Luxembourg, 12 April 2018

[check against delivery]

 

1. FIRST TOPIC: PRIORITIES FOR COHESION POLICY POST-2020

Thank you very much, Chair.

Dear Ministers, Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning,

 

I would like to thank the Bulgarian Presidency for organising this meeting dedicated to cohesion policy and the Presidency Conference on the 8th of June.

Today’s discussion is an important political milestone: it is the last General Affairs Council before the Commission makes its proposal for the next Multiannual Financial Framework, early May.

No Member State, no region will be immune from the challenges in the future.

Hence the relevance of a cohesion policy for all.

This means securing a budget sufficient enough to do the job.

This brings me to your first question on the priorities for cohesion policy and how it can contribute to broader reforms.

As highlighted in the last Cohesion Report, cohesion policy must continue to focus on innovation, social inclusion, and climate change mitigation.

In particular, cohesion policy should keep championing smart specialisation strategies.

By breaking silos, these strategies have been a laboratory for policy-making, helping all regions to be more competitive.

Cohesion policy should also continue to invest in people fighting social exclusion in urban deprived areas skills mismatch, health or industrial regions in transition.

These are, I believe, areas where cohesion policy has made a real difference, and it should continue to do so.

I also believe we need to have a more upfront approach towards the migrant and refugee crisis.

This human tragedy is here to stay.

I think cohesion policy can help provide a long-term response.

All these priorities, ladies and gentlemen, should continue to be addressed through an integrated approach, so as to meet the specific needs on the ground, and avoid overlaps.

This requires a simpler and clearer way to set up our priorities.

We can start by making the thematic menu of priorities more flexible.

I know we also share the view that cohesion policy cannot operate in isolation.

The wider macroeconomic context must be taken into account when laying out our investment strategy.

We need to agree on positive ways to incentivise reforms through our policy.

On the second part of our discussion, regarding the scope of our policy, you know the scenario I favour the most: cohesion policy for all regions.

A policy that can equip all regions with the appropriate tools, to better absorb unforeseen shocks.

This requires that the way we allocate the funds, better reflects the economic and social disparities in Europe and focuses resources on those regions that need them most.

This means introducing new indicators besides GDP per capita, to mirror the specific situation of each region.

Dear Ministers, these are the main ideas I wanted to mention.

I now look forward to hearing your views.

Thank you for your attention.