The Committee of the Regions plenary session at the European Parliament in July featured a debate on the role of local and regional authorities in the defence of democracy, within the context of measures announced by the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to defend democracy from covert foreign influence.

European Committee of the Regions (CoR) President Vasco Alves Cordeiro officially opened the 156th plenary session on 5-6 July in the European Parliament’s Hemicycle, which marked the fourth plenary of the year and featured a series of debates.

The debate on defending democracy was followed by an opinion of a similar theme by rapporteur-general Gustaw Marek Brezezin on the role of local and regional authorities in countering disinformation and foreign information manipulation and interference.

The key vote of the first day was the proposal to allow certain meetings to be held remotely. This was on the context of the establishment of a new ad hoc committee. From an Irish perspective the highlight of the day was Cllr Una Power’s opinion on ambient air quality, which was debated alongside Asa Agren Wikstrom’s Revision of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive. Following a close vote Cllr Power’s opinion was passed with a several amendments.

The first day concluded out with discussions on two opinions, firstly Isolde Ries opinion on Critical Raw Materials followed by Josef Frey’s opinion on the reform of the EU electricity market design, which seeks to speed up the clean energy transition. The second day began with a local matters debate on sustainable mobility in local areas, a topic which drew support from across the house as representatives from the ECR, PES and the EPP spoke on the topic.

This was followed by a debate on the role of US and EU subnational governments with Robin Vos, President of the National Conference of State Legislature. Cllr Emma Blain thanked President Vos for his engagement with the CoR and noted that she looks forward to welcoming him to Dublin in August.

The plenary concluded with debates on the EU Enlargement Package, fostering the potential synergies of EU Green Deal initiatives for regions and cities and a debate on the forthcoming Net Zero Industry Act.

The next plenary session takes place in conjunction with the European Week of Regions and Cities on 10-11 October.

This information was first published in the ‘July 2023 Newsletter’ of the Irish Regions European Office (IREO).

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