"Cohesion binds us together, there is no alternative to it. The cost of non-cohesion is non-Europe"
The President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), Vasco Alves Cordeiro, today brought the voice of regions and cities to the table of the High-Level Group set up by the European Commission few months ago. The aim of the group, which includes several local and regional representatives, is to reflect on how to maximise the effectiveness of Cohesion Policy in the future in terms of reducing economic, territorial and social disparities in Europe.
Speaking during the debate at the invitation of the European Commission, President Vasco Alves Cordeiro said: "We need to shape the EU's main investment policy to make it even more inclusive and more visible to all European citizens. Today's High-Level Group meeting on the Future of Cohesion Policy was an important moment to bring this debate forward. The risk that Cohesion Policy is scaled down or replaced by a spatially blind instrument in the future is real. The COVID-19 crisis has shown us how quickly Cohesion Policy was able to respond. There is, however, a danger that with more and more ad hoc measures and transfers from Cohesion Policy to other programmes, the central focus of the policy to achieve cohesion through long-term investment and structural change is being lost. We must, all together, give a new impetus to Cohesion Policy. It needs 'an aggiornamento', an update, so that there can be no doubt about its role and place as the main EU investment policy. It is literally cohesion that binds us, Europeans, together and there is no alternative to cohesion. The cost of non-cohesion is non-Europe!"
President Cordeiro also underlined the need to bring to reality the "Do no harm to cohesion" principle, introduced by the European Commission in its 8th Cohesion report: "Cohesion must be underpinned by all EU policies. Only a strong Cohesion Policy can ensure that citizens feel a strong sense of belonging to the European project. Among the CoR proposals there is a drastic increase of the use of Territorial Impact Assessments so that the potential territorial impact of EU legislative proposals is known from the outset."
CoR members will adopt an own-initiative opinion on the "Do no harm to cohesion" principle during tomorrow's plenary session. The debate and the vote can be followed here.
During his intervention, the CoR president also insisted on the reinforcement of the Cohesion Policy's place-based approach: "The European semester needs to evolve to better understand territorial challenges but we need to avoid making Cohesion Policy a 'carrot or a stick' for structural reforms not related to Cohesion Policy challenges. The CoR has always supported a vision of Cohesion Policy which is based on shared management, co-design, and partnership with local and regional authorities. We cannot compromise on these aspects: this is the only way to ensure that Cohesion Policy investments reflect the actual needs of each specific territory."
The meeting can be re-watched here.
The CoR is is currently in an active phase of reflection and evidence-gathering for its own position on the future of cohesion policy. An own-initiative opinion is under preparation, of which President Cordeiro and the chair of the Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU Budget (COTER), Emil Boc, are the two co-rapporteurs. A first discussion on the opinion will take place on 23 June during the external meeting of the COTER Commission in Sibiu, Romania. The work on the opinion will be finalised by the two co-rapporteurs in November 2023, when is scheduled for adoption in the CoR plenary, ahead of the publication of the 9th Cohesion Report by the European Commission.
Together with the leading European associations of cities and regions, the CoR is a founding partner of the #CohesionAlliance, whose mission is to affirm cohesion as a fundamental value of the European Union and a key objective for all its policies and investment. On 16 March, a high-level event marked the kick-off of the renewed activity of the Alliance towards 2027.
More information on the High-Level Group of experts on the future of Cohesion Policy and its members can be found here.
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