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Cutting and centralising EU regional investment will hamper regions ability to deliver territorial solidarity across Europe  

An environmentally, economically and socially robust Europe needs strong urban and rural areas as well as partnership and cooperation between them. This was the conclusion during the high-level event of the #Cohesion Alliance in Klagenfurt, Austria. The event co-organised by the European Committee of the Regions and the province of Carinthia brought together representatives of Austrian provinces, European associations of regions and EU institutions to discuss territorial solidarity between urban, rural and remote areas in Europe as well as synergies between the future EU cohesion and agricultural policies.

Cities and metropolis are more than ever the centre of growth, innovation and investment in many European countries. While urban areas are increasingly performing better, growth in rural areas is slowing, leading to greater disparities within countries and regions. The main challenges for rural areas in Austria and in the rest of Europe are similar: poor accessibility, declining public and private services, fewer jobs and greater isolation from research, technological innovation and investment.

Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the European Committee of the Regions: "At a time when Europeans are demanding more protection, the EU cannot abandon its regions and cities who are tirelessly working to deliver territorial solidarity. With 10% and 28% proposed cuts for cohesion policy and rural development, the next EU budget will not be sufficient to combat the negative effects of globalisation such as depopulation, delocalisation or unemployment, particularly in rural areas. Simplification of EU policy does not mean recentralisation. It is only by helping regions and cities to cooperate and allowing them to shape policies, can they respond to the real needs of their communities, creating high quality jobs, providing decent public services and preserving the environment".

The European Commission's legislative proposals go in the right direction but can be approved, as highlighted by the European Committee of the Region's rapporteurs Michiel Rijsberman (ALDE/NL) and Guillaume Cros (PES/FR) in their opinions on European Regional Development Fund and Common Agricultural Policy.

Guillaume Cros (PES/FR), Vice-President of the Occitanie regional Council: "In order to meet the territorial cohesion objective set out in the Lisbon Treaty, the CAP is an important instrument for keeping up sustainable agriculture throughout the EU and preserving vibrant rural communities. For rural development, implementation must however tie in with a robust cohesion policy acting on both urban and rural areas, in particular by embedding the "rural development" pillar in the general regulation for cohesion policy. Moreover the key role played by Europe's regions in managing and implementing the CAP must be retained and strengthened, especially for the second pillar, so as to bring policy options in line with specific territorial and sectoral characteristics."

The participants concluded that finding a balanced relationship between rural and urban areas means implementing policies that enable each area to fully express their potential. This includes sufficient funding of structural funds  supporting cohesion policy and rural development, better cooperation and increasing synergies between those funds as well as new facilitation methods in order to stimulate the implementation of collective and cross-sector initiatives.

To make the case for a strong cohesion policy for all regions and cities in the new EU budget after 2020, the European Committee of the Regions, together with leading EU associations representing regions and cities, launched the #CohesionAlliance. More than 8000 supporters, including 116 regions, 110 cities and counties, 45 associations of regional and local governments, 30 Members of the European Parliament, 35 EU sectorial associations and 141 other institutional partners such as universities, research centres, and European Groupings of Territorial Cooperation (EGTCs) have signed the Alliance's declaration.

Note to the editors:

European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) is the funding tool of the EU's rural development policy worth €100 billion from 2014-2020, with each EU country receiving a financial allocation for the 7-year period (Austria: 3.9 billion). For the 2014-20 programming period, the Fund focuses on three main objectives: fostering the competitiveness of agriculture; ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources, and climate action and achieving a balanced territorial development of rural economies and communities including the creation and maintenance of employment. It is the "second pillar" of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and it complements the system of direct payments to farmers and measures to manage agricultural markets - the so-called "first pillar".

Cohesion policy also plays a key role in support of the economic regeneration of rural areas, complementing the actions supported by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. Cohesion policy also referred to as regional policy is the European Union's strategy to promote and support the 'overall harmonious development' of its Member States and regions by reducing disparities in the level of development and increasing cohesion. Approximately 32.5 % of the EU budget 2014-2020 (EUR 351.8 billion over seven years, Austria 4.9 billion) is allocated to cohesion policy.

The EAFRD and the two financial tools of cohesion policy namely the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund (CF) together with the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) form, during the 2014-2020 period, the European Structural and Investment Funds. The so-called structural funds support structural change in EU regions to boost the economic development across all EU countries. They are managed and delivered in partnership between the European Commission, the Member States and public authorities at the local and regional level.




Carmen Schmidle

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