The partnership focuses on a more efficient and timely implementation of cohesion, launching the new post-2021 programmes and ensuring complementarity with recovery funds.
Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Ferreira and EIB Vice-President Pavlova and the members of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) call for a broad mobilisation to avoid any delay or loss of resources as well as to make sure that every euro counts in delivering a fair and sustainable recovery.
Cohesion funds proved vital during the pandemic but, after the reprogramming allowed by new emergency and flexible rules, almost 40% of the resources allocated for the years 2014-2020 still need to be spent by the end 2023. At the same time, national and regional authorities are launching the new cohesion policy programmes, worth around half a trillion euros until 2027. These tasks are made even harder by the fact that the extraordinary investments backed by the Recovery and Resilience Facility are absorbing most of administrative capacities of national, regional and local governments.
How to make sure that both cohesion policy and recovery funds timely deliver opportunities for all citizens was the focus of the debate hosted at the 27 January CoR plenary session.
"Our Committee and its Cohesion Alliance partners will join forces with the European Commission and the European Investment Bank to speed up the implementation of the current cohesion policy programmes and launch the next ones on time in order to deliver results to people and local communities hardly affected by the pandemic, to reduce social, economic and territorial disparities across EU's regions, to tackle climate change and reinforce resilience". This was the main message highlighted by the CoR President, Apostolos Tzitzikostas, during the plenary session debate attended also by representatives of the main European territorial associations. He stressed the powerful work of the #CohesionAlliance network and the strategic Joint Action Plan signed earlier this week between the CoR and the European Commission – DG REGIO to facilitate a more efficient use of funds on the ground and promote cohesion as a fundamental value for all EU policies.
European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira pointed out that the implementation of the 2014-2021 programmes is progressing well, including the crisis mechanism REACT-EU, although extraordinary efforts will be needed in 2022 and 2023 to invest the funding still available. Member States should also accelerate the preparation of the programmes for the current programming period. "Now it is time to get the new programmes up and running. All programmes must be adopted by the end of 2022. I can only urge the Member States that have not yet done so to submit their programmes as soon as possible. However, I have also been clear in saying that speed cannot compromise quality”, she stated.
Lilyana Pavlova, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank, joined the plenary debate underlying that "the EIB has decided to step up its financing for Europe’s poorer regions and adopted a cohesion orientation paper that sets out a clear new ambition for our cohesion action for the next seven years. For the first time, we have set a separate and ambitious target for the financing of less developed regions: by 2025, 23% of EIB´s total financing in the EU should go to these regions. Also by 2025, the EIB intends to dedicate 45% of its EU-financing to projects in transition and less developed regions. The EIB further committed to increase overall support for innovation and private sector development in cohesion regions and to finance especially those projects which achieve climate and cohesion objectives at the same time.”
Investments using EU structural funds depend on the partnership principle, which guarantees the involvement of all level of governments and civil society to ensure that every cent of funding is spent where it should be; a simplified approach to ensure recovery funding can be invested must complement and reinforce these traditional investments, not put them at risk.
A Joint Action Plan "for a strong recovery and a just transition" was signed on 25 January by the President of the CoR Apostolos Tzitzikostas, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, and the Chair of the CoR Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget (COTER), Nathalie Sarrabezolles. The press release can be consulted here. The text of the document can be found here.
The CoR assessed the involvement of regional and local authorities in the ongoing programming exercise for the 2021-2027 period, and put forward its recommendations for enhancing their engagement, through an opinion adopted in its October 2020 plenary. The final text is available here.
More information on the CoR's work on cohesion policy can be found on the COTER commission webpage and on the CoR webpage "Cohesion, our fundamental value".
So far the European Commission has paid out €253 billion euros (62% of the planned funds) within the 2014-20 programming period, which allows spending until 2023. Figures include the €50,6 billion crisis mechanism REACT-EU.
In 2021-2027 EU funds allocated to cohesion policy amount to €392 billion. With the national co-financing, about half a trillion euros will be available to finance the programmes in the EU regions and countries. More information here.
While many of the initial measures taken at EU level at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic were financed through cohesion policy funding, the evolution of the pandemic prompted an agreement on unprecedented levels of additional funding to support recovery and resilience in the post-pandemic world, with simpler and more flexible rules to allow the money to spent more rapidly. At the same time, this more flexible approach was also applied temporarily to cohesion funding to help finance vital schemes such as job rentention schemes to support citizens through the pandemic.
Tel. +32 (0)470 895 382