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Regulation on European Territorial Cooperation 2021-2027

EESC opinion: Regulation on European Territorial Cooperation 2021-2027

Key points:

The EESC

  • underlines that European territorial cooperation (ETC) is a unique instrument of cohesion policy and one of the very few frameworks in which national, regional and local players from different Member States are systematically called upon to carry out joint measures and exchange practices and strategies;
  • asks that a "simplification shock" be administered as regards the size of projects. Cooperation mainly relates to local activities. It is therefore necessary for simplification to be introduced to project assessment forms and methods;
  • is concerned about the new rules which could bring the EU's maximum funding rate down from 85% to 70%. It asks that the 85% rate be maintained for small projects, the most vulnerable regions and civil society measures. The EESC also supports greater use of private sector participation and InvestEU Fund;
  • asks the Commission to set up a genuine strategy for coordinating and integrating the various financial instruments available under the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). It asks the Commission to submit a communication to this effect soon and should make it mandatory to involve the social partners and civil society organisations;
  • welcomes the trend towards thematic concentration of action and investment priorities but it remains to be clarified how to take into account the particular features of areas mentioned in Article 174 TFEU (islands, mountainous areas, rural areas, conurbations, etc.) without losing sight of the need for concentration;
  • given that island regions are, by definition, in maritime zones argues that the latter should continue to be able to submit their projects under both cross-border and territorial cooperation. If necessary, a new priority entitled "island regions" should be created with its own budget;
  • deems it vital to broaden the development of macro-regional strategies to include new areas (Mediterranean, Balkans, Carpathia, etc.) and to ensure they benefit from greater integration of the new European financial instruments;
  • welcomes the establishment of a single implementation framework with neighbouring countries/non-Member States.  Asks also the Commission to ensure that territorial cooperation programmes in this framework are opened up to regions of neighbouring countries, even if they do not have a direct border with the EU, so as to avoid creating disruption;
  • supports the proposal to attach priority to innovation, with an independent budget and procedures enabling direct access for non-state actors. The EESC nevertheless stresses that innovation also has to relate to societal and social matters;
  • taking young people into account in Europe is a key element and suggests using the ERASMUS+ methods of youth exchange – for students, apprentices, jobseekers, people with difficulties;
  • given the importance of programmes supported by ETC will support any initiative for obtaining a higher profile for them so as to boost a sense of European citizenship and increase awareness of the concrete measures carried out with EU support.