EU local and regional leaders gathered in Sofia on 7 June calling for averting the 10% cuts to cohesion policy planned by the European Commission in its proposal for the EU budget 2021-2027. Together with the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, they called for securing sufficient resources and improving rules in order to ensure that reducing disparities by involving local actors remains the key objective and function of the future European structural and investment funds.
On 6 and 7 June the European Committee of the Regions' Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy (COTER) organised together with the National Association of Municipalities of the Republic of Bulgaria (NAMBR), held a conference focused on the implications of the European Commission's draft proposals for the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) - which sets the annual expenditure ceilings for all EU policies between 2021-2027 and the new funds regulations.
" We appreciate the Bulgarian EU Presidency's commitment in favour of a strong cohesion policy Through cooperation between EU, national government and local administrators, Bulgaria is an example of how cohesion policy can improve citizens' lives, deliver better infrastructure, improve education, fight poverty, support public service reform and tackle climate change. We know it makes a difference and is an investment in citizens and the future of Europe which is why we must dig deep to minimise cuts and introduce rules to make cohesion policy even more effective" said Karl-Heinz Lambertz , President of the European Committee of the Regions.
Referring to the upcoming budgetary negotiations, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria, Tomislav Donchev, said: " The Bulgarian Presidency does not hesitate to 'put the issues on the table' and to provoke a frank and honest discussion about our common future. This is also valid about the debate on the future of the Cohesion Policy - a policy meant to provide answers to our problems, leading us to prosperity and shared values ."
NAMBR Chair and Mayor of Veliko Tarnovo, Daniel Panov , said: " We believe that the combined efforts of the members of the Committee of the Regions and the support of national associations of local authorities from all over Europe are prerequisites for the needs of millions of European citizens to be met for our common future. The prospect of properly targeting resources to the local communities that are experiencing difficulties is our goal and political commitment."
During the debate, the CoR rapporteur on the MFF, Nikola Dobroslavić (EPP/HR) Prefect of Dubrovnik-Neretva County, stressed that: " Local leaders consider the MFF proposal as a positive starting point and back the increased investment on education, research, youth and migration. But the cuts envisaged for cohesion policy risk to limit regions' and cities' capacity to address disparities and boost innovation across the continent whilst the proposed funds allocation criteria and the increased budgetary flexibility need to be carefully assessed. "
The centralisation of investment and growing separation of EU structural funds, with the European Social Funds and the Rural Development fund increasingly more detached from European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund, emerged as key concerns of local leaders.
THE COR WORK ON FUTURE COHESION POLICY
The CoR COTER commission is performing an in depth assessment of the new regulations. The Committee will elaborate and adopt its improvement proposals by February. Alongside the MFF opinion lead by Mr Dobroslavić , planned opinions include:
- Common Provisions Regulation, co-rapporteurs Catiuscia Marini (PES/IT), President of the Umbria Region, Michael Schneider (EPP/DE), Secretary of State of the Land Saxony-Anhalt.
- European Regional Development Fund: Michiel Rijsberman (EPP/NL), Member of the Executive Council of the Province of Flevoland.
- European Territorial Cooperation: Marie-Antoinette Maupertuis , Executive member of the Corsican regional authority.
- Cross Border Cooperation: Bouke Arends (PES/NL), Member of the Executive Council of Emmen.
- European Social Fund Plus: Susana Diaz (EPP/ES), President of Andalucia.
- Connecting Europe Facility: Isabelle Boudineau, Vice-president of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Regional Council.
To make the case for a stronger cohesion policy after 2020, the CoR, together with leading EU territorial associations, has launched the #CohesionAlliance: a grass-roots movement open to anyone who believes that EU cohesion policy must continue to act as a pillar of the EU's future. Since its launch in October last year, the Alliance has continued to attract new signatories every day, including regional and local authorities, business associations, academia, trade unions and think tanks.
More information about the #CohesionAlliance initiatives, statements and position papers are available at http://cohesionalliance.eu
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