Regions gathered at the AER Brussels office for an informal briefing to prepare for an eventful day branded “Cohesion Policy Post 2020”. 28 September will be remembered as a key milestone for regions in their efforts to be heard in the discussions on the future of regional policy and cohesion funds. At the breakfast briefing, AER President Dr Hande Özsan Bozatli confirmed that “we have been working behind the scenes for two years to prepare for the next programming period and we are pleased to co-organise this day with Lower Austria and to take the lead for our members as we did in 2010 with the St. Pölten manifesto“.
The spirit and nature of the discussions were positive and constructive and comforted in the idea that regions stand strong when united. AER has been in constant open dialogue with representatives from the institutions to express the needs and mindset of regions. Ms Anna Magyar (Csongrad-HU) explained “I’m thankful to AER for taking up this important issue to make the voices of regions heard. We stand strong in numbers and can best show our support to Commissioner Corina Creţu this way”. The Autonomous Province of Vojvodina was also present, showing AER’s constant efforts (and added-value) to include regions from non-EU or accessing members.
AER Secretary General, Mr Mathieu Mori provided some insight on the declaration that will be handed to the representatives of the EU institutions, entitled “declaration for a strong renewed cohesion policy for all regions post 2020”. Each word of the title was carefully chosen and comes with a load of meaning:
- “strong“: cohesion policy must remain the key development tool for regions and the level of financing must be in line with the needs of the beneficiaries;
- “renewed” (with “new”): regions accept that Cohesion policy can be improved (flexibility, transparency, simplification, accountability, etc.) and are open and positive to proposals for change;
- “cohesion policy“: regional policy should remain a true grant rather than another funding instrument;
- “for all regions“: although some regions are more developed than others, the tool should be available to all regions as it represents a significant incentive to drive innovative policies;
- “post 2020“: although 2020 is some years away, the most important discussions that will shape cohesion policy are taking place now.
Mr Vasilis Margaras, Policy Advisor, European Parliament, shared insights from the briefing “challenges for EU cohesion policy: issues in the forthcoming post-2020 reform“. He confirmed that the timing of the event is perfect as Cohesion policy is being discussed in the European parliament, the Commission and the Council at this time. He identified hot topics that regions will have to position themselves on in the upcoming negotiations, including: possible combination of a cohesion fund and financial instruments; simplifications measures (lead by the High-level group) but which should also be bottom-up; the multitude of targets and objectives of cohesion policy; issues with macroeconomic conditionality; specialisation (geographic specificity) of the cohesion funds; alternative indicators to GDP for better / fairer allocation (for more information, click here)
Mr Sorin Grindeanu, President of Timis County (RO) explained “Cohesion policy has been the main source of investment in Romania and should remain an instrument for all regions, taking into consideration the principle of proportionality and specifications of each region”.
Ms Venema Sidony, representing AER Rapporteur Mr Michiel Rijsberman (Province of Flevoland-NL) gave some insights on the impact that Cohesion policy has had in Flevoland over the past 20 years: the funds helped create 35.000 jobs and greatly improved the situation of SMEs. Flevoland also has successful experience in combining financial instruments with grants and funds.
After the briefing, regions made their way to the Committee of the Regions for the official high-level conference where representatives from all signatory countries will take the floor for “The contribution of Europe’s regions to managing our future“.
Foster Europe Foundation (AT)
Västra Götaland (SE)
Western Slovenia (SI)
Go to the event page.
Pictures available on our Facebook page.
Read about the Summit of regions and the handover of the book of signatures.