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Cit izens and territories should feel the im pact of NextGenerationEU funds

In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, Local Intermediate Authorities have once again demonstrated their ability to act quickly with citizens and their communities.

At a time when all economic and human resources must be directed towards the recovery and revival of our societies, the European Confederation of Local Intermediate Authorities (CEPLI),the largest network of local intermediate authorities, that brings together more than 839 counties, provinces and departments, wishes to remind us that a Europe of Member States can only be built and developed by relying on the diversity of its territories.

For this reason, all CEPLI members have decided to supportmanifest o proposed by the Diputación de Barcelona to recall that, if Europe wants to succeed in its bet for recovery, local intermediate authorities must participate in the deployment of NextGenerationEU (NGEU) funds.

André Viola

CEPLI members and signatories of the manifesto represent local intermediate authorities from several EU Member States: Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia), France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania and Spain.

These are local authorities historically enshrined in the institutions of the Member States, in their constitutions.

In this text, which is intended to appeal not only to the European institutions, but also to the Member States and the regions in Europe, the local intermediate authorities wish to highlight the historic solidarity that the EU has shown in initiating the European Recovery Plan, a plan that should help to overcome the economic and social crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic and, at the same time, lay the foundations for a modern and more sustainable Europe.

The EU's long-term budget, together with NGEU, is now a reality that offers a courageous response to the major challenges ahead.

This is why local intermediate authorities fully support this ambitious, generous and rapid EU response.

Such an impetus must, without delay, be accompanied by action on the part of the Member States and by local dissemination to the populations and territories in order to strengthen the link betweenthe European construction and a proximity federalism n which local governments play a central role.

"The invest ment effort must be visible to citizens as a key element in improving their living condit ions at a time when the health crisis is hitting the most vulnerable populat ions hard"

This territorial level of intervention plays a central role in several ways.

Local authorities have been working on these areas for a long time. They share a common vision of the future in the framework of the EU Urban Agenda and are able to develop comprehensive policies, which is essential to ensure the added value of the extraordinary funds. These local authorities have a central role to play in:

linking the commitment to energy efficiency in buildings and housing with cutting-edge urban regeneration strategies;

accompanying those strategies with major investments in public transport and micromobility solutions that have an impact on citizens'habits; or

stimulating the digitalisation of the productive fabric in parallel with the strengthening of the technological capacities of workers.

At a historic moment for an EU that has to face an unprecedented situation, the manifesto voices a concern: if local authorities cannot translate the priorities of the European Commission and the national recovery plans of the Member States into strategies adapted to the reality of each territory and based on global approaches, the transformative capacity of the European funds will be clearly weakened.

"The investment effort must be visible to citizens as a key element in improving their living conditions at a time when the health crisis is hitting the most vulnerable populations hard."

The manifesto also underlines the fact that this crisis accentuates an urban social divide that has been growing since 2008, as well as aggravating the territorial divide by reducing the chances of rural areas that already have fewer opportunities.

The intensity and inexorable progression of this double divide, both social and territorial, are different in each Member State of the EU, as well as between their territories. However, thanks to their knowledge and broad vision of the territories, local intermediate authorities are on the front line in addressing this double divide, which is why we believe that cohesion is an essential issue.

The dramatic COVID-19 crisis has revealed (or reminded us) that local intermediate authorities are an indispensable level for understanding and interpreting this crisis. They must therefore also constitute a level for implementing the European response.

Why deprive ourselves of the intervention capacities of such a level at a time when Europe needs maximum efficiency in its policies?

The manifesto expresses three main expectations of the EU, but also of the Member States and all institutions involved in the implementation of the long-term budget of the EU, associated with NextGenerationEU (NGEU):

That the EU and its Member States recognise local governments, and in particular local intermediate authorities, as strategic allies in implementing funds and initiatives for recovery, transformation and resilience and, in particular, in developing NGEU funds (as well as those promoted under the new EU Multiannual Financial Framework), so that no one, no territory and no local government is left behind;

That Member States ensure that local governments are allocated new generation funds for recovery, transformation and resilience, to promote a new generation of integrated and innovative local policies and strategies, in line with the EU Urban Agenda and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as to guarantee the rights, security and opportunities of territories and populations, now and in the future;

Finally, t hat Member States ensure that effective and permanent mechanisms for dialogue are put in place with local and intermediate authorities in their respective countries, so that they can influence the planning, implementation and monitoring of the respective recovery plans through the promotion of new mechanisms of shared governance.

CEPLI would like to invite European citizens to contribute alongside it by making proposals to build a Europe with resilient territories.

We propose that they join us in our reflection by participating and speaking at the workshop that we willorganiseon the occasion of the 2021 edition of the European Week of Regions and Cities, entitled 'The future is in your hands'.

André Viola is President of the Aude Departemental Council im France, and the President of the European Confederation of Local Intermediate Authorities.

This article appears in Rural areas: an eye to the future

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