The EU urgently needs a new, ambitious and clear strategy for its future in line with the UN 2030 Agenda, the SDGs and other international commitments. Cohesion policy must be an integral part of it. This new strategy would also provide a vision for future cohesion policy itself. New provisions for cohesion policy post-2020 must provide for sufficient resources and guarantee improved policy efficiency and visibility, urges the EESC in an exploratory opinion on the future of cohesion policy.
While the EESC's opinion urges that specific current challenges not be allowed to sink into oblivion, it emphasises the importance of developing a cohesion policy for the period 2021-2027. A future-proof policy should be open to all regions and provide the necessary tools to meet future challenges such as embracing new technologies, achieving a high level of competitiveness and managing the transition towards sustainable development whilst creating quality jobs.
A budget cut as proposed by the Commission is not acceptable to the EESC, as cohesion policy is one of the fundamental pillars for bringing the EU closer to its citizens and reducing disparities between EU regions and inequalities across society. In view of this, and with new challenges emerging, the budget should remain at least at the level of the previous period.
The opinion also emphasises that the impact of cohesion policy must be communicated more effectively. Current publicity obligations for funded projects must thus be upgraded significantly so that the added value of EU integration generally and cohesion policy in particular becomes more visible to the public.
A strong territorial approach, more coherence and continuity between EU and national strategies, increased simplification and civil society involvement can, in the EESC's view, all contribute to enhanced policy efficiency. (jk)
In the photo: general view of market square in Lubaczow (Poland), with recently renovated thanks to EU funds town hall buildings.