New cohesion policy is ‘as good as it gets’, Commission insists

Vice-President Katainen and Commissioner Crețu during a press conference on the European Regional Development Fund, Cohesion Fund, Common Provisions Regulation and European Territorial Cooperation, in Strasbourg. [European Commission]

The EU’s new regional policy is a “balanced, simpler and ambitious” proposal, the best that could have ever been achieved under the current conditions, Commissioner Corina Crețu told Members of the European Parliament on Thursday (May 31).

For the European Commission, the main objective now is to distribute “as fairly as possible” all the available resources to the regions, according to their current and future needs, Crețu told a special meeting of the Parliament’s committee on regional development in Strasbourg.

However, MEPs voiced concerns at the meeting about the reclassification of countries and regions in relation to the Berlin method of calculation, underlining that it will create significant imbalances on sharing the resources. Consequently, that could provoke disproportionate economic growth among states and areas, they argued.

Brace for impact: Parliament starts scrutinising EU's regional budget reform

EURACTIV gathered a first round of reactions to the European Commission’s proposal to reform the EU’s €373 billion regional funding programme as part of the bloc’s 2021-2027 budget. One thing is certain: the proposed cuts will be a major issue of dissent in the European Parliament.

Simplification

By the end of June, the European Parliament will name all related rapporteurs, in order to finalise the first reading of the proposal as soon as possible, according to MEP Lambert van Nistelrooij, a Dutch lawmaker from the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP).

Simplification is the keyword in the new proposal. With less complicated rules that do not stumble across one another, and in addition to the introduction of the n+2 rule, the EU executive aims to facilitate both the process for the beneficiaries and the final implementation, in order to obtain quicker results.

For the Commission, shortened priorities aim at boosting competitiveness and fighting against globalization. The final goal is to enhance member states to make proper investments while allowing some room for manoeuvre.

Crețu warned that unless procedures start taking place by 1 January 2021, thousands of programs will be in danger.

Commission proposes more spending on Italy and south, less on Visegrad Four

The European Union’s executive proposed on Tuesday (29 May) to spend more of the bloc’s money on Italy and other southern states hit by the economic and migration crises, while giving less to the Visegrad Four countries refusing to accept refugees.

Backward steps?

MEP Jan Olbrycht (EPP) underlined that the 10% cuts – a firm position on the part of the Commission – do not apply in reality, as some countries may face up to 23% reductions of their funds.

“It looks like a change of policy, not in terms of implementations but in terms of directions of the policy”, he stressed.

On the other side, vice-president of the European Parliament, Dimitris Papadimoulis (GUE/NGL), referred to macro-conditionality as something that goes against the general logic. He said the previous experience for the EU showed this was not realistic.

Before closing her speech, Crețu urged MEPs to start advocating for more contributions in the EU budget by the member states as more is needed to cover basic EU priorities.

Commission defends Cohesion-European Semester link, with suspended payments option

The Commission rushed on Wednesday (30 May) to defend its proposal on linking Cohesion Policy programmes with structural reforms in the European Semester, after MEPs and networks of regions and cities voiced concerns about the possible impact on Cohesion’s initial objectives to help less developed regions.

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