The President of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), Michel Lebrun, held talks yesterday with the European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, to discuss how best to exploit regional and cohesion policy to boost public investment and deliver jobs and growth in Europe. He raised serious concerns that investment made by regions and cities to match EU cohesion policy funds should be safeguarded and excluded by the EU's Growth and Stability Pact ceilings.
With economic growth topping the political agenda, the talks focused on the pivotal role of EU regional funding. Referring to the recent European Commission 6th Cohesion Report President Lebrun said, "EU Cohesion Policy is one of the main instruments for many local and regional authorities in Europe to help get smart investment back on track. The recent Cohesion Report demonstrated the critical role it plays in the process of convergence between the EU's regions. The report also proved the value EU regional funds have played in fighting the crisis. Nevertheless, regional disparities across Europe have grown".
The CoR President argued that local and regional authorities needed far greater support to boost their investment capacity. President Lebrun noted that slow growth was proving a barrier for local and regional authorities to free up resources for investment and reiterated the CoRs' call made in its Turin Declaration to exclude all national and regional co-funding of EU-supported investments (including projects under European Commission President-elect Juncker's investment plan) from the deficit indicators used under the stability and growth pact.
Following their meeting, Barroso and Lebrun joined representatives from seven major EU local and regional associations for a working lunch. The meeting took place in the framework of the annual " Structured Dialogue" which brings together the European Commission, the CoR and Local and Regional Authority Associations as part of efforts to strengthen relations between the EU and representatives of local and regional authorities.
The seven local and regional associations were represented by: