Governance is one of the main keys to the success of the process of European integration. Europe will be strong, its institutions legitimate, its policies effective, and its citizens feeling involved and engaged if its mode of governance guarantees cooperation between the different tiers of government, in order to meet the European Union's political agenda and face the global challenges.
This fact was acknowledged by the Heads of State or of Government in the Berlin Declaration on 25 March 2007.
"There are many goals which we cannot achieve on our own, but only in concert. Tasks are shared between the European Union, the Member States and their regions and local authorities."
Within the European Union nearly 95 000 local and regional authorities currently have significant powers in key sectors such as education, the environment, economic development, town and country planning, transport, public services and social policies.
These Local and Regional Authorities implement nearly 70% of EU legislation. They also also help ensure the exercise of European democracy and citizenship, and have a key role to play for the effective protection and enforcement of fundamental rights at the level of cities and regions.
Both the closeness to the citizens and the diversity of governance at local and regional level is a real asset to the Union.
However, despite significant advances made in recent years, substantial progress has yet to be achieved in terms of recognising the local and regional authorities' role in the European process, both at EU level and within the Member States.
What can be done?
"The Committee of the regions sees the principle of multilevel governance as based on coordinated action by the EU, the Member States and regional and local authorities according to the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality and in partnership, taking the form of operational and institutionalised cooperation in the drawing-up and implementation of the European Union's policies"
(CdR 273/2011 fin)
Against this background, the Committee of the regions adopted the White Paper on multilevel governance on 16 June 2009, which recommended specific mechanisms and instruments for stimulating all stages of the European decision-making process.
- At the European level, the CoR has been consistently calling for the establishment of a renewed Community method, involving a more inclusive decisional process and promoting the systematic participation of elected representatives from all levels in the preparation and implementation of European initiatives.
- At all governance levels, it has been calling for the establishment of a European culture of multilevel governance, emphasizing the need for European cities and regions to work in partnership, both vertically between “local and regional authorities – national government and European Union” and horizontally between “local and regional authorities – civil society”.