In February 2020, during the first plenary session of the recently renewed European Committee of the Regions (CoR) members adopted the opinion “Towards sustainable neighbourhoods and small communities – Environment policy below municipal level” by rapporteur Gaetano Armao (IT/EPP). Euromontana is pleased to see that the rapporteur integrated its suggestions on the role of mountain areas such as on the importance of social innovation and it thanks the rapporteur for its explicit recognition of the role of Euromontana.
The opinion recognises the crucial role of small communities, at sub-municipal level, in the implementation of the Green Deal due to their competences on the management of transports, waste and resources such as water. Among these communities, the CoR stresses the need to take into account the specificity of some territorial situations, which encounter particular environmental challenges. “On account of their remoteness, these areas sometimes possess unique natural features that give them disproportionate ecological importance” like “sub-municipal communities in areas with specific geographic profiles, such as mountain”.
In addition to local competence on environmental issues, small communities are of particular interest due to specific governance systems and opportunities to involve citizens. CLLD, LEADER LAGs and other support measures to social innovations in the CAP or the European Social Pillar are for instance interesting tools to encourage the inhabitants of small mountain communities to take ownership of environmental issues and policy.
With regards to sustainable mountain development at sub-municipal level, the CoR encourages mountain communities to get strongly involved in the management of natural areas and in the development of sustainable tourism and above all to collaborate by joining networks such as Euromontana.
Nevertheless, the CoR also encourages the EU to enhance the role of small communities in sustainable development. The opinion for instance suggests to better include small communities in EU-funded project on sustainability, by making specific references to small communities in guidance documents and handbooks, by publishing dedicated calls targeting the sub-municipal level and by simplifying financial and eligibility rules to facilitate small communities’ participation. This would promote the overall harmonious development of the EU, in relation with article 174 of the TFEU.
Moreover, the Committee of the Regions encourages the European Commission to promote broader recognition of the importance of the sub-municipal level in local environmental policy among the other EU institutions and bodies, for instance by including the sub-municipal level in future policy documents and in revisions of existing strategies from EU institutions.
The opinion follows the publication of the January 2020 CoR study “Towards sustainable neighbourhoods and small communities – Environmental policy below municipal level” which details the policy framework for the inclusion of small communities in the decision and implementation of environmental policies in Europe.
For more information on the Green Deal’s implications for mountain areas, please read our article “The European Green Deal: a good deal for mountain areas?” (for members only).27 February 2020