With this opinion, the CoR contributes to securing the role of local and regional authorities in the implementation of the EU's external action in the long-term budget period 2021-2027 and to providing an adequate budget. Particular emphasis is put on the two instruments that would, according to the European Commission's proposal, comprise with € 104 billion around 85% of the EU budget for external action for that period (budget heading "Neighbourhood and the World"): the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) and the Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA-III).
In the EP's draft report on NDICI published in November 2018, rapporteurs Pier Antonio Panzeri, Cristian Dan Preda, Frank Engel and Charles Goerens request the inclusion of local authorities at a prominent place within the thematic pillar of the instrument with a specific earmarked budget of 500 million EUR (amendments 70 and 98).
They also call for the inclusion of local authorities in joint application (am. 17), the fostering of their participation in contributing to the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (am. 20), and regular exchanges of information between the EC and LRA (am. 90).
These provisions were maintained in the Committee report tabled for plenary on 11 March 2019 and in the decision by Parliament on 27 March 2019. The text adopted by the EC highlights local authorities as "promoters of a territorial approach to development, including decentralisation processes, participation, oversight and accountability".
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- Notes with interest the Commission's proposals for the 2021-2027 multi-annual financial framework under the heading "Neighbourhood and the world";
- Welcomes the proposed budget increase for the European Union's external action; considers this to be directly needed in view of global challenges; underlines the need to regard this proposed increase as a minimum in the current MFF negotiations;
- Appreciates the Commission's ambition to make the EU's external action more consistent, coherent and flexible, in view of the global challenges; welcomes the envisaged increase in effectiveness by merging several external action instruments into the proposed Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), but notes that everything will depend on the operationalisation of the current proposals; underlines that NDICI should continue to serve the long-term development objectives that were previously strived for through the EDF;
- Welcomes the prolonging of the Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA III), as a relevant and purposeful instrument, and appreciates that IPA III shall have as specific objectives reinforcing the effectiveness of public administration and supporting structural reforms and good governance at all levels, and supporting territorial and cross-border cooperation;
- Is concerned that, with external action increasingly being allocated based on geography, and an increased reliance on country-led strategies, access to funding for Local and Regional Authorities might become more difficult;
- Calls on the EU institutions to keep funds accessible to all types and sizes of Local and Regional Authorities, including the ones in rural areas, as well as intermediary cities, as hubs for sustainable and inclusive growth and innovation; urges that the new NDICI also stimulate and finance small-scale projects and further facilitate capacity-strengthening of Local and Regional Authorities;
- Urges the EU legislators to adapt the proposed instruments to further increase strategic support to Local and Regional Authorities and democracy at subnational level;
- Urges that policy objectives specific to the cooperation between the EU and the Neighbourhood should be pursued and achieved, notwithstanding the merger of the previously separate instruments;
- Strongly advises that Local and Regional Authorities should be given a specific, separate programme with an earmarked budget in development cooperation, as well as be taken into account throughout programming as beneficiaries.