The progress in the implementation of EU's cohesion policy and its future developments were on the agenda of the joint meeting of the European Parliament's Committee for Regional Development (REGI) and the European Committee of the Regions commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget (COTER), held in the framework of the European Week of Regions and Cities on 10 October in Brussels.
The freshly released 7th Cohesion Report , by the European Commission, provided the basis for a joint assessment, by MEPs and local leaders, of the impact of EU's cohesion policy, worth 630bn Euros over the years 2014-2020. EU Commissioner for Regional and Urban Policy, Corina Creţu, presented the report findings and contributed to the political debate which highlighted the positive achievements of the last years.
The initial delays in launching investment programmes seem to have been overcome in most countries and the policy is approaching its normal cruising speed, whilst implementing the strategic improvements introduced by the 2013 reform. These include smart specialisation strategies, which provide each region with shared plans on how to mobilise universities, research and businesses to exploit their specific growth potential; ex ante conditionalities pushing the compliance to EU rules in key sectors as environment, public procurement etc.; integration of different EU funds and tools to deliver sustainable urban and rural development projects.
Looking ahead to the European Commission's proposals for the budget post 2020, expected in May, local leaders and MEPs stressed the need for a radical simplification of rules and for more flexibility in allocating resources. Alongside future improvements proposals, the debate focused on the risk that Brexit-related cuts and new spending needs linked, for example, to a common defence and external border control, can undermine the crucial role of cohesion policy in reducing disparities and spreading innovation in all European regions.
" We should aim to a proactive, effective, inclusive cohesion policy for European citizens, which means enhanced partnerships for building resilient cities and regions, improved linkages across borders and different territories, flexibility to address new challenges; smart and innovative solutions to boost competitiveness and economic growth, simplifying the access and implementation for all actors" said REGI chair Iskra Mihaylova, stressing that: " The underlying principles of the future Structural and Investment Funds should be: added value, effectiveness, simplification, synergies, transparency and visibility . Spreading innovation and good governance through cooperation, it can help us create a stronger, more balanced and united Europe built on respect, tolerance, freedom, human rights and solidarity ".
" The Cohesion Report shows that cohesion policy works, that makes a difference in tackling development gaps and the territorial divide between Europe's regions and cities by promoting investment at local and regional level. To ensure that the benefits of this policy are more visible for citizens and urge to adequate funding in the budget post 2020, as Committee of the Regions, we have launched the #CohesionAlliance , together with leading territorial associations.", said COTER chair Petr Osvald (CZ/PES). "Together, we need to make sure that the voice of thousands of SMEs, hospitals, schools, universities, business and cultural organisations, is heard when it comes to take the key decisions on the next EU budget. ", he concluded.
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