During the virtual October plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions, members held a debate on the first EU Annual Regional and Local Barometer, with the European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission for Interinstitutional Relations.
The European Alliance Group was represented by their president, Douglas Road councillor Kieran McCarthy who in his speech to Ms Von der Leyen stressed that cities and regions need to be to the heart of resolving priorities such as environmental change, SME development, Just Transition & general citizen buy-in into EU-led projects. Such priorities were outlined by Ms Von der Leyen in her recent State of the Union address.
Cllr McCarthy added: “Many of the priorities represent common challenges for the over 95,000 local and regional authorities across Europe. The Committee of the Regions will continue to collaborate with the other EU institutions in the delivery of this vision albeit we wish for our work, the opportunities that go with such work, and the strong added value connected to such work, to be recognised more by those who lead the European Project forwards”.
During his intervention, Cllr McCarthy reminded the Commission President that local and regional authorities, from small to large, are on the frontline in building the future of Europe; “We are the story builders, the capacity builders, strategy builders, we are the builders of the lighthouses of innovation. We build ideas from scratch and bring them to life. We are more than the sum of our parts. Empower the Regions and the EU will be a success”. Kieran’s full recorded speech is on his facebook page, “Cllr Kieran McCarthy”.
Cllr McCarthy had also been active in lobbying for the EU Annual Regional and Local Barometer, which comprises a comprehensive report on the most pressing challenges for European local authorities ahead. This first report focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in EU Cities and Regions. Cllr McCarthy re-iterated as well the ongoing work of Irish local authorities such as Cork City Council and their approaches in being one the front-line bodies, which helped local communities with community response projects and social distancing measures on City streets.