Cuts to cohesion policy budget send out wrong signal

The EESC firmly believes that cohesion policy is a key element for Europe's future, warranting sufficient resources and appropriate reform. A budget cut for the 2021-2027 programming period would send out the wrong signal to the public and could be harmful for cohesion policy. The budget must be kept at the level for territorial cooperation.

While the EESC, in a recently adopted opinion package, criticises the financial provisions of the Commission's proposals on future regional development and cohesion policy, it does welcome its efforts to introduce reforms, recognising substantial improvements in simplification, flexibility and effectiveness. Nevertheless, it regrets that the new rulebook does not lay down a single set of rules for all funds.

New regulations for cohesion policy should, in its view, be aligned with the new Europe 2020 strategy. They should pursue efforts to implement the SDGs and the European Pillar of Social Rights and fully embed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The EESC rejects the proposals for macro-economic conditionality, the n+2 decommitment rule and the decrease in co-financing rates. These proposals would create an overly rigid economic environment and could harm investment. More flexibility would be needed to address the specific circumstances of regions.

Given that cohesion policy must allow areas with structural and permanent disadvantages to effectively tackle their challenges, the EESC welcomes the proposed mechanism for resolving legal and administrative obstacles in cross-border issues. The mechanism must ensure legal certainty for potential users and offset possible imbalances between partners.

On the European Territorial Cooperation goal, the EESC proposes that young people's involvement be stepped up. Reduction of the digital divide should be a priority for all ETC programmes, and incorporating civil protection and the mitigation of major risks as a priority should be considered.

For more about the EESC opinions click here. (jk)