Social, economic and territorial cohesion should be promoted not only via the dedicated EU policy, but by the European Union as a whole, and financed by an adequate European budget. These are the requests included into two draft opinions adopted on 24 April by the Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU budget (COTER). Local and regional leaders also discussed on how cohesion policy and other EU instruments should ensure a just transition of those regions with a strong automotive sector that are most affected by the transition towards a zero-emission economy.
Cohesion Policy is and should remain the main tool for a harmonious development of the Union for all regions. However, all EU policies should tackle disparities among territories in accordance with the principle “Do no harm to cohesion", introduced in 2022 by the European Commission's 8th Cohesion Report. Adopting by unanimity a draft opinion on the topic, local and regional leaders called on the European Commission to ensure that no decision would undermine cohesion in Europe and, in line with the request of the European Parliament, to involve the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) in the implementation and design of the principle.
The rapporteur Michiel Rijsberman (NL/renew E), member of the Council of the Province of Flevoland, said: “Cohesion is what keeps us together. The CoR believes the 'Do No Harm to Cohesion' principle should be applied to all EU policy and regulations. Some of them seem 'spatially blind', with the same rules throughout the Union, but the Union shouldn't use a 'one-fits-all' approach and assess territorial impacts for all proposals."
In order to have the right financial means to promote cohesion, the European Union should be given an adequate budget that is also able to offer a sufficient response to current and future crisis. The request is included in the draft opinion on the Mid-term review of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) of the EU, adopted by COTER members. Local and regional leaders call for the overall MFF to contribute to cohesion in Europe through a balanced distribution of resources. European Union can become stronger, more competitive and sustainable only if the budgets of all levels of government have sufficient, interconnected and complementary resources. Regional and local leaders therefore call for a real review of the MFF that takes the additional challenges on board and provides adequate resources to address them.
The rapporteur Thomas Habermann (DE/EPP), District Commissioner of Rhön-Grabfeld, said: "The MFF has indirect and sometimes even direct effects on local and regional authorities. A large part of the European funds is used with the aim of directly supporting development in our municipalities and regions in terms of economic, social and territorial cohesion. The budgetary situation in many municipalities and regions is worrying, which makes it much more difficult to invest in climate and environmental protection measures or in digitalization. We must therefore ensure that European funds continue to support local and regional authorities in addressing the challenges on the ground."
During the meeting, COTER members also discussed on the draft opinion “A Just and Sustainable Transition for Automotive Regions", from rapporteur Sven Schulze (DE/EPP), Minister for Economic Affairs, Tourism, Agriculture and Forestry of Saxony-Anhalt. The opinion aims to contribute to the transition process that is ongoing in European automotive regions and to develop strategies on how these regional processes can be supported through a multi-level dialogue and EU cohesion policy. Cooperation between industry, SMEs and local and regional authorities is essential for regions to keep pace with new technological developments in the field of electric mobility and autonomous driving. COTER members made clear that different regions face different challenges when it comes to the transition in the automotive sector and stressed that there needs to be sufficient financial support from the EU level.
Finally, members had a first discussion on the draft opinion “A Drone Strategy 2.0", prepared by Władysław Ortyl (PL/ECR), President of the Podkarpackie Region. Drones can serve local and regional authorities by contributing to sustainable and integrated mobility in cities and regions, reducing pollution and congestion and increasing mobility safety for local communities. Members highlighted that the new EU Strategy needs to provide a framework that ensures the safety, security and environmental protection of the usage of drones in cities. For this, regions will have the crucial role of creating an expert, logistical and information base in this field so that public trust is ensured through adequate knowledge and transparency.
In order to advocate cohesion as a fundamental value of the EU and plead for a strong Cohesion Policy beyond 2027, the CoR and the leading European associations of regions and cities founded the #CohesionAlliance. On 16 March, the Alliance kicked off the reflection process on the future of cohesion policy launching two new calls for contributions:
To stay up to date with all the activities of the #CohesionAlliance and the latest development on cohesion policy, you can sign up to receive the new #CohesionAlliance newsletter here.
A just and fair transition towards decarbonising the transport sector is the primary concern of the Automotive Regions Alliance, a political network of regions committed to the successful transition of the European automotive and supply industry. The Alliance was founded by the CoR and aims to bring together regions that have a strong automotive and supply industry.
With the adoption of the internal combustion phase-out by 2035, the Alliance has a key role to play: the European Commission is mandated to report by the end of 2025 on what budgetary resources are needed to make this transition fair for all. The legislators commit the European Commission to base its report on the work of the Automotive Regions Alliance.
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