Regions angry about Commission’s ‘biased’ questionnaire on cohesion policy

Cohesion is the biggest loser from the EU's new budget proposal and regions and cities have expressed their concern. [Richard/Flickr]

The Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) heavily criticised the European Commission’s consultation launched on 10 January on the future of cohesion policy, saying it is prejudiced and poses a threat to the continuation of the policy.

The Commission replied that the questionnaire was part of a consultation process, not a policy document.

The European Commission launched on Wednesday a public consultation on the future cohesion policy in the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework, the EU’s long-term budget.

The cohesion policy, which represents approximately 1/3 of the EU budget, is seen as an investment policy and aims at reducing disparities among EU regions.

Following the publication of the questionnaire, the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR), an association representing more than 160 regions across Europe, reacted strongly, saying that the consultation does not consult stakeholders on the future of cohesion as a policy, but instead focuses on the so-called “EU funds in the area of Cohesion”.

“This also covers the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF), the Fund for European Aid for the Most Deprived (FEAD) and the Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) programme,” CPMR claimed.

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The “disturbing” elements

The association pointed out a number of “disturbing” elements in the questionnaire, whose results it said will lead to a “biased vision”.

CPMR highlighted question 33, which asks the stakeholders, “To what extent do the current programmes/funds add value, compared to what member states could achieve at national, regional and/or local levels without EU funds?”

According to CPMR Secretary General Eleni Marianou, this is a clear hint about a potential renationalisation of cohesion policy.

In addition, there is no reference at all to territorial cohesion or to a territorial dimension of cohesion policy, while regions are only mentioned once and there are only two mentions of cohesion policy.

“We fear that this questionnaire is misleading and poses a threat to the continuation of cohesion policy,” Marianou emphasised.

Consultation is not a policy paper

Contacted by EURACTIV, a Commission spokesperson said that what was launched yesterday was a consultation, not a policy document.

“The Commission has launched a series of public consultations on the next long-term budget framework as a whole, and expects to receive many constructive inputs that will feed into the reflection on the future of EU finances, after 2020,” the EU official noted, adding that all voices will be heard in the process.

“As a matter of fact, on 7 December, President Juncker met with several representatives of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions, to listen to their opinions on what the next Cohesion Policy after 2020 should look like,” the Commission spokesperson underlined, claiming that the executive is engaged in the process with an “open mind”.

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