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Simpler rules, better investment: local leaders call for improvements to EU regional policy
​Corina Creţu

During a debate in Brussels with the EU's Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Creţu, members of the European Committee of the Regions reiterated previous demands to cut red tape, better integrate private financing and strengthen the role of local and regional authorities in the design and implementation of the EU's 350bn cohesion policy.

"EU regional policy is an investment tool, not a subsidy, and only by working together, cutting red tape and simplifying rules can we make them more effective. Lack of coordination between European institutions, national governments, regions and cities and the complexity of rules is still diluting its impact. This needs to change if cohesion policy is to deliver growth and bottom-up innovation" said the CoR's President Markku Markkula.

Speaking during the debate at the CoRs' plenary, Commissioner Creţu stated: "Dialogue with regional and local leaders is of utmost importance today as Europe is going through one of the most difficult crises of its history. Cohesion policy could be part of the answer since it is the only EU policy whose functioning is based on a real partnership with Member States and regional and local authorities. This year will be devoted to implementing the policy and translating our ambitious objectives into high-quality projects. Let's not forget that cohesion policy made a serious effort to respond to the question of performance. The work of the CoR will be crucial to engage regional and local actors in the debate regarding the future of our policy.''

CoR members welcomed the European Commission's efforts to simplify rules and argue that some regulatory improvements were needed to implement the current programming period (2014-2020). Regions' and cities' proposals for simplification will be shaped in an upcoming opinion that will be drafted by Petr Osvald (CZ/PES).

During the plenary, the CoR adopted its position on measuring regional wellbeing and called for new indicators to be introduced, alongside GDP, for allocating structural funds. "If we are to effectively steer EU investment where they are most needed, social and environmental indicators should be introduced to complement GDP when assessing regional well-being" said Catiuscia Marini (IT/PES), President of the Umbria Region and who is leading the CoRs' opinion.

The CoR work on reviewing EU's cohesion policy will proceed with a conference on 3 March and the adoption of an opinion late in 2016.


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