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Regions and cities contributing to the debate on our common future

The pandemic has reshaped and highlighted the challenges we are facing. It has blurred the lines between global and local, and between present and future. Yet the disruption it has brought to our lives offers a unique opportunity to strengthen our common objectives to make Europe's societies and economies more inclusive, sustainable and resilient to future shocks. The way out of the health and socioeconomic crisis caused by the coronavirus will lead us towards a stable recovery for Europe, with green and digital transformation at the heart of it.

To design this future, everybody's input and ideas are important. Therefore, the Conference on the Future of Europe has put citizen engagement and em pow erm ent at its very centre. A truly democratic, bottom-up exercise, the conference aims to give European citizens and civil society a chance to put forward what they expect from the European Union by opening a new space for democratic debate to address Europe's challenges and priorities. It is open to all ages, professions, socioeconomic backgrounds and territorial dimensions. Citizens will debate, deliberate and formulate concrete proposals, which will decide the Conference's outcomes. This is a unique opportunity for everyone to shape Europe's future for the coming decades and beyond.

As the biggest forum discussing common challenges for Europe's regions and cities, bringing together authorities, civil society and citizens, this year 's #EURegionsWeek will have a special link to the Conference on the Future of Europe. Regions and cities are on the front line in the fight against the effects of the pandemic, but they are also where interventions geared towards recovery will have the most powerful impact. Their role is key to social inclusiveness, climate sustainability and resilience; they play an important role in driving public investments towards effective and fair outcomes. The territorial dimension is a cross-cutting and inherent part of the topics suggested for this debate, be it in relation to climate change and the environment, digital transformation, a stronger economy, social justice and jobs, or health, for example.

" This is a unique opportunity for everyone to shape Europe's future for the coming decades and beyond."

Regional and urban authorities are particularly close to citizens, as they work not only for them but also with them. Over the years, and especially during the pandemic, they have accumulated a wealth of experience to share in terms of solidarity and active and meaningful citizen participation, representing a continuous discussion forum and source of insight and inspiration with regard to common solutions to the challenges Europe is currently facing. In addition, through its governance model, the EU's Cohesion policy has been conducive to making public authorities more transparent and accountable and promoting a larger role for citizens and civic control in guaranteeing that public investments are more efficient and effective and in line with public interest and expectations.

" the EU's Cohesion policy has been conducive to making public authorities more transparent and accountable and promoting a larger role for citizens "

Regions and cities are therefore essential to help their citizens participate in the Conference, to enable them to understand the impacts of European challenges in their local contexts. The events of # EURegionsWeek are naturally participatory and often generate new ideas. Hence, it is important that they can contribute to the debate on the future of Europe, registering and reporting through the Multilingual Digital Platform, together with thousands of other decentralised events. The platform represents not only the digital hub of the conference, but also a place where citizens, civil society, organisations and local communities can share ideas and debate. Their contributions will be collected, analysed, monitored and published throughout the Conference. Through the European Citizens' Panels and the Conference Plenary, these contributions will feed into concrete recommendations for EU institutions.

The conference is counting on regional and local actors' active participation through raising citizens' awareness, creating and hosting events, submitting proposals, and promoting interactions and discussions on such proposals. Their mobilisation of local networks and communities is also essential. By doing so, they will shape Europe's future.

The future is in your hands!

This article appears in the EURegionsWeek 2021 Issue of TerritoriALL

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This article appears in the EURegionsWeek 2021 Issue of TerritoriALL