«The European project cannot survive without a stronger cohesion policy»

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Since its creation, the European project has been based on two pillars: solidarity and economic and social development. The benefits of the single market, associated with cohesion policy, have brought investments to every corner of Europe, helping to improve everyone’s daily lives. Today, in view of the European elections, the increase in discontent among citizens is worrying. A discontent that can be addressed by highlighting the indispensable benefits of cohesion policy for all European territories and communities.

Redistribution of well-being between territories

A new public park in a densely urbanized neighbourhood, a renovated school in an area of ​​high demographic dispersion or a training course for workers who risk losing their jobs are all examples that show the European Union in action. In particular, they are examples of the effectiveness of cohesion policy, which is the EU’s main and most powerful tool for reducing economic, social and territorial inequalities by redistributing well-being between regions and cities. This is around a third of the entire Union budget, i.e. over 350 billion euros in the current decade. Cohesion policy is expected to create 1.3 million jobs and provide support to 850,000 businesses and at least 6.5 million unemployed people. Cohesion policy produces concrete effects on the territory, but this is not enough. The last five years have tested the ability of the European project, the Member States, local communities and citizens to face unexpected challenges without putting at risk fundamental values ​​and principles such as democracy, solidarity, cooperation, subsidiarity, Rule of law and environmental protection. The COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and Russia’s war against Ukraine have created new inequalities and exacerbated existing structural vulnerabilities in Europe. The only way to reverse this trend is to have a stronger and more effective European cohesion policy.

More flexible, result-oriented and more visible cohesion

It is clear that cohesion policy needs reform: it must become more flexible, simpler, more results-oriented and more visible to citizens. Cohesion policy is and must remain a policy for all regions of Europe, from the poorest to the richest. It must continue to be based on a governance model that guarantees the involvement of local and regional administrators, from the planning phase to the implementation phase. It must remain a long-term investment policy and cannot be the reservoir from which to withdraw resources to resolve each new emergency that the EU finds itself facing, instead becoming an agile tool to deal with this type of circumstance, unfortunately always more frequent. In short, cohesion policy must remain the cornerstone of economic, social and territorial development in Europe. The stakes are high: if we do not convince EU governments of the value and impact of cohesion policy, we run the risk of leaving some regions behind, worsening inequalities and losing sight of the initial objective of this policy: solidarity.

What the European regions are asking for

We, as the European Committee of the Regions, spokesperson for over one million political representatives elected at local and regional level, call on the EU institutions to make territorial, economic and social cohesion the point of reference for all European policies. Without cohesion, the entire European project risks failing. Let us reform cohesion policy to enable our regions and cities to face new challenges and growing inequalities. It is the only way to keep the European Union united and make it stronger.

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