Conversations to rethink the principle of subsidiarity

The third Positive Conversation initiative, which responded to President Sekkal's invitation to reflect, speak and write about post-Covid-19 governance, was an affirmation in favor of subsidiarity, to believe in the European Union and to work on horizontal policies between regions. On 21 January 2021, Ann-Sofi Backgren, Vice-President of the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR) met with Jean-Luc Vanraes, Vice-President of the Assembly of European Regions (AER) to talk about the future of the regions. While the previous talks had taken place in France, Morocco and Africa, it was with a representative of the region of Ostrobothnia in Finland and another from the region of Brussels-Capital in Belgium that the experience opened a window to Northern Europe.

The Vice-President of AEBR started by stating that the COVID-19 crisis forces us to rethink a new type of policy, in which the regions are fundamental. “We are living in new times”, she said, “and they call for governance on a new basis”. Coming from a cross-border region, Ann-Sofi Backgren argued that in order to face risks such as this pandemic, regions must promote horizontal policies among themselves. AER Vice-President Jean-Luc Vanraes recognized the importance of cooperation between border regions. He encouraged the ORU Fogar and all regional organizations to continue the debate on the principle of subsidiarity, i.e. the principle whereby a higher level of government should not assume competencies that a lower level of government is capable of carrying out. Thus, in view of the needs that the crisis has revealed, he has come out in favour of a greater transfer of certain competencies to the regions. “In recent months, we have seen that certain competencies are not adequately distributed”, he explained.

Jean-Luc Vanraes was not only in favor of delegating more powers to the regions. He was also in favor of transferring them to the European Union “when necessary and possible”. The vice-president of AEBR agreed that the pandemic has at the same time highlighted the need to strengthen both “the more local and the more global”. “COVID-19 has changed people's values” she said. We have to develop in a more sustainable way. And for this we need strong regions, but of course we also need a stronger transnational organisation to tackle the big issues. 

Both speakers also agreed that all this thinking ultimately means “rethinking democracy”. For Ann-Sofi Backgren and Jean-Luc Vanraes, it is necessary to reinforce the discourse on freedoms by involving citizens. They stressed the importance of citizen participation, social networks and the need to find new tools to ensure that the fundamental rights are respected. Finally, they emphasized the importance of regions working in networks to learn more from each other and to grow. 



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