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MEP Vasile Blaga: Romania is an example in terms of minorities, and an over-regulation at EU level would be “harmful”

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MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) considers that Romania is an example in terms of minorities, and over-regulation at EU level would be ”harmful”.

“As for the Minority SafePack initiative, I fully support the democratic participation of citizens in EU decisions. But citizens’ initiatives, such as this one, cannot achieve the spirit and principles set out in the fundamental treaties of the European Union. In this sense, the initiative does not tell us that in order to make it happen, it is necessary to amend the EU treaties but also the constitutional order in the Member States. Likewise, the initiative speaks of collective rights on ethnic grounds given that at EU level there is not even a clear definition of a national minority. Moreover, the effects of the implementation of this initiative could generate an even greater polarization of societies, contrary to the EU objective – integration and cohesion “, underlined the MEP Vasile Blaga, according to the official press release, sent by CaleaEuropeana.ro

Minority Safe Pack is a package of law proposals for the safety of the national minorities, a set of EU legal acts that enable the promotion of minority rights, language rights, and the protection of their cultures. In short, it sums up our main objectives: safety for minorities and legislative package for minorities: ”We want the European Union to take responsibility and become a genuine promoter of cultural and linguistic diversity across Europe. We want the Copenhagen Criteria on protecting the rights of minorities to be observed also by the Member States of the EU.”

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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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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MEP Vasile Blaga: European COVID-19 certificate will improve EU health security

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MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) welcomes the European Parliament’s positive vote in plenary for the EU COVID-19 certificate which will make it easier for European citizens to travel this summer.

“Although there is a large group of citizens who are skeptical about this certificate, I would like to clarify a few points. Firstly, I would like to emphasize that the European COVID 19 Certificate will certify that the person holding it has been vaccinated, has a negative test, or has antibodies obtained from the disease. What is important here is the authenticity and certainty of this in a context where the EU is increasingly faced with cases of falsification of PCR tests or vaccination certificates. We are therefore eliminating forgeries that endanger the health security of the Union”, said the MEP for the news platform Calea Europeana.

The MEP also rejects the idea of discrimination put forward by those who oppose the introduction of the certificate: “The introduction of the other variants, negative test, and positive antibody test, definitively eliminates the idea that the unvaccinated will be restricted in their freedom of movement within the European Union. In fact, the current conditions will not change radically. The European COVID-19 certificate will, in fact, be a uniform EU certification that will simplify procedures and ultimately enhance EU health security,” added Vasile Blaga.

No less important is the provision approved by the European Parliament on free testing at Member State level, another provision that eliminates discrimination among European citizens: “There are many reasons why some citizens will not be tested: economic or otherwise. This is why the European Parliament has emphasized that the EU Member States must provide universal, accessible, timely and free testing to their citizens”, said Vasile Blaga.

“Looking at the measure as a whole, it is the duty of the Member States to move quickly to adapt their national legislation to the framework established at the European level so that this year’s summer holidays can run almost normally”, concluded the EPP MEP.

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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.

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