Ohlédnutí: Mezinárodní konference o rolích regionů v EU se vydařila

V pátek 16. září přijeli do Brna zástupci evropských regionů, kteří se zúčastnili mezinárodní konference o roli regionů v Evropské unii. Na konferenci v Hotelu Continental vystoupili i zástupci veřejné správy z České republiky. Podívejte se na fotoreportáž.

Konferenci pořádalo Moravské zemské hnutí jako člen Evropské svobodné aliance (EFA). Děkujeme všem vystupujícím za jejich obohacující příspěvky: Ondřej Hýsek, předseda MZH; Lorena Lopez de Lacalle, prezidentka EFA; Jiří Nantl, náměstek hejtmana Jihomoravského kraje; Danko Švorinić, předseda Lista za Rijeku/Lista per Fiume; Petr Konečný, místopředseda Společnosti pro Moravu a Slezsko; Florian Weber, kancléř obvodu Horní Bavorsko, předseda Bayernpartei; Chris Whitwood, Yorkshire Party; Maciej Molak, Centrum pro regionální rozvoj České republiky.

Projev předsedy MZH Ondřeje Hýska:

Ladies and gentlemen, my dear friends,

It is truly the great honour and pleasure to welcome you to our conference, which is dedicated to the role of regions in Europe. The conference is organized by the European Free Alliance and the Moravian Movement.

Let me begin with expressing my deepest condolences to our guests from the United Kingdom who have come at the time of mourning of the passing of their Queen. I remember when we welcomed Her Majesty in the Freedom Square here in the centre of Brno in 1996 with my grandmother, who was born on the same year as Elizabeth II. We, the Moravians, will never forget the Queen’s visit in the Moravian capital and her beautiful words dedicated to our land. Also, my beloved granny led me to keep the Moravian traditions and identity.

However, a year later, the members of the Parliament of the Czech Republic started the process, the end of which – from my point of view unfortunately – was not the restoration of our traditional self-governing countries of the western type within the Czech Republic, but on the contrary, the restoration of artificial regions with problematic competences and similar borders to the regions which were created by to totalitarian centralistic regime in 1948. And that is for me one of the reasons why we are meeting here today to openly share our opinions, experiences and suggestions of solutions.

In the time of the war in which the Putin’s Empire violates the brave Ukraine and our civilization, let me warn you that even though we have the clearest and noble ideas, we and the regionalist political subjects could be the attractive target of the Kremlin propaganda, so we have to firmly defend ourselves and our values of freedom and liberal democracy – it is our moral responsibility to our societies. Now I would like to give the floor to my dearest friend Lorena Lopez de Lacalle, President of the European Free Alliance, daughter of the Basque Country, who will hold the opening speech of our conference. May our meeting be fruitful for all of you, thank you.

Projev prezidentky EFA Loreny Lopez de Lacalle:

Good evening, dear friends of Moravia, dear Ondřej Hýsek and party Moravské zemské hnutí, dear EFA Bureau colleague Patrick Perosa, dear EFA members Chris Whitwood, and Florian Weber.

EFA, is the European political party which federates 43 parties in 19 European states because apart from the EU countries we are also present in Vojvodina, presently Serbia and in Artsaj, Nagorno-Karabagh in Armenia. There are 10 European political parties, but EFA is the only one which was founded to promote and protect the diversity of our Peoples, the only one which defends the right to decide for all.

It is a great pleasure for me to return to Brno, capital of Moravia to celebrate 1.200 years since Moravia was first mentioned in the chronicles.

Regions, not only have a say, but they also have a lot to say, they indeed are the marketplace for ideas promoting a closer European Union, the marketplace for disseminating good practices.

What do I mean by that? Everything transits through them. Policies are discussed and implemented be it with a top-down approach from Europe to the States and from the States to the Regions or with a bottom-up approach, which we promote, from the local and municipal level to the Regional, State and European level. Regions are thus at the crossroad of all policies. Regions are the heart of Europe.

Surprisingly enough, when in 2020 we had consultations with the cabinet of the Commissioner in charge of the Future of Europe Conference, we were told that they were counting on us to help them transform the European institutions to make them more democratic, to open the doors and let regions and local entities contribute to a better Europe. They were begging us for help! Imagine our surprise!

EFA was founded to demand and exercise power on an equal footing with the States.

Public meetings, like todays in Moravia enable us to convey a positive and stimulating message, to recover confidence and hope, to recover the necessary energy to work for a better world despite the difficult circumstances.

205 days today since Putin launched a war to invade Ukraine. 205 days that have completely changed the delicate international geopolitical balances with all the consequences that we all know: death and human suffering, inflation, recession, energy crisis and so forth.

EFA immediately condemned Putin and supported Ukraine and many of our member parties are actively supporting Ukraine. But we also said since the beginning and we repeat it: war must end.

In July, a colleague of mine who works in the Basque parliament asked me a lot of questions about Europe’s shortcomings, the war in Ukraine, climate change and so on. To put it in a nutshell, he was mentioning to me all the big economic, social, and political issues which often trouble us so much that we end up paralysed because no one has simple nor immediate answers to them. And because of it, frustration and demotivation prevail.

However, we have the power, and it is our duty to act at home, locally regionally. Precisely because we know best our people, our territories.

So, my answer to him was yes, there are a lot of flaws, much to be redressed in the EU but it is up to us to prove with facts that another Europe is possible. Too often we have the bad habit of talking about Europe as some nebulous abstraction far from citizenship.

But Europe is us, Europe is each one of us living in Europe. We need to believe in it and believe in our own strengths to transform daily life for the common good. That’s the essence of Europe.

The ECSC, the European Coal and Steel Community, and the rest of the European institutions which were subsequently developed, were created with a top-down approach.

The 21st century Europe must be built with a bottom-up approach, from local, small and concrete initiatives. Solidarity means to connect with people, to establish close links starting from the people who live with us for the benefit of all. I believe in the drop of oil effect. Small, successful examples which grow and become attractive for others to replicate. That is why EFA supports the dissemination of good practices to learn from each other, to avoid repeating similar mistakes and spare time and money.

We have 3 important years ahead. Many local and regional elections in 2022 and 2023 in EFA parties as well as the European elections in May 2024.

In 2021 EFA and EFA’s members were very active during the consultations on the future of Europe debate. It’s been years since EFA demands a reform of the treaties to increase the participation of regions and devolved territories in the EU decision making processes.

Well, on Wednesday this week, Mrs Von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission announced that a Convention will be called for the reform of the European treaties. We welcome that decision.

Many of EFA’s proposals for the Future of Europe Conference and debates were among those which where most voted like the respect of language and cultural diversity in Europe and the respect of the right of all peoples to decide about their own future.

This is a matter of democracy, of improving European democratic standards in Europe.

It is widely recognised that smaller and decentralised communities are often better placed to adapt and flourish in the face of challenges. Given the opportunity and the power, they can have the freedom of flexibility and creativity needed to offer innovative solutions and to thrive in unique ways. 

This is an opportunity to work differently, for the EU to deal with sub-state authorities more directly, for regional governments or municipal councils to interact more directly with the Union, increasing engagement and awareness of the benefits of EU membership. This dynamic would be mutually extremely beneficial and must be encouraged.

More direct and closer cooperation between the European level and a local or sub-state level is needed to prevent unfair distribution by out-of-touch States. A strengthened Committee of the Regions is very much needed and could serve as a second chamber of the European Parliament. An Assembly for Cities should also be explored, and needless to add that the European Parliament must have the power to introduce legislation, which is not the case for the moment.

The European Parliament voted recently in favour of establishing transnational lists in the next European elections for the provision of 25 seats. This means that European citizens could cast 2 votes: one for their regional or national party of their choice and another one for a European political party.

We have no news from the Council yet but, if approved, be sure that EFA will participate with all its member parties to push forward all those ideas.

Yesterday we celebrated the International Day of Democracy and as EFA we proposed 5 ways to keep strengthening European democracy. We posted for the occasion a very comprehensive tweet that you can retweet if you wish so. So, I will just enumerate them:

  • 1. Respect the right to decide
  • 2. Expand participatory democracy. On this point I can say that EFA published a report in 2020 on how to organise citizen assemblies and VDL said on Wednesday that citizens assemblies will become a permanent tool.
  • 3. Lower or abolish electoral thresholds.
  • 4.Give the European parliament the right to initiate legislation and
  • 5. Elect the European commission president directly.

The key to any electoral success, I am convinced of it, depends on the work done at the closest level to the citizen, that is, from the local and regional level upwards. In a very broad sense, on the work done by NGOs, and citizens associations, in the neighbourhoods, in the movements for the rights of retirees, women, the youth etc.

And the purpose of any political party is to be on the ground, to listen to people and propose solutions to the concerns expressed.

Regions should stand out for quality rather than quantity. Quality of our products, our gastronomy, our health and education, our culture and democratic quality.

What makes the EU unique compared to the rest of the continents is that we all strive for egalitarian societies. This is what united us and what unites us. This is our distinguishing mark.

It is therefore not about complaining but about taking fate into our own hands, about making and building, about thinking and creating, about innovating. It is about moving forward; it is about shaping our regions like clay in the hand of the potter, about believing in ourselves, in the strength of our particularities, in the power of our diversity as true elements of progress and social cohesion.

As Albert Einstein said, « to keep your balance you must keep moving »

EFA supports and promotes political alliances to increase the visibility of our political action. Links forged in that way prepare the ground for any election but particularly, in our case, for the European elections.

To end my intervention and give you a concrete example of what can be done with political will and good teams from a regional perspective to promote European values I will briefly show you a project that we developed when I was elected regional minister of Culture, the Basque Language and Sports in my Region, Araba.

The project consisted in recovering the Salinas de Añana Salt Valley. They were not unfamiliar to me because my parents used to take us there for its natural beauty. But over time they had been abandoned because the salt producers had left for better jobs to Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Basque Autonomous Community only 30 km away.

I knocked at the door of the Basque Government, Ministry of Culture, to design together a project to recover the salt valley, the traditional know-how, skills, and competencies related to the exploitation of salt and maintenance of the site. The project aimed at becoming self-financed, providing local jobs, and promoting sustainable tourism. Well, when the Basque Vice-Minister of Culture came to visit them, he bluntly told me: “That? That’s good for the bulldozer”.

That was all we needed to launch the project against all odds, redoubling our efforts and working with the villagers to create a Foundation to incorporate into the project different stakeholders and institutions. Now you will see a short video to discover what the Salt valley was and what it looks like today,12 years after.

The Añana salt flats, are one of the oldest salt producing sites in the world, with more than 6.500 years of history. Its prized salt is pure, as it comes from an ancient sea of more than 200 million years.

The Salt Valley stands out for its impressive structure of stepped terraces built in stone, wood, and clay, with wooden channels that lead the saltwater by gravity from the springs to the wells, as well as for its salt stores and the richness of its saline biodiversity. 

In 2015 the European Commission granted the EU Cultural Heritage Award, Europa Nostra, to this project.

Here it is: https://vallesalado.com/Fundacion-Valle-Salado-de-Anana (First 2,45’)

Being in Moravia, as a tribute to culture, as a tribute to all those attached to the beauty of their lands, as a tribute to intellectual curiosity in this year in which Brno commemorates the centenary of Moravian Poet Jan Skácel (1922 – 1989) I will quote him from his poem Fragile and more fragile. He wrote “I am only a poet, the radar under linden trees. I am not to be answered. I ask.”

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