Endeavour to feed the needs of cities and regions into the inter-institutional debate on the Investment Plan and call for a proper co-ordination between the EFSI and the ESIF programmes, as well as for an adequate involvement of local and regional authorities in the process of project selection
The European Parliament's report on the proposal for an EFSI regulation (PE551.765v03-00) was adopted on 22 April 2015 and the final legislative text (Regulation no. 2015/1017) took on board several CoR and EP recommendations, focusing mainly on the following aspects:
The strategy should be complementary to the objective of economic, social and territorial cohesion (Amendment 3 of the CoR opinion);
EFSI supports projects that are consistent with Union policies, including economic, social and territorial cohesion (Amendment 13);
EFSI should complement and be additional to ongoing regional, national and Union programmes (Amendment 5);
Compared to the initial commission proposal, the share of financing coming from unused margins has been increased by 1 bn EUR, whilst the redeployments from CEF and Horizon 2020 have been reduced by 0,5 bn EUR each (Amendments 16, 17);
National (direct) contributions to the EFSI will not be taken into account when defining the fiscal adjustment under either the preventive or corrective arm of the SGP (Policy recommendation 11);
Steering board shall organize regularly a consultation of relevant stakeholders including public authorities;
Member States, in cooperation with local and regional authorities, should be able to contribute to the establishment and management of the EIPP (European Investment Projects Portal), including by providing information on investment projects in their territory to the Commission (Amendment 18).
The CoR's activities towards the implementation of the Investment plan were discussed at several subsequent meetings:
At 4th COTER meeting on 13 July 2015, the European Parliament's REGI Committee Chair Ms Iskra Mihaylova indicated that REGI members were very interested in cooperating with the CoR to look at how to develop ways to better coordinate and complement EU funded programmes and initiatives including Horizon 2020, COSME, and other EU-subsidized programmes, with EFSI. On 1 September 2015, the CoR high-level representatives met with the EIB high-level representatives to discuss implementation of the EFSI and together they acknowledged the crucial role of the CoR in delivering EFSI. The EIB expressed its intention to focus on small-scale local projects (more decentralized actions), creating thus new opportunities for future collaboration especially regarding project development advice (JASPERS) and financial instruments. In this light, future cooperation with the EIB could focus on financial instruments, project appraisal and its engineering capacity. Co-operation with national and regional promotion banks for promoting co-investment and risk sharing would also be given attention.
REGI and COTER members also discussed the importance of ensuring synergies between the Investment Plan for Europe and the ESIF at the joint REGI-COTER meeting which took place on 13 October 2015, within the framework of the Open Days.
On 1 June 2016, the European Commission announced the launch of the European Investment Project Portal, gathering current and future investment projects in the Union. In addition, it presented a Communication "Europe investing again: Taking stock of the Investment Plan for Europe and next steps" , where details of progress made and a possible extension of the lifetime of the EFSI beyond 2018 are presented. The note also suggests several areas for improvement and reiterates the key points put forward in the Commission's February guidance on complementarities between the ESIF and EFSI.
On 14 September 2016, the European Commission presented, as part of the mid-term review of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), a proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulations (EU) No 1316/2013 and (EU) 2015/1017 as regards the extension of the duration of the European Fund for Strategic Investments as well as the introduction of technical enhancements for that Fund and the European Investment Advisory Hub (COM(2016) 597 final).
The legislative proposal, based on evaluations made by the EIB, European Commission and an independent subject in accordance with Art 18(1), 18(2) and 18(6) of the EFSI Regulation, consists of several elements, addressing existing issues of the implementation of EFSI and extending its duration and financial capacity.
The proposal, although again suggesting the further reduction of the financial envelope of the CEF programme by an additional 500 million EUR, takes on board several CoR recommendations from the opinion on "Investment Plan and European Fund for Strategic Investments", such as:
a further reinforcement of the additionality principle by better defining projects that are additional, including cross-border infrastructure projects (e.g. Amendment 27 of the CoR opinion);
in order to finance the increase in the financial capacity of EFSI, the Commission suggested to use the reimbursed costs of EIB operations paid out by the beneficiaries and the available resources from the unallocated margin (e.g. Policy recommendation 6 of the CoR opinion, although the Commission proposed also to reallocate 500 million EUR from CEF);
a further strengthening of the advisory services of EIAH (Policy recommendation 7);
the extended EFSI should address remaining market failures and sub-optimal investment situations in other sectors and areas, such as climate change (Policy recommendation 19), research and innovation, cross-border and sustainable transport, as well as the digital transformation;
a reinforcement of the take-up of EFSI in less-developed and transition regions: an easier combination of other sources of Union funding such as ESIF, Horizon 2020 and CEF with EFSI support has been put forward (Policy recommendations 9 and 10).
This legislative proposal was the subject of the opinion on "EFSI 2.0" (rapporteur-general Mr Wim van de Donk (NL/EPP)) based on Art 307 TFEU, which was adopted at the 120th Plenary Session on 7 December 2016.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- welcomes the Investment Plan for Europe and the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) regulation as proposed by the Commission in order to boost investments in the Union;
- points out that the EFSI is only one component of the Investment Plan; therefore calls upon the European Commission to specify the scope of the structural reforms it wishes to promote at European level while respecting the subsidiarity principle;
- calls on the European Commission to explore the possibilities under the Union Budget for redirecting available funding to the EU guarantee from programmes other than Horizon 2020 and the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF);
- asks to be fully involved in monitoring and implementing the Investment Plan for Europe. With this in mind, it is crucial to ensure that the EFSI is consistent with local and regional investment strategies and the operational programmes of the European Structural and Investment Funds; calls on the Commission and EIB to involve the CoR as an observer in the Steering Board and in the Investment Committee;
- calls on Member States to closely involve local and regional authorities in establishing and promoting project pipelines to improve the good governance of the EFSI;
- calls on the Commission and EIB to develop in cooperation with the CoR a set of criteria for the project selection and procedures for the follow-up;
- emphasises that it is crucial for EFSI investment guidelines to ensure that it can be accessible to smaller-scale projects, especially those that contribute to job creation and economic growth and that address regional disparities.