The underlying idea of the European Union is a peaceful cooperation between its different peoples and nations. Member States have defined common rights, duties and objectives in the Treaty of Lisbon. One of the key objectives of the Union is to promote economic, social and territorial cohesion, and solidarity among its various regions. This very objective is pursued with European Cohesion Policy, which creates for regions a unique investment instrument at an EU level, enabling regions to set up genuine development strategies witch transcend national borders, and to fully participate in all EU policies such as the internal market while constituting, for the whole Union, the major policy for cohesion and long-term investment.
The Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D Group) fully backs the objective of economic, social and territorial cohesion. With this position paper, we seek to define a modern Cohesion Policy for tomorrow, learning from experiences from the past and taking into account challenges of today.
We want a Cohesion Policy that
a) strives to attain sustainable economic development in regions, which will generate quality jobs, while fully respecting the COP21 agreement and Sustainable Development Goals;
b) creates quality infrastructure for transport, telecommunication, and smart energy provision;
c) supports regions in their response to common challenges arising from globalisation, climate change and migration, etc.;
d) supports citizens in their development towards meeting their individual aspirations , needs and present challenges;
e) will therefore work to fully involve regions in line with their requirements.
To attain these goals we will have to set our priorities wisely. It will be indispensable to have an appropriate budget for Cohesion Policy, striking a good balance between investments in citizens as well as investments for citizens.
In this vein, for the S&D Group it is key that a modern Cohesion Policy in particular:
• invests in quality education, training and vocational training;
• improves the labour market situation, creates quality jobs, and tackles youth unemployment in particular;
• promotes social inclusion, combats poverty and any form of discrimination.
• supports the development of cultural and creative industries that are closely linked to innovation and creativity.
At the same time, a modern Cohesion Policy has to aim at attainment of objectives of a ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive’ growth. Taking into account present reality while anticipating the challenges lying ahead of us, our priorities therefore especially are:
• promotion of research, technological development, innovation and creativity;
• investment in SMEs and start-ups;
• investment in digitalisation of industries and societies.
Furthermore, we want a modern Cohesion Policy to support the development of smart cities and rural areas.
To achieve these goals, a Cohesion Policy of tomorrow will need to be further simplified. We need to further diminish red tape that burdens regions and citizens, the main benefiters of Cohesion Policy.
Most importantly, we need the support of citizens on our side. They have to be fully involved in the development of future strategies for their regions. Only by this mean we can achieve real cohesion between regions with different strengths and weaknesses in the long-term.
That is what the S&D Group stands for, that is what we are defending.
S&D Group insists that Cohesion Policy has to continue to play the fundamental role it has had since its establishment. CP is the main EU-wide policy that delivers added value on the ground which cannot be met by any other type of policy. It has been a key tool not only for reducing development gaps between the different European regions, but it also proved to be decisive to sustain the economy through investments at micro level, also during economic and financial crisis, in particular in areas where national investments lack or are insufficient. CP needs to take into account the trend of the economic development and societal progress of the regions.
The bulk of Cohesion Policy funding is concentrated on less developed EU countries and regions in order to help them to catch up and to reduce the economic, social and territorial disparities that still exist in the EU. However, it is important that all regions continue to receive Cohesion Policy funds. Cohesion Policy is also a catalyst for further public and private funding, not only because it obliges Member States to co-finance from the national budget, but since it also creates investor confidence. A continuous and strengthened CP in the post-2020 period is needed if the EU wants to achieve its set objectives and to reduce existing social and economic divergences between regions and member states. We want a Cohesion Policy, which is visible but also sustainable in long-term perspective by addressing the key problems of our economies and our societies. CP policy is an important tool to support Europe regions and cities to deal with new challenges, such as migration, needed measures against climate change, Energy Union, Digital Single Market, skills and employment, etc.
Cohesion policy has contributed significantly to the implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy and to the achievement of its goals for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. This Strategy needs to be revised accordingly in view of the post-2020 period of which CP should be part. We must ensure that our priorities are included in a new post-2020 EU strategy.
Against this background, we want Cohesion Policy to focus on the following priorities post-2020: