22 May 2001
CONVENER opened the meeting at 14:02]
The Convener (Hugh
Henry): I welcome colleagues to the seventh meeting in 2001
of the European Committee of the Scottish Parliament. This is
a unique meeting for usit is a joint meeting with a delegation
of our colleagues from the Committee of the Regions led by Manfred
We have had contacts
with our colleagues in Europe for many years and, since the Scottish
Parliament was established, we have had many visitors from Europe.
Before I go on to the broader aspects, I shall refer to some of
the organisational requirements for this afternoon. We haveagain,
it is an unusual event for usaccess to translation services.
We have what has been described as active translation in French,
English and German and passive translation in Spanish, Italian
and Swedish. We hope that, with that combination, we are able
to allow everyone to participate in the proceedings. I apologise
to those whose requirements have not been fully met.
In order to speak,
you are required to press a button on the system in front of you.
However, I ask you to indicate as early in the meeting as possible
that you wish to speak; the secretariat will note that and we
will try to bring people in. To extend the co-operation as much
as possible, I will, after the introductory speakers, try to balance
the contributions between members of the Scottish Parliament's
European Committee and members of the Committee of the Regions.
After the welcome, we will have a contribution from Manfred Dammeyer.
Stefaan de Rynck will then make a short contribution on behalf
of the European Commission. Christine May will contribute on behalf
of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and Lord Tope
and Michel Delebarre, as the COR rapporteurs, will make short
contributions. We will then open the discussion to the floor.
We have circulated
in advance some papers, including the joint discussion paper by
the Scottish Executive and COSLA on European governance, which
was referred to earlier today by Jack McConnell, the Minister
for Education, Europe and
External Affairs. Essentially,
what we want to do today is to consider how to improve consultation
and engagement with stakeholders and citizens in the nations and
regions of Europe. We want to consider the roles of national Parliaments
in a reformed European Union and the role of regions and localities.
It would be interesting for us in Scotland to hear more about
the role that the Committee of the Regions sees itself playing.
To enable me to accommodate
everybody, I encourage speakers to keep their contributions as
short as possible. A number of my colleagues have to leave early
due to travel arrangements. We will try to accommodate that. On
a practical note, I have been asked by the staff to remind you
to turn off mobile phones and pagers for the duration of the meeting
and that no photography is permitted during the meeting. In the
event of a fire alarm sounding, I ask you, on leaving the chamber,
to follow the instructions from the secretariat.
For those of you who
are staying over, I remind you that an evening reception is being
hosted by the Scottish Executive in Edinburgh Castle this evening.
We should meet in the car park on the esplanade outside the castle
at 18:30. I ask anyone who has to leave early and would like a
taxi to the airport to notify a member of the secretariat, who
will make arrangements for you.
Colleagues, it is my
pleasure, on behalf of the European Committee of the Scottish
Parliament, formally to begin our discussions on the reform of
the European Union and its future. The Parliament in which you
sit is our temporary home; we will move to our new building in
the near future. The Parliament is among both the oldest and the
youngest Parliaments in Europe. The devolution of power to Scotland,
Northern Ireland and to Wales has been an unusual experiment for
a country such as the United Kingdom. It has been done quickly,
since the Government was elected in 1997. Legislation was passed
and the Parliament was created within a short space of time.
To some extent, as
a young Parliament we are learning as we develop. However, we
have also drawn from the European experience in the construction
of the Parliament. We have considered the European model of governance
and have introduced, for the first time in a country such as Scotland,
many aspects of European democracy in relation to the membership
and presidency of the committees and the membership of the Parliament
Scotland has always
taken an outward-looking approach towards Europe. Historically,
we have had many links with Europe, from the auld alliance with
France to links with Flanders over many years. In recent years,
the former Strathclyde region was one of the first regions of
establish a presence
in Brussels. Many of you will know Charles Gray, of the former
Strathclyde Regional Council, who played an active role in the
Committee of the Regions. Following the creation of our Parliament,
we have a presence in Brusselsthe Executive has opened Scotland
Houseand we are seeking to play a full part in the representation
of Scotland in Europe.
As I said, we have
welcomed many visitors to our new Parliament since its opening
on 1 July 1999, including delegates from Germany, France, Sweden,
the Basque country, the Netherlands and many other countries.
The committee recently held a videoconference on fisheries issues
with the president of the Fisheries Committee in the Galician
Parliament, which was very productive and interesting. We have
been seeking to make contact with our colleagues throughout Europe.
We want to learn from their experiences and we hope that our experiences
might be of use to them in their own areas, regions and nations
as they develop democracy.
It is vital that exchanges
continue within Europe and its institutions. The Commission's
forthcoming white paper on governance and the wider debate on
the future of Europe will make it clear that the European Union
is at a crossroads. We in Scotland want to make a contribution
to the debate and the future direction of Europe. Unwarranted
criticism is sometimes levelled at European institutions and people
talk about their remoteness from the citizen, but distancing can
also occur within the nations and regions of Europe. We must ensure
that democracy is brought as close to the citizen as possible.
The Committee of the Regions was formed to encourage the regions
of Europe to play a greater role in the development of Europe's
policies and affairs.
There is much to be
done, we have much to learn and there is much to discuss. I hope
that today's meeting will make a contribution both to the Scottish
Parliament's considerations of governance and to the debate that
is taking place in the Committee of the Regions. Our new Parliament,
which was established at the end of the 20th century
in anticipation of the 21st century, can provide a
model for new forms of governance, although we are learning as
we go along. The Parliament has four guiding principles: that
power should be shared between the people and the legislature;
that government should be accountable; that the Parliament should
be accessible, open and responsible; and that the Parliament should
promote equal opportunities. Today and in future discussion, I
would like us to consider how we can put those principles into
practice as we debate the future of Europe and its governance.
Colleagues, I thank
you for taking the time to come to our Parliament and I hope that
you enjoy your stay in Edinburgh. Those of you who have come from
southern Europe have brought your good weather with youEdinburgh
is a beautiful city anyway, but it looks its best in weather such
as we have today. We hope that we will see some of you this evening,
at the dinner, and we will continue to co-operate with you in
future years. Thank you.
Mr Manfred Dammeyer
(Committee of the Regions): (simultaneous interpretation)
First of all, I thank our Scottish colleagues for the invitation
to come here, for the wonderful facilities and for the good weather
that we are enjoying.
We have come here to
discuss governance. That concept, along with a number of matters
related to it, has developed in an idiosyncratic way over as short
a period as six months. In my introductory remarks, I shall concentrate
on the matters that have been of interest to the Committee of
A great deal has been
said about the discussion on governance. There must be civic participation
in government negotiations. Governance is not a matter just for
Governments and Parliaments; differently organised and non-organised
interests must also be involved in the decision-making process.
That is important. Bringing Europe closer to its citizens is only
a part of what needs to be done.
We must also talk about
responsibilitythe responsibility of elected representatives,
who can leave office, to behave in a responsible way. I believe
that that is important to the Scottish Executive and to the Convention
of Scottish Local Authorities. It is important to all of us in
Europe that we include all the different strands of society in
identifying problems and making decisions responsibly. That lesson
has been well learned in Scotland, as evidenced by the setting
up of the Scottish Parliament and the establishment of a system
of governance with its own responsibilities, separate from London.
President Prodi suggested
that a white paper should be produced that would set out the overall
concept of governance in Europe. He did so at a time when he assumed
that we, in the European Union, had reached the end of our discussion
on governance in relation to European matters. Following the Nice
conference, he said that any discussion of institutional matters
in the European Union was over. He said that in the context of
a second considerationthe concept of proximity. In the Committee
of the Regions, Prodi said that the debate on proximity would
displace the debate on
subsidiarity. He said
that the principle of proximitybringing the administrative
behaviour of the European Union, member states and the regions
closer to the citizenswould replace the principle of subsidiarity
in the treaties. We were sceptical about that. The most important
outcome of the Nice conference is that there is now a new discussion
on both those ideasgovernance and subsidiaritycontrary
to what Prodi expected, and we are taking that discussion seriously.
It was decided at the
Nice conference that there would be another intergovernmental
conference in 2004, at which two important matters would be discussed.
The first relates to competence in the European Union and making
decisions on that. The second is a newly defined architecture
for the European institutions. Those two issues are extremely
important for the Committee of the Regions in considering governance.
I have no objection to being called an organisational freak, because
I want the best possible conditions for my organisation. We have
good preconditions and there is a window of opportunity for such
a discussion. It is true that the answers to the questions will
be available only at the IGC in 2004, but we must be ready to
participate in the discussion and we must take it seriously. Many
other partners are discussing the same subject, which is why it
is important for the Committee of the Regions to be involved.
The Commission fought
tooth and nail to define the approach to governance that is taken
in the white paper. We were told that there might be a white paper
and that we would have to wait to see what was in it and what
we wanted to do with it. Many things are controversial. There
has been a great deal of change and much needs to be discussed
again. It is my personal convictionin accordance with the
opinion produced by the Committee of the Regionsthat we
must continue to examine how to organise society so that Administrations
and Parliaments shoulder the appropriate burden of responsibility.
That question is far
from resolved. We must ensure that all interests are given an
opportunity to participate. How do we involve non-organised interests
or those interests that find it difficult to articulate their
views? That is an important question for any Government or Parliament.
For that reason there is still a need to talk comprehensively
There is a window of
opportunity for that discussion. The Committee of the Regions
is involved in that, particularly when it comes to debating the
distribution of competences at European and member state level.
We also need to consider which competences at member state level
should be devolved to the regions. That is of paramount importance.
The second major issue
concerns the architecture
of the European Union. We need to consider how in future the regions
will be involved in the European decision-making process.
When the Committee
of the Regions started its work, it had no models on which to
base itself. Never before had a parliamentary body been developed
in such a short time to cover the 15 member states of the European
Union. Everything had to be done between 1990 and 1992. We had
to meet a large number of requirements, but the real discussion
time was short. To complicate matters, the committee's competences
were extended during its first term. We gained influence by ensuring
that our opinions were taken seriously. We had to ensure that
the Council of Ministers took account of the committee's opinions.
That is unprecedented for a parliamentary body.
Two initial mistakes
were made. The first related to the composition of the Committee
of the Regions. Too much attention was paid to ensuring that its
structure mirrored that of the Economic and Social Committee.
That caused us a great deal of work. The second mistake was to
create the Committee of the Regions as an advisory body. From
the outset some regions wanted more than that. The discussion
on that issue now needs to be repeated and broadened. The regions
with constitutional and legislative competence have begun that
discussion. To some extent, that has highlighted the problems
we have faced.
I want to focus on
a couple of the most important decisions that were made at the
Barcelona conference. I quote:
The witness continued
regions are not satisfied with the current institutional framework,
in which the Committee of the Regions is the body representing
the interests of local and regional authorities. The constitutional
regions have reservations about whether the Committee of the Regions
in its current shape and with its current institutional status
can meet the needs and wishes of the regions."
The witness continued
in German (simultaneous interpretation). We must ask what
our current shape and institutional status are. I quote another
The witness continued
"The role of the
Committee of the Regions in the decision-making process could
clearly be strengthened. The Committee of the Regions should be
given the status of a fully-fledged EU institution with political
powers that go beyond a purely consultative role and with the
right to institute proceedings in the European Court of Justice."
The witness continued
in German (simultaneous interpretation). That is the proposal
that has been madethe only one. It is not very broad, but
it is a proposal. I believe that it is important. After the intergovernmental
conference in Nice, the
Committee of the Regions
decided, first, that it wanted competences that are more than
consultative or advisory. We want the power to take decisions.
Secondly, we want any second chamber in the European Parliament
to arise from the Committee of the Regions.
A number of questions
must be addressed to all the regions in Europeboth the constitutional
and the non-constitutional ones. Member states that do not have
a constitution for the regions must decide how best to include
their regions. The regions must also decide how they want to be
involved. That is our task. We must ensure that there is not too
The first question
that we must ask ourselves is, "What do the regions want
at European level?" How do they want to be involved in decision
making? How do they want to be involved in the legislative process?
How do they see their relationship with Europe as determined by
the principle of subsidiarity? The regions, of course, want to
have maximum decision-making powers.
Secondly, how do we
organise those powers into a body that covers all EU member states?
Should such a body include only constitutional regions, such as
Scotland, the German and Austrian Länder and the Belgian
regions or perhaps also the Spanish, French and Italian regions?
Would they decide what regional policy in Finland should look
like? If not, what is the alternative?
In my view, we need
a body that covers all the member states. What would that look
like for Greece, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, with their particular
histories and their specific current constitutional arrangements?
What about Ireland and the Netherlands? They all have their peculiarities.
In many countries there are no constitutional regions with legislative
powers. We need to ask ourselves how we can organise a system
so that it covers all examples. The constitutional regions must
ask themselves that if they are to ensure that they have appropriate
influence at European level on decision making.
I am not talking just
about co-operation with other regions. There are many bodies through
which the constitutional regions can address that. There are all
sorts of bilateral and multilateral opportunities. That is not
the problem. We must ensure that the European regions have treaty-based
competences. That means addressing the question of the status
of the non-constitutional regionsat communal, local and
municipal levelin countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands
We are right at the
beginning of the political process. It is likely that the decision
will be taken in 2004, so we must start now to consider different
proposals and how we
can be involved. We have a panorama of possibilities to consider.
In October last year, in Warsaw, Prime Minister Blair suggested
that the European Parliament form a second chamber made up of
representatives of national Parliaments. That is his view. The
German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, has proposed that there
be a parliamentary chamber. The Austrian President has proposed
that, in addition to the European Parliament, there should be
a chamber of the states, but we do not know who he proposes would
sit in that chamber and whether its members would be representatives
of the regions or of national Governments or national Parliaments.
That is still all undecided.
We need to say that
we, the regions, want to be involved in whatever arrangement finally
comes to pass. I am not proposing how such a chamber should be
organiseddo not get me wrong. I am merely saying that we
must ensure that our view is taken into account now, at the beginning
of the discussion, when all sorts of proposals are being made.
We need to question proposals on which we do not have a view and
we need to question any attempt to sideline us.
We need to follow a
two-track approacha double strategy. We must ensure that
we discuss with the citizens of Europe what the appropriate structure
of the European Union's decision-making process for the regions
should be. We must also bring influence to bear on those who take
the decisions. The Committee of the Regions must consider all
The decisions will
be made not by the Committee of the Regions nor by the European
Parliament but by an intergovernmental conference. We must ensure
that all the national Parliaments agree with our viewalong
the same lines as we did before the Maastricht treaty. That will
require good co-ordination.
We need to concentrate
not solely on institutional competences but on appropriate economic
development, which is also part of governance. Regions have been
the motor behind the process of European unification. They compete
with one another and develop regardless of national borders. National
borders are of decreasing importance. Economic developments take
place at the level of the regions and are of paramount political
significance for exercising influence on the European process
We have a great deal
to contribute from our practice thus far, but we also need to
ensure that there is broad understanding of our expectations.
Hugh Henry saidquite appropriatelythat we must look
at the content of the white paper and at
how that content can
be interpreted. We must ensure that the regions continue to have
influence. That needs to be considered in the context of the Committee
of the Regions.
Nowadays, when people
talk about the regions, no one talks about setting up a new body
to replace the Committee of the Regions. Rather, people tend to
say that the Committee of the Regions needs to be strengthened.
I am happy to seize that opportunity. We need to ensure that we
can continue to perform.
In that context, the
Scottish experience of devolution is extremely important. We can
use it as an example to create something else. We need to ensure
that the discussions about governance properly take into account
the need for parliamentary representation, economic development
and political responsibility. Those three different responsibilities
are important factors for the involvement of the regions at European
We were well advised
to come and discuss such matters in Edinburgh. I hope that that
encouraging note will imbue our future discussions. I hope that
I have given the committee one or two ideas about the shape of
discussion in the Committee of the Regions.
Convener: Thank you very much, Manfred. That was an extremely
I ask Stefaan de Rynck
to speak on behalf of the European Commission.
Mr Stefaan de Rynck
(European Commission): I thank the Committee of the Regions
and the Scottish Parliament for having invited the Commission
and the governance team to make a short contribution to the debate.
I will keep it short, because I am available all afternoon to
I will give a brief
introduction on the stage that we have reached in the Commission
in drafting the white paper. As Mr Dammeyer said, it is one of
the building-blocks for the future of the European Union. It is
only one building-block among others, but it is an important building-block
in the viewpoint of the Commission president and the Commission.
We would like the debate on the future of the Union to consider,
along with institutional issues, how governance and the process
of policy making operates within the institutional context. There
must be a debate not only on the need for institutional change,
which is important, but on how the institutions operate and how
the daily process of policy preparation, decision making and implementation
operates. We would like to add that important element to debates
on the future of the Union.
I have spoken to most
people in the room on
so I will keep the introduction brief. The goals of the governance
exercise are clear. It is about involvement, participation and
increasing the possibilities to feed into the European policy-making
process; it is about effectiveness and implementation. Those important
goals are at the heart of the governance exercise.
We have been pleased
that, over the past six months, many substate Governments, nations,
regions and local government have been keen to get involved. The
Scottish Executive and COSLA have made an important contribution
to the debate. Jack McConnell, the Minister for Education, Europe
and External Affairs, came to Brussels in March to make an important
contribution to a hearing on the issue of governance. We are very
pleased that starting the debate has led to the emergence of increasing
interest from substate Governments. Many regions and local authorities
have sent us their views informally. We have received about 50
informal written contributions from regions, local authorities
and substate Governments in Europe.
I will summarise five
of the main points in the diagnosis that we have drawn from the
exercise. First, the clear message is that, increasingly, substate
Governments, regions and localities are affected by EU legislation
on agriculture, fisheries and the environment. A complaint is
about excessive detail in many pieces of EU legislation.
A second element in
the diagnosis is that the linkages between the various levels
are too weak. The linkages from Europe to the member state to
all the authorities at the substate level are weakly developed
and are not strong enough to cope with the challenges of sustainable
development. There is a clear awareness in many of the contributions
that it is not possible to allocate competences on policy issues
in a rigid manner at one specific scale. The challenge is to make
different levels co-operate in a dynamic way. It is recognised
that that is currently too weakly organised.
A third element of
diagnosis would be that the EU is perceived as being too fragmented
across policy sectoral lines, in the sense that the EU has an
environment policy, a transport policy and an energy policy. There
is a specific sectorally organised council on all those issues,
but there is no clear mechanism to establish stronger coherence
and inter-sectoral integration among the various policy sectors.
The fourth element
of diagnosis is that there is an increasing capacity at substate
level for bodies to organise themselves transnationally and to
co-operate and network across national boundaries, regions, bigger
cities and substate Governments. It is also recognised that there
are legal and administrative obstacles to such co-operation,
which stem from national
traditions and national laws.
Finally, there was
a clear warning that the situation of substate Governments, regions
and localities is very different in the various member states.
We are dealing with a heterogeneous group, which should be treated
in a differentiated manner. Mr Dammeyer alluded to that in his
We are currently drafting
a white paper that should give a partial reply to some of those
concerns. At this stage, I can only give the committee informal
insights into our thinking, which is subject to debate on the
draft of the white paper that we intend to submit at the college
that the commissioners will have in July.
Three elements of reform
for the future might provide an answer to some of the diagnostic
points that I have mentioned. The first is in the context of the
Commission's exclusive right of initiative on what are called
first pillar issues: social cohesion, environment, energy, agriculture
and anything related to social, environmental and economic development.
Under that specific responsibility of the Commission, there should
be a stronger organisation of early consultation of stakeholders,
which includes substate Governments as well as civil society actors.
Jack McConnell, when
he came to Brussels in March, and the COSLA and Scottish Executive
submission mentioned a code of consultation. We are paying close
attention to the development of such codes, so that the way in
which the Commission organises its consultation is not a discretionary
process, but should be laid down in administrative rules and practices.
That is important, so that we feed in more knowledge about local
and regional situations at an early stage in the development of
EU policy. It is also important to introduce a stronger acceptance
of EU policies by engaging in a process whereby new policy problems
are identified and policy solutions are constructed along with
a wider range of actors.
A second line of reform
concerns implementation. I mentioned that some people indicate
that analysis shows that there is excessive detail in some pieces
of EU legislation. That is perhaps inherent in the way in which
the institutions currently operate in the bargaining process between
the Parliament and the Council in the joint decision-making procedure,
to name only one of the factors behind this. Within that context,
the EU should reach out to regions in member states, and to nations
and localities in member states, to organise implementation in
a different fashion to give more flexibility within the context
of clearly defined EU objectives.
A contractual arrangement,
perhaps not in the legal sense but in the sense of covenants between
different levels of Government, is one of the important ways in
which we could achieve flexibility in implementation. This should
all happen with the consent of the member state. The Commission
does not have any desire to go beyond what is called the outer
shell of the member state and start organising the competences
within member states. At the same time, we must recognise the
important new fact of regional devolution. Substate Governments
play an increasingly important role in executing EU policies.
Finally, a third line
of reform is that we feel that, in the context of obstacles to
transnational and cross-border co-operation, there might be a
need to develop a new legal instrument that would facilitate substate
actors that want to co-operate transnationally in their efforts
to do so, in order to realise the full potential of such co-operation.
The geography of Europe is changing. Scandinavian countries are
turning towards the Baltic sea area and increasingly organise
co-operation there. Important impediments to such co-operation
stem from the current laws on financial control and administrative
practices within the member states. Those impediments should be
I will finish with
two warnings. One is that none of what I have proposedand
the Commission has been very clear about thisis meant to
erode elected democracies and representative democracy. There
is a clear concern on the part of some members of the European
Parliament that the Commission engaging in consulting stakeholders
at an early stage in its thinking would be a threat to the influence
of the Parliament at a later stage in the process. We think that
that is a wrong presentation of the issue. It is a win-win situation,
whereby a better-informed Commission would be able to introduce
better proposals and bring them to the attention of the decision
makers and legislators in the European Union, which are the Council
and the European Parliament.
A second warning is
that there is a clear concern that when we in the governance team
and the Commission start speaking about reaching out to substate
Governments for closer contacts in the context of the execution
of EU policies, people in central Governments tend to become a
bit nervous. Once again, there is no intention on the part of
the governance team or the Commission to do that without the consent
of member states. The clear caveat to what we are writing is that
change has to happen in a way that respects the constitutional
arrangements of each member state. I will leave it there, and
I am open to answering your questions.
Thank you, Stefaan. I know that the members of the European Committee
who met you some months ago were very appreciative of your contribution,
and we look forward to a continuing dialogue with the Commission
on these matters.
I invite Christine
May, who as well as being a member of the Committee of the Regions
is also the spokesperson for the Convention of Scottish Local
Authorities on European matters, to address us.
Mrs Christine May
(Convention of Scottish Local Authorities): Thank you, convener.
On behalf of COSLA and Scottish local government I welcome colleagues
from the Committee of the Regions to Edinburgh.
New governance is an
issue that we have been examining in Scotland for some time under
the heading of democratic renewal and the modernisation of government.
In local government elections we have had turnouts as low as 30
per cent, and in the last European electionsas I am sure
many of my Scottish colleagues will recallthe turnout was
even lower. In COSLA's view, that points to an even greater need
to make politics and policy making relevant to people, and to
involve them more, as other speakers have said, in the decisions
that affect their daily lives. To a large extent, it is not important
whether decisions are taken at local, regional, national or European
level. The main point is that people should be connected with
the decision-making process.
In the run-up to the
creation of the Scottish Parliament, we studied examples of community
planning, participative democracy and partnership working across
the European Union, and Scottish local authorities borrowed a
number of policy initiatives to increase the involvement of local
communities in decision making. An example is the creation of
local development committees in Edinburgh and other places to
allow communities to contribute to the overall framing of plans
for their areas.
have been established in all Scottish local authority areas. In
Fife, which is my council area, the health board, the enterprise
agency and the national housing agency, together with the voluntary
sector and the police, have published a 10-year plan for the region.
I know that other areas have done the same. The aim of those partnerships
is to establish a shared vision between public authorities, agencies,
community groups and other interests to promote the well-being
of their areas. Those partnerships will be written into legislation
at the end of this year by the Scottish Parliament. That is one
concrete way in which the Scottish Parliament has clearly said
such partnerships are
a competence of local authorities.
Other experiments that
have contributed to good partnership building have involved the
negotiation of European structural fund regulations. COSLA and
the regional government administration co-chaired a steering group,
which included the national development agency, the voluntary
sector and environmental groups. That approach has been extended
to other areas, and will continue for the post-2007 cohesion strategy.
Another small, but
nonetheless significant, thing that the Scottish Parliament has
done is to ensure that the links between the policy documents
and statements, as Stefaan de Rynck said and Manfred Dammeyer
alluded to, are made so that there is the cross-fertilisation
of ideas and there are interrelationships in policy planning.
However, the task for us in local government is to increase community
involvement in decisions that are perceived by our electorates
as distant or irrelevant or are seen as being imposed by bureaucrats
in Brussels, which is a favourite tabloid term.
It has already been
pointed out that the European Union affects a broad range of the
competences of local and regional government; for example, 60
per cent of the legislation that is implemented in Scotland originates
from the European Union. Employment legislation, environmental
directives, internal market regulations, public procurement and
consumer policy all have direct implications for local government,
because frequently we implement them. We are all familiar with
the problem that decision making in the EU often is removed from
the implementation level. Efforts were made to address that situation
with the creation of the Committee of the Regions and with increased
consultation with local government associations. Despite that,
there is a long way to go.
Stefaan de Rynck and
Manfred Dammeyer made the point that there will be slightly different
solutions, as there are different issues, for different member
states. I hope that Manfred Dammeyer will forgive me for my next
comments, but in COSLA we do not wholly subscribe to the view
that competences have to be more clearly circumscribed or delineated
between levels or spheres of government and the EU. For us in
Scotland it is more important that it is agreed that competences
are shared, that more of them belong to one sphere than another
and that there is genuine agreement that the work is for all levels
of government to take forward.
More important, the
citizen should be put firmly at centre stage in all aspects of
the debate. For example, in my recent electioneering work not
a single resident of Fife has raised with me the
competence of local
government. However, they have raised the issues of education,
health, care of elderly citizens, and all the other matters that
are competences of us all. We must find a way of working together
to make sure that the citizen has an input into the level of competence
at each level of government.
It is unfortunate that
the debate on the governance of Europe has become entangled in
the general debate about the future of Europe. As a matter of
urgency, we must try to disentangle those arguments. They require
separate solutions, although the general problem may be the involvement
of citizens. I suggest that there are four fundamental points
to be considered when tackling these issues. A new and modern
society requires new models of decision making, which involve
civil society and groups outwith traditional government decision-making
structures. Complex policy issues, as Stefaan de Rynck said, cut
across traditional governmental boundaries. There is a need, as
I have said before, to better integrate policy implementation
between different spheres of government. I suggest that the best
approach is a flexible partnership based on the principle of negotiated
governance, rather than a rigid set of rules.
In Scotland, we are
testing that approach through concordats or contracts between
local and regional government to govern joint working. In our
contributionwhich has already been referred toto the
Commission consultation, we had a small experiment to attempt
to define a set of broad principles that could be agreed by local,
regional and central Government. To do that, we had broad consultation
with other agencies and, somewhat to our surprise, the result
was a paper that was broadly acceptable to all levels. That was
the spheres of government acting on behalf of citizens by getting
the business done and getting agreement.
That process highlighted
a number of problems. We have a great deal of duplication in our
strategies toward Europe. We are looking for better ways of involving
people. I hope that the Parliament's inquiry will include a broad
range of views. However, with the greatest respect, just because
the Scottish Parliament has an inquiry will not mean that people
will suddenly become interested. This is a lengthy process, which
will take much longer than the consultation process on the Commission's
white paper on local governance. We must involve citizens, and
we must bring the debate constantly back to that theme.
The issue is linked
to President Prodi's original motivation in launching the governance
consultationto start a debate on the legitimacy of the Union.
Without the support of citizens, the EU
will only go so far.
The last reminder of that was the Danish referendum on the euro.
There will be more opportunities for citizens to make their discontent
or content known. We have to ensure that there is an outlet for
those opinions, in a way in which citizens feel that their arguments
are being made at the correct level. Local government is the level
that has most daily contact with people. If the governance exercise
has one aim, it should be to ensure that the institutions of the
European Union connect with the everyday concerns of citizens,
so that citizens are at the heart of all forms of governance,
whether it is at European, national, regional or local level.
Thank you, Christine. COSLA has made a significant contribution
to European policy development, and has been supportive of the
Scottish Parliament as it seeks to play its role in Europe. We
look forward to that continued co-operation.
I invite short contributions
from the COR rapporteurs, Lord Tope and Michel Delebarre.
Lord Graham Tope
(Committee of the Regions): I start on a personal note by
saying that, as a member of the UK Parliament, I am absolutely
delighted to be sitting in the Scottish assembly.
The Scottish Parliament.
Lord Tope: Sorry.
I will be calling Scotland a region in a minute, if I am not careful,
although I have lectured Manfred Dammeyer about the need not to
call Scotland a region, because Scotland is a nation. I said "assembly"
because I am also a member of the Greater London Assembly. That
is why I got my words muddled up. As members of what might loosely
be called the Government of London, we envy the independence from
Westminster that you now have in Scotlandwe wish we had
the same in London.
There is no doubt that,
after the general election in a couple of weeks' time, the debate
on regional government in England will be a major topic over the
months and years to come. Regionalism in England will develop,
although it remains to be seen how. That is not the subject for
debate today, although the subject of today's debate probably
has much relevance to how regionalism in England develops.
Not for the first time,
I agreed very much with almost everything that Christine May said,
which was very much in tune with the opinion adopted by the Committee
of the Regions, for which I was rapporteur. As Manfred Dammeyer
said, the debate has moved on in the past year or so, or, as Christine
May more accurately said, it has become a little more confused.
I want to take us back to the origins of the opinion that the
Committee of the Regions adopted on governance.
The process began when
Mr Prodi addressed our plenary session in February 2000. He said
that one of the four strategic objectives of the Commission should
be new forms of governance. He made it clear to us that he was
talking not only about the relationship between the various EU
institutions, but very much more about the wider aspect of the
relationship between government and citizen in the whole of the
European Union. If I remember correctly, he said that that was
a challenge for the Committee of the Regions.
We felt that that was
an opportunity for the Committee of the Regions. If we are to
give any meaning at all to the over-used phrase of bringing Europe
closer to the citizens, that is something that the Committee of
the Regionsespecially the regional and local bodies that
we representought to be playing a leading part in. We therefore
decided to take the initiative and produce an opinion, in the
hope that it might have some influence on the Commission's thinking
when it produced its white paper.
We started with our
concern about the gap between government and governed. All over
Europe, with the United Kingdom leading the way, turnout at elections
is falling. That is only one measure, but it is a measure nevertheless,
of the apathy and lack of interest of citizens, or perhaps of
the increasing antipathyrather more active than apathyof
citizens towards the various institutions of government, not least
those of the European Union. The first thing that we called for
was a much wider debate than simply one between the various institutions
within the European Union.
We said that that debate
ought to take place in a language that people understand. By that,
I do not mean the languages of the member states. I mean that
it should not take place in the language that I call Eurospeak.
There are words that we all know to be English words, but which
no English-speaking person would necessarily understand in the
context in which they are used in Eurospeak. "Proximity"
is an example of such a word. It is a perfectly normal English
word and most people know what it means, but not many would understand
what it means in the context in which it is used in the European
Union. My opinion is that using such words in that sort of context
is one of the first turn-offs to citizens being involved in a
debate about the future of the European Union and about the whole
issue of governance.
The Committee of the
Regions took the view, which is shared by Mr Prodi, that we should
not be talking about vertical tiers of government as if there
was a sort of hierarchy, with the European Union at the top, local
government lower and the
citizen right at the
bottom. Instead, we should be talking about spheres of governance
and their specific interests and responsibility, which link and
overlap with one another and work on a horizontal basis. Incidentally,
but most importantly, such a structure offers a much better opportunity
for ordinary citizens to become involved.
Other speakers have
mentioned that horizontal arrangement, whereby we are not placed
in a hierarchy in which we are more or less important than those
at other levels; we are equally important, with different competencies
and, sometimes, with interests in the same cross-cutting issues.
A number of those issues are obvious. Within that structure, we
could also create a framework for more effective civil participation.
We want a much greater and more accountable involvement of civic
The convener asked
for short contributions, so I shall draw my remarks to a close.
However, I was pleased to hear him stress in relation to the Scottish
Parliament the importance of more openness and transparency, as
that is one of the things that we wanted most. The European Union
is not known for its openness and transparency.
In short, we have been
calling for a new political culture. I am sometimes a little discouraged
in my outlook on the future, as the debate seems to centre on
the relationship between institutions and between different spheres
of governance. Those are important issues, which I am sure we
shall be debating this afternoon, but we must not lose sight of
what I think is the most important and fundamental issue: the
relationship between different spheres of government, the European
Union and our citizens. That is the key to the governance debate
but, when we sit in our different organisations and institutions,
it can be all too easy to forget that.
Mr Michel Delebarre
(Committee of the Regions): (simultaneous interpretation)
I hope that, at this stage, you will allow me to confine myself
to some basic comments, as we do not have the white paper yet.
My first point is that
we should welcome the debate on governance, which President Prodi
was right to promote. Europe has become more complex over the
years. Stefaan de Rynck said that there is sometimes a lack of
coherence between the different policies. The people of our countries
are losing their understanding of what is going on as things become
more complex, particularly as there are different competencies
in different parts of the territory. That has consequences for
management at all the territorial levels. It is high time that
we offered clarity on enlargement. The new Scottish Parliament
alone justifies our reflecting on European governance.
The second pointwhich
is important for the Committee of the Regionsis that we
should try to see things from the point of view of the European
citizen. The elected representatives need to think about the people
of the countries that they represent. In the COR and in the Committee
on Constitutional Affairs, debate continues on constitutional
aspects. I would not like us to forget that the COR represents
not only regions but several tiers of administration in cities
and districts. The prime reason for the existence of the COR is
to represent citizens in those local and regional authorities.
The third point is
that, if we are to move towards new European governance, we will
need principles that we agree on and share. The European Commission
and the European Parliament need to share those principles and
those principles need to say something to our citizens. There
is no point in having principles for the foundation of new governance
if they mean nothing to the people. The Council of European Municipalities
and Regions has done some work on that. It has come up with seven
principles; we should discuss whether we agree with them or whether
we should perhaps focus on the ones that we feel to be more important.
One of the principles
is subsidiarity, which has been debated in the COR. The other
principles are proportionality, partnership, consultation, participation,
transparency and democracy. The question is whether we agree with
all those principles or whether we would wish to strengthen one
or more of them as the basis of our new definition of European
My next pointwhich
is important in the context of the European Commission's white
paper on governanceconcerns the role of the Committee of
the Regions. We should ask what the purpose of the COR is if it
not seen by the European Commission, the Council of Ministers
or the European Parliament as being a way of enriching European
democratic processes. We can enrich those processes by being part
of the upstream consultation within the decision-making process.
During the downstream implementation, we can examine whether principles
such as subsidiarity and partnership are being complied with.
We should have some right to monitor that. We can also be a forum
for a democratic assessment of a number of European policies that
directly concern our territories and the citizens within them.
That could be the first thrust of our proposals to strengthen
We can deepen democracy
within the territories and regions that are represented in the
COR. We are all concerned with that. We are elected in our individual
territories, but a different European governance means that European
not be confined to
a debate among the elected. There is increasing demand for a partnership
with civic society. That will be increasingly necessary to enhance
the effectiveness, efficiency and transparency of European policies
and choices. The COR has a lot to offer. We can contribute to
a better understanding of European issues.
I am most familiar
with the French context. France is certainly not top of the class
in subsidiarity, nor is she top of the class in decentralisation.
However, we are getting closer to 2002 and a number of our national
representatives, at least in their speeches, are becoming increasingly
in favour of decentralisation. That is what they say; we will
see what happens in reality. We do not yet have any regions like
Scotland, but in France more and more of the elected units in
the different territories are setting up advisory assemblies and
cultural assemblies. They are demanding much more transparency
in the different procedures and what I see happening in France
already exists in many other European regions.
I have expressed some
of my concerns, based on views that were submitted at the end
of 2000 concerning Lord Tope's proposals. The idea was to propose
to the COR some clear guidance and to invite it to contribute
to the debate and to reflect on its strengthened role in future
I thank the rapporteurs from the COR. Before we hear more contributions
from our friends from the COR, I invite contributions from members
of the European Committee of the Scottish Parliament.
Colin Campbell (West
of Scotland) (SNP): On behalf of us all, I again welcome everyone.
It has been great having you here and interesting to hear what
you have to say. It is difficult to focus on just one or two items,
but Christine May made the important point that we must put the
citizen at centre stage. Herr Dammeyer said that one of the problems
was getting not to the organised citizens but to the citizens
who are unclubbable and who do not join political parties or councils.
It is a major problem getting through to the person whom in Scotland
we call Jock Tamson's bairnthe person in the street.
On the basis of our
little experienceabout which we are too modestin our
new or revived Scottish Parliament, we undertake a lot of pre-legislative
consultation through the committees. Interested partiesorganised
groups and those who simply have opinionsare invited to
discuss pre-legislative proposals. Such a system works well in
our small nation.
We have a Public Petitions
Committee, but the key factor is not what could be described as
about the different levels of government and how those who are
interested in politics can cope with that, but how such matters
are explained to the person in the street, town or village who
is not interested in politics. That is a major challenge; only
when we have resolved that will we have successfully associated
all our people in Europe with the governance of Europe.
(Cunninghame South) (Lab): It is a privilege and a pleasure
to welcome to my home country colleagues with whom I have worked
over the past few years. I thank them for taking the time to come
to the meeting and assist us in our debate on governance. Many
important points have been raised about the role of the regions
in tomorrow's Europe. We are all agreed on the role of citizens.
There is a real challenge ahead of us. We must make politics and
policy relevant to our citizens.
The fact that the treaties
are complex poses a difficulty. We should consider simplification,
a matter that we have talked about for many years, but on which
we have not acted. We must ask ourselves whether Community legislation
should be understood by those for whom it is intended. Mr de Rynck,
the Commission's representative, spoke about knowledge and understanding.
Mrs May spoke about apathy. I believe that relevance is the key
to unlocking the apathy or alienation of our citizens. We have
to make Europe relevant to people. The problems of unemployment
and social exclusion will be tackled only by levels of government
working in partnership and by getting the message over to the
citizens of Europe that we are acting in their best interests.
We must educate and
involve our young people. That is crucial when looking ahead at
tomorrow's Europe and our vision for the way forward. Mr Dammeyer
referred to subsidiarity and that is the basic guiding principle
in the governance debate. Local and regional governments throughout
Europe are the tiers of government closest to the citizen and
are well placed to lead in the debate.
As for simplification
and transparency, citizens must be assured that Europe is not
a gravy train for bureaucrats, but that it works for their benefit.
We must assure people that we are here to deal with the real problems
that face them in their everyday lives. We must have a clearer
vision about how to operate between levels of government. We shall
not have all the answers today, but if we can deal with the some
of the questions, that will take matters forward.
Wallace (North-East Scotland) (Con): Manfred Dammeyer talked
about constitutional regions. Will he define them?
(simultaneous interpretation) Constitutional regions is
a summary term. It means regions that are founded in the constitution
of the state and which have legislative power. In other words,
they exercise influence on the decisions taken at state level
and they have competence to make decisions themselves. They call
themselves constitutional regions. They are differentiated from
regions that have administrative authority.
That question reminds
me that often, when we talk about Europe nowadays, we talk in
academic terms about how to define a region. One cannot define
a region because it differs from one member state to another.
I represent North Rhine-Westphalia, which is one of the biggest
regions in the whole of Europe. It has 18 million inhabitants,
which is as many as in Finland, Sweden and Denmark combined. By
comparison, Luxembourg has 640,000 inhabitants and six members
of the Committee of the Regions.
If we start asking
what a region is and how it can be delimited from other entities
and what it excludes, we could have a long academic discussion.
That may satisfy some people, but it will never reach a definitive
conclusion. We must take account of the fact that, below member
state level, there are institutions comprising responsible political
entities that participate in national decision making. However,
they must also have an influence to bear on decisions taken at
European level via their citizenships with regard to how they
want the future of Europe to look. They are calling for involvement
in the European decision-making process, not only in the regional
or national decision-making process.
Some regions have constitutional
competence that is anchored in the constitutions of their member
states. Others are organised differently. For example, some regions
can presseven compeltheir national Governments to
act in particular ways, but politics is all about power. As for
the Committee of the Regions, there would be no point in continuing
if the German Länder, for example, called on the French or
Belgian regions and said, "We want the Committee of the Regions
to be anchored in the Maastricht treaty." We would have had
to work with an instrument that is perhaps not ratified as part
of the treaty.
The German Länder,
the Belgian provinces and possibly the Austrian and Italian counterparts
are involved in decisions at national level. To that extent, they
have their own specific quality. Scotland has now joined that
group and Spanish autonomous provinces are members of it. That
is a good development. All member states have a tendency to say
that regions should have more powers and influence because that
is the opposite of centralisation. That is happening at different
levels, from different
points of departure and via different processes. We must respect
the differences in Europe, but constitutional regions have a particular
definition. That is different from trying to define a region.
I hope that my answer was long and general enough to be more or
Ben Wallace: Thank
youyour answer was clear. We are aware, especially within
our regional devolved national Parliament, that we have different
political agendas. My colleagues in the Scottish National Party
would like to have greater influence above the national level
and directly into Europe. As a member of a unionist party, I favour
a different method. I was interested to know how constitutional
regions fitted in at a national level and Mr Dammeyer has answered
(simultaneous interpretation) We have to respect that Scotland
is a nation but, at the European level and in the European discussion,
Scotland is like a region.
In size, but not in spirit.
Mr Lloyd Quinan
(West of Scotland) (SNP): I, too, would like to thank everyone
for being here today.
I want to make some
observations on the basis of the charter of fundamental rights.
Some of us believe that, in 2004, the charter will inform the
IGC greatly about the future governance of the European Union.
I am a member of a party that believes that Scotland, which is
a nation, but not a nation state, may well, if the people so desire,
become a nation state. What exercises us, as it exercises people
in many of the national regions of Europe, is the extent to which
the European Union will take on board the concept of emergence
from within the union, rather than enlargement from outside it.
What also exercises us is whether, in 2004, the IGC will effectively
block such initiatives.
I believe that politics
is fluid. I say to the witnesses from Germany that, as a child
in this country, I grew up with two certainties: that there would
never be a united Germany; and that the Soviet Union would never
break up. It would do well for many of us to remember that the
European Union moves and changes. We must take our part in shaping
There is an on-going
political debate between those who support the centralised nation
state, as do many parties in Spain and the United Kingdom, and
those in a number of other countries where there is a strong,
developing movement for self-determination. That is the case in
the Basque country, in Wales and in the fullnot the dividedcontext
of Ireland. Where does the Committee of the Regions stand on the
question of emergence from within? Where does it stand on the
recognition that the
charter of fundamental rights was an initial step forward, but
one that has to be accompanied by a declaration of the collective
rights of the peoples so that the level of democracy to which
many people have referred today is guaranteed?
I will be moderately
controversial for a second. None of us is here because of political
apathy or because the citizens are not engaged. I say that because
more than 12,500 people voted for me.
Ben Wallace: Surely
Quinan: It was not quite sufficient.
The problem of voter
engagement is a problem for the individual political parties.
They need to look to themselves, as it is not an institutional,
structural problem. The European Union does not cause apathy.
It is caused by the approach of the political parties, particularly
to the most recent European Parliament election in this country,
referred to earlier, which was held one month after the election
to the Scottish Parliament.
Given the circumstances
of that election, anyone who genuinely believed that the turnout
would be high was being a shade foolish. If anyone attempts to
suggest that the occasional tabloid nonsense about the European
Union is what stops people voting, they are abdicating their responsibilities.
Political parties are simply no longer correctly engaging the
electorate; hence the drop in the number of people who exercise
their right to vote.
Another key issue is
the debate that the witnesses have had among themselves about
how they refer to my countryScotland. Is it a region? Is
a nation? Is it a sub-nation state? Is it a sub-regional sub-nation
state? What is it? The answer to those questions is quite straightforward.
Scotland is a country that is currently in a political union that
serves some, but not all. We will become a nation state. That
is what happened to Slovenia, the Czech Republic and the Slovak
As all the witnesses
know, in their own countries things are moving and changing. It
is unbelievable, but the French have moved to a position where
they are prepared to recognise regional assemblies. However, it
was interesting that the French President waited for everyone
to go on holiday before he announced the extension of powers to
Corsica. Those powers will come for Brittany and for other areas.
The simple fact is
that there are desires in Europe for the entry of nation states
from within the current member states. If we are to proceed to
2004 with a genuine desire and belief in democracy, that desire
has to be recognised as fundamental. I would like to know what
the witnesses see as the issues around a declaration
of collective rights
of the peoplesnot of the nations, or of the statesof
The Convener: I
call Mr José María Muñoa Ganuza, the Basque
country member of the Committee of the Regions.
Mr José María
Muñoa Ganuza (Committee of the Regions): (simultaneous
interpretation) First, I thank the Scottish Parliament and
say that I am moved and proud to speak in the Scottish Parliament.
I congratulate Scotland and the Scottish Parliament on winning
back their competences and achieving devolution. The people of
Scotland are an example and a symbol of democracy for the rest
of Europe. It is not often that 300 years later a people wins
back its rights. In saying that, I am speaking not just from the
point of view of the Basque country.
Governance is a fashionable
word. It is also a fine word, but we do not always fully grasp
its meaning. Sometimes we mix many different aspects under the
heading of governance. Perhaps, governance means common sense.
Today, we are not discussing
a text. I will therefore take the liberty of making some points
that are rather more political. It is true that at the moment,
regionalisation or regionalismthey are not necessarily the
same thingare advancing in many countries in Europe. Scotland
is an example of that, as are Italy and France. Parties in opposition
tend to support regionalism but when they come into power, in
some countriesplease do not think that I am speaking about
Francethere is a general tendency to forget regionalism.
The nation states see
themselves emptied of their powersI am not speaking negatively.
They see their powers shifted downwards to the regions and they
feel emptied as a result, although they took a democratic decision
to form the European Union. We are faced with the entity of the
nation state that was in the main created in the 19th
century, and which has now been emptied of its competences. I
am not saying that the nation state has disappeared, but the reality
is that the nation state in Europe today is nothing like the nation
state of 50 years ago.
Governance is important,
but we are not attacking the true problem, which is that we are
trying to achieve a European Union that encompasses 20, 25 or
30 states by starting with the state and without wanting even
to think about the level of entities below the state, where I
include nations and regions. I disagree with Mr Dammeyer about
that. Membership of the Committee of the Regions does not mean
that Scotland will become a region rather than a nation or that
Birmingham will become a region. I will talk
about that later. In
the Committee of the Regions, we maintain our specificities. For
example, some units are regions, some are districts and some are
I will return to governance.
It is as if a single business decided to enter an association
with 25 other businesses to form one whole business, without making
any changes. That will never workhence the difficulties
that Mr Dammeyer described. I fully agree with him. As long as
the European Union does not accept that it must confront those
challenges, we will continue to meet and talk about governance,
and we will invent a new word for it, but we will find no solutions.
It is high time that
we took the bull by the horns and said, "We want to build
the European Union." If we do not do that, the whole European
Union could become disentangled when confronted with the slightest
difficulty. We will end up with another war, just like those that
we had in previous centuries. We must remember that the European
Union was created to preserve peace. That peace is precarious,
and I am in a good position to know that. Please do not think
that I am Eurosceptic. I want to be optimistic for Europe, but
when a problem exists, we must attack it as a problem. We must
recognise the problem, diagnose it and find a solution.
I will make similar
comments about the Committee of the Regions. We must admit that
the COR is not effective at present. We members believe in it
the most and work the most, but we must admit that when the efforts
that the COR has made are compared with the results that it has
obtained, the COR is not effective. Please do not think that I
am being pessimistic or sceptical. I am not. I am just stating
the facts. In particular, I ask the people from Scotland who are
listening in the galleries today not to think that my view is
that of the COR. However, as I said, we must take things as they
are and confront the difficulties.
talked about a particular difficulty. The COR has members who
are councillors in, or mayors of, small towns of 2,000 or 3,000
inhabitants. We also have presidents of regions who represent
15 million or 17 million inhabitants. Those regions have different
powers and competences. We cannot work efficiently and effectively
without thinking in depth about those problems. We must think
about the problems and admit to the situation, without being afraid
of saying, "I am the mayor of a small town" or "I
am the president of a large region." I am not saying that
one is more important than the other; I am just saying that they
are different. As long as we do not accept that we must confront
that problem, the COR will have difficulties working properly
and making progress. The COR
can claim that it is
an institution or whatever one likes, but for people to take us
seriously, we must solve that problem first.
I will answer Mr Quinan's
question on collective rights. The COR requested that collective
rights be considered at least for the preamble to the charter
of fundamental rights. We will see whether the European Council
accepts that request.
Thank you very much.
I apologise for going on so long.
Dennis Canavan (Falkirk
West): Several speakers have referred to the importance of
bringing Europe closer to the citizens. That may be a problem
or a challenge, but it is not confined to those who work in the
European Union. All politicians must try to bring political decision
making closer to the citizens whom they represent.
Several speakers also
referred to the low turnout in some elections, including those
in this country. Christine May mentioned that the turnout for
elections to the European Parliament is frequently less than 30
per cent. That is worse than the figure for local government elections.
At the previous UK general election, the turnout was the lowest
since the 1930s. There are signs in the current campaign that
turnout in this general election may be even lower. Evidence shows
that people are increasingly turned off by politicians and feel
increasingly alienated from the Government. That is bad for democracy.
We must all face up
to the problem, whether we are in national or international politics,
but in this country, the problem is probably even greater in relation
to European Union decision making. A perception is held in the
UKeven in Scotland, which is possibly more pro-European
than some other parts of the UKthat the European Union is
increasingly becoming an over-centralised bureaucracy and that
an agenda exists to transform that increasingly bureaucratic machinery
into some kind of superstate. If we are to change that perception,
we must consider the structures in the European Union and find
out how we can make them more accountable to the people and more
responsive to their needs.
There is no easy, instant
solution. Irene Oldfather mentioned the importance of encouraging
more young people to participate in the democratic process. Teachers
in our schools are involved in that. The school curriculum has
been changed over the years to try to put more emphasis on participatory
democracy, the machinery of government and the importance of taking
part in the democratic process, but despite all the efforts that
have been made by schools and teachers and in the national curriculum
and the examination system, the indications are that most young
people under 25 will not vote in the UK
general election that
is to be held in a few weeks' time. That is worrying.
Although there is no
easy or instant solution, we should consider the structures of
decision making, both nationally and within the European Union.
We should also consider the interface between those structures,
to try to encourage more participation by ordinary citizens, to
make the structures more accountable to citizens and to implement
more fully the principle of subsidiarity.
The Scottish Parliament
is an example of subsidiarity in practice. We had to campaign
for many years to restore the Scottish Parliament. During that
time, we were up against people at Westminster who believed that
the United Kingdom should be a centralised, British state. Those
people did not recognise the diversity of the nations and cultures
that make up the United Kingdom. After many years, we won the
campaign to restore our Parliament. It is still a fledgling Parliament,
and both it and our European Committee have a lot to learn so
that we can feed into the European Union's decision-making process
before the decisions are taken. Sadly, politicians in this country,
never mind ordinary citizens, are often at the receiving end of
decisions. We comment on and react to them after they have been
taken in Brussels or wherever, instead of being able to feed into
them at an earlier stage, through our committees and through the
Parliament. If we were able to feed in, we would feel, at the
end of the day, that we had played a part in making the decisions.
In conclusion, I hope
that the white paper, the ensuing debate and the new structures
of governance that emerge will help to achieve such aims. I am
grateful to Manfred Dammeyer for his clarification of the definition
of constitutional regions. Several speakers made the point that
Scotland is not a region or a province but a country, and that
the people of Scotland make up a nation. Perhaps the Committee
of the Regions should change its name to one that reflects more
accurately the diversity of nation states and multinational states
that exist within the European Union and the diversities that
exist within each nation state.
The Convener: Thank
I call Milner Whiteman.
Mr Milner Whiteman
(Committee of the Regions): I am pleased that you called me
now, convener. I notice that Mr Canavan's shirt is the same colour
as mine. That is perhaps a coincidence, but I believe that he
is an independent member of the Scottish Parliament and I am the
only independent UK member of the
Committee of the Regions,
so there is perhaps a connection.
As I sit in the chamber
of the Scottish Parliament, I am reminded of the history of our
two countries. I suppose that it is a few hundred years since
we were at war. It is only about 60 yearsin fact, fewer
than 60 yearssince the countries of Europe were at war.
We must remind ourselves what we are about. The first rule of
Europe is that we want peace in Europe for ever and a day. It
is so important for us to work together.
People say that we
fall out, and of course we do, but it is far better to fall out
when we meet one another or when we talk to one another than it
is to shoot one another. That is the important point to note about
the Europe of today. I suppose that most of the current members
of the EU were involved in the war. Many of the EU's future members
were not only involved in the war but suffered under communist
rule for many years. It is goodin fact, it is excellentthat
all of us, from all political parties, favour enlargement. It
is important that we achieve enlargement so that the whole of
Europe can speak with one voice. We may fall out, but at least
we are working together for the good of all our citizens.
Whether one has a Parliament,
a regional Government or whatever, the debate is all about subsidiarity.
People ask, "How should we set the rules?" We say that
we did not have any input into some of the rules that have come
out of Brussels, but we did have an inputour Government
had it, as did the other 15 Governments, although we did not know
anything about that until the rules came out. The problem with
the UK is that we always follow the rules rather than disobey
them. Some of the other countries in Europe have a way of saying,
"Yes, we'll set the rules, but we don't necessarily have
to follow them." That is one of Europe's problems.
Subsidiarity is importantit
does not matter whether one is talking about a Parliament, a regional
government or a district council, as I am. Scotland has its Parliament
and Wales and London have their assemblies, but the debate has
yet to take place in England. What will the regions in the rest
of England have? I come from the west midlands. The region has
the Government Office for the west midlands and an unelected regional
chamber to which people from councils, industry and the trade
unions are seconded. We will have regional government in England,
although it will take time; I do not think it will happen during
the next Westminster Parliament.
There is a proposal
to give the English regions an opportunity to hold a referendum
on whether we should have regional councils or government. If
we held such a referendum, the English regionswith the possible
exception of the north-
no. Personally, I would probably vote yes; I can say that here,
but I would not say it at home because no one would agree with
me. That does not really matter. The point I want to make is that
we should work together, whatever our sphere of government. I
am not sure whether Lord Topewho has left, I thinkinvented
the term "spheres of government", but he used it rather
than the term "stratas of government" in his excellent
paper, which I supported at the Committee of the Regions.
It is important that
our people are governed at the lowest possible level. In England,
we have parish councils, which I believe also exist in Scotland.
If they can manage to look after the job at parish level, so be
it. If you need governance at district level, so be it dustbins
and housing, for example, can be looked after at district level.
That is the right way ahead. I am not sure that the English counties
will last much longer, although I say that only because Lord Hanningfield,
who was sitting next to me and who is a county councillor, has
left to speak on the telephone. There is a bit of a debate in
England about whether we should retain so many spheres of local
government if we are to have regional government. It is unlikely
that we will have as many spheres in future.
Whatever we call ourselves
and whatever sphere of government we are involved in, it is important
for us to work together for the good of the citizens whom we administer,
whether they are in Scotland, the west midlands, Germany, France
or wherever. Europe is what we are about and we do not want to
go to war ever again.
Mrs Claude du Granrut
(Committee of the Regions): (simultaneous interpretation)
I congratulate all the previous speakers because our discussion
has been of a high quality and at a high level. I also want to
congratulate Herr Dammeyer for striking the keynote.
I will make two points
only: my first is on civic society and my second is about the
principle of subsidiarity.
Under the heading of
governance, we have talked about civic society and about its importance
in the decision-making process, or at least in the process of
consultation that takes place before decisions are made. I would
like to draw the attention of those who have local or regional
responsibility to the importance of seeking the opinion of civic
society. It is important that we consult new players in that arena.
Civic society is more mature and rather better educated than it
was a few decades ago. It needs to feel that it is involved and
that it can monitor or evaluate the decisions that we take.
At the same time, we
must not let civic society take over our legitimacy, which comes
fact that we are democratically
elected. It is important that we evaluate the white paper on governance
in such a way that we ensure that civic society is consulted but
does not replace our legitimacy. That is a fairly subtle job.
Civic society has its own legitimacy, but it must not trespass
on the legitimate authority of local and regional elected representatives
such as us.
On subsidiarity, we
in the contact group that liaises with candidate countries have
had opportunities to note that the candidate countries have some
reservations about what I call regionalisation. They have reservations
because the communes and districts in those countries enjoy a
number of powers, which are granted to them by the state and are
recognised by the state, which they fear will be taken over by
the regions. Regions are a new concept to them. There is a challenge
for us to show the local authorities that their powers will not
be taken over by the regions. Indeed, quite the opposite will
happen. We will be able to help them to mature and to achieve
much higher quality in what they do.
We want the principle
of subsidiarity also to be applied to the regions and the substate
levelI apologise to members of the Scottish Parliament for
using such a term, but I am speaking about the substate level
of all member states or candidate members of the European Union.
The definition of subsidiarity is that power should be applied
at the lowest substate level. It is important that people below
the regional level also benefit from the principle of subsidiarity.
It is important that we involve the local level in our decisions
and allow it to have an input. By local level, I mean the level
that is below the regional level. I do not use "below"
in a pejorative sensequite the opposite.
When we participate
in the decision-making process at European level, it is vital
that we say to local authorities that they will have a say in
what we are trying to achieve in Europe because, to an extent,
we need assistance from them.
The Convener: Thank
you, Madame du Granrut. I know that you have to leave now to catch
Helen Eadie (Dunfermline
East) (Lab): I echo the welcome that was given to colleagues
from other parts of the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe.
It is a real privilege and a pleasure to meet you today. I am
sorry that I was not able to join you at lunch time; I was at
this morning's meeting of the Public Petitions Committee.
I want to pick up on
the point that Christine May, Dennis Canavan and Irene Oldfather
made about apathy. In the previous elections for the European
Parliament, the turnout was only about 20 per
cent. Although there
are many reasons for that, in my estimation one reason was the
form of electionfor the first time in the United Kingdom,
the elections used proportional representation, but that is another
debate for another day. I will hold on to that for future discussions.
I have more empathy
with Lord Tope's vision of our partnership in Europe, which he
likened to overlapping circles, than with the hierarchical approach
that Lloyd Quinan seemed to suggest. If we go down the route of
a hierarchical approach, we are not really engaging in the notion
of partnership, which is about equals sitting around a tablespheres
of governancewhere equal weight is given to what people
say. I feel quite strongly about that.
A number of people
have mentioned consultation. Only this morning, the Parliament's
Public Petitions Committee highlighted how we talk time and again
about consultation, but every one of us probably has a different
notion of what we mean by that. What I liked about COSLA's paper
is that it suggested that consultation should be defined in some
sort of code. The many public agencies and public bodies that
exist need to think about how to make consultation relevantwhich
is a point that was made by Irene Oldfather. If we get that right,
we will start to get the consultation procedure right, which will
be critical when we are working on the governance of the European
I do not know what
the practice in other member states is, but the new Scottish Executive
has been absolutely spot on in setting out a programme of action
that it has then published. That gives everybody in Scotland and
the United Kingdomand, indeed, all over the worlda
way of understanding what the Government's priorities are. Citizens
can then make up their own minds about how they can plan their
agenda to fit in with that programme.
The Executive has also
published all its consultation papers on the web. Using information
technology in that way facilitates public engagement. Only last
night I was on the Scottish Executive's website and downloaded
a consultation paper on fir trees, on which the Executive has
proposals for legislation. Fir trees are a big issue in England.
The Executive has the perception that the issue is not as big
in Scotland, but the consultation process allows the public nevertheless
to have their say.
The consultation paper
makes the important point that often people in the European Commission
willwith the best intention in the worldsay that there
should be a directive on X, Y and Z, but do not take responsibility
for costing what such a programme would mean or what implications
it might have for individuals,
businesses and communities.
Everything that we do must be costed, so that people can prioritise.
We all know that politics is the language of priorities. More
money will always be given to what is perceived as the greater
I want to comment on
the Committee of the Regions. Like all such things, if the Committee
of the Regions were not in existence, it would need to be invented.
Sometimes when people are involved in something, they cannot see
the worth of what they are doing. I am sure that you will have
made your views felt, sometimes in a quiet, subtle way, sometimes
in a louder and more acclaimed fashion, and that you will have
made a difference. That is what being a politician is all aboutmaking
a difference. Sometimes we do that loudly, but sometimes we do
it in a quiet, discreet, behind-the-scenes manner. At the end
of the day, it does not matter how we do it. The bottom line for
our people is whether we make a difference.
On Scotland engaging
in other organisationswe are talking today about Scotland's
roleI hope that we will liaise and work well, not only with
the Committee of the Regions, although we need to develop our
thinking on working with it, but with the Conference of Peripheral
Maritime Regions of Europe and the North Sea Commission. The CPMR
was born because some regions felt that they were on the periphery
of Europe. They had a rationale for creating the conference. They
came together because they were being ignored. Scotland may or
may not be perceived as being on the periphery of Europe, but
if we are, we willI hopeengage more with such organisations.
Mr Luc van den Brande
(Committee of the Regions): I am pleased to be in Scotland
again. So many times we have had the opportunity to meet each
other. I was also pleased when the European Committee visited
the Flanders Parliament. Our regions, or nations, are searching
for an appropriate place in the Europe of tomorrow.
First, our exercise
is about better and good governance. It is important to know that
it is not only through institutional and instrumental measures
that we will be able to arrive at and have good governance. We
have to determine what the democratic deficit is, not only all
over Europe and against Europe, but in many of our member states.
We are proud, or more than that, when we speak to the new member
states in the accession proceedings and ask whether they are able
to meet the 40 conditions for membership of the EU. It is important
to know what our conditions in the EU are for better or the best
a state is a concept of the 19th century. It is important
to know what our concept is for the next century. Europe is a
concept of the second
part of the 20th century. The question is whether we
are able, in a double move, to move to a federated Europe. I know
that it is not always possible to articulate the F-word in this
part of Europe, but the F-word is more than a word: it is a concept.
It is, in fact, the corollary of more autonomy and more self-determination
for what are called regions.
For me, it is important
that in our exercise we think about the self-determination of
cultures, peoples and nations. I am not in favour of a single
model for Europe. We must take account of our own history and
traditions. Our friend Michel Delebarre is no longer here, but
we can speak of the terrible Jacobin situation in France as evidently
part of the tradition and culture of France.
Should we say to the
Scots that they can be only a region in Europe? I do not know
whether that is the right approach. When we are speaking about
different types of regions, it is difficult to make a common analysis
and to give the right definition. There are at least three elements
that allow us to speak of a region as a full democratic region.
First, the region has direct elections to a body from which a
Government is formed. Secondly, there is a social and economic
basis to answer the questions of the society for which we are
responsible. Thirdly, some degree of open identity can also be
an element of what we call a democratic region of the new orientation.
We have to think about
principles. We are speaking about subsidiarity, which is fine.
Subsidiarity is good, but it must not be a symbol. There are two
forms of subsidiarity. First, there is the vertical form, in which
responsibility must be shared in the partnership between local,
regional, federated-state and EU levels. Secondly, there is what
we can call horizontal subsidiarity, which is the place that we
should give to the entrepreneurs in our societynot only
economic entrepreneurs, but educational, cultural, social and
welfare entrepreneurs. That is the essential point about good
and better governance.
Of course, we also
need to think about structures. I believeI know that we
may disagree on thisthat the Committee of the Regions has
a role to play in future. The Committee of the Regions must not
have a reductionist influence on the self-determination of regions
and nations in Europe. That would be the worst scenario. The Committee
of the Regions must be instrumental in supporting the concept
of democratic regions.
It is of the utmost
importance to know what the place of different types of regions
in Europe is. We must not only know how to have direct links to
the European institutions and what our codecision situation is
as a region or nation. There are some practical ways to do that.
Under article 14(6) of the Maastricht treaty, it wasand
still ispossible for
regions to be directly
involved in meetings of the European Council. That is the position
of the Belgian regions. In relation to our own competencies and
responsibilities, we are in codecision with national delegations
of national member states.
It is of great importance
that we reflect on the legitimation of some bodies, cultures and
entities in Europe. What are the democratic content and the output
of our actions? That is the point of efficiency. We will have
the opportunity next month and in 2004 to reflect on that. I am
in favour not only of having the debate, but of the orientations,
of working on a concept for the next decades and of not being
fixed to a 19th century concept. It is important to
trust one another and to spread responsibility between different
I repeat the criticism
that we have made many times in relation to subsidiarity. We say
that subsidiarity is the most important base of our political
action, but subsidiarity must not stop in London, Paris, Brussels
or The Hague. We have to work on a federated system. As well as
giving responsibility to the federation of Europe, we have to
give more responsibility to regions and nation states.
Flanders, like Scotland,
probably has the assets to be an independent state, but in my
opinion it is no longer fruitful to think in that way. You can
try to have as much autonomy or self-determination as possible,
but that should be within a European federated context. That is
what we can do for the great and rich variety of regions all over
Europe. Let us not think about what I call reductionism. The Committee
of the Regions is an instrumental body, which is the right place
for the regions and local communities in Europe.
Mr Roger Kallif
(Committee of the Regions): If I may, I would like to speak
in my own language, Swedish.
The witness continued
in Swedish (simultaneous interpretation). First, I would like
to thank colleagues in the Scottish Parliament and the Committee
of the Regions for this opportunity to exchange our experiences
of democracy. Our experiences can be the foundation for our work
in the European Union and at home.
We have discussed many
problems and we have talked about how to engage the people in
our political work. We are confronted with the issue of new governance
and, as Mr van den Brande said, good governance, of which I am
very much in favour. That is one of the important issues, but
we must also consider the European constitution and our own roles
as local and regional representatives, including our roles in
there are different democratic models. We have talked a lot about
constitutional regions and regions with legislative powers, but
there are other regions in Europe and, for the people in those
regions, they are just as important as the ones with legislative
powers. The regions have great responsibility for community services.
Across Europe, local authorities have very different responsibilities
and often have an important role in providing citizens with basic
services. I would not like to distinguish between the various
modelsneither in the present member states, nor in the candidate
states. They all stem from elected representatives with a political
I am happy about what
Mr de Rynck of the European Commission said about the EU being
based on representative democracy and about that being an important
element in new or good governance. Local and regional elected
representatives, and members of national Parliaments and the European
Parliament, are directly elected by the people. We need to bear
that in mind. We must ensure that we can take on the responsibility
at European level as well. That is why it is important for us
to stick together in the Committee of the Regions at the same
time as taking account of our differences. There are differences:
listening to our colleagues in the Scottish Parliament and the
Committee of the Regions, we hear that a model is being developed
in Scotland that is not the same as the model we use in Sweden.
The candidate countries
have an important role to play in the work of the Committee of
the Regions. Lloyd Quinan mentioned Slovakia. Those of us who
are working with the candidate countries were in Bratislava last
week and listened to our colleagues talk about the ways in which
they are developing local and regional democracy. They need all
the support that they can get in that work, not only to build
up their democracies, but to ensure that there are good relationships
to foster good economic and social development. They also need
support in their application for European membership. The people
in those countries think that the process is taking too long,
and I hope that it will be accelerated.
In our discussion on
governance and constitutional matters, our colleagues from candidate
countries should have some scope to contribute so that democracy
can be entrenched in Europe. I welcome today's meeting as part
of that process. I look forward to reading Mr Prodi's white paper
on new governance, whether that is produced in the summer or later
in the year.
Mr Albert Bore (Committee
of the Regions): When I was learning my politics, many years
ago, I was told quite forcefully never to define the
boundary of the problem
because one will always be arguing about the boundary and never
get round to discussing the issue. I begin to get a sense of déjà
vu when we focus downwards on issues of boundaries. What is a
region? What is a constitutional region? What is a nation state?
In a sense, such questions throw up the issue of the boundary,
which, in itself, has no particular relevance to the discussion
that we are engaging in this afternoon.
There are historical
characteristicslanguages and culturesthat we take
forward and that we need to protect, but there are ways of doing
that. Europe is in the process of discovering new forms through
which it might protect those characteristics. I am reminded of
an initiative in northern Italythe slow food movementwhich,
ironically, is developing fast. The initiative is about preserving
the way of lifeculinary and other characteristicsof
a specific area of northern Italy and it is developing because
people want to hold on to their culture and those historical experiences.
That is a way that they have found of trying to ensure that they
bequeath a bit of history to the future.
This afternoon, we
are discussing governance. I am extremely pleased to be having
that discussion, as it is not one that happens in the Committee
of Regions. Perhaps we have something to learn from the way in
which the discussion has progressed this afternoon.
Governance is about
decision making and decision-making processes. Therefore, it is
about the relevance of the decision-making institution to the
people on whose behalf those decisions are being made. The Scottish
Parliament exists because it has relevance to the people of Scotland.
Without that relevance, it would not be here, and we would not
want it to be here.
We will have a multitiered
or, as Graham Tope would have it, an interlocking, set of spheres
of influence. We will have a multitude of institutions, all of
which will have relevance because the decision making with which
they are connected is important to the people whom they serve.
The issue for us is how we connect the institutions. An added
problem is that the characteristics of the forms of governance
will not be the same across Europe. I lead the biggest local authority
in the UKBirmingham City Council. The council has relevance
to the people of Birmingham, although you would not think so at
election time: only 20-plus per cent of the electorate in my ward
regularly turns out to vote. The relevance of the council would
be enhanced if my authority operated in the way in which similar
authorities operate in Europe. On a recent visit to Stockholm,
I engaged in deep conversation with people from cities across
Sweden. What is interesting is that they have a
power of general competence,
which means that they can do things that they feel would be relevant
to the people whom they serve. My authority, however, is constrained
by Westminster regulations and is unable to do things that the
people of my city think that it would be relevant for the local
authority to do.
Governance is about
the relevance of the institution to the people whom it serves.
That relates to effectiveness, as the institution cannot be effective
without being relevant and cannot be relevant without being effective.
When Luc van den Brande
spoke about the historical issues of Europe, he introduced a notion
that we should dwell on. He posed a relevant questionthat
word keeps cropping upabout what the future structures of
Europe might be. Within that question, there is a suggestion that,
while the structures that are evolving may be relevant to the
early part of the 21st century, they might not be relevant
for much longer. We are in a shrinking world, are we not? The
idea of globalisation has lots of different meanings. We are in
a shrinking world and a shrinking Europe.
The forms of governance
that we need for Europethat multitiered or interlocking
set of spheres of governancewill be different from those
that emerged post-first world war, post-second world war and back
in the 18th and 19th centuries. They will
need to have relevance to the individual.
One final point drives
that issue home for me. One of the key opinions of the Committee
of the Regions in the past few years was on the charter of fundamental
rights. Politicians from local and regional government in the
15 member states were engaged in a debate not only about what
should be included in the charter, but about the charter's relevance
and whether it should have legal force and be part of the treaties
of the European Union. If we are entering a period in the 21st
century in which we can define the rights of the individual, and
if those rights are determined on a European rather than a nation
state basiswhich is what many of us have been arguingit
is appropriate to believe that the governance of Europe will change.
We will have given individuals in that European context access
to the fundamental rights that they should enjoy as citizens of
Europe and we will have given citizenship of Europe greater meaning
by adopting that charter and making it legally enforceable. We
will also have shifted the forms of governance that the people
of Europe will want in the middle and latter parts of the 21st
It is nice to be here
in this new institution. I
just a private thoughthow long the Scottish assembly will
be relevant to the people of Scotland. Perhaps I should not have
uttered that last sentence but, as a born and bred Scot, I think
I can safely say that.
Our proceedings are broadcast on the worldwide web and a substantially
verbatim report of the proceedings will be published in the next
couple of weeks. The world and its auntie will be able to read
what you have said.
Mr Erwin Schranz
(Committee of the Regions): (simultaneous interpretation)
I am pleased that we are able to have this meeting in Scotland
to study the encouraging developments here. Decentralisation has
recently taken great strides forward in Scotland and it is good
to see a legislative body herelegislative bodies are the
strongest expression of the principle of self-determination. The
Parliament is significant for other regionsincluding accession
countriesthat do not have a similar legislative architecture.
No matter whether things
come from above or belowthat is, whether they come from
the European Union or the stateit is important that there
is simultaneous growth from beneath, rather than simply an imposition
from above. If one is building a house, the first thing that one
does is lay the foundations. There is no point in starting at
the other end. Historical developments are an interesting source
of knowledge about how the future ought to be ordered.
If I may, I will give
an example from my country. People tend to be unaware that the
Austrian Länder merged in 1918 and 1945. The Länder
said, "We are ready to give certain powers to the state,
but we wish to keep other powers for ourselves." That is
an interesting lesson for the European Union. The Länder
are saying now that they will transfer certain powers to the larger
unit of the European Union but, of course, it must be clarified
which powers will remain and which will be retrenched.
If we look at the current
situationremember that we are talking about 317 million
peoplewe must address the question of what should be organised
centrally and what should be within the remit of smaller units.
Clearly, all those millions of people cannot individually be in
charge of what happens to them. There is an important space for
input from smaller units, hence the importance of the principle
In practical terms,
there are often problems in implementing subsidiarity. We must
strike a balance between centralised and decentralised decision
making. It is not enough to say that we can get close to the citizen,
and that we are acting via subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is important,
but one can take the other view that, although it is possible
to come closer to the
citizen, that might not always be the best solution. That is reflected
in the set up between the Austrian Länder, regions and the
There is also the important
question of how that is monitored. Political units exist, in Scotland
as elsewhere, which have responsibility for monitoring, but it
is important that the laws are checked and monitored from the
point of view of whether subsidiarity is being properly applied.
One can talk about gentlemen's agreements and things of that kind,
but there must be an opportunity to go to court if necessary to
determine the legal basis of delimitation of competences. When
we achieve that development, it will be an important milestone
in the development of Europe.
Smaller units are,
to some extent, suffering a creeping loss of competence. There
is a great deal that is dealt with in Brussels that does not have
be dealt with in Brussels. That means that the competence of the
smaller units is being gradually reduced. Decision making in Brussels
often amounts to the opposite of decisions being made as close
as possible to the citizen. We have to avoid powers being sucked
into Brussels and the consequent proliferation of red tape because,
as our paper shows, it is far more expensive. If a new law is
being contemplated, one must examine how much it will cost to
implement it from Portugal to Finland.
We want a clear, factual
delimitation of powers to be written down, which would mean that
the central authorityBrusselscould not simply override
local authorities. We must examine our citizens' views on that.
When new laws are at the draft stage, we must determine what citizens
think about them, because citizens must determine on what basis
laws are built. That means that the laws have to be manifestly
It will also be important
in future for local authorities to be trusted more. They have
significant abilities, and there is no need to be too gung-ho
in monitoring the detail of their activities. We should place
confidence in our regions and local authorities to do the job
that they have been given, rather than say constantly, "No,
this is too difficult for you. We will have to take it to Brussels."
On the contrary, there are all sorts of things that need not be
known about in detail. There is always the possibility of going
to law if necessary, but people are too ready to say that something
contravenes the rules of the treaty. Let us not have a development
that would lead to a legislative authority constantly beating
a path to the door of the European Court of Justice.
We are in favour of
clear and simple rules. The foundations of a buildingincluding
the European edificemust be built on solid rock, and the
solid rock is the regions of Europe. We must ensure
that they are properly
organised, so that people who come to that house feel comfortable
and safe there.
Thank you. Our final speaker is Jean-Jacques Weber.
Weber (Committee of the Regions): (simultaneous interpretation)
I shall be brief, as I know that time is short. I congratulate
Scotland on its admirable achievement, and I say to our hosts
that you have a beautiful country. The Scots are courageous and
stout-hearted. In France, we learn the history of Mary Stuart.
She lived a long time ago, and she is perhaps turning in her grave
Mr Quinan asked whether
Scotland is a nation. The Committee of the Regions is not going
to answer that question. Colleagues have said this previously,
perhaps better than I can, but you need to know what you arewhether
you are a nation, a state or a local collective. It is not up
to the Committee of the Regions to tell you that; it is up to
you to say where your utopia is. Europe is a utopia, as is the
Committee of the RegionsI was at the first meeting, which
was held a few years ago. The Committee of the Regions exists
to offer responses to questions other than thatfor example,
responses on citizenship and the role of politics.
I am not saying that
a politician should be an administrator or manager. A politician
must be an inventor first and foremost, and must push his ideas
towards the citizens. We must ask politicians to invent new reasons
for hope. Europe is an excellent form of hope and reality. We
are always saying, "Europe, Europe, Europe" and talking
about Brussels. However, the technocrats in Brussels have achieved
some fantastic things. Twenty years ago, who would have thought
that one day we would meet here to discuss such important issues
and to exchange the ideas and views that we have heard today about
the Jacobins? In France, the Jacobins are now becoming Liberals
and the Liberals are becoming Jacobins. How can that process be
corrected? Have we got ready-made, regulation answers to such
questions? No, we have not.
will give rise to our interpretations. The founders of Europe
believed in utopia; we, too, must believe in it. The problem of
governance today is about putting a crown on Europe. The first
crown was the association of nations then there was universal
suffrage in the Parliament. The third element is what we represent:
an interpretation of the grass roots. We all hope that the Committee
of the Regions will become a European institutiona kind
will express the voice of the grass roots, which is the voice
of the places where the problems exist, and that it will not merely
allocate the European subsidies, although they are an encouragement.
We need to know how we will be able to live in future and how
our childrenthe next generationwill be able to live
together and guarantee peace, regardless of beliefs. That is what
the matter boils down to; we must live together in harmony and
We must recognise each
other as being representatives of a whole. It does not really
matter whether somebody is a representative of a local authority
or a region, or the mayor of a town. What matters is that we have
a common idea. You have done that in Scotland: if you had not,
we would not be in this room today. We must all live by our idea
I have been on the
Committee of the Regions for almost seven years; others have been
on it for as long as me. Perhaps at first we did not believe in
this utopia, but if we did not have such beliefs now we would
not be here today. The Europe of the future needs to balance its
powers. That is obvious. The basic message from the Committee
of the Regions is that the people at the grass roots must be able
to express their views.
The Convener: Thank
you, Mr Weber.
I hesitate to allow
this, but I know that Ben Wallace has waited patiently. Does Ben
still want to ask a question?
Ben Wallace: I
am aware of the time. If my question is short and the answers
are brief, I will not annoy my colleagues.
I want to go back to
comments that were made by José María Muñoa
Ganuza from the Basque region, and to get a view from the members
Mr Bore said that the
matter is not about boundaries. However, before we start the debate
about governance, it must be said that there is a feeling that
utopia does not exist throughout Europe. People in some regions
strive for a different agenda. In some parts of some countries,
some people aspireI do not agree with themto separation.
What is José
María Muñoa Ganuza's view? Is the reform of the
Committee of the Regions and the change in governance a way of
watering down aspirations? Will it set regions in stone in a mediocre
setting, so that they are either not empowered enough to aspire
to a separatist agenda or not powerful enough to annoy the unionistthe
nation stateagenda? There is no separatist agenda in regions
in some countries, but there are people throughout Europe who
are not happy with their lot. It is important, before we
set a foundation in
stone, that that matter is properly addressed. If it is not, that
will not be a good foundation for the future.
The Convener: I
am not sure how to proceed; we could be here for another two hours.
Mr Ganuza: (simultaneous
interpretation) Convener, I think that you are optimistic.
We could stay here all night. The matter is clear. When I raised
the problem of governance, it had nothing to do with independence
or self-determination of a country, region or nation. The Basque
country is a nation because the Spanish constitution defines it
as such. It is difficult to imagine a building with 28, 25 or
20 states, when we are using a room configuration within a building
that is conceived for one state alone. That is what I meant. I
am not talking about a juxtaposition of 25 states becoming a European
Union that will be an effective political union.
Another point is important.
Given that we want to simplify the problem, we should find a homogeneous
solution. It will not be possible to find such a solution, however,
if the problem is not homogeneous. Imposed uniformity is a divisive
factor. Diversity is more likely to lead to unity or, at least,
to a level of unity, but such an assumption is often not made.
If we do not make that assumption, we end up blaming the person
at the bottom. The authority at the top never asks whether the
problem might be its fault.
were applied democratically, that would be the solution; that
should be accepted on both sides. I remember coming here a few
years ago and talking to a Scot who was not in favour of Scottish
independence, but who said that Scotland would certainly be independent
in a few years' time. He assumed that it would happen. I asked
him what he thought that London would say. He replied, "What
do you want it to say?" I said, "Well, will it not send
in tanks?" He said, "No, we cannot have that."
I told him he was lucky because tanks would certainly be in the
street in other states.
I agree that complexity
is valuable within a state. For example, under the constitution,
we have regions and nations in Spain. Complexity must exist also
to take account of other differences in Europe. It is important
that the Commission makes that assumption and requires complexity
to be recognised, so that the model that is adopted by Brussels
reflects the complexity of each country. Brussels should require
that those who make decisions in the Council of Ministers are
the people who have the power in their own state. Let us consider
Spain. Fisheries power is an autonomous power in the Basque country,
Galicia and Andalusia. What right has Madrid to discuss in Brussels
a matter in which it has no competence?
In that respect, Brussels
is hypocritical because Brussels cannot define the Spanish model.
Once that model exists, there must be a requirement that people
who are sent to Brussels have power, otherwise there will simply
be discussions between people who have no power to take decisions.
That is what I mean by complexity. One must be careful about complexity;
complexity is wealth if it reflects reality. If there are several
children in a family, for example, they will all be different.
If they are all treated in the same way, that is unfair and one
will never get the right answers.
Mr Quinan: To
follow on from what José María Muñoa Ganuza
said, complexity is the issue.
I want to leave the
inquiry with two thoughts. I referred to the requirement that,
prior to the 2004 intergovernmental conference, all institutions
and structures of the European Parliament and the European Union
and its member states must address the issue of the collective
rights of the people. They must recognise the diversity within
regions and nation states or sub-member states. That would prevent
conflicts that could happen if we fail to recognise the fundamental
collective rights of peoples who recognise themselves as peoples.
The second thought
is from Padraic Pearse, who was an Irish nationalist. I say to
Mr Bore that Padraic Pearse said that no man can put a boundary
on a nation.
The Convener: Proceedings
must now be drawn to a close. As I said, the meeting has been
a unique experiment for the Scottish Parliament, not just because
of the technical issues that are involved in organising a meeting
with our COR colleagues, but in enabling a committee of Parliament
to engage directly for the first time with representatives from
throughout Europe in the COR. I hope that MSPs who have participated
have benefited from listening to our friends from Europe. Equally,
I hope that those friends have benefited from listening to what
we have said this afternoon in the meeting and in the prior informal
discussion. I hope also that they will benefit from a discussion
after the meeting.
We have expressed the
desire to play our full role as a Parliament not just in the COR,
but in the wider workings of Europe. We hope that our debates
in this Parliament and in the European Committee will have an
influence on how the Europe of the future is governed, and that
they will influence not just our elected representatives in the
European Parliament, but you in your thinking in your regions
and nations. We hope not merely to make direct representations
to the commission.
I thank everybody for
taking the time to be with the European Committee this afternoon
thank those who made
the meeting possible. Putting the meeting together has not been
easy. There have been difficulties because of Parliament's rules
and through trying to accommodate what we asked for. I appreciate
the work of the interpreters and the COR technical staff in helping
us, and the work that Beatrice Taulegne and her COR team have
done in negotiating with my colleagues in the Scottish Parliament
to make the meeting possible. I also thank my team in the European
Committee of the Scottish Parliament for their efforts.
We will gather at the
car park at Edinburgh castle at 18:30 for dinner. Unfortunately,
for technical reasons, the visit to the site of the new Parliament
building has been cancelled. I regret that we cannot make that
visit, but there should be some time to visit our beautiful city
We are pleased to have
had you here today, that the weather has been in your favour and
that the discussion has been good. We hope that you leave Edinburgh
with not only fond memories, but with thoughts that will help
to shape the debates of tomorrow. On behalf of the European Committee
of the Scottish Parliament, I present to Manfred Dammeyer a bottle
of the Parliament's own whisky. I was going to say that I was
presenting it as a lasting reminder, but if you drink too much
of it you might not remember anything, so drink slowly and appreciate.
Thank you, Manfred. [Applause.]
Thank you very much. There are two important Parliaments in Europethe
Scottish Parliament, which has its own whisky, and the Danish
Parliament, which calls its meeting room Snapstinget. Parliaments
that are open to their citizens in that way are very important
and have a great future.
I thank you, convener,
because it has been a good experience to have this discussion
between representatives of different levels of government. We
have seen how we can discuss the same problem with representatives
of one nation on one side of the chamber and representatives of
different regions of Europe with different views on the other.
It is not easy to draw
a simple conclusion, but one point was really obvious: nothing
comes from itself; we must work for it. On the specific issues
that we have discussed, we think that our efforts will be sure.
When we spoke about the efforts of the Committee of the Regions,
and the success that we have had, we were telling the truth. However,
we cannot be sure that we will be equally successful in future
if we do not work for it.
We have to recognise
that it is not the European
Union that gives competences
to the member states or to the regions; rather, the member states
give competences to the European Union. The European Union has
no competences that it did not get from the member statesbut
that is only our opinion. In the Commission and in the Council,
there are many people who think that they could do more than is
written in the treaties, or who have practices that they think
are in accordance with the treaties. Nothing comes from itself;
we have to work for our own interests. We should therefore continue
contacts such as this meeting. We should work for the important
activities that we must undertake in the coming years, so that
we can have a good intergovernmental conference in 2004 and so
that we can speak about important regions in Europe, such as in
France, Greece and elsewhere. There are important regions that
have their own strengths and which can have influence at European
I thank the interpreters
who have worked at today's meeting. I also thank Beatrice Taulegne
and other staff who have been involved. I thank you, convener,
for your kind hospitality. If we want to enjoy a little of the
good weather that you have arranged for us today, we should start
to go outside. I also have a present for you, a clock, so that
you know what time it is in Europe. [Applause.]
Thank you very much, Manfred. I now declare this meeting of the
European Committee of the Scottish Parliament closed.
Meeting closed at