On June 15th 1985, in Louvain-la-Neuve (Wallonia - BE), 47 Regions made up of politicians strongly favouring the concept of regionalism as well as fervent Europeans, join 9 interregional organisations, seeking the support of a larger political entity, to found the Assembly of European Regions. In 1986, the Council of Europe honours AER's status as a fundamental European organisation representing regions. In 1985, AER launches its first programme Eurodyssey, designed to promote and encourage youth mobility. The fall of the Berlin wall, in 1989, marks the opening up of AER to the regions of Central and Eastern Europe stressing the importance of regional level politics in modern democracy with respect for cultural plurality and European regional development.
In 1990, AER’s Tabula Regionum Europae publishes the first map of its kind – citing a Europe made up of regions and not simply of countries. In 1991, the principle of subsidiarity becomes the leading AER campaign to promote the role of regions in all European and national decision-making processes. Soon thereafter its success is to be evident after the principle is recognized in the Maastricht Treaty of 1992.
The creation of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) in 1994 and the Chamber of the Regions in the framework of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (CLRAE) in 1994, exemplifies a victory for AER in advocating for the regions in Europe. In 1994, AER launches CENTURIO, a programme encouraging regional civil servants in Central and Eastern Europe to follow training courses in western regions.
In 1995, AER launches a massive campaign to promote regionalism in Europe. As a result, 300 AER members adopt in 1996 the Declaration on Regionalism in Europe immediately initializing a reference document for new and developing regions. In 1996, AER hosts its first Summer School creating a proper framework for regional representatives to discuss matters affecting regional policies. In 2000, AER establishes its website.
In 2002, AER presents its position on the “Future of Europe” to Valérie Giscard d’Estaing in the frame of the European Convention. AER actively contributes to the drafting of the European Constitution, demonstrating strong political involvement. The final text includes all AER proposals, namely the recognition of the regions as an important level of governance within Europe as well as the extension of the principle of subsidiarity to regional and local levels, and notably the inclusion of regional cohesion in EU’s objectives. AER also publishes the leaflet “The EU Constitution: your questions answered” designed for European citizens. In 2005, the Constitution is rejected, but AER continues to push forward these principles in the drafting of the Lisbon Treaty.
From 2001, the AER decides to boost youth involvement in the regions. In order to do so, it establishes the “Most Youth-friendly European Region” award in 2001, and in 2002, organizes the first Youth Summer School. In 2003, AER adopts its first Regionalism Report evaluating the state of regionalism across Europe. Apart from institutional actions, AER's outstanding responses to the everyday needs of citizens was gaining wide public attention. Lobbying alongside regions against GMOs or for the development of regional airports exemplify some of the major successes within these years.
AER demands are contextualised into articles within theTreaty of Lisbon, soon thereafter ratification processes begin in 2007 while the treaty enters into force in 2009.
In 2008, AER launches the worldwide “Subsidiarity is a word” movement. The expansion of this principle breaks frontiers worldwide spreading the idea that decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the citizen. From 2007, AER launches a number of successful initiatives such as: AER Communicating Europe Award, AER Innovation Award, “Do you speak European?” Competition, AER Peer Reviews, AER Training Academies, AER Citizens’ Forums, and AER Scholarships. In 2008, AER establishes the Youth Regional Network, Europe’s first and only platform of regional youth councils, parliaments and organisations. In 2009, the question of decentralization becomes widely debated, can it really foster economic growth? An AER study entitled “From Subsidiarity to success: The impact of decentralization on economic growth” indeed proves that decentralization promotes enduring economic growth. 2010 marking its 25th anniversary, AER updates its Regionalism Report and presents a Position on EU “Europe 2020” strategy.
With the economic and financial crisis and the challenges linked to the Europe 2020 objectives, AER quite naturally became the European regions’ partner for growth. The AER strategy 2013-2020 opened up a new chapter in the promotion of the regional fact in Europe. Turning from the motto “Europe of the regions” to the concept “Europe with the regions”, AER places itself as a key actor of the multi-level governance advocated by the Lisbon Treaty.
The setting up of concrete partnerships with thematic networks and the opening towards the business world allows AER to give a new impulse to the actions of regional political leaders all over Europe, and beyond.
Through its Youth Regional Network, AER also gives a leading position to young people, who are the future for Europe.
Danuta Hübner, Member of the EC in charge of Regional Policy, on the right, receives Michèle Sabban, Acting President of the Assembly of European Regions (AER)
Brussels - 20/01/09 - Meeting President Barroso with President Van Den Brande and the presidents of associations : President Barroso, Luc Van Den Brande, Michele Sabban