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Quebec puts “one foot in the door” of the European Union

Photo: European Committee of the Regions of the European Union The Minister of International Relations and La Francophonie Martine Biron signed a letter of intent with the European Committee of the Regions on Sunday in Brussels in the hope of “developing a unique partnership”.

Quebec took a first step on Sunday towards a new partnership with the European Committee of the Regions, a consultative body of the European Union (EU). A gesture of “national affirmation”, welcomed by the Minister of International Relations and La Francophonie, Martine Biron, while experts, including former Prime Minister Pierre Marc Johnson, welcome a “beneficial” decision.

“It’s a breakthrough we’re making. Quebec is the first subnational state to set foot in the door frame of the European Union,” underlines the minister. Ms. Biron met Le Devoir before flying to Belgium, where she signed a letter of intent with the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) on Sunday in the hope of “developing a unique partnership.”

The objective ? Obtain partner status within the CoR and therefore be “as close as possible to membership», wishes Ms. Biron. The documents she signed speak of “strong cooperation” between the two parties in order to respond to “global and societal challenges”. The letter of intent also sets out the desire of Quebec and the CoR to cooperate in the economic, cultural, environmental and climate sectors, in addition to strengthening “the role of subnational institutions”, in particular.

“Since the war in Ukraine, there have been opportunities in Europe and I think that this gesture will allow us to open new markets,” says Ms. Biron. The CoR has 329 members from 27 EU Member States. The European Commission, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament are required to consult it when developing proposals that affect local and regional authorities, among others in transport, energy, education or health.< /p>

“This in itself is excellent news,” says Éric Théroux, expert in residence at the National School of Public Administration (ENAP) and former assistant deputy minister at the Ministry of International Relations. “The Committee of the Regions occupies an interesting or important place in the dynamics of the development of EU standards. […] Its role is to promote the interests of the regions, so that it is not just a dynamic of the central States. »

In other words, the CoR's “mission is to study what is being done within the EU, for example the laws which will be adopted by the European Parliament, and to give a voice to the regions to shed light on this work,” adds Nelson Michaud, full professor at ENAP.

Economic ambitions

The signing of a letter of understanding with the CoR sends, according to Mr. Théroux, “a positive signal of increased cooperation between Quebec and the European Union.” “It’s a bit of a continuation of the influential role that Quebec was able to have at the time of the development of CETA,” he adds, referring to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, a free trade agreement between Canada and the EU signed in 2016.

Pierre Marc Johnson had dealings with the CoR when he was Quebec's chief negotiator in the CETA negotiation. The letter of intent signed by Minister Biron is, “essentially, a cooperation agreement,” he noted in an interview. “Trade agreements are of two types,” he explains, first naming trade treaties like CETA. These cooperation agreements follow, which “touch different areas, including culture, and even [eventually] lead to an increase in commercial activity,” adds Mr. Johnson. “At the regional level, it is sometimes possible to directly involve investors, private companies who will participate in this effort. »

Minister Biron does not hide her economic ambitions. “What it’s going to give us first is access to new markets. It gives us a place to network, a place where we will be able to hear the major debates in Europe, the objectives, the priorities. And we will be able to have the power of influence,” she hopes. “It’s a market of 448 million inhabitants, all regions. So, we are very proud of that. Honestly, I see it as a gesture of national affirmation. »

Nelson Michaud also underlines the possibility of learning more about the “good practices” of CoR members regarding the protection of local interests, in the face of standards imposed by States. “It seems to me to be an initiative that falls squarely into the defense of Quebec's interests on the international scene, to seek out information that could be useful to them in defending Quebec's interests in international negotiations,” he argues. . And then, “in terms of commercial relations, it is certain that the more channels we have open with partners, the easier it is to use them to promote interests in other issues,” adds -he.

“Anything that is collaboration that leads to reciprocal understanding, to increased activity between territories, is a good thing. In the world we live in, it’s a damn good idea,” says Mr. Johnson. The former Prime Minister of Quebec praises the importance, for small states, of opening up to trade given the small size of their internal markets. He says he notices a decline in the opening of borders, names the tensions with China and India, recalls the opposition to the liberalization of trade and underlines the protectionist trends observed in the world. “Anything that moves towards rapprochement between Europe and North America, whatever the level, is something that is beneficial,” he concludes.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116