Porec, Istria (HR), 15th October 2010
True to its mission of reinforcing subsidiarity and bringing Europe closer to its citizens, the Assembly of European Regions (AER) organised a Citizens’ Forum in the region of Istria in Croatia. The local population was invited to debate with local and regional authorities representatives and the European Union the perspectives that EU accession offers for decentralisation.
“In contrast to popular thought, that the citizens show no sign of neither curiosity nor interest in Europe, we were extremely pleased to see 70 local residents contributing to our forum,” enthused Michèle SABBAN, President of the Assembly of European Regions.
The participants’ primary concern with regards to Croatia’s accession to the EU is that they would have to comply with Europe’s regulations and standards. Mr Ivan JAKOVCIC, President of the region of Istria, responded to his fellow citizens: “Europe is an opportunity for Croatia! We should not be afraid of it; on the contrary we should accept its rules and contribute all of our ideas. In exchange, Europe will enable us to turn these ideas into reality, thanks to the funding we will benefit from. I am also thrilled that my region is a member of AER, because the Assembly is already offering us its expertise to help us prepare for accession. It is now up to our country to proceed with the required decentralisation, to allow us to be competitive and best utilise EU structural funds,” he added.
Michèle SABBAN stressed that “AER offers its members a participatory forum. Since its creation, our Assembly has always been a waiting room for accession countries. We are continuing this mission today with our Croatian members.”
An original element of this debate was the vote participants were invited to participate in: Will Croatian regions and their citizens benefit from EU accession? Their response was a clear sign that citizens are not as Eurosceptic as some may think: 90% of participants voted yes.
This Forum was part of the meeting of the AER political Bureau, the last important date in the AER calendar before its General Assembly that will take place on 11-12 November in Istanbul (TR).
The Assembly of European Regions (AER – aer.eu) is the largest independent network of regions in wider Europe. Bringing together more than 270 regions from 33 countries and 16 interregional organisations, AER is the political voice of its members and a forum for interregional co-operation.
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