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Cohesion Report: digital cohesion, demography and brain drain are key to reduce territorial disparities  

​​​Local and regional leaders debated the findings of the new report, which shows cohesion policy's strengths but also increasing risks linked to stagnating regional economies

​Promoting digital cohesion among regions, boosting investments in innovations, coping with demographic challenges, converting brain drain at territorial level into brain gain and keeping cohesion as a fundamental value of all EU policies. These are the main concerns and requests highlighted by members of the Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget (COTER) of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) during a debate on the new 8th Cohesion Report.

Marc Lemaître, Director-General for Regional and Urban Policy at the European Commission, illustrated to local and regional leaders the main finding of the document, two days after its official presentation by Commissioner for Cohesion and Reform Elisa Ferreira. The report assesses progress in reducing economic, social and regional disparities in the EU and how national and EU policies have helped to achieve this. It shows cohesion policy's real capacity to support weaker areas but also increasing risks linked to innovation gaps and stagnating regional economies.

Local and regional leaders welcomed the announcement that the European Commission, as requested by the CoR, will propose an extension until June 2022 of the possibility to benefit from a 100% EU co-financing rate for cohesion funds.

" The CoR was one of the first institutions that called for the urgent nature of this request stemming from the results of a survey conducted by the COTER Commission to local and regional authorities, which are still most affected by the impact of the pandemic. Together with President Tzitzikostas, we sent a letter to the President of the Commission asking clearly for the flexibility measures introduced two years ago to be maintained in order to mobilise EU structural funds in the fight against COVID-19. The Commission's proposal is very important for hundreds of local and regional authorities ", underlined Nathalie Sarrabezolles (FR/PES), Chair of the COTER Commission, rapporteur on the 8th Cohesion Report and Councillor of the Finistère Departmental Council.

The exceptional flexibility measure, which exempts Member States from the obligation to add a national co-financing, was introduced to use cohesion policy funds 2014-2020 to finance measures related to the COVID-19 outbreak, such as investments in the healthcare sector, support for SMEs and the labour market. It expired in June 2021.

During his intervention, DG Lemaître highlighted that cohesion policy has been fully mobilised to fight social and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to the emergency REACT-EU programme and the exceptional flexibility, a total amount of €75 billion has been mobilised so far under cohesion policy, mainly to support the health sector.

During the today's meeting, members of the COTER Commission also appointed three new rapporteurs:

  • Isabelle Boudineau (FR/PES), member of the Regional Council of Nouvelle-Aquitaine and former Chair of the COTER Commission, on the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T)
  • Linda Gaasch (LU/Greens), Member of Luxembourg City municipal council, on the new EU Urban Mobility Framework
  • Nathalie Sarrabezolles (FR/PES), Chair of the COTER Commission, on the next generation of own resources for the EU budget

And suggested Marie-Antoinette Maupertuis (FR/AE), president of the Corsican regional assembly, as rapporteur on " Enhancing Cohesion Policy support for regions with geographic and demographic handicaps ".

Background :

Cities and regions have been at the forefront of COVID-19 crisis management over the last year. The two Coronavirus Response Investment Initiatives (CRII and CRII+) introduced exceptional and useful flexibility measures to use cohesion policy funds 2014-2020 to finance measures related to the COVID-19 outbreak, such as investments in the healthcare sector, support for SMEs and the labour market.

In May 2021, the CoR launched a survey on the implementation of the CRII and CRII+. The results (available here) showed the clear demand coming from local and regional authorities to extend the flexibility measures. This request was included in a letter co-signed by the CoR President Apostolos Tzitzikostas and the chair of the CoR's COTER commission Isabelle Boudineau, addressed in July 2021 to the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and the commissioners responsible for the relevant policies. The press release is available here.

A CoR-European Commission Joint Action Plan "for a strong recovery and a just transition" was signed on 25 January. The press release can be consulted here.

Together with the leading European associations of cities and regions, the CoR is a founding partner of the #CohesionAlliance, to affirm cohesion as a fundamental value of the European Union and a key objective for all its policies and investment. More information here.

More information on the CoR's work on cohesion policy can be found on the COTER commission webpage and on the CoR webpage "Cohesion, our fundamental value" . ​

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