Committee of the Region's President Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso met with EU Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn on 25 September to discuss the latest developments in the legislative process concerning the next phase of structural funds (2014-2020) and the perspectives of the ongoing negotiation on the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF).
Valcárcel and Hahn shared their concerns about a potential reduction in the level of expenditure proposed by the Commission. "In the last years the EU cohesion policy has proved its vital function in orienting the efforts put in place by regions, cities as well as by national governments to deal with the crisis and to pave the way for a sustainable recovery" said President Valcárcel. He also stressed that "If regions and cities are not be provided with adequate funding and appropriate tools by 2014, we face the risk of compromising recovery and making the implementation of Europe 2020 strategy very unlikely".
Speaking after the meeting, in the context of the current budget negotiations Commissioner Hahn added: "This is about creating jobs, giving young people the chance of employment, kick starting growth and making Europe's regions more competitive. We need a strong regional policy for Europe because this is the main growth fund for Europe's regions. If you want to reap something, you have to sow the seeds first. This is what member states have to decide. They can't on the one hand talk about freezing the budget and then on the other ask for measures to boost growth and employment. "
During the meeting Valcárcel presented the Commissioner with the CoRs contribution through the opinions adopted on new funds regulations and on the common strategic framework.
President Valcárcel defended the European Commission's proposal to introduce "transition regions" - a new category within cohesion policy which addresses regions with a GDP per capita between 75% and 90% of the EU average – which could be put at risk if the MFF is reduced. Valcárcel argued that the introduction of this new category was an important necessity, especially for regions who had recently increased their wealth. "It is simply not possible for a region to change from poor to rich over night. The new category will ensure an equal treatment to every region". On this issue Commissioner Hahn stressed that: "Ours is a policy for all regions and transitional regions are a key part of our strategy for growth."
CoR President added that there was a need to ensure a stronger involvement of regions and cities in planning operational programmes and to enforce their role within the partnership contracts; and the appreciation of the CoR for the proposed introduction of a European code of conduct for partnership.
The discussion between President Valcárcel and Commissioner Hahn also highlighted the crucial contribution of the OPEN DAYS -8 – 11 October in Brussels - as a political platform to explain and defend cohesion policy as a key tool to overcome the crisis and achieve the Europe 2020 objectives.