According to a Eurobarometer survey presented during the European Week of Regions and Cities, only 40% of
Europeans are aware of EU-funded projects in their regions. Even though
this share rises to 60% in nine countries (with Poland reaching 82%), there
is clearly a need to increase the visibility of the European Structural
Investment (ESI) funds and contribute, in this way, to strengthening
citizens' confidence in the European project. This is why the European
Committee of the Regions decided to draw up an opinion on Better Communication for Cohesion Policy, led by Adrian Ovidiu Teban (RO/EPP), mayor of Cugir.
While cohesion policy is Europe's most powerful investment tool, accounting for one third of the EU budget, communication about it is still poor and the sources of information are not sufficiently diversified to reach citizens in their everyday lives.
According to the Committee, better communication requires greater clarity on funding and requirements. The 2021-2027 regulation, which will be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in the next few months, should therefore introduce a specific financial framework for communication within the technical assistance budget line and increase the number of mandatory publicity and information requirements for cohesion policy projects.
The new rules should also require effective cooperation between EU, national and local authorities. The managing authorities of operational programmes for ESI funds play a key role in communicating goals, funding opportunities and the results of supported projects, linking them to the specific local agenda and stakeholders.
Local leaders also want cohesion policy communication to be more diversified, with clear strategies for the different targets, ranging from wider audiences to sectoral stakeholders. With this in mind, the Committee asks the European Commission to involve political representatives from regions and cities in the newly established network of managing authorities' communicators, in order to test new forms of communication. Local and regional authorities, as well as beneficiaries, constitute the most effective and closest interlocutors for citizens.
In this context, building on the experience developed with the #CohesionAlliance and the campaign on the Future of Europe, local leaders propose permanent dialogues with citizens and local stakeholders to better involve them in decision-making related to EU funds. This would ensure stronger accountability and legitimacy for the implementation of investment plans.
"Better communication of cohesion policy is a shared responsibility following multilevel governance. Consequently, we, mayors and local governments, should play a fundamental role in implementing cohesion policy and in ensuring the visibility of the projects funded by this policy. The European institutions alone cannot be the only driving force behind this challenge", concluded the rapporteur, Mr Teban.
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