While the legislative procedure for the Regulations on the European Structural and Investment Funds for the years 2021-2027 is still ongoing, regions and cities already need to start the preparation of the next programming period, in order to enable a timely launch of the programmes. However, the absence of a successor to the Europe 2020 strategy, the discontinuation of the Common Strategic Framework and the broader policy objectives of the new Common Provisions Regulation will on the one hand offer more flexibility, but will on the other hand require local and regional authorities to get clarity on their funding priorities without much guidance. Regional development strategies are an important tool for setting objectives and funding priorities, ensuring synergies and complementarities between sectoral instruments and involving stakeholders, in line with a place-based approach to economic, social and territorial development. This own-initiative opinion aims at complementing the series of legislative CoR opinions on the cohesion policy proposals by facilitating a discussion on the strategic funding priorities in the next programming period from a local and regional perspective.
The own-initiative opinion contributed to raising the awareness of this important issue.
The European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Ms Elisa Ferreira, in a letter of 9 January 2020 to the CoR President, welcomed the comprehensive list of recommendations put forward in the opinion, in particular highlighting its references to the Sustainable Development Goals, the need to take into account the short-term and long-term impact of socio-economic and environmental challenges, and the need for fostering synergies between cohesion policy support and other EU policies, as well as for an integrated, cross-sectoral approach. She also strongly agreed with the
recommendation to search for functional links between different areas, going beyond
administrative or EU borders, and with the need of public authorities and socio-economic partners for having the appropriate capacity and skills. In this respect, she referred to the wide range of support for administrative capacity building that the Commission services can provide.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS:
- points out that strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion of the European Union is one of the EU's main goals, based on the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU);
- emphasises that strengthening cohesion, including across borders, at regional and local levels requires a bottom-up, place-based approach to develop appropriate solutions locally;
- stresses the importance of territorial strategies in focusing investment in an integrated and coordinated manner;
- recommends that cities and regions take SDGs into account as a guiding principle when developing regional or local development strategies;
- stresses that future trends should be taken into account in order to develop effective strategies for regional development. Long-term planning, forecasts and other strategic forecasting methods are therefore important tools for shaping regional policy in the future;
- recommends developing joint strategies for functional areas and adapting relevant strategies and programmes where possible;
- recommends to make full use of the opportunities provided by the Common Provisions Regulation with a view to programming interregional or cross-border cooperation projects to address cross-border functional areas, in close coordination with the relevant INTERREG programmes;
- underlines the added value of multi-fund programmes and encourages making full use of the potential of integrated tools such as Community-led Local Development (CLLD) and integrated territorial investment (ITI).