Billions of euros will be at stake when early this summer the European Commission unveils its budget plans for the years post-2013. Regional and local politicians from across the EU are now joining forces to ensure adequate support for regional development, European integration and solidarity. Meeting at the Committee of the Regions' plenary session on 31 March and 1 April in Brussels, they will discuss their requests directly with EU Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski i.
Given the importance of this subject, the members of the Committee of the Regions asked their president, Mercedes Bresso, and first vice-president, Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso, to coordinate the CoR's position in these discussions. The Commission's proposals for the structure of the future budget raise concerns that the Europe 2020 strategy will take precedence over aims of the Treaty such as economic, social and territorial cohesion. The Committee of the Regions' viewpoint is that identified needs must be used to frame the EU budget. It would not be acceptable to force the budget below a threshold that is fixed on the basis of national contributions, which have been falling over the years, at a time when the EU's aspirations are continually expanding. This is the message that will be given on 31 March to Janusz Lewandowski, European Commissioner for financial programming and the budget.
Efforts to reduce disparities between regions account for one third of EU spending. In response to a recent Commission report, the CoR plenary will outline its position on the reform of EU regional aid after 2013. Michel Delebarre (FR/PES), Mayor of Dunkirk, will present his draft opinion , urging that future EU regional policy be given "the resources to meet its objectives". In addition, EU lawmakers will shortly start renegotiating the European Social Fund (ESF), representing EUR 10 billion per year, which is an essential element of European regional policy. CoR members will be adopting an own-initiative opinion on the future of the ESF . Drafted by Catiuscia Marini (IT/PES), President of the Umbria region, the opinion underlines the added value of EU programmes which help people to find a job or set up their own business. How the countries and regions along the Danube can make full use of their potential by working more closely together within a macroregion is the topic of a CoR opinion prepared by Wolfgang Reinhart (DE/EPP), European Affairs minister of Baden-Württemberg.
Viviane Reding , the European Commission Vice-President responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, has also been invited to attend the plenary session on 31 March. CoR members will hold a debate on European citizenship at the plenary, and will discuss European Union efforts to communicate about European integration down to the level of the regions and municipalities. The draft opinion on the report on citizenship of the Union drawn up by Roberto Pella (IT/EPP), member of the municipal council of Valdengo, supports the European Commission's plan to make 2013 the European Year of Citizenship.