Cohesion Policy post-2020 – a complex mix of priorities
Portugal firmly supports keeping a strong Cohesion Policy, with adequate resources to pursue its main objectives: enabling Member States and regions to converge with the European Union's development standards.
To this end, it is important to maintain a solid EU budget, looking for new solutions in the context of the debate on Europe’s own resources (for which the contributions from the Monti Report cannot be ignored), that meet the results of Brexit and, of course, the financing of new challenges and policies.
Cohesion Policy must increasingly strengthen its focus on competitiveness by supporting innovation, skills and employment as key factors for real convergence and lasting cohesion.
But this approach must be complemented with specific tools to support convergence of cohesion countries. And the focus on planning and results must be safeguarded.
Ex-ante conditionalities should be maintained and strengthened and, where appropriate, ex-post conditionalities created, with ‘incentives" to stimulate convergence of the least-developed Member States.
A similar contractual logic ought to guide a deeper and less bureaucratic shared management between the European Commission and Member States, on the basis of “trust contracts”. Within the perspective of contracting results, more can be done to reinforce the link between national reform programmes and implementation of the Structural Funds.
To do this, we need to reconcile policies and measures to support competitiveness for convergence and employment, on the one hand, with others aimed at improving territorial competitiveness and cohesion, on the other.
Initially, policies should focus on: (i) innovation and knowledge, to ensure conditions of business competitiveness and the development of scientific and technological grounds for renewed strategies based on innovation; and qualification, training and employment to ensure the availability of human resources with the necessary skills for economic and social development and upgrading.
On the other hand, policies and measures geared towards territorial competitiveness and cohesion should focus on: (i) energy and climate change, ensuring conditions for reducing energy dependency; (ii) the economy of the sea, reinforcing its strategic potential (including the maritime frontier); (iii) reinforcing the link to global networks and markets, promoting competitiveness and attractiveness of urban regions as well as their social cohesion; and (iv) additional focus on low-density and cross-border territories, to strengthen cross-border cooperation and their competitiveness, taking advantage of endogenous resources.
In brief, this is the complex mix of priorities that Cohesion Policy must address, preparing European economies to face an inevitable structural economic change in the context of globalisation and digital transformation while, at the same time, keeping to the path of a sustained reduction in territorial inequalities.
Minister of Planning and Infrastructures, Portugal