To reduce disparities and deliver more opportunities for all European citizens, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) wants cohesion policy to be easier, more flexible and not used as a sanction or incentive to achieve other goals, other than sustainable development. Improvements and legislative amendments to the European Commission proposals for cohesion policy 2021-2027 are included in four different opinions adopted by local and regional leaders during the CoR plenary session on 5 December.
Over the next decade cohesion policy, worth €378bn until 2020, is and will remain the key EU tool to promote economic, social and territorial cohesion. By involving local actors in shared growth strategies, it makes the EU visible in every community. Reaffirming their opposition to the 10% cut proposed by the European Commission, local leaders delivered specific proposals to make the policy more effective.
"The proposals set out today will modernise, simplify and improve cohesion policy, demonstrating Europe's regions and cities commitment to strengthening this policy so it is fit for the future. We need more flexibility and shared-management so funds are delivered together with all levels of government, to ensure the EU makes the impact our citizens expect. This will enable cohesion policy to address the challenges Europe face not only today, but tomorrow," President Karl-Heinz Lambertz (BE/PES) said
EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Cretu, added, "The valuable work of the European Committee of the Regions on the future of cohesion policy has contributed to setting the pace for the negotiations. I welcome their constructive approach regarding the Commission's proposal, in particular their support for a strong partnership principle, for local development and for partnership agreements in all Member States. From the very beginning of the debate on the future of the European Union, the Committee has been one the most vocal advocates of cohesion policy, as attested by its decisive contribution to the Cohesion Alliance. I am confident that our good cooperation will continue to bear fruit and pave the way for a strong cohesion policy".
Local and regional leaders assessed the European Commission's legislative proposals for 2021-2027 tabled last May and set out their position on how to improve the general provisions ruling the main EU funds (Common provision Regulation), the European Fund for Regional Development, the European Social Fund + and the European Fund for Territorial Cooperation.
Common Provision Regulation (CPR)
The opinion led by Catiuscia Marini (IT/PES), President of the Umbria Region, and Michael Schneider (DE/EPP) State Secretary, Representative of the Land of Saxony-Anhalt to the Federal Government, argues that cohesion policy must be made simpler and more flexible for beneficiaries and fund managers. "But simplification must not undermine the involvement of regions, cities and local stakeholders" said President Marini, adding that: "The principles of partnership and multi-level governance must remain a corner stone and a democratic asset of Europe's main investment tool". The full implementation of the Code of Conduct is therefore needed.
"There is a clear need for maintaining the current level of co-financing rates for the three categories of regions, as well as for a safety net at regional level, in order to prevent disproportionate cuts in individual assisted areas. The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) must also be reintroduced into the CPR, in order to maximise synergies with the other funds." pointed out Dr. Schneider.
European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and Cohesion Fund
The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) - currently the most powerful single investment fund of the EU with around €200bn over 7 years - and the Cohesion Fund - reserved for countries whose Gross Domestic Product per capita is below the 90% of the EU average - must continue to focus on economic, social and territorial cohesion. In the opinion drafted by Michiel Rijsberman (NL/ALDE), Regional Minister of the Province of Flevoland, regions and cities demand revising the 46% cut proposed by the Commission for the Cohesion Fund, and to ensure a stable budget for the ERDF (+1%). "In order to better address the needs of our communities, the thematic concentration, focusing ERDF resources on selected political objectives, should not work on the national level, as proposed by the Commission, but at regional level", highlighted Mr Rijsberman, explaining that: "A national thematic concentration would centralise the allocation mechanism and be against the place-based approach of cohesion policy."
European Social Fund (ESF) +
The opinion led by the President of the Andalucia Region, Susana Díaz Pacheco (ES/PES), welcomes the direct link between the ESF+ and the European Pillar of Social Rights as a way to boost the European social dimension of the European Semester and cohesion policy. Regions and cities also demand to strengthen the link with country specific recommendations delivered by the Commission in the framework of the European Semester only to better deliver this priority and not to pursue different goals. Social cohesion must remain the ESF's key objective and citizens' needs must come first.
European Territorial Cooperation
With the opinion drafted by Marie-Antoinette Maupertuis (FR/EA), Executive member of the Corsican regional Authority, the Committee welcomes the decision to provide this founding EU policy with a dedicated regulation. At the same time, "Regions and cities reject the Commission's proposal to reduce the ETC budget by EUR 1.847 billion" said Ms Maupertuis, who also argued that: "We will work with the European Parliament and Council to revert the Commission proposal to cut off regions from maritime cross-border cooperation by considering this latter only as transnational. With regards to the interregional innovation investments, the Committee is in favour and demands to involve also less innovative regions and territories facing geographical and natural constraints."
Read more on the Committee's proposals for the European Structureal and Invesment Funds 2021-2027 (link to PRESS MEMO) https://www.cor.europa.eu/en/news/Documents/Press-Memo-47-final.docx
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