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Cohesion policy is vital for regions and cities to cope with the fallout of the ongoing historic crisis and reduce disparities in Europe  
​​​​EU institutions and national governments must ensure that all EU policies contribute to tackle territorial, economic and social gaps

The #CohesionAlliance underlines that cohesion policy remains the EU’s most important investment tool, that it has been effective in addressing the fallout of ongoing extraordinary crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic and that it will be critical in the response to the consequences of the war in Ukraine. However, regional disparities remain high. Cohesion policy should be strengthened and recognised as a fundamental value of the Union to ensure a fair recovery, and a just digital and green transition in Europe.

Following the publication of the 8th Cohesion Report, the EU-wide coalition put forward a series of joint observations towards the 8th Cohesion Forum, which takes place on 17 and 18 March. Members of the Alliance welcomed the positive results highlighted by the report: less-developed regions in Eastern Europe have been catching up , the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion fell by 17 million between 2012 and 2019, and economic modelling indicates that in 2023 GDP per head will be 2.6% higher in less-developed regions thanks to recent support from the EU's cohesion policy.

However, several middle-income and less developed regions in the south of the EU have suffered stagnation or decline, caught in a form of development trap. The local and regional capacity in economic development is still uneven, and key challenges remain to be addressed if no one and no region is to be left behind.

The future of the cohesion policy will be closely linked with a possible reform of the EU economic governance framework. Nevertheless, there is no acknowledgement of the role of the EU Semester in the implementation of cohesion policy, the #CohesionAlliance pointed out, arguing that local and regional governments will have to be formally involved in the EU economic governance and will need their investment capacities to be strengthened.

The European Commission's strong message to reinforce multi-level governance and partnership principle is timely and reassuring, members of the Alliance said. However, this acknowledgement comes in contradiction of the recent trend of the EU to recentralise the management of its funds and policies back to Member States – a trend evident in implementation of the national recovery and resilience plans and in the development of the upcoming national Social Climate Plans. Members of the Alliance said that it remains to be seen how the new concept proposed by the European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, on the “do no harm to cohesion policy” will effectively be applied across all other EU policies that have an impact on territorial development and at local level.

Since its creation in October 2017, the #CohesionAlliance – an EU-wide alliance of 12,000 signatories advocating for a stronger cohesion policy – has managed to avoid dramatic budgetary cuts after 2020, helped maintain a cohesion policy that benefits all regions in the Union, and advocated simpler and more flexible rules for cohesion funds.

VOICES FROM THE #COHESIONALLIANCE:

Apostolos Tzitzikostas , President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and Governor of the Region of Central Macedonia (GR), said: " This report shows that cohesion policy works, but also that all EU policies must help reducing social and economic gaps. People need EU, national, regional and local actors to work together to create jobs, fight poverty, and bring the green and digital transitions in every region, city and village across Europe. This policy is the only EU policy that heavily invests on this cooperation. The pandemic - as well as the tragic situation caused by the war against Ukraine ordered by a ruthless regime – have proved how vital cohesion policy is for the EU to cope with both emergencies and longer-term change ."

Nathalie Sarrabezoles, Chair of the CoR Commission for territorial cohesion policy and EU budget (COTER) and member of the Finistère Departmental Council (FR), said: “With the war in Ukraine, cohesion policy proves once again to be the first European policy to react to another major crisis. This key policy is not only a reactive tool, but it is also needed in the long term as an investment instrument to achieve EU’s strategic autonomy. Building a fair ecological and digital transition, strengthening local and regional administrative capacity and democracy would not be possible without a strong cohesion policy that can help reducing economic, social and territorial disparities and strengthening the EU’s role as a strong actor in the world.”

Magnus Berntsson , President of the Assembly of European Regions (AER) and Vice-President of the Region Västra Götaland (SE), said: " Now is the time to turn crisis into opportunity. Cohesion policy is fundamental to unlock the full potential of our regions as we bounce back from the pandemic. We need investments to reach all European regions for a fair and balanced recovery ."

Karl-Heinz Lambertz , President of the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR) and member of the Parliament of the German-speaking Community in Belgium, said: " Cohesion policy has been crucial to transforming European border regions from entirely peripheral to more central within continental integration. And it will also be determinant to consolidate and further develop these 'basins of life' for them to face current challenges, including the post-pandemic and any expected consequence of the current war in European integration. Borders have a vivid memory of past conflicts and are good places to start reconstruction . "

Jean-Claude Marcourt , President of the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies (CALRE) and President of the Parliament of Wallonia (BE), said: " While the European Union is already shaken by the consequences of the war, it is more than ever crucial to maintain and develop solidarity between the different regions of Europe, in particular through cohesion policy ."

Stefano Bonaccini , President of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) and of the Emilia-Romagna Region (IT), said: "W e are not yet out of the pandemic and we have imagined everything but a new war in Europe. The crisis we have experienced in recent years show that European cohesion policy is more relevant than ever in the long run and that it must be strengthened in the years to come. It is a policy that connects European citizens to Europe through municipalities and regions. It is our best tool to pursue the European project and strengthen local democracy. "

Cees Loggen , President of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) and Regional Minister of the Province Noord-Holland (NL), said: " Competition between the Recovery and Resilience Facility and cohesion policy is not helpful for the effective deployment of EU resources. The fallout of the war will require all the more the EU funds to work in synergy. We need to think about better ways to coordinate EU investment policies in the future. It is also of utmost importance for regional authorities that all EU policies contribute to territorial cohesion, as suggested in the 8th Cohesion Report. "

Dario Nardella , President of Eurocities and Mayor of Florence (IT), said: " Cohesion policy remains the most important tool we have for investing in people and places, and this report proves its effectiveness in bringing balance across Europe, with Eastern regions catching up. We must reinforce cities’ and metropolitan regions’ possibilities to tap into this resource. They are the innovation hubs that help boost regional development. This is especially important now as we look to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic by driving public investment into a just, green and digital transformation of our cities . "

Contact the secretariat:
CohesionAlliance@cor.europa.eu 

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