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Committee of Regions - Plenary Session, September 1996

At its plenary session in Brussels, on 18 and 19 September 1996, the Committee of Regions adopted opinions on a range of issues. These included:

- Economic and Monetary Union:
The Committee calls for the relationship between EMU participant and non-participants to be clarifie...
At its plenary session in Brussels, on 18 and 19 September 1996, the Committee of Regions adopted opinions on a range of issues. These included:

- Economic and Monetary Union:
The Committee calls for the relationship between EMU participant and non-participants to be clarified at the earliest opportunity and underlines that, in order to be successful, the future European currency must command broad popular support. Furthermore the Committee of the Regions stresses the importance of partnership and co-operation between the Member States, regions and local authorities and rejects any consolidation of public-sector budgets which would place a disproportionate burden on the regions and localities;

- Maximizing European SMEs' full potential for employment, growth and competitiveness:
The Committee welcomes the activities proposed in the Third Multiannual Programme for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the European Union 51997-2000), which consolidates a number of ongoing activities, but stresses the need for decentralization. It also recommends the framing of a regulation transposing, on an EU-wide scale, the most effective measures adopted by the individual States;

- Report from the Commission on the implementation of cross-border cooperation between the Community and countries of Central and Eastern Europe in 1994:
The Committee calls on the European Commission to present plans for the continuation, beyond 1999, of the INTERREG II and PHARE/Cross-border co-operation initiatives. It stresses the need for greater dovetailing between these two integration instruments and a simplification of procedures;

- Promoting and protecting local products:
The Committee calls upon the institutions of the Union - as part of the on-going reform of the Common Agricultural Policy - to open the way for a greater commitment to local quality-based products (common principle) and to give regional operators sufficient room for manoeuvre as part of their activities;

- European Community Programme of policy and action in relation to the environment and sustainable development:
In the light of the responsibilities borne by local and regional authorities for environmental protection, the Committee feels it extremely important that the Action Plan should lay down specific environmental policy priorities for the coming years. It also considers that consideration of ways to improve environmental protection in the agricultural sector should focus first and foremost on making environmental criteria a condition for subsidies. This means that in future, environmental requirements will be a sine qua non of market price support;

- Inter-administration telematics networks for statistics relating to the trading of goods between Member States (EDICOM):
The Committee backs the European Commission initiative to develop telematic networks for compiling statistics on trading of goods between Member States of the European Union, by directly involving businesses in the process rather than rely on custom handling centres as at present. It, however, points out certain shortcomings. In particular, the absence of evidence of tangible financial benefits to either Member States or participating businesses. The Committee believes that concentrating on the collection of data is not sufficient. A two-way flow of information, in which a speedy provision of data will be retransmitted to the regions and local businesses in a form that benefits their individual operations, is necessary to ensure the success of the initiative;

- European Community Water Policy:
The Committee welcomes the European Commission's approach and initiative to develop a European policy for sustainable development in the water sector. It, however, urges the Commission to ensure coordination between the environmental aspects of water policy and land-use planning and to investigate more closely the potential social impact of Community funding;

- Cohesion Policy and the Environment:
The Committee believes that the increase in the resources allocated to environmental actions, together with the increase in the resources allocated to disadvantaged regions in general, is a necessary precondition for the success of the cohesion policy and the promotion of sustainable development. It stresses that representatives of local and regional authorities within the EU wish to be more closely involved in the decision-making procedures and in the management and follow-up to programmes financed by the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund. It also calls for training seminars for the staff of local and regional authorities, and considers that local authorities should be given help with the cost of providing new jobs in the environment sector;

- Trans-European co-operation scheme for higher education:
The Committee welcomes the redefined objectives of the TEMPUS II programme that seek to consolidate and build on the achievements of the original programme, and backs the proposal to continue the programme for a further two years;

- Equal Opportunities for Women and Men:
The Committee welcomes the fourth medium term Community action programme on equal opportunities for women and men (1996-2000), but is concerned that the major reductions in the budget by the Council will lead to a programme which has a very limited impact. It also stresses the importance of establishing regional and local partnerships for the implementation of information, education and training campaigns, and highlights the importance of equal opportunities in the Structural Funds.
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