Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso, President of the EU Committee of the Regions (CoR) and co-President of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM), met y in Tel Aviv with Israeli’s Mayors from the Union of Local Authorities in Israel (ULAI). The main purpose of the meeting was to introduce them to the role and activities of ARLEM and discuss synergies to be further developed between the CoR and Israeli local authorities.
In his position as co-President of ARLEM, Mr Valcárcel gave an outline of the role and ambition of ARLEM as the local and regional arm of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) since 2010: “Together with the ARLEM’s co-president, Abd el Rahman, Governor of Giza in Egypt, our aim is to involve local and regional authorities in the further development of the UfM and to bring it closer to the citizens. By doing so we are practising genuine Euro-Mediterranean dialogue, which is often hampered on other levels. ARLEM therefore allows local and regional representatives of the three shores of the Mediterranean to meet regularly to boost inter-regional cooperation, exchange experience and ensure political representation of the local and regional level.”
President Valcárcel stressed his active involvement both in ARLEM and in the CoR focussing on the issue of local water management, which remains a salient topic for all Euro-Mediterranean regions. He referred to a report he drafted on local water management in the Mediterranean, which was adopted by ARLEM in 2011 and then presented again for discussion at its Commission for Sustainable Development on 15 June in Bethlehem.
He further stressed multi-governance as a central guiding principles on which ARLEM work is based: “We believe that multi-level governance and territorial development, which entail building the capacity of political players at regional and local levels by increasing their powers and responsibilities, not only strengthen democracy but also enable cities and regions to find the keys to sustainable and job-rich economic development.” In this regards, he pointed out the positive experience of the EU Cohesion Policy: “Consolidating democracy, territorial development, economic growth and job creation: this is the goal we are working towards in both the North and South of the Mediterranean, guided by the positive results that have already been achieved by cohesion policy in the European Union”.
Mr Valcárcel also argued in favour of developing further synergies with Israel’s local authorities, mentioning in particular the EU legal instrument for cross-border cooperation set up at the initiative of the CoR – the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) – which he believes could be of interest to Israel’s cities, and the possibility of setting up macro-regions for the Mediterranean. The CoR President also invited the Israeli Mayors to look into the possibility of joining the Covenant of Mayors, the mainstream European initiative involving local and regional authorities in the fight against climate change and developing a more sustainable energy future for cities
The Union of Local Authorities in Israel (ULAI) is the umbrella organization of 265 Israeli local authorities representing them towards the national government in their daily issues and problems.
The meeting was held between Mr Valcárcel and Mr Meir Dahan, Mayor of Mazkeret Batya, Mr Itzhak Goulbari, Mayor of Kadima-Tzoran, Mr Samir Darwish, Mayor of Zemer, Mr Moshik Lipetz, Mayor of Savyon, and Mr Avi Ben Chemo, Director General of the Petakh Tikva Municipality.
The Committee of the Regions
The Committee of the Regions is the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives. The mission of its 344 members from all 27 EU Member States is to involve regional and local authorities and the communities they represent in the EU’s decision-making process and to inform them about EU policies. The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council are obliged to consult the Committee in policy areas affecting regions and cities. It can appeal to the EU Court of Justice if its rights are infringed or it believes that an EU law infringes the subsidiarity principle or fails to respect regional or local powers.