European conference of presidents of German-speaking regional parliaments in Brussels

At the end of a two-day European conference in Brussels attended by the presidents of the German and Austrian regional parliaments, the parliament of South Tyrol, the German Bundestag and the German and Austrian Bundesrats, with the involvement of Belgium’s German-speaking Community, the participants issued a statement on the White Paper on the Future of Europe.

The conference took place at the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), and was chaired by the president of the Thuringia Landtag, Christian Carius, and the president of the Lower Austria Landtag, Hans Penz.

The event was hosted by CoR president Karl-Heinz Lambertz, who highlighted the role played by the regions in shaping the future of Europe: “People trust the local and regional level more than any other level of government. As representatives of the regions, we must not betray that trust. We need to look at what has to change and what action needs to be taken in order to respond in the best possible way to the many challenges we face and to the needs and expectations of our citizens. We know that there are problems that can be better tackled at European or national level. In this context we will continue to guarantee our support and to suggest improvements.

The conference was also attended by, among others, the Head of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s Cabinet, Martin Selmayr, and Commissioner Johannes Hahn.

The statement welcomes the discussion process on the future of the European Union launched by the European Commission and the European Parliament, and the ongoing inclusion of the regions in this process, as was recommended in the White Paper. The signatories see it as their mission to remain actively involved in determining the future direction of the European Union, as part of their responsibility for integration, and declare their willingness to support the process constructively and with the involvement of members of their respective regional parliaments and of the general public. By publishing this statement, they want to send a positive signal and help to give new legitimacy to the European Union, from the inside out.

The statement sets out the presidents’ commitment to a strong European Union of peace, freedom, values and prosperity that must not be undermined by the growth in nationalist tendencies. According to the presidents, the scenarios proposed by the European Commission in the White Paper, setting out different paths for the EU’s future development, along with the personal scenario outlined by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in his speech of 13 September 2017, focusing on the basic principles of freedom, equality and the rule of law, provide an initial basis for discussions on the future direction of the European Union and offer the regional parliaments an opportunity to adopt a more detailed policy position.

They call for the debate on the future of Europe to be based not on abstract ideas but on specific policy areas, focusing in particular on the question of which policy areas require action at European Union level and which areas are better dealt with at national, regional and municipal level. In this connection, the European Union of the future must fully respect the subsidiarity principle.

The statement stresses that it is important to safeguard the institutional rights of regions with legislative powers within the framework of the European Union, in order to ensure that they can fulfil their constitutional role in European multi-level democracy.

The chair of the Conference of Presidents of German and Austrian Regional Parliaments will forward the statement to the president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, the first vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, Commissioner Günther Oettinger, Commissioner Johannes Hahn, the president of the Committee of the Regions, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, the president of the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies (CALRE), Juan Pablo Durán, and the national and regional governments and national parliaments of Germany and Austria.