Through a Recommendation released on Tuesday 23 October, the Juncker Commission advocated increasing the role of local and regional stakeholders in the overall EU policy-making process. The official press release, as well as useful background information can be found here. As EU-wide voice of public services’ providers, CEEP endorses this Commission in recognising the growing importance of sub-national decision-makers for a successful European integration. Indeed, it is not possible for EU public policies to reflect the variety of European societies and economies if they are designed, decided, implemented, assessed and reviewed at the top EU level only.
Several proposals thus seem to deserve attention, if not clear support, from local actors gathered within CEEP. Positive elements include for instance the call to recognise the value, in terms of democratic policy-making, and increasing the role of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR). The CoR’s networks and the “Regional Hubs” project it established to make local and regional levels’ feedback flow more smoothly and systematically towards Brussels are particularly relevant. Another pertinent suggestion aims at strengthening the REFIT platformby expanding its scope from the current focus on simplifying EU legislation to further aspects (such as “subsidiarity, proportionality, legislative density and the role of local and regional authorities”). Finally, this Recommendation also advocates enlarging the REFIT Platform’s membership to representatives of local and regional authorities or a broader use, amongst all EU institutions and national parliaments, of “common assessment grids” designed to assess legislative proposals with respect to both proportionality and subsidiarity.
As for the immediate future, this Recommendation shall likely be discussed during the upcoming conference “Subsidiarity as a building principle of the EU”, organised by the Austrian presidency of the European Council on 15-16 November in Bregenz. But it should be clear that this is part of a medium- and longer-term movement of reshuffling the functioning of EU institutions against the background of rising challenges, increasing competences for the EU and decreasing (or at best stable) resources. These proposals build inter alia on the Juncker Commission’s White Paper on the Future of Europe (1 March 2017) and on the work of the “Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and ‘Doing Less, More Efficiently”. The latter’s final report (published in July 2018) already identified nine key priorities and next steps for the EU’s policy-making machinery, many of which this Recommendation adds political weight to.
However, as the Juncker Commission acknowledges, the next European Commission shall play the main part after the May 2019 European elections, by deciding whether these recommendations should find enforcement. In due time, CEEP shall ensure that meaningful and sensible proposals in the interest of local public services’ providers remain on the EU’s political agenda.