Bucharest, 15 March 2019

[check against delivery]

Dear President Lambertz,

Deputy Prime Minister Suciu,

Honourable members of the committee of the regions

Ladies and gentlemen,

As President Juncker so rightly said: Europe must be local.

Responsive to local needs.

Improving daily lives.

Acting in every locality, in every town, region and country of our Union.

Because in these populist times, it often seems like there is a gap.

A gap between governments and the governed.

A rift between different regions and countries, between local people and Brussels.

In such times, it is more important than ever that we stick together.

Where there is a gap I say: build a bridge.

A bridge of co-operation, a bridge of understanding, a bridge of shared values where we can work together.

Today I will briefly share with you three such bridges.

The first bridge is obvious.

It is all around us.

Events, such as today, which bring together the cities and regions of Europe.

Promoting dialogue.

Working together.

And one of the pillars of this bridge, is the Committee of the Regions.

You do more than anyone to bridge the gap.

Thank you for this.

We in the Commission do our part too.

More than 1300 citizen’s dialogues on the future of Europe.

And in Cohesion Policy, our structural dialogues with civil society.

All of these dialogues bridge the gap, bring us together help us work together.

The second bridge is subsidiarity.

We to need to ensure that EU policies have a greater added value.

This means the right impact, at the right place.

Consequently, we also need to ensure that local and regional authorities make a more effective contribution to EU policymaking.

This is why President Juncker launched a task force on subsidiarity and proportionality.

Led by Vice-President Frans Timmermans, this task force included also Karl-Heinz, and several other members of the Committee of the Regions, and of national Parliaments.

The Task Force outlined a new way of working on subsidiarity and proportionality.

This new work of working has rightly been called “Active subsidiarity”:

That is to say, a deliberate effort to engage regional and local actors at each stage in the policy cycle.

Local and regional authorities should be engaged from the outset.

Participating at an early stage to shape new initiatives and to signal concerns.

In addition, the impact assessment will include local and regional views as well as a territorial impact assessment.

Local and regional actors will then be associated in delivery and implementation

Finally evaluations will seek to better capture the experience of local and regional authorities.

I welcome the work of this task force.

I believe it lays a firm foundation for our common work in the future.

The third and final bridge: Cohesion policy.

We are more committed than ever to the partnership principle.

Urban, local and regional authorities must be fully involved.

Active partners in the whole process, from programming to implementation to evaluation.

Cohesion policy is already the model for the working methods set out by the task force on subsidiarity.

And we are reinforcing partnership in future.

I call on the Member States to endorse the partnership principle and thus empower local authorities.

In addition, our post-2020 proposals include a dedicated policy objective

“Europe closer to citizens.”

This takes to the next level our commitment to integrated and place-based development.

It is a flexible framework with a simple goal: to bring the EU closer to citizens.

We are committed too to building human links across borders.

We want to play a decisive role in bringing Europeans together.

In building positive relations between people from different communities and backgrounds.

In creating a sense of belonging to the common European project.

So territorial cooperation, including small-scale cross-border initiatives and people-to-people projects is indispensable.

Finally, we want to enhancing the visibility of cohesion policy and better communicate achievements.

Only a minority of citizens know just how much cohesion policy has done for them.

It provides over 40% of public investment in cohesion countries.

It is on course in the current period to support 1.1 million SMEs and over 400,000 jobs.

To construct 750 kilometres of tram and metro lines.

And to give 42 million people access to improved healthcare services.

These are tangible contributions to local people and to local quality of life.

I ask you to help us get the message out.

To show citizens what we are doing for them.

In conclusion, today more than ever, it is essential that we work together.

That we bridge the gap, between the different regions and cities of Europe, between Europe and its citizens.

In this endeavour, I want to thank once again the Committee of the Regions for being the European voice of all of you who, day after day, work for meeting the needs of our citizens.

In my capacity as Commissioner for Regional Policy, I can assure you that we will remain

committed to partnership with local actors, to local development strategies, bringing Europe closer to its citizens.

Let us build bridges, work together, stick together, listen to each other.

This is probably the best way to show, in a world that is constantly changing, that we cannot do without Europe, that Europe can protect our citizens, that Europe can help them thrive.

Thank you very much for your attention