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The signing of the European Constitution : “A step forward for our municipalities and regions”

CEMR secretary general Jeremy Smith has welcome the signing of the European Constitution by EU leaders on 29 October 2004.
Beyond the debate about whether we want more or less Europe, the EU Constitution is a significant step forward for Europe's rural and urban communities said Jeremy Smith. For the first time, the European Union will explicitly recognise local and regional self-government as elements of national identities, thus recognising that over the last twenty years, more and more EU member states have granted an ever greater role to their local and regional governments.
CEMR also welcomes the wider definition of the principle of subsidiarity that for the first time includes the local and regional spheres. Until now, explains Jeremy Smith, the principle of subsidiarity' only dealt with the relationship between the EU and national governments. The Constitution, now, clearly states that the EU cannot take decisions if these can be taken at least as effectively at the national but also at the local or regional level.
Equally positive for Europe's local and regional government is the power given to the Committee of the Regions to go before the EU Court of Justice if it considers that the principle of subsidiarity is being breached. This article goes hand in hand with another article stating that decisions must be taken as closely as possible to the citizens, adds CEMR secretary general. This clearly means that local and regional government must be more actively involved in the EU decision-making process.
Another step forward for Europe's local and regional governments is the Constitution's article requiring the Commission to consult relevant stakeholders in the legislative process. This duty arises whenever draft EU legislation is likely to have an impact on Europe's municipalities and regions.
The signing of the Constitution in the same room where the Treaty of Rome establishing the EU was signed, back in 1957, is one of Europe's major turning points, says Jeremy Smith. We hope that local and regional leaders across the EU will explain the importance of the Constitution to their citizens in order for them to express themselves on the basis of accurate and fair information.
Several EU member states have announced they will hold a vote on the Constitution. The first consultation is expected to take place in Spain in February 2005.