Commission ‘not satisfied’ with Adriatic-Ionian Strategy results

Cretu: Post-2020 EU cohesion policy will turn to innovation. [European Parliament/Flickr]

European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu is extremely dissatisfied with the poor performance of the Adriatic-Ionian Strategy’s implementation. EURACTIV Greece reports.

The EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR) is a macro-regional strategy adopted by the European Commission and endorsed by the European Council in 2014. Its ultimate aim is to help neighbouring countries address common challenges (environment, cross-border transport, and economic development) by creating synergies and fostering coordination among all territories in the Adriatic-Ionian Region.

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Speaking at a debate this week (20 February) on the Future of EU Regional Policy after 2020, Crețu praised macro-regional strategies saying that they are “great initiatives”.

However, her tone radically changed when she referred to the Adriatic-Ionian strategy, whose presidency Greece currently holds.

“I am not happy at all with the Adriatic-Ionian strategy” Crețu stressed, arguing that two years after its establishment neither major projects have been realised nor significant economic results have been achieved compared with other strategies like the Baltic and the Danube ones.

The EU official added that no date regarding the second annual meeting of the members of the strategy, due to take place in Greece, had been announced yet.

“A single set of rules for all funds”

During the debate, the Commissioner discussed the changes in cohesion policy after 2020 with EU regional representatives.

The Romanian politician stressed that the talks with the European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions on the upcoming changes in cohesion policy have already started.

The changes are necessary as, according to the Commissioner, more emphasis should be placed on “capacity building and simplification of procedures” to eliminate red tape and achieve faster results.

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Crețu explained that among the Commission’s proposals was the establishment of “a single set of rules for all structural funds of Cohesion Policy” (European Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund, Cohesion Fund, European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and European Maritime and Fisheries Fund) as well as a repeal of the different rules currently in force for each fund separately.

“Our aim is to simplify the procedures and we hope to achieve it by the end of our mandate,” the Commissioner emphasised, acknowledging, however, the difficulty of delivering on such a commitment.

Crețu, also, recognised the importance of infrastructure, particularly in Eastern European countries and pledged to continue investment for the completion of the pan-European transport network.

Focusing on innovation

However, she argued that in the next programming period, a shift in investment from infrastructure towards innovation, research and development and SMEs was necessary as “this is the way to go”, prioritising the transition to a low carbon economy and the completion of the Digital Single Market.

This practically means that the post-2020 infrastructure projects will be funded mainly through private investments supported by the Juncker Plan and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI).

Asked about the flexibility of the budget in emergencies like the refugee crisis, Crețu argued that even though flexibility was vital to tackle such challenges, long-term investment cannot and should not be sacrificed to manage potential crises.

“Cohesion Policy must remain focused on medium and long-term investments,” she emphasised.

The Commission’s proposals for the post-2020 Cohesion Policy will be announced in September and will be followed by a broad public consultation.