Vincent Chauvet: " Sharing experience between European elected representatives is extremely important and enriching "
Vincent Chauvet, MoDem Mayor of Autun (France), has just been appointed to the Committee of the Regions, a European Union body based in Brussels and composed of local elected representatives from the 27 Member States. As the youngest French delegate and the only member of the MoDem among the 24 elected representatives representing France, he was elected Vice-President of the French delegation in February 2020.
You are one of the six mayors to represent France on the European Committee of the Regions, how do you envisage this task?
I look forward to this mission with confidence and great interest.
I have a good knowledge of the European institutions, having studied them at Sciences-Po and HEC. I was a lecturer at New York University in European Union law, and legal skills are indispensable in this position.
I also have extensive knowledge of Brussels, having worked there as a journalist and then in the European legal department of the French group Edenred.
Finally, I also know a number of European elected representatives whom I have been able to work with in other mandates.
I am therefore confident about this new mission and I will attend the plenary sessions which take place every two months all the more easily as there is a direct high-speed train between Le Creusot and Brussels.
The new term of office has just started, you have been appointed coordinator of the Environment Committee: what issues will you be working on?
I am very honoured by the trust placed in me and by the fact that I have been nominated as coordinator of this committee by the European centrist group Renaissance.
The European Commission wants to set up a Green New Deal which should mobilise 1,000 billion euros to achieve the ecological transition in Europe and achieve carbon neutrality for our continent. The Environment Commission of the Committee of the Regions will work on the necessary involvement of local authorities to achieve these objectives and how they will be financed. For my part, I advocate that the European Union should mobilise some of this money to buy forests and manage them sustainably, as we can do in Autun.
Is the local level a good lever for bringing Europe closer to its citizens?
"Primary schools are to science what local institutions are to Europe: they put it within the reach of the people," one might say, paraphrasing Tocqueville, who spoke of democracy in America. Local elected representatives have a real role to play in explaining how the European institutions work and how we are trying together on a continental scale to overcome the major challenges of the 21st century, whether it be the ecological transition, digital innovation, or the preservation of our model of society in a world where other powers may want to impose their vision.
How can the European Union help French cities financially?
Many local authorities receive European financial aid for infrastructure projects in particular, or in connection with employment and training policies. But today this system is too complex and sometimes works with 2 to 3 years of deferred payment.
Furthermore, with the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, the budget has been reduced and the budget negotiations are very difficult. As a French elected representative from a small rural city, I plead for the budget to be maintained in relation to local development and the common agricultural policy. As President of the Mission locale, a structure for integrating young people into employment, I would like to see the appropriations maintained in this area too.
I also realise that many elected representatives do not know that they could benefit from European aid and that, as a result, certain subsidies are never paid out: we need to improve the information provided to elected representatives, particularly those from rural areas, on this subject.
Is dialogue between European cities facing the same difficulties constructive and indispensable?
Yes, sharing experience between European elected representatives is extremely important and enriching. We realise, for example, that we may be confronted with the same problems and that we have to reinvent similar solutions. In Autun, for example, we have a problem with the integration of Bulgarian woodcutters who have been coming to work in our region in large numbers since Bulgaria joined the European Union. I was able to meet Spanish colleagues who are experiencing the same problem, but for them it is linked to the need for labour for the strawberry harvest. The answer to these questions necessarily lies at European level: minimum wages in all Member States to enable each family to live in dignity without having to emigrate to another country, stricter rules on posted work, recognition of minorities and respect for the rule of law in Eastern Europe, European funding to help host regions to set up language courses, etc.