Bruxelles, 22 January 2019

[check against delivery]

Madame Chair,

Honourable Members of the European Parliament

First of all my best wishes for the New Year.

I wish health and happiness to you and your families.

Let me start with thanking you for the adoption of the CPR report.

It is a key milestone in the post-2020 negotiations.

It is of very high quality.

And produced in a very short time.

Especially taking into account the thousands of amendments tabled.

My thanks and congratulations to the co-rapporteurs Constanze and Andrey as well as to all of you and all your staff for the report.

You all deserve high praise.

I warmly welcome your support for the guiding principles of our reform: modernisation, flexibility and simplification.

I also welcome your support on: the new structure of the policy objectives, the renewed Partnership Agreement and programmes, the strengthened territorial, place-based approach, simplifications of project management and the management and control system.

I appreciate too your support for the budget of Cohesion Policy.

Thank you for your trust in our Policy.

And for your conviction that economic, social and territorial cohesion should remain at the heart of the European Project.

The report arrives at a crucial moment.

As well as the report on Interreg adopted last week by the plenary.

My congratulations to the rapporteur Pascal Arimont and the shadows for a high quality report.

Because now is the time to push forward.

If we want to avoid delay in launching the post-2020 programmes, we must adopt the regulations this year.

Otherwise there will not be time to prepare programmes.

Now is also the time to open discussions in the trilogues.

You have proven your readiness with this report.

We need to start immediately.

So I ask you and the Presidency to maintain the momentum, into the trilogues.

We must maintain momentum, but we must also maintain the quality of the proposals.

For an effective, dynamic, modern cohesion policy.

So allow me to remind you of key elements of the Commission proposals.

In my view, these key elements must be maintained.

I ask for your support to ensure that key elements are not “watered down” during the negotiations.

The first key element: a partnership agreement for all Member States.

Your report rightly puts great emphasis: on the strategic basis of our policy, on strengthening coordination, and on synergies between the EU funds.

I firmly believe that all countries should have a strategic approach.

And all countries should have a partnership agreement.

Even countries with smaller allocations.

Even countries with only a couple of programmes.

To effectively invest European resources, we need an overarching view.

We need a strong strategic basis.

A snapshot for every single Member State, presenting the policy objectives, and the main results expected.

These issues are not technicalities.

They are fundamental, strategic policy choices.

And our new streamlined Partnership Agreement proposal creates no additional administrative burden.One important strategic choice: Co-ordination between funds.

I strongly believe in a full and complete Partnership Agreement.

We proposed having 7 funds to the CPR in order to boost synergies with cohesion policy at strategic level and during implementation.

Covering all 7 funds and all 27 countries.

We cannot accept double standards.

We cannot accept different rules for different member states.

We cannot accept different rules for different funds.

I hope I can count on your support.

The second key element: 5+2 programming

I encourage you to keep an open mind.

Since I believe this is necessary to make the mid-term review meaningful.

Programming all the funding at the beginning reduces flexibility.

Experience shows that programmed money is less flexible,

less likely to respond to new challenges.

Deleting 5+2 programming represents a step back, a step away from flexibility.

There is an argument that 5+2 programming is bad for long term projects.

I am not convinced by this argument.

Long-term projects will remain at the heart of future cohesion policy.

Their continuity will form part of the mid-term review.

They could thus be selected early in the period, a common practice in the current period.

Even for projects implemented after the review, there will be four full years to finalise them.

In fact, we should call it a “5+4” instead of 5+2 because expenditure can run until end 2029.

So 5+2 offers more flexibility for spending and does not hinder long term planning.

The third key element: thematic concentration.

I know that Andrea Cozzolino is working hard on the ERDF and Cohesion Fund opinion.

I look forward to seeing the outcome.

In the meantime, let me say: our proposals for thematic concentration are ambitious.

Our targets for policy objectives 1 and 2 are ambitious.

But surely we should be ambitious in moving to a smarter Europe

Surely we should be ambitious in moving to a greener and low-carbon Europe

I would add that these two objectives are broader than current ring-fencing.

So there is a lot of flexibility in thematic concentration.

Flexibility to take regional and local needs into account.

In this context, let me say that our proposals have the flexibility to cover a wide variety of structural challenges.

I am thinking here of the coal and carbon intensive regions.

I believe that additional support instruments, such as a separate “Just Energy Transition Fund”, would duplicate efforts and fragment funding.

Indeed, experience from the Coal Regions in Transition tells a different story.

It is not the lack of funding, but the lack of administrative capacity which limits the development of appropriate strategies and projects.

And I would also point out that cohesion policy is already known and accessed by local SMEs.

A new fund would create confusion for project promoters and beneficiaries.

The fourth key element, is an overarching one:

Simplification.

Thank you for your support on this.

Thank you for the trust in our common efforts for simplification.

Because the many simplifications in our proposals are based to suggestions and ideas from all members of the cohesion family.

We have simplified and streamlined programme set up.

We have simplified payment claims.

We have simplified the audit process.

We have greater alignment of rules across funds.

We have aligned the rules for grants and financial instruments.

In fact, as you know, we have a handbook of 80 key simplifications.

Thank you for your support in all these proposals.

We are in favour of simplification.

But let us remember: simplification is not an end in itself flexibility is not an end in itself.

Cohesion is our end, cohesion is our goal.

Simplification and flexibility are simply the means.

Our highest goal must remain the quality and effectiveness of the policy.

This effectiveness is underpinned by elements such as:

Partnership Agreements, 5+2 programming, thematic concentration and simplification.

These are pillars of an effective policy.

Whatever renovations we propose for the house, we must strengthen and maintain the pillars.

In conclusion, thank you again for your support.

And for your speed.

I ask for your continued support in delivering a quality, effective policy, in getting it through the trilogues, and delivering it soon.

We need to start working as soon as possible.

We must use every single day available, every day between now and the April plenary, to advance negotiations.

The most important items

For the preparations of post-2020 programmes are in the negotiating mandates of both co-legislators.

I am thinking of course of programming and of management and control.

Together these make up more than one-third of the regulation.

There is no risk in going ahead already.

We all know that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

This would give the next Parliament a firm basis on which to build.

This will provide clarity to our managing authorities and to beneficiaries.

You are already setting the pace.

Your report on the CPR covers the entire proposal,

The same goes for the ETC regulation.

I urge you to press ahead, and set the pace from now till the end of April.

Thank you for your support!