Guillermo Echenique defends scrapping the restraints on the European railway area
The 88th Plenary Session of the Committee of the Regions is being held in Brussels on January 27th and 28th and will be attended by Dacian CIOLO, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, and Maria DAMANAKI, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. Food safety and maritime policy are the main items on the agenda.
The members of the Committee of the Regions will likewise have the opportunity to learn more about the priorities for Hungary's six-month rotating presidency of the EU (January-June 2011).
During the plenary session of the Committee of the Regions, which is the assembly of the political representatives of all EU regions, the Lehendakari's representative on the Committee of the Regions and the Basque Government's General Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Guillermo Echenique, will defend the Basque Country's position regarding the following aspects:
- European railway area
- Pension system
- EU Research Framework Program,
- The European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation (EGTC)
Regarding these issues and the Opinions on the agenda to be discussed in the plenary session of the Committee of the Regions, the Basque Government will submit a total of 21 amendments or Basque proposals for European legislation in order to defend and highlight the position of the Basque Country.
The presence of Guillermo Echenique, the Basque Government's General Secretary for Foreign Affairs, at the 88th Plenary Session of the Committee of the Regions follows on from the recent institutional visit made by the President of the Committee of the Regions, Mercedes Bresso, to the Basque Country in November 2010. After the different meetings held with the Lehendakari, the Speaker of the Basque Parliament and the Basque Government's General Secretary for Foreign Affairs, the Committee of the Regions agreed to hold the First European Summit on Subsidiarity in the Basque Country (March 2011). The Basque Country was also entrusted with delivering the address on the future of European Union industrial policy.
The Basque Country agenda at the 88th plenary session of the Committee of the Regions also includes the Ente Vasco de la Energía (Basque Energy Board - EVE) participating in the Automotive Crisis Intergroup, where the Basque Country is already a key player.
Defending a European railway area: the need to scrap the restraints caused by incompatible infrastructures
Guillermo Echenique will defend scrapping the legal and/or infrastructure restraints that prevent rail transport between Member States, ensuring that there is a true European single market. He will stress that the emphasis should be on avoiding differences in infrastructures, such as the lack of gauge width compatibility (French and international), which affects cross-border regions such as the Basque Country.
Mainstreaming professional pension systems
The Basque Country will also argue that the professional pension systems need to be more widespread, as they are important tools within publicly-funded pensions. This is one of the key points of the Basque Complementary Social Welfare Plan. The professional employment systems are likewise very efficient and are the only ones that can cover the majority of the population. In this regard, 60% of European workers do not have professional pension coverage.
According to the Basque Government, the role of the Public Sector and fiscal support is fundamental to offset the cost of the complementary welfare systems.
New partners for the EU Research Framework Programs and for the European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation (EGTC)
The Basque Government representative on the Committee of the Regions will defend greater recognition of the role of the non-institutional stakeholders involved in the Research Framework Programs (VII PM) and boosting the participation of new partners in the European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation (EU tool to foster inter-regional, trans-national and cross-border cooperation between its members). One such example in the sphere of research in the Basque Country is the fostering of greater recognition of the role of private-public stakeholders, such as Innobasque or Ikerbasque, which are key players in the VII PM Programs.
It will likewise advocate defending the intellectual property of the research and also consolidating the ERA-NET initiative (EU funded research platforms), by empowering it further and providing more funding for its projects.