to highlight and explore the investment gap, in particular from the perspective of cities and regions
to assess the implementation of the Investment Plan for Europe, European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and related initiatives (EIAH, EIPP), including issues of geographical balance, additionality and governance
The impact of this opinion should be seen within the broader context of the CoR and ECON commission's work on investment.
The key objective of the ECON commission in this regard is to bring up in the EU agenda the importance of investments by LRAs and the issue of obstacles to long-term investments at local and regional level, highlighting the need for adequate funding of such investments. The CoR has placed significant focus on this policy theme for some time, including through its work on the Investment Plan starting in late 2014, through its continuing collaboration with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The February 2017 Plenary session of the CoR saw the adoption of the opinion on "Bridging the Investment Gap " by then CoR President Markkula, which was preceded by a constructive exchange with the EIB Vice-President Vazil Hudak on how the EIB supports EU regions and on its cooperation with the CoR.
Following up on this opinion, President Markkula took part in a high-level conference on the Circular Economy in March, where he stressed in a keynote speech in the presence of Commission Vice-President Katainen, the crucial role of investments in the transition to a circular economy – and in particular of investments at the local and regional level.
In Summer 2017, the CoR continued its cooperation with the OECD on investment (also in the context of the OECD's principles for "Effective Public Investment Across Levels of Government" and their review), by undertaking a new survey of LRAs , which provided some constructive insights to better understand the obstacles faced by LRAs.
With regard to the Investment Plan, ECON followed up on its work of previous years: organising an event with DG ECFIN on the European Investment Project Portal (EIPP) as well as becoming an "EIPP partner", and commissioning a study on LRA involvement in the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) which, building on case studies, highlighted key challenges and opportunities.
The study was presented during a CoR conference on " Making the Investment Plan Work for Cities and Regions", in June 2017, which also featured the EIB's Deputy Managing Director of EFSI, Iliyana Tsanova, as well as closing remarks by MEP and Chair of the Long-term Investment Parliamentary intergroup, Dominique Riquet. All speakers stressed the need to further involve the LRAs in the EFSI, putting forward concrete examples and initiatives. The study was also discussed in a November 2017 meeting between CoR President Karl-Heinz Lambertz and Member of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) Leo Brincat, in the context of the ECA's Performance Audit of the EFSI, where Mr Brincat warmly welcomed the CoR's input.
Building on the increasing interinstitutional support for the CoR's positions in this field, ECON will continue its work on investment in 2018 and beyond, while further strengthening its cooperation with the EC, EIB, OECD and other key stakeholders in this policy area.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
notes that investment in Europe has decreased by 15% overall as a direct result of the financial and economic crisis, that public investment has also fallen due to constraints introduced by budget regulation mechanisms at EU and national level, and that the level of total investment in the EU as a whole remains below pre-crisis levels in nominal terms, in 2015 almost EUR 60 billion lower than that in 2008;
stresses that the potential of strategic investments in cities and regions is much higher than the general pre-crisis trends show;
underlines that local and regional authorities (LRAs) are responsible for more than half of public investment in the EU, and that their investments have a direct impact on local economies, the dynamism of businesses, and the life and well-being of European citizens;
points out that a significant share of obstacles to investment outlined in the European Semester are "territory related" in the sense that they either are relevant to the functions of LRAs as regards investment, or there is potential for LRAs to contribute towards easing or removing them; as a result, the current obstacles to investment might often have their roots – but consequentially also their solutions – at the local and regional level and within transnational cooperation;
recalls that the CoR's top priority is to kick-start the EU's economy based on a bottom-up approach by stimulating targeted investment based on local needs, drawing on best practices at grass-roots level and encouraging a new entrepreneurial spirit; and stresses the need to create an innovative and entrepreneurial Europe that is citizen-focused; which is also the key political message of the Bratislava Declaration "Invest and Connect" adopted by the CoR on 8 July 2016.