The European Commission's proposals for cohesion policy post 2020 include many positive aspects but do not go far enough. A cohesion budget that has been cut by 10% in comparison to the previous one will be insufficient to meet the needs of the current political agenda and environment. A final agreement on the EU budget 2021-2027 must be reached before the 2019 EU elections, in view of the challenges the EU is facing.

These are some of the main conclusions reached during a conference recently hosted by the EESC in view of the preparation of several opinions on the Commission's cohesion package, which was put forward as part of its Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) proposals.

During the conference, it was stressed that a real commitment to regional development and cohesion policy was needed. At a key moment for the future of the EU, an ambitious policy could be instrumental in countering growing Euroscepticism and other political and socio-economic challenges, providing real benefits to people's lives and having an impact on the perception of EU policy. A real commitment should first and foremost be reflected in a clear strategy and appropriate budgetary provisions. Both ought to be aligned with the political environment in order to be effective and meet citizens' expectations. Most participants felt that the budgetary provisions from the previous MFF for cohesion policy should at least be maintained. The credibility of the EU was at stake.

Speakers also said that the co-financing rate must be maintained in order to ensure the accessibility of funds for all beneficiaries.

The EESC opinions on the Commission's cohesion package will be put to the vote at the plenary in September and October 2018. (jk)