What is your primary concern regarding the future of Cohesion Policy?
My main concern is the potential detachment of Cohesion Policy from the citizens, losing the close link between EU support and the beneficiaries. We are observing a shift towards top-down EU or national policies that bypass regional authorities, contradicting the EU's multi-level governance and the subsidiarity principle. This trend makes Cohesion Policy disconnected from the citizens. Cohesion Policy is the only direct policy that brings the EU closer to its citizens, making it tangible and enhancing its legitimacy.
Why do you think this has happened?
One key reason is the accumulation of bureaucratic requirements and excessive financial controls in Cohesion Policy, which are burdening the authorities delivering the support as well as the beneficiaries. In times of need, the European Commission and Member States have thus created new "easier" funding instruments, such as the EU's recovery instruments or REpowerEU for energy. However, this kind of solution brings with it the very problems that the bureaucratic rules of Cohesion wanted to avoid. In a nutshell, this means that in the "easier" solutions, the control over the funding is partially lost, and with it the guarantee of a proper implementation based on EU rules and regulations. We now face a paradox where Cohesion Policy is burdened with micromanagement, while the recovery programme circumvents the rules for the same kinds of projects. It makes little sense. In addition, these new “easier" top-down approaches overlook local realities which tends to lead to inefficiencies.
What do you propose as a solution?
The solution lies in making Cohesion Policy work, by simplifying it, but at the same time keeping its principles! That's why the political leaders of CPMR recently adopted a political position on simplification, supported by concrete technical recommendations. Our message is clear: without significant simplifications, including better standards and more proportional controls, Cohesion Policy will fail to meet citizens' expectations.
By partnering with regional authorities, Europe's Cohesion Policy offers unique advantages in designing and implementing decisive actions. However, it requires an agile and efficient decision-making and control system. It is counterproductive to limit the autonomy of regional authorities and implementing bodies, and then complain about the disappointing results of the policy. Even more so, if new instruments just circumvent the rules!
What is the CPMR's position on centralization?
Regardless of the reform path chosen to address the challenges facing the EU, we firmly oppose centralization and the weakening of the role of regional authorities. This is not about power distribution, but about upholding fundamental EU principles and recognizing the crucial role of Cohesion Policy in delivering European support and values directly to our citizens, tailored to the realities of different territories.
The Political Bureau of the CPMR approved a Policy Position pointing to CPMR messages that should guide the simplification of Cohesion Policy: Trust, Equity and Creativity. In this position, the CPMR recalls the essential investment nature of Cohesion Policy, creating long term sustainable socio-economic returns with local, regional and European value added.
Cees Loggen is the President of the CPMR and a Regional Minister of the Province of Noord-Holland.
Cees Loggen (Amsterdam, 12 November 1968) entered politics in 1998. Since then, he has held several political positions including serving as party chairman at local and provincial level, and he has been responsible for a wide variety of topics such as spatial planning, transport, water management and finance.
Since 2015 he sits on the Provincial Executive of the province of Noord-Holland, where he is responsible for spatial planning, housing, water management and water recreation. Since 2015, he has been a Member of the CPMR Political Bureau; prior to his nomination as President, he occupied the position of Vice-President of the CPMR in charge of Climate and Energy (2016 – 2020).