“Barcelona Agenda” approved to help coordination between local authorities and EU

The European Summit of Local Governments has approved the “Barcelona Agenda”, a set of policies to improve coordination between local authorities and to encourage them to participate in building Europe.

Both objectives are combined so that to set up a chamber of local governments within the Committee of the Regions of the EU in order to strengthen communication between EU institutions and local authorities.

The Agenda calls for local governments to promote social, economic and regional cohesion by providing good quality public services that will improve people’s lives, and also demands greater cooperation between all levels of government, local, regional and national, both at European level and within the member states.

Since Monday 22 February, the governments of 260 cities, most of them European, have been discussing putting into place policies to tackle the economic crisis from a municipal perspective, calling for these to be applied by the European Union.

During the opening event, Spain’s Third Vice President and Minister of Territorial Policy, Manuel Chaves, expressed Spain’s support for local governments figuring more prominently in the decisions of the EU, especially now with the objective of overcoming the financial crisis, creating employment and maintaining the European social model.

Chaves reiterated that the Spanish Presidency of the EU is committed to applying the Treaty of Lisbon, overcoming the financial crisis “as soon as possible”, creating employment and “ensuring that the EU becomes rooted in the consciousness and desires of its people” through “multi-level governance”; in other words through the greater involvement of local-level governments.

The President of the Generalitat de Cataluña (the autonomous regional government), José Montilla, meanwhile, called for regional and local governments to take part in defining specific issues, such as the “new financial perspectives” of the EU and the process of building Europe in general.

Montilla expressed the willingness of Catalonia to “help make the new phase of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation a success” and its desire to make progress towards a new model of production in which knowledge will be key.

The Regional Minister of the Economy and Finance, Antoni Castells, called in his speech for cities’ financial influence and their powers to reflect their political and representative importance, and said he supported strengthening the European Political Union to make the EU an influential player on the world stage, and for progress to be made towards a Europe that speaks “with one voice” in the world.

The former President of Portugal, Jorge Sampaio, urged greater decentralisation of European governments and better balance between powers and budgets at “all levels” of its administrations, in order to benefit local governments and avoid “administrative and financial chaos”.

The Mayor of Barcelona, Jordi Hereu, called on the European Union to give the Mediterranean railway corridor “priority” status and lamented the fact that there are people who see city councils as “subsidiary bodies”.

The local government summit meeting ends on Wednesday with a series of “decentralised sessions” in nine Catalan cities, including Sabadell and Terrassa (in the province of Barcelona) and Tarragona.

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