PositionEuropean Union

Over and above what are ultimately mere positions - without any real commitment in terms of action - favourable to the Committee of the Regions, Costas Skandalidis outlined the broad priorities of the Greek Presidency of the EU, which takes over the baton in January. Alongside high-profile dossiers such as enlargement and institutional reforms, he explained that Greece is keen to promote an enhanced employment strategy focusing on the creation of more jobs, the integration of disadvantaged groups, equality between the sexes and working conditions. Other Greek priorities will include a "new dynamic on research and innovation" and the search for a consensus on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. The Minister also explained that particular attention will be paid to immigration and asylum policy over the six months of the Greek Presidency.

Another guest speaker, Jean-Luc Dehaene, Vice-President of the European Convention on the Future of Europe, explained how regional and local issues are being considered in the work of the Convention. Interventions by CoR members reflected their disappointment at the attention granted their institution by the Convention. They insisted that the Constitutional Treaty that emerges from the Convention must ensure the Committee is "better integrated", recalling the need to ensure it is addressed as a political body and is not assimilated into other advisory bodies of civil society. The Regions are also known to support the creation of a working group specifically addressing regional issues. Jean-Luc Dehaene was unable to offer any guarantees at this level, explaining "we have no plans at present to create a working group in relation to a partial or specific institutional problem", although he was careful not to close the door totally to such a possibility. Mr Dehaene suggested the picture should become clearer following the plenary session focusing on institutions (although there is little in fact likelihood of such a group being created).

Several speakers also drew attention to the need not to address the regional phenomenon by dissociating regions with legislative power from those with more restricted powers. This desire was shared by Mr Dehaene, "even though in reality, the regional phenomenon varies significantly".

Opinions adopted.

Despite the plenary session being disrupted by internal troubles within the CoR on recruitment policy and the staff union strike (see European Report 2723 for further...

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