for monitoring biodiversity and the impact of natural disasters."Andres Jaadla (EE/Renew Europe), CoR Rapporteur on the CoR's opinion on the EU Space Programme, said: "The use of space technology deserves it's fair share of consideration when we speak about fighting climate change! Regions are the key users and procurers of space-based applications, products and services and as such they are in the ideal position to implement the key goals of the climate transition, the EU Space strategy and EU space programme 2021 – 2027 making the Green Deal Going local!"Background:The 'Green Deal Going Local' working group is a new initiative of the European Committee of the Regions that aims at placing cities and regions at the core of the European Green Deal and ensure that both the EU's sustainable growth strategy and the COVID-19 recovery plan translate into direct funding for cities and regions and tangible projects for every territory,The CoR's 'Green Deal Going Local' working group is composed of thirteen members.Contacts:David Crous / [email protected] Lopez Domenech / [email protected] Miglietta / [email protected] test (Why?)