Only weeks before a European Council meeting in December is set to define funding for regional development across Europe beyond 2020, regions are still in the dark about what will be the final decision on the future of Cohesion Policy.
Discussions on the legislative framework are going in the right direction but a lot remains to be done, Vasco Cordeiro, president of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) and president of the Regional Government of the Azores, told EURACTIV in an interview.
Vasco Cordeiro spoke to EURACTIV’s Sofia Elanidou.
As president of the CPMR, are you satisfied with the involvement of the Regions in the preparation of the new Cohesion Policy?
It is not up to me to make this kind of judgment for regions that are not members of CPMR, but I am very satisfied with the work regions within CPMR are doing.
What I would like to stress though, is the importance of getting regions involved in this discussion. It is not about the money and having one million more or one million less from the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), it is also about the changes to the policy. This is the first time we have had more money put in programmes managed directly by the European Commission than for programmes managed by the European regions and the member states.
Therefore, it is about the way we should move forward. CPMR is involved in this discussion, and I think all regions should be. Not only with the European institutions but also within the countries, through national governments.
The CPMR seems to be dissatisfied with the Commission proposals in relation to the islands. Do you see room for improvement?
Yes, we think it can be improved. We think that the Commission has demonstrated an openness to improvement, and that is why we are meeting with them regularly to explain our position, and why we are also focused on national governments because the European Council will ultimately make the final decisions.
We continue to call on the Commission to develop a strong post-2020 Cohesion policy, with increased recognition of the regional disparities affecting islands. A consistent and particular attention to insularity, as enshrined in Article 174 of the Lisbon Treaty, is currently missing from the policy. It must deliver legislative and financial conditions that will unlock the potential of island regions, for the benefit of the EU as a whole.
To improve this situation, the future regulation on Common Provisions on partnership and multi-level governance should not only reference territorial cohesion and Article 174 but specify how Cohesion Policy addresses the needs and challenges of specific territories, while all island territories should benefit from the same degree of flexibility to the thematic concentration requirements under the ERDF.
Regarding European territorial cooperation, maritime cross-border cooperation programmes should not be abandoned, while additional Cohesion policy funding could be provided for the member states with islands, or redistribution mechanisms in favour of islands could be set up at the national level, with ERDF and ESF funding earmarked for island territories.
To be clear, the Commission’s proposals for EU policies after 2020 are a first step and we, Europe’s regions, must continue to influence their final decision.
What do you think about the idea of mainstreaming territorial cooperation and abolishing INTERREG Europe? What is your approach to this and how ready are the regions to implement this new structure?
I can understand that the proposal to mainstream territorial cooperation makes sense, but I think it should be improved. When we create this kind of measure we have to consider that regions are different across Europe. Sometimes you create a mechanism that makes sense for some regions, but then other regions are excluded.
In any case, the CPMR is opposed to the proposal to abolish INTERREG Europe which has proved its worth over the years.
Given that we are experiencing severe climate change effects throughout Europe, including the possible rise in the sea level, do you believe that the island regions are in need of a special policy in relation to their environmental needs?
The recent natural disasters that have affected Europe and its islands have highlighted the pressing need for rapid and effective responses to this pressing issue. In recent years the European Union has made progress on the delivery of funding and a regulatory framework supporting climate change adaptation and mitigation. Nevertheless, further efforts are needed.
The storms and flooding that occurred recently in the Balearic Islands clearly demonstrate the urgent need to find targeted political and technical measures that will address the geographical, environmental and socio-economic vulnerability of islands.
The EU must enhance existing funding schemes and legislative provisions for islands, as well as setting up innovative new measures to improve the performance and effectiveness of its action to support climate change adaptation and mitigation.
For example, a simple measure was implemented in my own region, the Azores, following the extreme weather conditions and subsequent drought we experienced in 2018. An extraordinary support scheme was introduced to compensate farmers for their loss of production and/or harvesting crops such as corn, vegetables, and tobacco.
The EU should show their commitment to addressing the environmental needs of islands by replicating and capitalizing on examples such as this one. Delivering effective solutions to daily challenges is the only way to bring the EU closer to its citizens.