Broadly speaking, the Committee endorses the Commission's approach as regards the new proposal for a regulation on the Cohesion Fund. It particularly supports the efforts to harmonise procedures relating to the various funds with those laid down by the general regulation, although it does highlight a number of key points (set out above) which need further discussion and improvement, especially in view of the EU's current situation resulting from the financial and sovereign debt crises.
The EESC endorses the Commission's decision to drastically reduce the number of interventions at this time of crisis by concentrating the thematic areas, a key means of reducing waste, concentrating resources on specific activities and boosting the multiplier effect that can generate growth and jobs.
The Committee supports the proposal to fund the Connecting Europe Facility but not the creation of a specific fund, as this could lead to unnecessary duplication.
The EESC considers that upstream and downstream simplification is an absolute priority, for the Cohesion Fund and for all the Structural Funds; administrative fees should be cut, possibly establishing a flat-rate fee for some types of project, and the "only once" principle applied.
Regarding cofinancing, the criteria for it should be examined more carefully and reviewed; they should be linked to the real budget conditions of local and regional authorities so as to avoid situations whereby the most vulnerable authorities have no access to any funding.