MEPs and local authorities ask for a speedy deployment of EU funds not only to address crises but to foster the overall development of EU regions.
On Tuesday, MEPs of the regional development committee and representatives of the European Committee of the Regions discussed the state of play of Cohesion Policy programming and implementation with Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira. They asked the European Commission to make sure that while cohesion funds address unforeseen crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, they maintain their focus on long-terms needs of social, economic and territorial development of EU regions.
Although the Cohesion Policy has proved an effective tool in fighting the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemics, MEPs and local representatives insist on maintaining the focus on the long-term development of EU regions. During a joint meeting, members of the Regional Development Committee of the European Parliament (REGI) and of the European Committee of the Regions' Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget (COTER) also expressed their regret about a lack of coordination mechanisms between the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the 2021-2027 Cohesion Policy. They also noted the trend towards a multiplication of investment funds at the EU level, with some being under direct while others under shared management. The discussion also focused on concern of MEPs and local representatives about Commission´s plans to transfer resources from structural funds to other programmes, most notably to REPowerEU. They further discussed the concept of ‘do no harm to cohesion’ and called on the Commission to make it the key mechanism for assessing the impact of EU policies.
With a volume of 378 billion EUR available for programming, Cohesion Policy is the main EU long'term investment tool. However, due to late approval of the legislative framework 2021/2027, the implementation of structural cohesion funds is currently delayed while the programming got more complex with focus on the European Green Deal, just transition, biodiversity and new initiatives such as the New European Bauhaus.
During the debate Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira declared: "Our firm commitment to the core objectives of Cohesion Policy does not allow us to turn a blind eye when a crisis, such as the present energy hikes, risks exacerbating inequalities. The Commission heard your concerns and is ready to work with all involved on targeted measures to mitigate the economic and social costs of the high energy prices. This, while preserving the 2021-2027 programmes for structural investments and long-term transformation, including energy independence. We must rediscover a sense of place and ensure that Cohesion is not harmed."
Emil Boc, Chair of the Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget (COTER) of the European Committee of the Regions, said: “Cohesion Policy is the most important solidarity and investment EU policy, over 30 years of history proving its indispensable role in the European integration process! All regions, cities and municipalities benefit from the Cohesion Policy thus offering our citizens the advantages that come with being part of the European family. Therefore, we will never get tired to emphasise the effective application of the principles of partnership and multilevel governance in the implementation of Cohesion Policy programmes. The efficient and timely use of existing EU funds now is a key element in ensuring strong Cohesion Policy in the future, because the costs of non-cohesion is the cost of non-Europe."
The Chair of the European Parliament's REGI committee, Younous Omarjee, noted: "We can't stand by and watch the energy crisis and inflation reach record levels across Europe. We are heading for an epidemic of closures of small businesses that can no longer pay their electricity bills. We must also listen to the cries of alarm from municipalities that are being forced to cut back on public services. It is our duty, as we did during the crisis, to help the most vulnerable. And that is why the REGI Committee proposes to facilitate the use of structural funds to help vulnerable families, communities and small businesses to pay their bills.”
The meeting took place on the occasion of the 20th European week of regions and cities 2022.
Matteo Miglietta - CoR
Tel. +32 (0) 470 89 53 82
Martina Vass – EP
Tel. (+32) 477 99 11 57