On 24 September, the members of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) commission for territorial cohesion policy and EU budget (COTER) met online to adopt their recommendations for the role of cohesion policy against the backdrop of the coronavirus crisis, the implementation report on the partnership with the EU's outermost regions (OR) and public transport in cities and metropolitan regions. Members also discussed the REACT-EU package, Cross-border public services and the state of play of the MFF negotiations.
The European Union is facing a confluence of challenges relating to climate change, digitalisation and globalisation, which are complicated by the negative consequences of the COVID-19. While these challenges can be found in Europe everywhere, they show differences in the form and severity of their impact in different territories.
Sustainable and smart mobility is the main topic in the draft opinion on the "Challenges of public transport in cities and metropolitan regions" by rapporteur Adam Struzik (PL/EPP) who stresses that a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU are caused by transport. The rapporteur highlights the importance of finding ways of meeting citizen's transport needs while minimising the need for travel through limiting suburbanisation, rationalising the travel through an appropriate modal split and internalising the external costs of different transport modes to better reflect the real costs for society.
"With the growth of aspirations and needs of individuals and societies, their mobility increases. It generates the need of effective, sustainable and integrated transport systems that allow different traveling options – for business as well as private purposes and with the aim of using wide range of services. Hence, the call to European, national, regional and local authorities for cooperation to implement coherent and efficient transport system, compliant with rules of sustainable development, in order to achieve aims of European Green Deal and sustainable economic growth. Public transport will play crucial role in reducing emissions, including decarbonisation of the transport sector", said Adam Struzik, President of Mazovia Region.
The COVID-19 pandemic as well as climate change and digitalisation have a particularly pronounced impact on outermost regions (OR) which are heavily dependent on tourism and connectivity with other parts of the word. Rapporteur Ángel Víctor Torres Pérez (ES/PES) therefore urges in his draft opinion on "A stronger and renewed strategic partnership with the EU's outermost regions" for an in-depth analysis of the current strategy and its adaption in the light of the current serious economic and social situation.
"The EU Strategy for the Outermost Regions, which acknowledges their specific, complex and unique realities across EU territory, needs urgent renewal and adaptation, in order to face the enormous impact that the COVID-19 crisis is causing in these particularly vulnerable territories", said Ángel Víctor Torres Pérez, President of the Government of the Canary Islands.
The fundamental place of regions and their tailor made strategies in fighting these challenges is the centre of the draft opinion on "the role of EU's cohesion with respect to intelligent and innovative economic change in the regions against the backdrop of the coronavirus crisis" prepared by rapporteur Michiel Rijsberman (NL/RE) at the request of the Germany Presidency of the Council of the EU. He stresses that innovative concepts are needed for the transition to a more sustainable, digital and resilient Europe and that these are elements where cohesion policy can play its part.
"Regional policy has strong roots in the EU Treaties. Its principles should never be sacrificed. This policy should be a key investment tool for innovative recovery, as it puts the regions at the heart", said Michiel Rijsberman, Regional Minister of the Province of Flevoland
The COTER members also exchanged their views on the current state of play of the negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 in presence of Jan Koopman, Director General from DG BUDG of the European Commission, and on the future of cross-border cooperation in the EU, including the cross-border public services.
The REACT EU package, which will allow regions and cities to use structural funds to mitigate the bad consequences of the pandemic, was the centre of an exploratory debate. The draft opinion will be prepared by rapporteur-general Mieczysław Struk (PL/EPP) and will already be voted in the CoR October plenary session as well as the draft opinion on the EU's cohesion policy.
The effects of COVID-19 in the EU's regions and the challenges faced by local and regional authorities as a result will also be the subject of the first Annual Regional and Local Barometer presented by the President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) – Apostolos Tzitzikostas, Governor of Central Macedonia – during a speech at the CoR's plenary session on 12 October. The Barometer draws on specially commissioned studies as well as other research to provide a detailed assessment of the crisis and of some of the major political and policy issues raised by the crisis.
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