Cohesion Policy will change significantly from a solidarity instrument to an investment policy

Press Release - The Commission Work Programme 2014 

Mr. Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration spoke on Friday at the CoR’s plenary about European Commission’s priorities for the upcoming year.  

2014 will be the start of the next programming period for cohesion policy. The programmes that will be approved next year will to an important extent determine how European investments will be steered in the next seven years. This can be achieved only with an active partnership with regional and local authorities. Local and regional authorities are a crucial link between Europe’s top-level priority of reaching smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and the needs, expectations and knowledge of our citizens. Those needs are clear. As the Commission's progress report on economic, social and territorial cohesion published back in June clearly shows, unemployment is the number one concern at the local, regional, national and EU level.

This crisis has had a widespread effect, on both more- and less-developed regions. As a result, the disparities between EU regions have started to grow again after a long period of convergence. Now the challenge is to ensure that all regions return to a positive growth path.

The 2014-2020 cohesion policy programmes should ensure that their investments contribute most to overcoming the impact of the crisis on our regions and cities. That's why cohesion policy is now concentrated on key thematic areas that are directly related to the objectives of Europe 2020.

The Commission is also proposing a reinforced territorial approach. This will cater to the specific needs of particular territories, foster integration of territories and build on the local knowledge of its potential.

There is a growing understanding of the importance of integrated territorial development and the functional links in and between territories. This is reflected by the strong emphasis on integration: integration of funds within a Common Strategic Framework for the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund; and integration of sectorial investment to address major territorial challenges.

The Commission has also developed a code of conduct that should ensure the involvement of local and regional authorities in the drafting of the Partnership Agreements and the Operational Programmes at the national level.

Experience has shown that working together across borders – be they national, regional or local – can often bring the best results, and the Commission strongly believes that exchange of best practice, co-operation, capacity building and knowledge development are crucial in helping local and regional authorities get the most out of the funds at their disposal. There are a number of cohesion policy programmes that focus on these precise aspects: INTERREG, URBACT and ESPON in particular. This support will be continued.

But we also see a growing demand for a stronger urban agenda at the European level. Over the next year, the Commission will host a number of events to debate how Member States and EU institutions should work together to ensure that cities play their full role in European development – and that their needs are fully reflected in policy thinking.

There are a number of factors that explain this. One of the most important is globalisation and its effect on regional economies. National competitiveness in the global marketplace is increasingly dependent on the regions. Regional economies, often based on clusters often involving both the public and private sectors, are increasingly the nodal points in global production networks and increasingly outward-looking.

Recent research points to the key role of geographical approaches in capitalising on assets, such as knowledge, skills, specialisation, and on proximity between economic agents which is region-specific. This is notably the case for innovation, which is a process where success is often determined by specific local circumstances and capacities and is a key driver of regional economic development.

Cooperation between regions and local communities has contributed much to the development of the EU. We need cooperation to achieve sustainable development: few regions can resolve their difficulties on their own.

Read full press release from the 29th of November here

Source: European Commission Press Releases Database