This opinion, requested by the Bulgarian Presidency, aims to evaluate the strategic value of Cohesion Policy for pursuing the Treaty objectives and facing new challenges for European regions. It draws on the observations in the 7th Cohesion Report and is set to send an early-warning message to the EU against downgrading the policy post 2020.

Strengthening the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the European Union is one of the EU’s main objectives stipulated in Article 174 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. This opinion provides the CoR with an excellent opportunity to enter into a wider reflection on the strategic role of Cohesion Policy at a crucial juncture for its future. As highlighted in the 7th Cohesion Report, the EU economy is recovering from the economic crisis and regional disparities have just started to narrow again. However, the rapporteur also points out that many regions have not yet reached their pre-crisis levels of GDP per capita and employment and are now facing a significant backlog in terms of public investment. He concludes that the impact of the crisis is has not been overcome. Moreover, he welcomes the general trend in employment rates whilst noting significant regional disparities and expressing concern for youth unemployment in certain areas. The CoR opinion also addresses its concern that the key environmental objectives remain unfulfilled, particularly in the central and eastern parts of the EU. In view of all these challenges, the rapporteur is proposing that adaptation of regional economies requires long-term, place-based and place-sensitive strategies able to integrate the economic, social and territorial dimensions. Cohesion policy offers much potential to exploit the opportunities stemming from global transformation, but this should also be combined with Territorial Impact Assessments when designing EU public policies to maximise their efficiency. The opining concludes with a warning: downgrading or fragmenting the funding of Cohesion Policy would bring major political risks, calling into question the capacity of the EU to fulfil the Treaty objectives of strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion due to a lack of critical mass of support in many regions, meaning also lower investments in key European objectives.

Adoption timetable:

  • 1st First discussion and adoption in COTER on 06 February 2018
  • Final adoption in Plenary session of March 2018

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