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President, Ministers, Commissioner, Colleagues,
Cohesion Policy is the only tool which allows and enables the EU to manifest itself at regional, local and citizen level. It is also the main tool that the EU has to invest in the real economy and to contribute to growth and jobs creation against a backdrop of the Europe 2020 strategy.
The EESC has always presented a highly positive view on the Union's Cohesion Policy. In recent years we have argued strongly for enhancing the role of civil society in the preparation and implementation of cohesion policy.
Partnership with regional and local authorities as well as with organised civil society is a fundamental principle underlying the EU's Cohesion Policy and our work for the Commission has clearly shown that the impact of EU cohesion projects is strengthened significantly where there is a strong partnership involvement.
A genuine partnership which truly involves territories and socio-economic actors in the programming, implementation and evaluation stages of regional policy will make it more responsive to the needs of regions, cities and their citizens, and ultimately make it more efficient.
My colleague from the Committee of the Regions and I are deeply concerned that the Council appears to be weakening the European Commission's proposals on partnership in Article 5 of the CPR, and has even deleted reference to a European code of conduct on partnership.
We strongly caution against this approach which is wilfully removing citizens and local authorities from this successful and close-to-home EU policy. We call on the Member States to review their current thinking and to adopt this code of conduct in support of the Commission's proposals and the European Parliament's positive and well developed position on this article 5 and the partnership principle.
Thank you for your attention.