No big winners and losers in new Cohesion funds, Oettinger says  

Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger speaks at the Plenary Session of the European Committee of the Regions in Brussels on 16 May, 2018. [Flickr/European Committee of the Regions]

The European Commission is determined to protect the integrity of its Cohesion Policy but this is going to be a battle where no one can have it all, the EU’s Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger told the Committee of the Regions plenary on Thursday (May 16).

“We should avoid a fight where Cohesion is opposed to migration, where agriculture is opposed to defence policy,” Oettinger underlined.

While the Commission is open to discussion, the final deal cannot be that different from the original proposal. In any case, though, Cohesion will continue to have an important future in the EU budget, simply “because it works”, he said.

“We need unanimity. One member state vetoing can block everything,” the Commissioner added during the debate.

Karl-Heinz Lambertz, CoR president, stressed that the Committee of the Regions is satisfied with the overall proposal, however, “we cannot accept all of the quotes without resistance. Europe is not just Brussels or Strasbourg. It is everywhere”.

The CoR is now awaiting the legislative proposals from the part of the Commission that will get to the sectoral provisions in the next two to four weeks. According to Oettinger, it would be useful to have another consultation in September, before the negotiation between Council and Parliament starts.

Under the current system (the ‘Berlin method’) the regions are divided in three different categories according to their GDP and GNI. There are three thresholds, 75%, 90% and 90%+ of the EU GDP, used to define the amount of grants and co-financing for each region. But Oettinger said this might also need to evolve.

Oettinger argued that the method needs to be finetuned to avoid extreme re-allocation of funds between the member states. “We have to reduce these extremes. We need to build that safety net. So that for example, the maximum a region can lose would be 30% of resources or the maximum allocation a region could reach is 70%,” Commissioner said.

“In some regions, the policy has failed but in some cases that is being done intentionally”.

The Commission insists that the proposed €373 billion budget for Cohesion is still an ambitious one. “In nominal terms, the budget is increased whereas in actual terms there is a reduction of 6.7%”, Oettinger said.

Therefore, Cohesion’s reduced share in the next long-term budget should be regarded in the context of the general current conditions and the challenges Europe needs to address, like external border protection, migration, terrorism, internal and external security, defence and global competition in science.

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