Italy balks at centralisation of cohesion policy funds

Southern Italy was named as an example of why power should remain in regional hands. [Shutterstock]

The Italian government wants co-funded resources of the EU’s cohesion policy to remain managed by the regions. Rome wants the policy to remain unchanged under the new budget after 2020.

Rome’s position on the future of cohesion policy – one of the largest envelopes in the EU budget with €350 billion – was discussed at the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) in Brussels on Tuesday (30 January).

Claudio De Vincenti, the minister for territorial cohesion and southern Italy, pointed out that “regions must be able to have a say and be heard. The agreements already exist and they are performing well. There is no need for changes, just monitoring.”

While some EU officials have hinted at the possibility of reducing cohesion funds after 2020, the Italian government thinks that funding should remain intact and that all contributions must be re-agreed among the member states after Brexit.

This would help achieve a more economic balance in order to compensate for the loss of resources after the UK’s departure from the EU. Furthermore, each country that takes advantage of cohesion policies should respect the necessary conditions.

Michael Schneider, the CoR’s rapporteur on “The future of Cohesion Policy beyond 2020”, also agreed on the need to keep the character of the cohesion policies unchanged.

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The upcoming EU budget negotiations and new priorities are calling into question the very existence of the EU’s Cohesion Policy. But if the social, economic and territorial disparities facing Europe are to be overcome, then Cohesion policy must be secured as the EU strategic investment policy for all European citizens after 2020, writes Vasco Cordeiro.

De Vincenti noted that national co-funding should be calculated based on regional stability and development. Therefore, he said, the funding management needs to stay in the hands of each region separately. “Centralisation does not constitute an advantageous perspective for member states”.

Besides, as he said, through cohesion policies it is now possible to interconnect every region of the continent, even those more marginalised. Monitoring mechanisms are needed though, to simplify the objectives and to keep control of the situation. This way, cohesion policies’ impact will be reinforced as well as transparency in general.

However, De Vincenti underlined that “political institutions must also contribute in this, taking into consideration the difficulties that each region faces, in issues like structural and digital infrastructure, climate change and infrastructure against exceptional weather conditions such as floods.”

He brought up southern Italy as an example, noting that “… it has more needs, compared to the central and northern part of the country”.

His arguments were reinforced by Enzo Bianco, the mayor of Catania and chair of the Italian Delegation at the CoR. “Regions and municipalities are convinced that the orientation of cohesion policies will not change after the national elections in Italy get concluded,” he said.

Referring to the long-term impact of cohesion policies, De Vincenti stressed that in Europe “we need to work in such a way so that young people can look at the European Union as a supranational infrastructure that best promotes their future “.

He described cohesion policy as a “message of true citizenship and a true European community”. Especially now that Europe is leaving the 2008-2013 crisis behind, these policies are extremely important “to achieve development, we must remain united and no one to be left behind”.

Michael Schneider, CoR rapporteur on “The future of Cohesion Policy beyond 2020”, underlined the need to cut red tape in every member state and reduce the possibility for abuse of power, errors and complaints.

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The Hungarian and Polish governments expressed on Monday (8 January) their readiness to contribute with more money to the EU’s multi-annual financial framework after the UK exits the EU in 2019.