Vienna, 25 February 2010 – "Cities and municipalities are the natural foundation, and the heart of Europe. Several EU regulations have a direct effect on our municipalities or have to be implemented on a municipal level. Mayors and municipal representatives are also often the first contacts when it comes to worries or concerns over Europe", said Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, speaking to some 50 Austrian mayors and municipal representatives during today’s presentation of the "Municipal Councillor for Europe" initiative.
"During my EU listening tour through the provinces, I discovered the following: What is decisive for Austrians are not glossy brochures or Internet portals, but personal conversation and direct contacts. They have very specific questions on Europe and they wish for direct contact partners in the municipalities and city districts", Spindelegger continued.
Therefore, the Foreign Minister and the representation of the European Commission in Austria launched an initiative providing for the designation of separate "municipal councillors for Europe" in as many municipalities as possible. Similar to municipal advisors on environmental, financial, construction, or youth issues, these EU envoys could represent the central port of call for European issues in the municipalities and would make a significant contribution to better explaining EU decisions on a local level, so that these are better understood and ultimately backed by the people.
At the kickoff event in the Foreign Ministry on 25 February, the Minister had a discussion with mayors and municipal councillors on the expectations of the people "on the ground" and the kind of assistance required by those responsible on a local level to enable them to better cope with specific problems and issues concerning Europe. Among others, they also examined the possibilities for better networking the stakeholders on different levels, as well as qualification and further training courses for these future EU envoys.
"Today’s ‚demand assessment’ is a first major step toward creating a point of contact for EU topics on a municipal level. The positive reaction to my initiative is encouraging, and demonstrates the strong common interest for closing a communication gap. Europe needs a familiar face on a local level. Our initiative aims at meeting the demand for dialogue and information on Europe at a local level as effectively as possible", concluded Spindelegger.
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