Watch the GUE/NGL Hearing on The Future of Cohesion Policy:
Panel 1: “Experiences from former cohesion countries – Impact of cohesion policy on economic and social development and perspectives”
09.00 – 10.30
- Introduction by Dimitrios Papadimoulis, Vice-President of the European Parliament
- Alexis Charitsis, Greek Deputy Economy Minister in charge of EU funds
- Daithi McKay, Sinn Fein MLA for the north of Ireland
- Josu Juaristi, GUE/NGL MEP
- Opening of debate with the local and regional representatives
- Closing of debate and conclusions by Josu Juaristi
15' coffee break
Panel 2: “The future of cohesion policy after 2020”- ongoing political debates and challenges that impact on the future of cohesion policy
10.45 – 12.30
- Introduction by Martina Michels, GUE/NGL MEP
- Peter Berkowitz, DG REGIO, Head of Unit Policy Development, Strategic Management, Relations with the Council DG for Regional and Urban Policy
- Anne Quart, State secretary for EU affairs and consumer protection, Brandenburg region
- Opening of debate with the local and regional representatives
- Closing of debate and conclusions by Martina Michels
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Report on this event:
Panel 1: Cohesion Policy must be a bastion against austerity
Amidst threats to European solidarity from all sides, GUE/NGL held a conference to examine the future of Cohesion Policy and how to make it sustainable on March 3 at the European Parliament in Brussels.
Vice President of European Parliament, Dimitrios Papadimoulis (GUE/NGL) remarked: “If we refer to the European Treaties, the reduction of inequality is one of the primary goals of the European Union. Unfortunately, in practice the disparities are increasing.”
“Cohesion Policies are important in order to improve the social conditions and to limit the social polarity, while the social indicators between North and South are getting worse”. “There is a strong trend of widening inequality and divergence rather than cohesion,” continued Papadimoulis.
Greek Deputy Minister for the Economy, Alexis Charitsis, who is responsible for European funds and spoke at the conference, explained: “In Greece, we have been managing European funds for 30 years, but the objective of European cohesion has not been achieved.
There are many reasons for this, including enlargement without consideration for the budget, social dumping and reduced investment. The funds arrived to support the existing apparatus at the time, but they have not been modernised.”
“Austerity policies cannot be combined with cohesion policies. The dominance of the neoliberal model means limited capacity to impose an alternative fiscal expansion and strengthen investment.”
“To rectify this situation, our government is conscientiously reinforcing transparency in the management of the funds and focusing on the segments of the population that have not benefitted from these funds in the past.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure that the younger generation can receive credit, invest and escape from the austerity crisis. It is for their sake that we refuse the politics of austerity. That's how we will be able to achieve cohesion.”
Sinn Fein Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Daithi McKay, who spoke at the event, described the importance of Cohesion Policy's PEACE programme which has helped to bring the communities closer together within his region; as well as the European Regional Development Fund for neighbourhood regeneration, the European Social Fund for employment and the Interreg programmes for territorial cooperation projects like a train between Belfast and Dublin. However, not all of the objectives, such as the struggle against poverty have been achieved.
On this basis, McKay stated: “We must ensure that these funds truly achieve their objectives. To accomplish this, the more local the management, the more efficient it will be.”
His point of view is shared by Basque MEP, Josu Juaristi Abaunz, for whom local and regional authorities are not, despite the positive discourse, sufficiently taken into account in reality.
Panel 2: GUE/NGL: We must ensure the future of the Cohesion Policy after 2020
What will be the future for Cohesion Policy after 2020? This is a sensitive question that GUE/NGL opened up for discussion at a conference on March 3 in the European Parliament in Brussels.
German MEP, Martina Michels, expressed her concerns: “In crisis, we keep searching for ad hoc solutions and then afterwards we wonder where the funds have gone! It seems that the Cohesion Policy is being treated as a reserve from which we draw funds when need them. We cannot accept that, as this policy is indispensable for our regions.”
Secretary of State for European Affairs and consumer Protection in the region of Brandenburg, Germany, Anne Quart, who spoke at the conference, is a witness to the positive impact of these funds in her region: “We have experienced many delays in our region after reunification, but the Cohesion Policy has enabled us to catch up. For us, collaboration and communication are the watchwords for these funds. However, there can be no doubt that regions like Brandenburg will need continued support and funding also from the EU level in order to avoid putting past achievements at risk.”
Quart outlined her recommendations for the future, primarily on the need for simplification: “We must reduce the administrative burden; the management and implementation are too complicated, especially for the leaders of smaller projects.”
“The European Union should provide guidelines, but it should not enter into the detail of monitoring compliance. In addition, the management of funds is sometimes tangled up in the European and national regulations. We would like the national rules to prevail where possible – that would simplify the task enormously.”
Martina Michels concluded: “The next period after 2020 will be determined by the lessons that we have learned from the current funding period. Our hearing served as an extremely interesting exchange of experiences and an important starting point for further discussion on the future strategy for Cohesion Policy. As a tangible policy of solidarity, Cohesion Policy must be retained. While it cannot iron out the mistakes of other policies at national or EU level, it is and must remain the most visible expression of the benefits of cooperation in a united Europe for the people.”