CoR warns about risks of funding freeze for countries flouting budget rules

Committee of the Regions President Mercedes Bresso reiterated Committee's warning against an EU ‘funding freeze’ for countries that breach budget deficit rules. President Bresso made this statement before ministers in charge of regional policy and urged their support to request the Commission to fully rework this proposal.

With the objective to debate recent Commission proposals to align regional programming closer to the 'Europe 2020' goals, toughen up its rules and link it more to policy and budget performance, the Belgian Presidency gathered together member state's ministers, representatives from the European Commission, the European Parliament as well as the Committee of the Regions. This meeting was the first opportunity for member states' ministers to discuss the reform proposals put forward in the Commission's 5th cohesion report, published on 10 November.

During the debate, president Bresso expressed Committee's firm opposition to the proposed ‘macroeconomic conditionality’, opposition which is shared by all local and regional authorities, as there were clear statements on this issue over the previous days.

The Committee stands for the fact that it is not acceptable to punish regions by withholding structural funds money from them, as it is national governments who don’t respect the stability and growth pact.

A key question debated by ministers was how cohesion policy and the Europe 2020 goals should be linked in the future. At the request of the Belgian Presidency, the CoR had explored the issue in a recent opinion. CoR’s position agrees that regional aid should contribute to smarter, greener and more inclusive growth, provided that the specific nature of each region is taken into account. Cohesion policy must give regions the option of seizing development opportunities outside of the Europe 2020 framework and to choose only some selected priorities. The Committee considers that this is more than a question of subsidiarity, it is also a question of efficiency.

Over the coming months the Committee of the Regions will draft its official response to the Commission plans. Following a public consultation and the Cohesion Forum on 31 January and 1 February 2011, the Commission is expected to publish first legislative proposals on the future structural funds by summer 2011.