Comité van de Regio's: "Decentralisatie en EU-grondwet beide goed voor Tsjechië" (en)
The regions of the Czech Republic stand to gain both economically and politically by embracing greater decentralisation and by putting their weight behind the EU Constitution, Peter Straub, President of the Committee of the Regions, forecast yesterday (20 September).
Mr Straub, who is on a three-day visit to the country, predicted a brighter future for the Czech regions during a live TV interview for the country's main political programme, Udalosti Komentare (News and Comment), broadcast by Ceska televise.
Mayor of Prague Pavel Bém, appearing on the same programme, agreed with him, saying that the country's regions "would be more important in the Europe of the future".
Both leaders said they hoped that planned reforms to the EU's cohesion policy, unveiled by the European Commission on 14 July, would result in a more simplified, streamlined delivery system for structural funding - and less red-tape.
Mr Bém, who is halfway through his four-year term as Mayor of the Czech capital, said it sometimes took two years for funding to arrive once a project had been accepted. "We have to speed up the money," he added.
Mr Straub said that the EU Constitution would put local and regional authorities at the heart of the EU decision-making process. Under the Constitutional Treaty, which was approved by heads of state and government at the June European Council in Brussels, the local and regional level must be consulted in all areas affecting it before EU proposals are made law.
The CoR President highlighted that, if the Constitution is ratified by Member States, the Committee will have the right to ask the European Court of Justice to annul laws where it believes European Union Institutions have failed to respect the rights of local and regional authorities.
Earlier, Mr Straub held talks with Members of the Lower House and Senate of the Czech Parliament, with both sides pledging greater cooperation to consolidate the role of National and regional politicians in the EU decision-making process.
And Mr Bém hosted a gala reception for Mr Straub and members of the CoR's Commission for Constitutional Affairs at the world-famous Municipal House in Prague. He also welcomed members from the Institutional Committee of the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, who held a historic first joint meeting with their CoR counterparts at the city's Congress Centre on 21 September.
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