Bruxelles, 5 December 2018
[check against delivery]
Thank you, President Lambertz.
Dear Members, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very happy to be with you today.
You are making an important contribution to the debate.
On the future of cohesion policy.
On the future of our regions.
On the future of Europe.
Particular congratulations on your speed.
You produced solid opinions and did it quickly.
In our journey to get the future programmes ready, it helps to have pace setters.
People who set an example in moving forward.
And your work on the legislation has set the pace,
For the council.
For the parliament.
For all of us.
Thank you too for your support.
Here I would like to pay tribute to the Cohesion Alliance.
During the most difficult days of the MFF preparation, you gave a voice to European regions and cities.
A voice of belief in European cohesion policy, a voice of support for our foundational belief: in our Europe, there will be no region left behind.
And your voice is heard again today.
Your opinions today provide support in 3 key areas.
First, your support on the partnership principle.
Because the success of regional policy is firmly based on regional partners: regional authorities and local authorities, civil society and social partners.
You deliver the policy on the ground.
You deliver it with your ideas.
You deliver it with your local knowledge.
You deliver it with your energy.
An effective regional policy is only possible with strong regional partners.
Second, thank you for your support on a partnership agreement for all member states.
We need this strategic overview.
We need this co-ordination between funds and between programmes.
We need this discussion with all the key partners:
Regional, local, civil society, social partners.
This is why partnership agreements for all Member States are necessary.
Regardless of number of programmes.
Regardless of size of allocation.
There is no room for double standards.
My position was made crystal clear during the General Affairs Council, where you know a proposal is emerging to provide exception to the mandatory character of the Partnership Agreement.
Third, we agree on the importance of local development.
Europe close to citizens.
Driven by local needs.
Planned with local people.
Delivered in partnership with local people.
This is development by the people, for the people with the people.
This is not just a declaration.
These are not just words.
It is our clear political commitment.
And Policy Objective 5, “a Europe closer to citizens” translates that commitment into reality on the ground.
We have provided various tools:
A broader and more flexible menu of territorial instruments;
The European Urban Initiative, which brings together various urban actions;
A common set of rules for local development under cohesion policy and the Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
But the goal of all these tools is to empower regions; to empower cities; to empower local people.
We must show citizens what Europe is doing for them.
I now turn to another issue which still needs clearing up.
Another issue on top of the mandatory character of partnership agreement which needs a solution.
It is the 5+2 programming issue.
I know you have reservations and concerns.
And I want to hear those concerns in a moment.
But I know too that you support the principle.
And you support a more flexible policy.
One that takes account of emerging circumstances.
I know that this can be done without hindering long term projects.
I know this, because it has worked in the past: projects have continued past the performance review; projects have spanned two programming periods.
And this has worked.
Dear members, thank you for your support on so many areas.
I welcome your strong support for the partnership principle and the partnership agreement.
I look forward to hearing your views.