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MEP Vasile Blaga: EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement is ”solid” but also has “imperfections”

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In the context of the approval in the European Parliament of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom, MEP Vasile Blaga says it is a “solid” agreement, but with “imperfections”.

“It is a solid agreement governing partnership relations with an old partner and friend of the European Union. There are, however, some elements that could be improved – namely a difference in treatment regarding the level of the work visa fee for Romanian citizens, along with Bulgarian, Estonian, Slovenian and Lithuanian citizens”, Vasile Blaga told for the news platform Calea Europeană.

Seasonal workers from Romania can work in the UK this year on a visa for up to six months, according to an announcement by the British Embassy in Bucharest. Those interested can apply for a visa up to three months in advance to work as seasonal workers in the UK. The cost of the visa is £244.

The UK authorities have reduced the fee for applications from certain countries for a visa to work in the UK by £55, but there is no exemption for Romania.

“This has been raised by several other Romanian MEP colleagues. It is, of course, a historical consequence of Romania’s later integration into the European Union, but this cannot remain so. It represents discrimination by a third country against European citizens who have the same status as other EU citizens”, the Liberal MEP stressed in his statement.

According to the MEP, he will continue to take steps to ensure that Romanian citizens are not treated differently in terms of visa fees in the UK: “The European Commission is aware of the situation and we hope that, after the many approaches made, it will use all the instruments at its disposal to resolve this inequality,” added the EPP MEP.

Diana Zaim este foto jurnalist, câștigătoare a Premiul Publicului la European Youth Event 2020, cel mai mare eveniment pentru tineri organizat de Parlamentul European. Absolventă a secției germană-portugheză în cadrul Universității din București, Diana urmează în prezent programul de master ”Relații Internaționale și Integrare Europeană” în cadrul SNSPA. Pasionată de promovarea valorilor europene, Diana este parte a comunității Model European Union, cea mai amplă simulare la nivel european a procesului decizional din cadrul Uniunii Europene.

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EXCLUSIVE Klaus Iohannis, Emmanuel Macron and other 19 EU heads of states, joint letter to Europeans on Europe Day: Let’s talk about Europe and find a way forward together

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The European project is a project of peace and reconciliation and we need a strong and effective European Union, is the message conveyed by President Klaus Iohannis and twenty others EU heads of states in a joint letter addressed to the European citizens on the occasion of Europe Day to invite them to join the Conference on the Future of Europe which will be officially launched tomorrow, 9th of May.

We invite you to join the discussion and help find a way forward together” – urge the Presidents of Romania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia, in a common message exclusively released to CaleaEuropeană.ro.

The letter is entitled “Let’s talk about Europe” and is co-signed by all the Presidents of the EU Member States:

“We would like to extend our best wishes to all European citizens on the occasion of Europe Day.

This Europe Day is special. For the second year in a row, we are celebrating it in the challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. We sympathise with all those who have suffered because of it.

This year’s Europe Day is also special because it marks the beginning of the Conference on the Future of Europe. We call on all EU citizens to use this unique opportunity to shape our common future.

The circumstances surrounding this discussion on the future of Europe are very different from those of previous years. It may seem that there is not sufficient time for an in-depth discussion on the future of Europe in the current situation. On the contrary, the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of what is truly important in our lives: our health, our relationship with nature, our relationships with our fellow human beings, mutual solidarity and working together. It has opened up questions about the way we live our lives. It has showed the strengths of European integration, as well as its weaknesses. We need to talk about all of this.

The challenges we face as Europeans are manifold: from tackling the climate crisis and the creation of green economies, while concurrently balancing the increasing competition among the global actors, to striving for the digital transformation of our societies. We will need to develop new methods and new solutions. As democracies, our strength lies in engaging the many voices of our societies to identify the best way forward. The more people participate in a broad and open-minded discussion, the better for our Union.

The European project is unprecedented in history. It has been 70 years since the signing of the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, and 64 since the birth of the European Community in Rome. At that time, European leaders found ways to unify war-torn Europe. Thirty years ago, Europe’s East and West began to connect more closely. Very different countries joined together to form the European Union. Each country has its own historical experiences and burdens of the past, which it deals with on its own and in its relations with other countries.

The European project is a project of peace and reconciliation. It has been so since its conception and remains so today. We advocate for a common strategic vision for Europe, a Europe that is whole, free, united and at peace.

All the fundamental principles of European integration remain extremely relevant today: freedom, equality, respect for human rights, the rule of law and freedom of expression, solidarity, democracy and loyalty among the Member States. How can we jointly ensure that these fundamental principles of European integration remain relevant for the future?

Although the European Union may sometimes seem ill-equipped to face the many challenges that have arisen over the last decade – from the economic and financial crisis to the challenges in working towards a just and equitable EU migration system and the ongoing pandemic – we are aware that it would be much harder for each of us if we were alone. How can we best strengthen European cooperation and solidarity and make sure that we emerge from the health crisis in a way that makes us more resilient to future challenges?

We need a strong and effective European Union, a European Union that will be a global leader in the transition to sustainable, climate neutral, and digitally supported development. We need a European Union we can all identify with, certain in the knowledge that we have done our utmost for the benefit of future generations. Together, we can achieve this.

The Conference on the Future of Europe will be an opportunity to talk openly about the European Union and to listen our citizens, especially young people. It creates a space for dialogue, conversation and discussions on of what we expect from the EU tomorrow and what we can contribute today.

We need to think about our common future; therefore, we invite you to join the discussion and help find a way forward together.

Klaus Iohannis

President of Romania

Alexander Van der Bellen

President of the Republic of Austria

Rumen Radev

President of the Republic of Bulgaria

Zoran Milanović

President of the Republic of Croatia

Nicos Anastasiades

President of the Republic of Cyprus

Miloš Zeman

President of the Czech Republic

Kersti Kaljulaid

President of the Republic of Estonia

Sauli Niinistö

President of the Republic of Finland

Emmanuel Macron

President of the French Republic

Frank-Walter Steinmeier

President of the Federal Republic of Germany

Katerina Sakellaropoulou

President of the Hellenic Republic

János Áder

President of the Republic of Hungary

Michael D. Higgins

Uachtarán na hÉireann

President of Ireland

Sergio Mattarella

President of the Italian Republic

Egils Levits

President of the Republic of Latvia

Gitanas Nausėda

President of the Republic of Lithuania

George Vella

President of the Republic of Malta

Andrzej Duda

President of the Republic of Poland

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa

President of the Portuguese Republic

Zuzana Čaputová

President of the Slovak Republic

Borut Pahor

President of the Republic of Slovenia

The idea for the letter was initiated by the President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor and the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella during their meeting in Rome and was later developed in cooperation with all the Presidents of the EU Member States.

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EU local leaders ready to work with the European Parliament to better communicate Europe on the ground and scale up cooperation on the Conference on the future of Europe

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© European Union / Giedre Daugelaite

EU local leaders are ready to work with the European Parliament to better communicate Europe on the ground and scale up cooperation on the Conference on the future of Europe, according to a press release forwarded to caleaeuropeana.ro.

European Parliament’s Vice-President for Information policy, Press and Citizens Relations, Othmar Karas, and Vice-President for Relations with the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), Klára Dobrev, joined the members of the Bureau of the CoR to debate how to better communicate the EU action and achievements to people in regions, cities and villages across Europe. They also discussed how to contribute to the Conference on the future of EU and scale up the cooperation between the only two EU institutions gathering elected officials.

As regional presidents and local mayors we can offer our trust and expertise on the ground and our ability to reach out to our communities across Europe. We are ready to reinforce our cooperation with the European Parliament by jointly organising local dialogues to contribute to the Conference on the future of Europe. We are also looking at how to build concrete synergies between the EP pilot project Building Europe with Local Entities (BELE) and our Committee’s upcoming Network of Local and Regional EU Councilors. Based on the cooperation agreement between our two institutions, we want to work to identify common concrete actions able to explain the added-value of the European Union“, said Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the CoR.

“I really appreciate the debate with the members of the Bureau of the Committee of Regions as it is exceptionally constructive. There must be an open minded approach on the Conference on the Future of Europe. We must not be afraid about possible outcomes, before we are even discussing. If a change of the European Treaties is necessary to empower Europe to act faster and to strengthen the trust of the citizens, we should work for it. It is our task as politicians to gain majorities for policies that are right and necessary. We have to engage deeply in the dialogue with the European citizens. Firstly, they can participate on our digital platform and we will encourage them to do so. But secondly it is of crucial importance to debate with the citizens face to face. Nobody is in a better position to do so and closer to the people than the Members of the CoR, the mayors representatives of local and regional authorities and we Members of the European Parliament”, said Othmar KarasVice-President of the European Parliament.

Vice-President Klára Dobrev added: The forthcoming Conference on the Future of Europe has a much higher stake than most of our deliberations. The outcome of the Conference will be decisive as to Europe remains a global power, or it will shrink into an ongoing playfield of selfish heads of national governments. No less than the future of our children and our grandchildren is at stake. It is inevitably crucial that the discourses about the future of Europe will be as much inclusive and embracing as never before. The Committee of Regions is the genuine representative of all regions throughout the European Union. For this reason, I found it gratifying at its recent Bureau-meeting that the Committee of Regions is also seeking a prominent role in the European discussions about the future of Europe. Our responsibility is enormous. If we want to deliver to our European citizens, we must offer them rewarding ideas about our shared future. The partnership of the Committee of Regions in this exercise will increase our prospects exceedingly!”.

The discussion took place ahead of the CoR Plenary session which is hosting high level debates also on the Conference on the Future of Europe. On 5 May, regional and local authorities debate with António Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal, and European Parliament President, David Sassoli, while on 7 May Herman Van Rompuy, former President of the European Council, will discuss with CoR members the Committee’s contribution to the Conference on the Future of Europe, in his capacity as chairman of the High-Level Group on European Democracy recently created by the CoR.

On 9 May, the CoR will hold a local debate in Strasbourg to mark the territorial dimension of the Conference. The event, co-organised with the main French regional and local associations, will allow regional and local leaders to discuss with citizens how to bring the Conference to regions, cities and villages across Europe. The local event will be attended, among others, by Dubravka Šuica, European Commissioner for Democracy and Demography, Guy Verhofstadt, Co-Chair of the Executive Committee of the Conference on the Future of Europe, and Ana Paula Zacarias, Portuguese Secretary of State for European Affairs.

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Op-ed | Apostolos Tzitzikostas: European foundations lie in local communities. Conference on the Future of Europe must make their voices heard

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© EPP CoR/ Twitter

Opinion by Apostolos Tzitzikostas,

President of the European Committee of the Regions

For more than one year now the COVID-19 pandemic has swept across Europe. It has forced us to restrict the lives of our people and introduce other urgent unprecedented measures. This dreadful virus has tragically taken more than 680.000 lives in the European Union.

Throughout these difficult times, the CoR, and the one million regional and local elected politicians in more than 300 regions and 90 000 municipalities it represents, has never stopped working to serve the people living in regions, cities and villages across Europe.

As the pandemic crisis has clearly shown, our Union’s foundations lie in our local communities. As local leaders, our responsibilities are great – from running health services and schools to providing social services in these troubled times.

Despite the unprecedented difficulties, we have found new ways to encourage research, support businesses, adapt the local economy, and work with civil society. We have been fighting side by side with doctors and nurses.

The months ahead will continue to be difficult for all of us, but there is light at the end of the tunnel if we work in solidarity and continue striving for a smooth and comprehensive vaccination campaign. We must make sure that our key values of cohesion and solidarity remain the principles for the vaccination strategy in the EU and its regions. We must avoid competition for vaccines between Member States and within Member States and avoid a ”vaccine divide’’ that would increase inequalities between our regions, cities and villages.

Europe must emerge from this crisis more resilient and formally recognise the central importance of local and regional administrations. We are a cornerstone for the health, prosperity, resilience and vibrancy of our local communities.

We must ensure that EU funds are used effectively to help the recovery of our local communities. We must be fully involved in designing and implementing EU and national recovery plans. Our contribution is key to forging policies that manage the fundamental societal transformations we are facing. COVID-19 is one of those transforming forces. So too are the climate crisis, the digitalisation of our economies and the demographic evolution.

Trust will pull us through this crisis, and we, locally and regionally elected leaders, are the most trusted level of government. We know best the citizens’ needs and concerns and we know how to address them via concrete actions on the ground.

If we are to boost the European project we must enhance its democratic functioning. We must build together our common House of European Democracy with its roof – the European Union –, its walls – the Member States – and its foundations – the regions, cities and villages.

The Conference on the Future of Europe is a great opportunity to strengthen the democratic functioning of the EU. The Conference is not an objective per se: its goal must be to honestly engage with people, also via the European Committee of the Regions that represents the vote of the citizens living all across Europe.

We can make sure that citizens participate in this process and have their say because local and regional authorities are the closest and most trusted level of government.

By listening to our people, the Conference must allow an honest reflection through a profound democratisation process. We want less institutional complexity and more democratic representation of people’s trust via their vote in the European, national, regional and local elections.

Our recently established High-Level Group on Democracy led by former European Council President Herman van Rompuy will strive to promote our Committee’s contribution to the Conference. We will team up with the business sector and civil society, youth associations and territorial European and national associations and, of course, with the three EU institutions which are steering the Conference – the Parliament, Commission and Council. Our local dialogue on 9 May marks the territorial dimension of the Conference and, in addition to many local dialogues across the UE, we will organise the Summit of Regions and Cities during the French Presidency in early 2022 in Marseille.

As governors, presidents of regions, mayors, regional and local councillors, we have been at the forefront, fighting the pandemic, and now we are ready to start the recovery. Today Europe and its people need trust and leadership. The Conference on the Future of Europe can contribute to this process if it genuinely and concretely involves our local communities and if it gives voice to people in our regions, cities and villages. This is key to avoid a top-down exercise that would only feed the demagogic and anti-European false narrative of populists and Euro-sceptics.

Our purpose, as European Committee of the Regions, is to establish a strong regional and local dimension of the entire Conference in all EU Members States by engaging with citizens at regional and local level. We are fully convinced that by working together, based on mutual respect, we can increase the trust of our citizens in our common European project, strengthen the EU democratic architecture and bring Europe closer to its people.

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