Thursday, 18 June 2009

Abela Baldacchino criticises European Commission 'failure' on social Europe and calls for more efforts to fight discrimination


Committee of the Regions

Press Release

CdR/09/CP 072.en

Brussels, 18 June 2009

Abela Baldacchino criticises European Commission 'failure' on social Europe and calls for new 'citizen focused' Europe and more efforts to fight discrimination

Claudette Abela Baldacchino (MT/PES), the Committee of the Regions' rapporteur on 'Non-discrimination, equal opportunities and the implementation of the principle of equal treatment between persons' has strongly criticised the "failure" of the European Commission to act quickly to tackle social exclusion in the current difficult economic times.

"Social cohesion in Europe can only be sustained if we have policies that are designed to develop people’s competencies and to ensure that those who are at risk of social exclusion are fully integrated in the life of our communities," Ms Abela Baldacchino told CoR members in Brussels on 18 June, when her opinion was adopted at the Plenary Session. "This can only be achieved if we fight discrimination in our societies and recognise people’s abilities and create an environment, both socially and economically, for people to succeed."

Ms Abela Baldacchino also expressed the preoccupation that the recent results in the European Parliamentary elections are likely to make a more social Europe even more difficult to achieve. "We need to enhance our commitment to the core values that have made this European Union a reference point for all those upholding democratic values throughout the world, making the European Union a beacon of light and of hope for all those at risk of social exclusion. The fight for equal treatment and against any discrimination on the basis of religion, belief, disability, age or sexual orientation is a key element of this European endeavour."

Ms Abela Baldacchino also stressed the results of the recent European elections showed the risk of a serious disillusionment by the majority of European citizens who feel that their concerns are no longer of concern to the European institutions. "We must work very hard to reverse this dangerous trend by ensuring that people are truly placed at the heart of European politics." In this context, the CoR rapporteur on non-discrimination underlined the key role that local and regional authorities across the EU are playing in implementing EU anti-discrimination policy and in creating an environment in which all citizens, irrespective of their views, race or sexual orientation can fully participate in social life.

"It is important for the European institutions to realise that there cannot be social harmony within the European Union unless there is social justice, and there can be no social justice without true equality amongst the people of Europe. The European Union should be proactive and take the initiative to bring about the necessary change to outdated policies and procedures so that every European citizen can be, and more importantly, feel that they are, a valuable member of a society where everyone can maximise their potential and escape from social and economic poverty. In this respect, this opinion should be seen as a document of hope and trust which advocates a paradigm shift away from the status quo to a new Europe in which people are empowered to succeed."

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Around two-thirds of EU legislation is implemented by local and regional authorities in the Member States. The Committee of the Regions was created in 1994 to give representatives of local government a say over the content of these laws. The CoR organises five plenary sessions a year, where its 344 members vote on opinions issued in response to proposed legislation. The European Commission, which initiates EU laws, and the Council of Ministers, which determines the final content of the legislation (usually in tandem with the European Parliament), are obliged to consult the CoR on a wide range of policy areas including the environment, employment and transport. The Lisbon Treaty will strengthen the position of the Committee of the Regions further. In future, the Committee must be consulted by the European Parliament on all issues that are important for regions and municipalities. The Committee can also appeal to the EU Court of Justice if its rights are infringed or it believes that an EU law violates the subsidiarity principle or fails to respect regional or local powers.

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