Leading COTER and REGI members discussed risks and opportunities in the negotiations between the European Parliament and Council with territorial and sectoral associations
Envisaged budgetary cuts and centralisation still risk jeopardising the capacity of 2021-27 European Structural and Investment (ESI) funds to reduce gaps and spread sustainable and inclusive growth across the EU. The partners of the #CohesionAlliance – an EU wide alliance in favour of a strong cohesion policy after 2020 –discussed how to overcome such risks in a debate with newly appointed members of the European Parliament, held at the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) on 10 July.
"The European elections have given the new European Parliament a clear mandate to bring Europe closer to citizens' needs. Cohesion policy offers a unique and powerful tool to achieve this goal by involving of all relevant actors in every European region. Together, we need to protect and improve this policy, and avoid it being used as a cash reserve to accommodate last minute backroom deals on the future EU budget", said the CoR president, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, welcoming as new #CohesionAlliance supporter the newly appointed chair of the European Parliament's Committee for Regional Development (REGI), Younous Omarjee.
Mr. Omarjee expressed full support for the Alliance's priorities including the key role of territorial cohesion, the elimination of macro-economic conditionality, the simplification of rules and the partnership principle for inclusive governance of investment plans. "We have to fight together against any cut to EU cohesion policy in the next long term budget", he said, adding that, "since austerity plans were introduced during the financial crisis, regional and local authorities have often been given new responsibilities and tasks, while they are facing new challenges ranging from climate change to poverty. We need to ensure adequate support from the EU to regions."
The vice-president of Nouvelle-Aquitaine and chair of the CoR's Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget (COTER), Isabelle Boudineau (PES/FR), stressed that: "Cities and regions are actors and not spectators in the change Europe needs to face important challenges such as climate change and social and territorial inequalities. People in Europe, especially in rural areas, feel left behind. If we want to live up to our citizens' expectations, we must strengthen Europe's cohesion policy. As local and regional authorities, it is our key investment and solidarity tool to support a just transition for our citizens. With this Alliance, we managed to secure important victories such as safeguarding cohesion policy for all European regions. We continue with our work to ensure that cities and regions are fully involved in shaping a new political agenda based on the Sustainable Development Goals and a strong cohesion policy to deliver them."
Over the past two years, the Alliance has established itself as the first communication platform to bring together all stakeholders involved in cohesion policy, from both the private and the public sectors. It aims to give them a voice in the EU decision-making process while informing and raising awareness among the public on Europe's commitment to reducing disparities.
The impact of this action was highlighted by the envoy of the State of Saxony-Anhalt to the Federal Government and president of the CoR EPP Group, Michael Schneider (EPP/DE), who was among its initiators: "I am confident that the Cohesion Alliance, which keeps gaining momentum, will have a significant impact on the final design of future cohesion policy. This can already be seen in the European Parliament's position, which reflects the key demands of our cities and regions.
During the event, representatives of public authorities, civil society and business associations highlighted the impact of cohesion policy in intervention areas ranging from youth policies, to support for small and medium enterprises, climate change action and social inclusion.
The "trialogues" between European Parliament, Commission and Council on the legislative proposals for the future cohesion policy are expected to restart in October, in order to finalise the adoption of relevant regulations by the end of 2019.
Note for editors
The #CohesionAlliance is a coalition of those who believe that EU cohesion policy must continue to be a pillar of the EU's future. As a consequence of Brexit and the need for the EU to fund new priorities such as defence, security and external border control, the financial allocations for cohesion policy risk being cut in the next EU long-term budget – the Multiannual Financial Framework –, which sets the EU's expenditure ceilings for the period after 2020. To raise awareness about the vital role of cohesion policy, the #CohesionAlliance was initially launched by leading associations of regions and cities – the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR), the Assembly of European Regions (AER), the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies (CALRE), the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR) and EUROCITIES – and the European Committee of the Regions in October 2017. The Alliance is asking that the EU budget after 2020 make cohesion policy stronger and more effective, visible and available for every region in the European Union. Since its launch, the Alliance's declaration has been signed by more than 12 000 individual signatories, 121 regions, 135 cities and counties, 50 associations of regional and local governments, 40 Members of the European Parliament and 35 EU sectoral associations. From national, regional and local governments to SMEs, NGOs, schools, universities and cultural organisations, anyone who believes in EU cohesion policy is welcome to join the #CohesionAlliance by signing the declaration.
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