EU-wide coalition warns Member States that the compromise on EU budget
and Recovery Plan must preserve investment on regions and cities
The crisis triggered by the COVID 19 pandemic is undermining Europe's economic, territorial and social cohesion and its capacity to deliver a greener, inclusive and smart transition towards a more sustainable future. This is why the #CohesionAlliance – an EU-wide coalition gathering more than 12,000 signatories - urges EU Member States to support a strong Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-27 and recovery plans. The MFF and recovery plans must support cohesion as a fundamental value of the European Union and as a key objective for all its policies and investments. These demands were included in a declaration handed over to EU Cohesion Commissioner Elisa Ferreira and REGI Chair Younous Omarjee during a video conference on 14 July, three days before the European Council meeting in Brussels.
The COVID-19 crisis has shown that solidarity, responsibility and cohesion are needed now more than ever to ensure that no one is left behind in the European Union. The #CohesionAlliance calls for a strong, effective and flexible cohesion policy based on long-term perspectives and the principles of partnership involving local and regional governments in all recovery measures. This will help kickstart and rebuild the economy, foster sustainability and strengthen territorial and social cohesion in the European Union.
"The proposals put forward by the Commission and by the President Michel go in the right direction. We urge Member States to now act as one and swiftly adopt an adequate EU budget 2021-2027 and a solid recovery plan to help our communities overcome the crisis becoming more resilient, sustainable and inclusive. This is in the direct interest of all EU countries, including those who demand a weaker investment capacity for the our Union but are the main beneficiaries of the single market", said Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the European Committee of the Regions, adding that: "The Committee is joining forces with all EU, national, regional and local actors to say no to centralisation, no to budgetary cuts and no to unbearable implementation deadlines which undermine the impact of EU investment. Increasing cohesion and resilience by mobilising all EU policies and tools is the only way to put citizens first and support a recovery where no one is left behind".
The presidents of the #CohesionAlliance founding partner organisation handed over the renewed declaration to the European Commissioner in charge of Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, and chair of the REGI committee of the European Parliament, Younous Omarjee.
Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner in charge of Cohesion and Reforms, said: "The Commission's economic forecasts released last week point to a deeper recession than expected, with devastating effects and wider divergences and inequality. This is why we need a strong cohesion policy and a fair and cohesive recovery. Cohesion DNA can be seen throughout the Commission's recovery proposals: the generous provision for cohesion policy and the cohesion method in the recovery fund and elsewhere. I fought for this, and I will continue to fight. We are relying on you to lobby in your countries and regions. Time is short, we must act quickly to get the message out, to prepare our plans and programmes and to ensure that no region is left behind."
Younous Omarjee, Chair of the REGI Committee for the European Parliament, said: "The crisis has distorted Europe. A recovery plan and an ambitious budget are therefore essential. Short-term recovery must be complementary to the pursuit of long-term objectives, in particular economic, social and territorial cohesion. We call on the Council to unite around a strong budget. It is also essential that the recovery plan is directly accessible to the regions and that it can be controlled democratically. These are the demands of the European Parliament."
Anyone who believes in a strong EU cohesion policy is welcome to join the #CohesionAlliance by signing the new declaration. All 12.000 signatories of the initial declaration are invited to reaffirm their political commitment by raising awareness about the vital role of cohesion policy and the need for a strong cohesion policy in the next long-term EU budget and Recovery Plan.
Interventions from the conference (alphabetical order): You can rewatch the event here.
- Ann-Sofi Backgren, President of the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR) and Member of the Regional Council of Ostrobothnia, stressed the need of a stronger Cohesion Policy within the new MFF and the Recovery Fund taking into account European territories facing specific difficulties such as border, mountain, peripheral regions, islands and other maritime regions; additional constraints like sparse and/or aged population, brain drain, lack of infrastructures and public services; and of course general challenges, namely climate and demographic changes, transition to more sustainable development approaches and energy sources, optimal digitalisation, and resilience to global threats like Covid-19. Many border regions share many of these circumstances, and there are further difficulties related to the growing need to coordinate diverse national regulations which might collide at national boundaries.
- Ilaria Bugetti, Councillor for the Tuscany Region and spokesperson for territorial development of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) on Cohesion, said: "EU Cohesion Policy, as an instrument of solidarity, will be crucial not only to recover, but to prepare for the future as well. It will support a longer-term development perspective: it will help to make our societies more resilient and contribute to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals."
- Isabelle Boudineau, Chair of the Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget (COTER) of the European Committee of the Regions and Vice-President of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region in France, said: "The EU needs a strong budget alongside an ambitious recovery plan to prepare the future. The green and digital transitions are paramount if we are to build a sustainable and cohesive European society. We cannot sacrifice our long-term objectives to emergency measures. Solidarity is the only option. Our Heads of State and government have a huge responsibility on 17-18 July. We, at local and regional level, need results now. The EU has to demonstrate that it can deliver. The European project is at stake and we cannot disappoint Europe's citizens again."
- Paula Fernández, Regional Minister of the Presidency, Interior, Justice and Foreign Action, of the Government of Cantabria and Member the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR), said: "We want the EU Recovery Plan to have a strong territorial dimension. We are concerned about the possible lack of involvement of regional authorities in the Recovery and Resilience Fund. If the specific territorial needs are not taken into account and our participation in the elaboration of the national plans is not guaranteed, the Recovery and Resilience Fund risks to have a lower impact than expected. In fact, local and regional authorities know the investment needs better than anyone else and can give a key contribution to enhancing the democratic accountability and political ownership of the Recovery Instrument as a whole. It is also essential that the recovery funds are complementary and well-coordinated with the structural funds and keep territorial cohesion as one of their main objectives."
- Jean-Claude Marcourt, President of the Parliament of Wallonie and Chair of the working group on public investments of the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies (CALRE), said: "The challenge of the 2021-2027 budget is essential with, in particular, the issuance of European bonds, the amplification of the Green Deal and a genuine solidarity throughout the European Union, with particular support for the most affected by the health crisis, but also by the economic and social crisis."
- Begoña Villacís, Deputy Mayor of Madrid and Member of EUROCITIES, said: "We have an opportunity to reshape the future of our cities by ensuring that the well-being and protection of citizens' rights are put front and centre. It is in cities where these challenges come together, and where efforts are already being made. But the long term recovery from COVID-19 will require close cooperation between all levels of government, using existing tools such as the EU's cohesion policy and finding new ways of making public policies, based on citizens' needs."
In October 2017, the European Committee of the regions launched the #CohesionAlliance in partnership with the leading associations of regions and cities – 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 – to raise awareness about the vital role of cohesion policy. 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.
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