Click here to get an automatic translation of the text below.
Cohesion Policy 2021-2027: EU-wide coalition welcomes proposals to cover all regions with a strong role for cities and regions, but warns against cuts impact  
​​#CohesionAlliance celebrates its first key achievements in ensuring cohesion policy for all and preserving the principle of multilevel governance. But the proposed 10% cuts and the centralisation risks might prevent local actors from efficiently supporting citizens and business

 By mobilising all EU cohesion policy's stakeholders over the last year, the CohesionAlliance played an important role in averting the worse cut options (-15% or 30%) and securing EU funding for all European regions and cities after 2020. 
 

According to the proposals recently presented by the European Commission, cohesion policy will remain the EU's most powerful investment tool over the years 2021-2017, covering all regions and involve local partners in the full respect of the key principles of multilevel governance. These basic elements mirror the main requests formulated in the #CohesionAlliance, an EU-wide coalition launched by the 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 , that has attracted around 5500 individual signatories, 115 regions, 80 cities, 50 associations of regional and local authorities, 40 Members of the European Parliament and 30 sectoral associations representing more than 90% of the EU's population.

Over the coming months, the alliance will focus on reducing the proposed 10% cuts and ensuring that the proposed stronger link between cohesion policy and the European Semester, coupled with certain simplification measures, does not end up excluding local actors from key decisions on investment's planning and implementation.

" The strong mobilisation in Brussels and in the member states allowed the CohesionAlliance to achieve first important results. We welcome the European Commission's proposals to strengthen the impact of cohesion policy, in particular in the many regions suffering industrial decline. It is of the utmost importance that the new provisions clearly state the need for Member States to properly involve regional and local partners in the preparation and implementation of programmes. But a centralisation trend is still threatening the very essence of EU cohesion policy, as in the case of the rules linking it to the coordination of macro-economic policies under the European semester. We will work hard and cooperate with the European Parliament to make sure that the positive starting point provided by the Commission will be improved in the interest of all EU citizens", said the President of the European Committee of the Regions, Karl-Heinz Lambertz.

The CPMR is concerned about the fragmentation of Cohesion policy, the elimination of maritime cross-border programmes, and the introduction of possibilities to transfer Cohesion policy funds to other EU instruments outside of Cohesion policy. The CPMR is also worried that the ESF will be a standalone fund in the budget with its own objectives, as this could lead to it losing its territorial dimension. CPMR President, Vasco Cordeiro, said : “First, the Commission proposed on 2 May to cut Cohesion policy by 10% in real terms. Now the Cohesion policy proposal substantially reduces the contribution EU funding makes to co-financing. This means a double reduction of the policy’s funds and a double burden for Regions and Member States working to achieve social, economic and territorial cohesion."

According to the President of EUROCITIES and Mayor of Ghent in Belgium Daniël Termont: " Cohesion policy must play a strong role in bringing the EU closer to the citizens, but we don't see this in the new proposals. We need a much stronger emphasis on partnerships with cities in shaping programme priorities. Also, we firmly oppose the proposals to isolate ESF. To tackle urban challenges it is vital that ESF and ERDF work together more, not less. This is the only way these funds will help us deliver results where it matters to citizens."

The AER President and President of the Region Västra Götaland in Sweden, Magnus Berntsson, said:
“We welcome the Commission’s proposal of a cohesion policy for all regions, keeping the three categories of regions. The partnership principle and multi-level governance approach and the commitment to simpler and more flexible rules to access and manage cohesion funds are also welcomed. However, we are disappointed that the European Social Fund is excluded from cohesion funds under the Commission’s proposal. We also have serious concerns about the possibility for Member States to transfer part of their cohesion policy resources to the new InvestEU fund.
And we cannot accept that the proposed link with the European Semester may allow to divert funds away from cohesion policy and its objectives into top-down incentives to structural reforms. The moves to centralise EU funds are unacceptable. The significant question is whether this will enable the framework to more effectively deliver on the economic, social and territorial cohesion objective of the Union. We fear it won’t.”

AEBR's President Oliver Paasch, Minister-President of the German-speaking Community of Belgium, has stressed “ the good cooperation within the Cohesion Alliance which made possible to keep Cohesion Policy for all European regions distributed in the current three categories. We also welcome the compromise for an authentic simplification and flexibility of regulations, as well as the commitment to keep a strong support to territorial cooperation, in particular cross-border, as a main instrument for European integration from the bottom. However, we miss maritime cross-border programmes and hope that this cooperation will be kept under an appropriate and perhaps more efficient instrument, as a number of European regions depend from this to keep on strengthening their links with their neighbours. This can also be said about cross-border programmes at the external borders of the EU and, particularly, within neighbourhood countries. We are also worried about the growing trend towards centralisation, instead of promoting a more efficient participation of local and regional authorities in the whole programming cycle. The exclusion of Social Fund from Cohesion Policy and other fragmentation signs are also a matter of concern due to its unpredictability, as well as the lack of focus on delivery on the ground with a growing (and worrying) concentration on the macro-level. We must be aware of this when concretizing structural funds .”

CALRE President, Ana Luís, president of the Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region of The Azores, pointed out that : "Europe of the future must be a Europe that works for the convergence between its several regions and for that the funds made available to them must be those that allow them to converge. Only this way will there be a strong and cohesive Europe".

Background note

Worth over €350 billion between 2014 and 2020, cohesion policy – implemented through the European Structural and Investment Funds – is the EU's main investment tool that works to reduce regional disparities, create jobs, open new business opportunities and address major global issues such as climate change and migration. It is the only EU policy that covers all of Europe's local communities, involving local stakeholders to deliver growth strategies led by shared EU goals.

The #CohesionAlliance is a coalition of those who believe that EU cohesion policy must continue to be a pillar of the EU's future. The Alliance was created through cooperation between the leading European associations of cities and regions and the European Committee of the Regions. It demands that the EU budget after 2020 makes cohesion policy stronger, more effective, visible and available for every region in the European Union. From national, regional and local governments to SMEs, NGOs, schools, universities, cultural organisations, anyone who believes in EU cohesion policy is welcome to join the #CohesionAlliance by signing the declaration .