Multilevel governance: one step further towards subsidiarity

A briefing by Stéphane Ridou, EU project manager at CAAC.

Recently adopted by the Committee of Regions (CoR), the Charter for Multivel Governance (MLG) in Europe inviting all public authorities to engage in multilevel governance is now available. This political manifesto aims to make multilevel governance a reality in day-to-day policy-making and delivery. For Atlantic cities, this charter is an opportunity to reinforce their direct participation in the EU by raising their voice when regional and local interests are at stake. Cities and regions should be considered as real partners in a dynamic process of development and implementation of European policies, and their participation, by signing the Charter, is once more requested.

Reducing the gap

Multilevel governance is a notion that aims to reduce the gap between citizens and EU representatives with a reinforced participation of local authorities in discussions and also by formulating European policies in partnership with the Parliament and the Commission. As each grade is involved in identifying, deciding and implementing EU policies, it is important that the most appropriate level of governance endorses the responsibility of decisions. Subsidiarity and multi-level governance imply that decision making competencies are shared by local and regional protagonists instead of being owned exclusively by top administrations.
The European territory then emerges as a more balanced and polycentric organisation. Hence, subnational actors are tucking in the decision-making process to become a new form of operating panel and the bulk of executive power is not retained only by national governments. Rather than assuming entirely the affairs on their territories, national powers share the tasks with regions, cities or any other administrative districts.

Protection of regional interests

Gathered in the Committee of Regions, the local entities of the 28 member states stand for the narrowest junction between citizens and other EU institutions. Whenever a decision might affect the local activity, the CoR can speak up before any approval of the Commission. As the narrowest link between people and administration, the regional authority happens to guarantee a legitimate recourse for citizens. The growing importance of the CoR since its creation in 1994 gives to this EU body the responsibility of a larger involvement of citizens in European Affairs. With the EU Parliament, the CoR has the opportunity to become « the voice of European people ». As the local identity sometimes appears even stronger than the national feeling of belonging, regions and cities could paradoxically turn out to be a way to operate a rapprochement between European citizens and their political union.
As the first level of contact with citizens and their concerns is embodied by local representatives, the idea of giving a significant attention to cities and regions makes sense. Thus, signing the Charter for Multilevel Governance in Europe is an opportunity to involve people and bring (back) the trust that sometimes seems lost in EU legitimacy.


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