To express the political position of the European Committee of the Regions on the findings of the 8th Cohesion report;
To provide political recommendations with regard to the upcoming reflections on how cohesion policy should be further developed in response to the regional disparities identified in the 8th Cohesion report and the evolving challenges facing the European Union.
On 2 June 2022, the General Affairs Council adopted its conclusions on the 8th cohesion report that had been presented by the European Commission in February 2022. Thanks to the input that the CoR had provided within the framework of a bilateral meeting of the CoR rapporteur on the matter, Ms Nathalie Sarrabezolles (FR/PES), and the French Minister in charge of territorial development and a respective follow-up letter, as well as the informal feedback provided by the COTER secretariat to the Chair of the Council Working Group on Structural Measures, a call on the European Commission to consider including territorial impact assessments in relevant EU policies in order to operationalise the "so not harm cohesion principle" was added to the final version of the Council conclusions. Moreover, references to the place-based approach and a clarification that the structural and long-term objectives of cohesion policy must not be harmed in cases where cohesion policy reacts to new developments were added as well.
Thanks to the close cooperation of the CoR rapporteur with her counterpart in the European Parliament, the EP resolution of 15 September 2022 on economic, social and territorial cohesion in the EU: the 8th Cohesion report included in point 8 a request to involve the European Committee of the Regions in the design of the "do no harm to cohesion" principle, and in point 49 a call on the Commission to consider the possibility that public cohesion policy spending by Member States and regional and local authorities should not be considered national or equivalent structural expenditure as defined in the Stability and Growth Pact, which takes on board point 33 of the CoR opinion.
In a letter dated 23 Februay 2023 to the CoR President, Commissioner Ferreira thanked the CoR for its follow-up to the 8th cohesion report and the CoR opinion on the matter. In the letter, the Commissioner put forward some remarks on a number of issues mentioned in the opinion, including the need for an open and strategic refection on the role of cohesion policy beyond 2027, the operalisation of the "Do no harm to cohesion" principle, and the steps to be undertaken towards streamlining and simplifying the implementation of cohesion policy on the ground. She also expressed her openness to continue the discussion with the CoR on these issues.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- welcomes the publication of the 8th Cohesion Report, which sets out both the main developments and the territorial disparities that European regions have experienced over the last decade, as well as its analysis of the positive impact of cohesion policy for the period 2014-2020 on investment across the regions of the European Union;
- highlights the effectiveness of cohesion policy in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, notably through the flexibility measures introduced as of April 2020. Considers, however, that it is essential to maintain the focus of cohesion policy on strengthening territorial, economic and social cohesion in Europe;
- calls on the European Commission to define the concept "do no harm to cohesion", which must apply to all European policies in order to reduce the anti-cohesive effect of certain European policies, and to make it a real mechanism for assessing the impact of European policies on cohesion in Europe;
- calls on the Commission to enhance the role of the regions in the management of the Structural and Investment Funds and to strengthen the legislative provisions linked to the partnership, and to start a long-term reflection process involving ESIF managing authorities at regional level in order to simplify management, control and audit rules, leading to a genuine reform with a view to the next cohesion policy legislative package for the post-2027 period;
- notes on the basis of the 8th Cohesion Report that the public investment deficit in the European Union constitutes a hidden debt; therefore reiterates its often-expressed call for a "golden co-financing rule", whereby expenditure by Member States and local and regional authorities on co-financing under the Structural and Investment Funds is not counted as structural, public or similar expenditure as defined in the Stability and Growth Pact, in compliance with the EU co-financing limits that apply to it.