Cllr Kieran McCarthy’s Online Debate Speech, European Committee of the Regions
Dear President Tzitzikostas, Dear Commissioner, Dear Colleagues.
We have heard much this morning of the need to bring EU citizens together more – We have heard much this morning on the benefits of concepts of solidarity and democracy.
It is highly important that words are turned into practical action.
There is an old saying – that there are three types of people in our regions – those people who make it happen, those people who watch it happen and those people who ask what happened.
We all need to need to be on the side of making it happen.
We need to plan to harness the wisdom of our citizens for a better Europe.
We need to keep evolving EU action plans to give regions and cities the resources to be able to act at a level closest to the citizens.
For my part today I have three short messages.
Firstly, the CoR has been active in citizen dialogues the last few years with hundreds of dialogues taken place across the EU. Such work as a CoR member I am proud of. We have developed methodologies that work and have inspired others desiring to do similar.
Our reports on such work and energy should not gather dust on a shelf – no mind the recent collaborative work pursued on the Cohesion Alliance, the European Social Pillars, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the COR’s exchange platform on the Local and Regional Authority Covid Response.
My second message concerns the European Alliance group of which I am the president and its preparing of an opinion on establishing a permanent dialogue with citizens.
It is a member from Galway Cllr Declan McDonnell who is leading for the European Committee of the Regions on this subject and the opinion of the final opinion is now planned for October. Declan is in hospital at present and I wish him well.
In an Irish context we have a lot we can share with Europe from the experience of the Citizens Assembly in Ireland which influenced the upstreaming of a number of changes in the Irish constitution.
Bringing 100 citizens representing different age groups, working environments, different backgrounds all contributing to the greater good of improving the constitution made by the people and for the people.
It cannot be a top down process we need to bring on board the grassroots representative bodies. What is also significant is Dr Catherine Day, former Secretary General of the European Commission is the chair of the Irish Citizens Assembly.
We need to ensure that local and regional government are pivotal to opening the dialogue with the citizens, but we also need to bring on board.
- Community groups
- Educational Bodies
- Culture bodies
- Sporting bodies
In the innovation language of the EU we hear much about the importance of the quadruple helix and you can see clearly the positive effects of people working together under that banner. So why not have a stronger helix when it comes to working with citizens.
On the Ground Projects
My third and last message concerns the point there are also many EU projects, which continue to evolve across the EU’s cities and diverse regions.
Projects such as URBACT, Interreg, H2020, EU Urban Agenda, Erasmus Plus, European Cross border, EIB collaboration projects, Science Meets Regions, Digital Cities etc are networks who are all doing great work.
Across the EU we have European Capital programmes such as Culture, Innovation, Green, Volunteering, Sport and youth to name just a few. We are debating the SDGs There is much happening that sometimes are not celebrated enough and not scaled up.
To conclude the latter three messages – EU Citizen dialogues, Citizen assembly concepts and harnessing existing EU projects on the ground – are just three best practice examples that can inform the future of Europe debate.
We need to build relationships with citizens not battleships.
Symmetries not complexities.
Capacity building not hopeful yearning.
And participation not dilapidation.
We need effective engagement plans. The CoR is ready but we cannot do this alone.