The role of cohesion policy in combatting inequalities in the new programming period after the COVID-19 crisis. Complementarities and possible overlaps with the RRF and the national recovery plans (Own-initiative opinion)

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Udvalgets udtalelse: The role of cohesion policy in combatting inequalities in the new programming period after the COVID-19 crisis. Complementarities and possible overlaps with the RRF and the national recovery plans (Own-initiative opinion)

Key points:

The EESC

  • believes Next Generation EU (NGEU) is not only based on solidarity between Member States but also symbolises the fact that the Member States have a shared vision for the future. Its confidence-boosting effect has already helped to reduce the likelihood of a deep crisis in some countries and its positive impact will come fully into play when actual spending starts. It also demands that every effort is made for its further improvement and to tackle possible shortcomings.advocates a prosperity-focused economic and social policy where people's well-being is prioritised and no-one is left behind. In this opinion we focus on the ways in which cohesion policy and NGEU, primarily through its flagship Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), propose to remedy inequalities. NGEU will in fact contribute to upward convergence between Member States and may also enhance the fiscal space for social policy measures. But ultimately, the extent and the way that inequalities within countries and imbalances between regions are to be combatted through NGEU is the big challenge for the coming years.
  • welcomes the fact that social goals, and particularly the goal of economic, social and territorial cohesion, are embedded in the six pillars of the RRF and that the assessment criteria for the National Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRPs) include their social impact. Rightly, the Member States also have to explain how the NRRPs contribute to gender equality and equal opportunities for all.
  • however, believes that the focus on fair distribution within the NRRPs and NGEU as a whole needs to be greatly enhanced and made more specific.
  • believes that the great challenge is ensuring coherence and synergies between cohesion policy and NGEU, particularly the RRF and React-EU. While it is important to avoid overlaps and confusion in the implementation of programmes, it is also crucial to ensure that the programmes do not contradict or undermine one another. Moreover, the potential prioritisation of RRF funding over cohesion policy due to the pressure on quick absorption may reduce attention and capacity to deal with the programming and implementation of cohesion policy funding for 2021-2027, contributing to further delays and issues of take-up of cohesion resources.
  • is concerned that, due to its different legal basis the provisions for reducing inequalities enshrined in cohesion policy are not reflected adequately in the rules governing the use of NGEU and the RRF.