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EU regions and cities proposals to make cohesion policy programmes 2021-2027 more effective and visible  

Regional development strategies and better communicating EU cohesion policy were the main topics addressed by local and regional representatives during of the 10 July meeting of the Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and the EU Budget (COTER) of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR).

In the draft opinion on "Recommendations for the successful design of regional development strategies beyond 2020", drafted by Adam Struzik (PL/EPP), President of the Mazovia Region, the CoR recognises the urgent need to develop a long-term policy framework at EU level to replace the Europe 2020 strategy. Member states and regions have already started to shape the investment plans supported by EU cohesion policy 2021-2027 but this work is not currently supported by a clear vision of the shared goals for EU regional development policies over the next decade. The draft opinion suggests that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identified by the United Nations can work as guiding principles in the development of regional or local development strategies, even though they currently neglect the regional and local dimension. With regards to the assessment of regional needs and growth potential, COTER members propose to refer to the most updated statistics and to integrate Gross Domestic Product with social and environmental indicators. With regards to the emerging challenges which will be addressed by regional development strategies, the draft opinion insists on technological and environmental changes. Such challenges can be properly addressed only by making use of all available tools – at EU, national, regional and local level – within integrated strategies where all funds are coordinated.

“Strategic regional planning is the starting point for the successful development of the countries and regions of the European Union that are currently struggling with unprecedented challenges", said Mr. Struzik.

How to improve the way cohesion policy is communicated to citizens was of the draft opinion on "Better Communication for Cohesion Policy" led by Adrian Ovidiu Teban (RO/EPP), mayor of Cugir. According to the Eurobarometer survey, this policy is Europe's most powerful investment tool, accounting for one third of the EU budget, but is still poorly communicated and the sources of information are not sufficiently diversified. A greater visibility of ESI funds can help to improve the perception of the effectiveness of cohesion policy and restore citizens' confidence in the European project. The CoR calls therefore for a specific financial framework for communication in technical assistance and to increase the number of mandatory publicity and information needs for cohesion policy projects under the future regulation on common rules after 2020.COTER members also want permanent dialogues with citizens in order to better involve them in the decision-making related to use of EU funds. This would give stronger accountability and legitimacy to the implementation of investment plans.

“Communication of cohesion policy has to resonate with the people, it has to be more storytelling that is reaching local citizens and not numbers and charts about some far-away job markets or infrastructure", said Mr. Teban.

The draft opinion on "The CoR's contribution to the renewed Territorial Agenda with special emphasis on Community-Led Local Development", drafted by Radim Sršeň (CZ/EPP), Regional Councillor of Olomouc,  calls for greater use of territorial instruments in the Member States and a compulsory earmarking across all funds to meet the renewed Territorial Agenda (TA) and cohesion objectives. "Territorial instruments such as Community Led Local Development (CCLD) and Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI) are proven measures that can bring Europe closer to the people", said the rapporteur. CLLDs can integrate resources coming from several funds (i.e. European Fund for Regional Development and European Social Fund) and were introduced for the first time in the 2014-2020 programming period. This first test shows that the uptake remains very low and, looking at the next programming phase, a stronger technical support can help increase the use of all available integrated development tools.  

COTER members also stressed the importance of better coordination and networking among all authorities and stakeholders implementing and financing the TA at the European, national, regional and local level.

All three draft opinions were adopted unanimously by COTER and will be presented to the Plenary Session on 7-9 October 2019 for adoption.

The members of the CoR also hold an exchange of views on the working document "The potential of the rail sector in delivering EU policy priorities" of rapporteur Pascal Mangin (FR/EPP), Grand Est Regional Council.

The next meeting will take place in Brussels on Wednesday 23 October 2019.

The photos of the 24rd COTER Commission Meeting are available here.

Note to the editors:
Cohesion policy is the European Union's strategy to promote and support the 'overall harmonious development' of its Member States and regions. The EU's cohesion policy, enshrined in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Article 174), aims to strengthen economic and social cohesion by reducing disparities in levels of development between regions.

Pierluigi Boda
Tel. +32 2 282 2461

Denise Schmidt
Tel. +32 2 282 2273

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