– The coronavirus crisis has tested the cohesion of the European Union – said President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen on Monday (October 12). “But Europe worked,” she added.
The President of the European Commission took part in the debate on the first edition of the “EU Regional and Local Barometer”, which took place at the European Committee of the Regions, an EU advisory body composed of local government officials from EU countries.
The barometer research, carried out on the initiative of the Committee, focused on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in regions, cities and villages. These analyzes show, inter alia, that over 90 percent. EU regions and municipalities expect incomes to decline sharply.
Von der Leyen, who spoke in the discussion through a video link, emphasized that local authorities are the “first line of defense” when the crisis hits.
Addressing representatives of local governments, she admitted that they might have felt lonely at the beginning of the pandemic. – Indeed, this crisis has tested the cohesion of the European Union – she said. She pointed out that some regions had been hit harder and that there were concerns that their recovery would take longer and lag behind.
In her opinion, however, Europe acted in this situation. The head of the European Commission recalled that a new budget and the EU’s Next Generation EU reconstruction support program had been prepared. This instrument, she assured, would give the Member States a chance to overcome the difficult situation, with regions and cities, she pointed out, at its center.
According to Von der Leyen, regions should be included in the concept of national reconstruction plans from the very beginning. – Capitals should consult you because we all know that local governments are the bodies that fill European projects with life. It also means a great responsibility that rests with the state – she told local government officials.
She also pointed out that the goal of Next Generation EU, apart from responding to the crisis, is also to change social structures and balance Europe’s balances. – When we do this, we are moving towards a green, digital, resilient future – said the head of the European Commission.
The head of the Committee of the Regions, Apostolos Cicikostas, stressed that key decisions aimed at fighting the crisis and sustainable development should be taken as close to the citizens as possible. ‘To revive our Europe together, we need to strengthen its foundations – regions and cities,’ he said.
As part of the EU barometer, a survey has been prepared which shows that local and regional authorities enjoy the greatest trust among EU citizens. Trust in local governments is declared by 52 percent. of respondents, to the EU – 47 percent, and to national governments – 43 percent. 58 percent respondents also assessed that increasing the importance of local government will positively affect the EU’s ability to solve problems. The study was carried out by the Kantar studio between 3 and 17 September on a sample of 26,000 people. EU citizens.
Another barometer survey, carried out by the Committee with the OECD in 300 municipalities and regions, shows that more than half of local governments feel a very strong financial impact of the pandemic and believe they will feel a deterioration in 2021 or even 2022 without support.
According to the analysis, the pandemic may also widen the gap between rural and urban areas and deepen the differences between education systems, e.g. due to the low level of digitization.
The barometer also found that the effects of the pandemic may be greater for women, accounting for approx. health workers in the Union. A similar proportion of women in the Union work in commercial positions.
Want to know more about the coronavirus pandemic? Check the statistics: