On May 29th the EU Commission released its proposal for the Regional Development and Cohesion Policy beyond 2020. For the next long-term EU budget (2021-2027), the Commission proposes to reform and modernise the Cohesion Policy.
With a budget of €373 billion in commitments for 2021-2027, the future Cohesion Policy has the investment power to help tackle persistent gaps between and within Member States and less developed regions.
Commissioner for Regional policy Corina Creţu announced a set of rules “more flexible, to adapt to new priorities (…). We also made the rules simpler and this will benefit all, from small businesses and entrepreneurs to schools and hospitals that will get easier access to the funds."
The proposals’ main features include more simplified rules and access to business and cut red tape to help management and making synergies across funds and programmes. All regions will continue to benefit from the funds, including the less developed regions, and also the richer regions, helping them to transition into a more modernised economy.
The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund will focus on innovation, support to small businesses, digital technologies and industrial modernisation. It will also go to the shift towards a low-carbon, circular economy and the fight against climate change, delivering on the Paris Agreement.
The 3 previous categories of regions will be kept. As such, regions will still be divided into Less-developed, transition and more developed regions. In addition, GDP per capita remains the predominant criterion for allocating funds. This classical criterion will be cumulative with new criteria to reflect the reality on the ground – youth unemployment, low education level, climate change and the reception and integration of migrants.
In the 2021-2027 cohesion policy, local, urban and territorial authorities will be more involved in the management of EU funds, while increased co-financing rates will improve ownership of EU-funded projects in regions and cities.
The new rules are set to be fewer, clearer, and shorter which means, for example, simplified access to funds for businesses and entrepreneurs. Control procedures will also downgrade.
A single rulebook for all funds to help management and induce synergies is also foreseen.
The proposal contemplates a single set of rules to cover all 7 EU funds, to implement in partnership with Member States ('shared management'), which will make life easier for EU funds programme managers.
It will also facilitate synergies, for example between Cohesion Policy fund and the Asylum and Migration Fund when it comes to the development of local integration strategies for migrants.
The new framework is also flexible enough to cope with unforeseen events. A mid-term review will assess the need to reallocate funds in the programmes.
The Commission proposes to strengthen the link between Cohesion Policy and the European Semester, to create growth and a business-friendly environment in Europe, so that both EU and national investments can deliver their full potential. This stronger Cohesion Policy' support to structural reforms is supposed to ensure full complementarity and coordination with the new, enhanced Reform Support Programme.
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