On 19-20 May 2005, one year after 10 new Member States joined the European Union, the Committee of the Regions hosted the European Summit of Regions and Cities in Wroclaw, Poland.
The Summit gathered some 300 regional presidents, mayors of major EU cities, presidents of regional parliaments and leaders of European and national associations of local and regional authorities, as well as representatives of the EU institutions, host government and media organizations.
The main theme of the Summit was the benefits of decentralization for cohesion, competitiveness and democracy – issues which are at the forefront of the new European Commission’s work program and the strategic objectives of the Committee of the Regions.
The Summit took place at a crucial time for European integration, against the backdrop of tough negotiations on the EU budget for 2007-2013, a renewed focus on the Lisbon Strategy and high-profile referenda on the Constitutional Treaty.
The Constitution, which is came into force in November 2006, guarantees regions and cities more say in the EU decision-making process, and the Summit was an opportunity to underscore the enhanced role and place that they will have in the new Europe.
Above all, it allowed the leaders of Europe’s regions and cities to put forward their vision and to formulate their requests concerning decentralization. It was also an opportunity to send a clear message to European governments and institutions that the regions and cities must be strong and effective to ensure robust management of regional and cohesion policies.
The Summit underlined that decentralization is a pre-requisite for real progress in local and regional democracy, for competitiveness, growth and job creation, and, not least, to ensure that solidarity has a genuine local dimension.