Agreements on Cohesion Policy ensure vital funds for EU regions from 2021
Important agreements that will ensure vital funding for EU regions and outermost territories from 2021 have been welcomed by Left MEPs on the Parliament’s Regional Development committee (REGI).
After lengthy negotiations, the Cohesion Policy legislative package is almost complete and Left MEPs believe this is a good step in launching investments for EU citizens and the regions.
Over weeks, the EU Council and Parliament have managed to conclude the main aspects of the Common Provision Regulations (CPR), the European Regional Development Fund/Cohesion Fund (ERDF/CF), Interreg and the Just Transition Fund (JTF).
Yet, with still no agreement in place on the EU budget and NextGenerationEU from 2021, due to Hungary and Poland’s blockages at the Council, this week’s EU Summit is now more important than ever in unblocking regions’ and citizens’ access to the ERDF/CF & JTF.
Amongst the positive aspects of the agreement on ERDF/CF is that the social dimension has been strengthened on social housing, integration of migrants and refugees, plus the reinforcement on sustainable urban development.
In line with the European Green Deal, 30% of the funds have also been allocated to green objectives. Crucially, wording in the Growth and Stability Pact that would have meant sanctions for member states who break the EU’s deficit ‘rules’ has been weakened, meaning there is more room for manoeuvre.
However, Left MEPs remain concerned by a number of elements after the negotiations. For example, some gas projects that emit greenhouse gases can still be financed by these regional funds – even though new regulations are supposed to put a stop to this.
Exceptions have also been made for ‘productive investments’ in large enterprises, whilst the overall budget itself has been slightly decreased when compared with the current period.
Commenting on the negotiations which have been finalised ahead of the EU summit starting on Thursday, German MEP Martina Michels (Die Linke), The Left group’s shadow rapporteur on ERDF/CF and the JTF, said:
“The ERDF/CF and the JTF are extremely important to our regions and are urgently needed. I am pleased that we have succeeded in making these investments socially and ecologically more future-proof, and that the urban dimension has also been strengthened.”
“Uncertainty remains, however: it is now the EU Council’s turn to reach an agreement on the MFF budget. Empty funding pots would be a bitter New Year’s disappointment for all our regions,” she said.
On the JTF, whose negotiations had just been concluded, Michels said:
“Our key goals for the JTF have been attained: to keep fossil fuels out of this fund and to make it the tool for a socially just transition in regions with most challenges, and help bring us on our way to a climate neutral Europe.”
Meanwhile, Younous Omarjee, (France Insoumise, France), chair of the Parliament’s REGI committee and who has been heavily involved in negotiating all the agreements, said:
“These agreements mark a decisive step.”
“The Cohesion Policy is now the EU’s primary investment policy and will be the main EU instrument in implement the European Green Deal”.
“We notably succeeded in weakening the links between the Stability & Growth Pact and the Cohesion Policy. Thus, sanctions which are linked to member states with excessive deficit will not be applicable as long as the general escape clause is activated.”
“We also ensured the future of the outermost regions,” he concluded.
There has also been good news on the Interreg front – a key element in the EU’s for cross-border cooperation between partners.
Cypriot MEP Niyazi Kızılyürek (AKEL) says “the agreement on the new Interreg funding, as part of the ERDF, is a very positive step towards regional cooperation.”
“Although there is always room for improvement, we are satisfied to see the focus being given to environmental and social issues, as well as people-to-people projects.”
In the EU Parliament next week, the recovery package for the Covid-19 crisis for the EU’s regions, REACT-EU, will feature heavily in the December plenary session, and for Michels, the recent negotiations will also mean quicker and more flexible funds for the regions most in need:
“With the REACT-EU fund, member states will be able tackle mainly the social impacts caused by the ongoing pandemic. People and regions most affected by the Covid-19 crisis can now hope for quick and flexible money from the EU.”
“For the first time at least, there will be fresh money to fight this extraordinary crisis – but only if Hungary and Poland will stop blocking the MFF budget without compromising on the rule of law mechanism,” the German MEP concluded.
With the clock ticking, Left MEPs therefore believe that it is critical that this week’s EU summit will unblock the MFF and NextGenerationEU for the many regions and outermost territories.
Hungary & Poland’s budget vetoes are holding back regions’ access to vital funds.