Regional and local authorities welcome Commission plans for future cohesion policy

Committee of the Regions President Mercedes Bresso supported in a meeting with Commissioner Johannes Hahn that the proposals about future regional funding were a step in the right direction. In the Committee's view, the Commission plans would benefit all regions, supporting their efforts to create better economic opportunities for all, and improving living conditions and sustained development. However, the Committee also considers that the idea of freezing regional aid for overspending countries would unfairly punish regional and local governments for decisions taken at national levels.

The European Union regional aid co-finances thousands of projects, from waste water plants to training for the unemployed and innovation clusters. It is for that reason that, as highlighted by president of the Committee of the Regions, Mercedes Bresso, regional and local authorities welcome Commission's proposal to overhaul EU regional funding, whose current scheme which accounts for around 50 billion Euro a year will expire in 2013 and therefore needs to be revised.

The European Commission's 5th cohesion report on cohesion presented earlier November gives the tone for the debate about the reform of cohesion policy.  The report underlines that future investments must be closely aligned to the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy, and proposes stricter conditions as well as incentives for handling EU funds.

In order to discuss how this proposals will impact on regions and cities, the Committee of the Regions brought together at Brussels headquarters of the Committee, EU Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn, members of the Committee of the Regions as well as politicians from associations representing regional and local authorities.

The Committee of the Regions has also welcomed the suggested transition arrangements for regions that are about to drop out of the highest funding category. The Committee's official report on these plans will be prepared over the coming months by Michel Delebarre.

The EU treaty obliges the European Commission to publish a report every three years on the progress made towards achieving economic, social and territorial cohesion, i.e. the efforts to close the development gaps between Europe's regions. The 5th cohesion report was published on 10 November and marks a watershed in the debate on the future of cohesion spending in the next EU budget.

The publication of this report has marked the launch of a public debate which includes a public Consultation on the Conclusions of the Fifth Report on Economic and Social Cohesion. The results of this public debate and contributions made by interested parties, will be the base for first legislative proposals which are expected for summer 2011.