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    Funding for cohesion policy should on no account be cut beyond 2020

    “The areas covered by cohesion policy are becoming more demanding and the expectations in it are getting higher”, said Franz Schausberger, representative of the Land Salzburg in the CoR, speaking at the occasion of a conference entitled “EU Finances and the Future of Europe local view” in Brussels on 5th of  December 2017.
          

    From left: Marek Woźniak (Marshal of Wielkopolska Region), Günther Öttinger (Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources), Michael Schneider (President of the EPP and rapporteur on the Future of Cohesion Policy beyond 2020), Tomislav Donchev (Deputy Prime Minister of Bulgaria), Lilyana Pavlova (Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency) and Jan Olbrycht (Vice-Chair of the EPP-EP Working Group on Budget and Structural policies)

     
    To respond effectively to the phenomenon of dramatic rural depopulation across Europe, cohesion policy must continue unabated, even after the end of the current period of 2020. Subsequently, an urgent need to significantly improve the capacities and know-how of regional and local politics and administration is substantial. Furthermore, for Member States it is essential, in cooperation with their regions and local authorities, to develop development strategies as the basis for successful EU projects. The EU would need to reduce the bureaucracy required to obtain financial support, simplify procedures and avoid duplication of checks and controls.
     
    Günther Oettinger, EU-Commissioner for budget and human resources, emphasized that he wants to set new priorities in the areas of research, Erasmus and in the future and the young generation in addition to the previous priorities of cohesion policy. The new tasks in the field of migration and the Brexit failures should not be financed by cuts in cohesion policy.

                                            

    Josip Brkic (Deputy Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Franz Schausberger
     

    The difficult issue of the reform of the electoral law of Bosnia and Herzegovina was the focus of a conversation between Deputy Foreign Minister Josip Brkic and Franz Schausberger, Chairman of the Western Balkan Working Group of the European Committee of the Regions, in Brussels on 5th of December. BiH will hold election at all levels in October 2018. Until then, the election law has to be changed according to the constitution of BiH.
     
                            

    Lufti Haziri (Mayor of Gjilan, Kosovo) with Franz Schausberger
     

    On 5th of December IRE-president Franz Schausberger met Lufti Haziri, Mayor of Gjilan, Kosovo. Mr. Haziri informed about his initiative to create a transborder municipal cooperation project between the cities Kumanovo (Macedonia), Trgovište (Serbia), Preševo (Serbia) and Giljan (Kosovo). This cooperation should lead to a transborder micro region.

    Source: Landeskorrespondenz Salzburg 

    Nationalists in Corsica clearly won the second round of regional elections

    Election winners demand more autonomy, but no secession

    More than 119,107 Corsicans cast their votes in the regional election on 10th of December 2017, in which 63 assembly members were elected. The turnout was 52.5 percent, in the first round 52.1 percent.

    In the first round of the regional elections, the national alliance list “Pè a Corsica” (For Corsica) was clearly in the lead with 45 percent. In the second and decisive round of the election on the French Mediterranean island, the list won clear with 56.5 percent. Thus, the list reached 41 of the 63 seats.

    From left: Gilles Simeoni (Femu a Corsica) and Jean-Guy Talamoni (Corsica Libera)

    The candidates of the Alliance partiy, Gilles Simeoni (“Femu a Corsica” – Let’s create Corsica), under which the list is run and Jean-Guy Talamoni (“Corsica Libera” – Free Corsica), celebrated their electoral victory on the French Mediterranean island. The nationalist parties are seeking greater autonomy for Corsica, but do not want complete detachment from France. Additionally, they demand equal recognition of the Corsican language in addition to French, recognition of a Corsican residence status in the fight against real estate speculation from abroad, and an amnesty for inmates who they regard as political prisoners.

                                       

    Source: zeit.de, wikipedia.org and skywebforum.com

    ÖVP candidate just won mayor’s chair in the City of Salzburg

    First directly elected ÖVP mayor since 1945 in the City of Salzburg

    On 26th of November 2017, the first round of the mayoral election took place in the City of Salzburg. Exactly 1,545 votes separated the two candidates in the first ballot. Harald Preuner (ÖVP) received 35.01 percent of the votes; Bernhard Auinger (SPÖ) came to 31.88 percent. A close result that led to a run-off between these two candidates.

    Eligible voters in the ballot on 10th of December 2017 were, as in the first ballot, 113,258 people. The turnout with 41.4 percent was even lower than in the first round (43.8 percent). After counting the 8,066 voting cards, the city of Salzburg recorded its barest result of a mayoral election. 23,306 votes went to Preuner and 23,012 votes Auinger could win over. Thus, Preuner has just won the mayoral election with 50.3 to 49.7 percent. At the end, the ÖVP lead candidate was with 294 votes (0.6 percent) ahead of SPÖ candidate Auinger.

    Therefore, the long-time vice-councillor Preuner(see photo) is the second elected ÖVP mayor since 1945; the office was otherwise always occupied by SPÖ candidates. His mayoral office is initially 15 months, because in the spring of 2019, the next mayor and municipal elections is pending. The City of Salzburg is the capital of the County of Salzburg and has 154,977 inhabitants. The new election had become necessary due to the resignation of SPÖ mayor Heinz Schaden because of his conviction in the financial scandal (judgment not yet final).

                             

    Source: ORF, APA/Barbara Gindl

    As easy as possible access to subsidies is required

    EU action for digital rural areas is urgently needed as a measure against rural depopulation
    An own EU action for digital villages or digital rural areas is very much welcomed, in order to permanently revive the rural areas as place of living and work or to get the pan-European problem of the rural exodus under control, explained the Salzburg representative Franz Schausberger in the recent plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions in Brussels.
     
    In the context of an opinion on “New Perspectives for Rural Areas through Digital Villages“, Schausberger also called for a simplification of the application for European funding, as there are only few projects in the ongoing Rural Development Program due to the complex nature of the requirements are able to reach a full grant application. In particular, access to finance for smaller, innovative projects that can be used at the local level should be debureaucratised. Access to strong Internet should be declared as a service of public interest at EU level, hence the ICT infrastructure is a crucial factor for the development potential of the regions. To meet the goal of the EU‘s Digital Agenda – across Europe, especially in rural and remote areas –connections faster than 30MB/s by 2020 need to be offered that the still large differences between urban and rural areas are compensated.
     

    Tanya Hristova (Head of Bulgarian Delegation in CoR and Mayor of Gabrovo) with Franz Schausberger
    During a debate with the EU‘s Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, members of the CoR urged that rules allow local and regional authorities address social and economic challenges without being considered state aid. “Our role is to ensure that the European market is kept open and fair. And we need to make sure that citizens and entrepreneurs who have bright ideas are not kept out of the market by companies who receive state aid“, the Commissioner said.
    Tanya Hristova, Head of Bulgarian Delegation in CoR and Mayor of Gabrovo, reported about the priorities of the Bulgarian EU Presidency from 1st of January to 30th of June 2018. The focus would be on compromises in areas such as migration, the future of cohesion policy, as well as moving forward with the digital single market.
    Pierre Moscovici, EU-Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs spoke at the CoR plenary session. “The euro area is now enjoying strong growth, but it still suffers from persistent economic and social divergences. These are unsustainable and risk fuelling political divisions. Our goal is not to build a transfer union, but a convergence union – one which more effectively marries responsibility and solidarity, risk sharing and risk reduction. I am convinced that these are two sides of the same coin“, Commissioner Moscovici said. CoR members underlined, that the reform of the Economic and Monetary Union should enable local and regional authorities to invest in Europe‘s future.
     
    Source: Landeskorrespondenz Salzburg and CoR
     

    Corsica: Nationalists demand autonomy but no secession

    First round of regional election on the French island

    On 3rd of December 2017, the first round of regional elections took place on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. On the Island live about 300,000 people, who make up about half a percent of the French population.

    The Nationalist party “Pè a Corsica” (For Corsica), alliance of “Femu a Corsica” (Create Corsica) and “Corsica Libera” (Free Corsica), led by Gilles Simeoni and Jean-Guy Talamoni, came to 45.36 Percent of the votes. The election is considered as a possible directional decision for the difficult relationship between Corsica and the French central government. If the Corsican nationalists claim to be the strongest force, they are expected to increase their demands for more autonomy.
    From left: Gilles Simeoni (Femu a Corsica) and Jean-Guy Talamoni (Corsica Libera)

    The joint list of the most important nationalist forces wants a legally anchored autonomy of Corsica. However, the list does not demand secession from France. Efforts for more autonomy already exist on the island for decades. Though, the final decision will only be made in the second round on 10th of December 2017.

    Source: www.kurier.at and APA

    IRE Board of Trustees Member moves into the European Parliament

    On 29th of November 2017, IRE-Board of Trustees Member Lukas Mandl was commended as an Member of the European Parliament (MEP). Elisabeth Köstinger, who has been a member of the House of Representatives since 2009, left the European Parliament due to her new position as ÖVP General Secretary and President of the Austrian National Council. She was succeeded by the Lower Austrian Member of Parliament Mandl, who demands less centralism at the European level.

    In March 2017, Mandl anchored the IRE event “Centralism means less democracy” and noted that the federal structure of Austria, with its strong federal states, is still a rarity in Europe and there is no common definition of the term “region” in the EU. Each state defines the size and competences of its regions. Strengthening regions does not mean questioning the nation state.

    IRE-Chairman Schausberger with Member of the European Parliament Mandl
     

    Major investments in the IRE member regions Arad and Suceava

    Romania received 252 Million Euros from the EU

    The The European Commission announced on the 28th of November 2017, that it is helping Romania to improve its road and water infrastructure in providing the state a total of 252 million Euros.

    176 Million Euros, provided by the Cohesion Fund, will be invested in water management and distribution infrastructure in Vrancea county’s urban areas. This will result in access to drinking water for 66,500 inhabitants and wastewater treatment systems for more than 57,000 inhabitants. The EU provided Romania at the beginning of November with 17 million euro to improve the access to drinking water. This included the Suceava county (City of Suceava is in the IRE-Network), Constanta, Ialomita and Gorj.

    76 million euro from the European Regional Development Fund will be provided for the works of the national road E79, which connects Romania with Bulgaria, Greece and Hungary. The works will be carried out at sections of the road linking the cities of Deva, in the historical region of Transylvania in central Romania, and Oradea, at the border with Hungary. “The road passes through the counties of Hunedoara, Arad (in the IRE-Network) and Bihor, before connecting with Bors town, which will generate greater economic development and will stimulate employment and regional development in these counties,” Corina Cretu, European Commissioner for regional policy, stated.
     
    Source: www.seenews.com

    “Doing less more efficiently”

    Future of Europe:
    On  14th of November 2017, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has officially established the ‘Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality’. The Task Force will report to the President by 15th of July 2018, making recommendations on how to better apply the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, identifying policy areas where work could be re-delegated or definitely returned to Member States, as well as ways to better involve regional and local authorities in EU policy making and delivery.President Juncker announced the creation of the Task Force in his State of the Union address, on 13th of September, saying: “This Commission has sought to be big on big issues and small on the small ones and has done so. To finish the work we started, I am setting up a Subsidiarity and Proportionality Task Force to take a very critical look at all policy areas to make sure we are only acting where the EU adds value.” The Task Force will start its work on 1st of January 2018, and it will be chaired by Frans Timmermans, Commission First Vice-President in charge of Better Regulation, Interinstitutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. It will be composed of 9 additional members, with 3 members from national Parliaments, 3 from the European Parliament and 3 from the Committee of the Regions.

    The White Paper on the Future of presents under which the European Union should step up its work in certain fields while stopping to act or doing less in domains where it is perceived as having more limited added value, or as being unable to deliver on its promises. The President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), Karl-Heinz Lambertz, has welcomed the launch of the Task Force on Subsidiary and Proportionality.

    Source: www.cor.europa.eu and European Commission – Press Release (14th of November 2017)

     

     

    “There is progress, but much remains to be done”

    Hahn on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:

    The EU will continue to support the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in its reform process. Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, visited Skopje on 20th of November 2017, where he met with representatives from politics, civil society, science and culture.
    Ahead of his visit Hahn stated: “We want to support to carry out necessary reforms to make EU membership possible. There has been progress, but there is still a lot to do. These include concrete steps towards the independence of the judiciary, the reform of the intelligence services and a professional and performance-oriented public administration. We have seen progress, but the political authorities from both the Government and the opposition need to continue to deliver on the implementation of the Przino agreement and the Urgent Reform Priorities.”
    The Commissioner launched the new campaign on Human Resources ‘We believe in You, We invest in You, EU for You’ which supports employment, education and social inclusion.
     
    Source: European Commission – Daily News (20th of November 2017)

    Local and regional optimism for Social Democrats

    Denmark’s electoral gains and losses

    On 21st of November 2017, Denmark elected a total of 98 municipal councils and 5 regional councils. More than 11,000 candidates contested for 2,432 seats in the municipal council and 205 seats in the regional councils for the term of office 2018-21. The turnout was 70.8 percent. The previous elections took place in 2013.
     
    The Liberal Party (Venstre) of Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen suffered heavy losses. The center-right Liberal Party received 23.1 percent of the vote, 3.5 percentage points (-79 seats) less than in 2013, meaning a reduction from 767 to 688 seats.

    The Social Democrats (Socialdemokraterne) gained 2.95 percentage points (+69 seats) and came to 32.45 percent. Thus, the party won the leadership in four of the five Danish regions and in 50 of the 98 municipalities. The party remains strongest in major cities in and around Copenhagen. Subsequently, Frank Jensen will continue to serve as mayor of Copenhagen. Furthermore, in the city of Aarhus the Social Democrat mayor Jacob Bundsgaard was re-elected. Coalition talks are still ongoing in some municipalities.

    Frank Jensen, mayor of Copenhagen

    The Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti) fell by 1.7 percentage points (-17 seats) to 8.8 percent, in contrast to some pre-election forecasts. In Copenhagen, the poor result for the DF means the party loses its vice-mayor mandate.

                                
     
    Source: www.usnews.com and www.thelocal.dk

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