Interview with Konstantinos Vlachos: Mainstreaming the circular economy as an eligible area into the post 2020 Cohesion Policy and corresponding Funds

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    William (Commun...
    22 May 2018 - updated 1 year ago
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Konstantinos Vlachos is a representative of the Greek Ministry of Economy & Development and action. Member of the Partnership of Circular Economy, Konstantinos is leading the work on action 6 that seeks to include the concept of Circular Economy in the European funds.

Could you present yourself and your institution?

My name is Konstantinos Vlachos and I work as a policy officer in the Greek Ministry of Economy & Development, Special Service for Strategy, Planning and Evaluation. One of the main responsibilities of this Service is, inter alia, the coordination and monitoring of the economic, social and territorial cohesion policy in Greece. In this context we coordinate the designing of regional and urban development strategy, we monitor and evaluate sectoral and other relevant policies that have an impact on cohesion policy, monitor the evolution of macroeconomic indexes and other relevant indicators at European, national and regional level, analyze these data and their impact on growth, and coordinate the design and implementation of the EU co-funded programs. Together with my colleagues Michail Gkoumas (working in the same Service) and Vassilis Liogas (member of the cabinet of the Vice Minister of Environment and Energy) we constitute the core team representing Greece being member of the Partnership on Circular Economy (CE).  

What is the situation in the current funding programmes when it comes to Circular Economy? Why is it not satisfactory?

The EU Cohesion Policy for the period 2014-2020 expressed through the relevant regulatory framework of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), which are the means for its implementation, does not in general provide for the support of actions/ investments for the transition towards the circular economy, at least at urban level. This means that there is no distinct reference and clear focus to circular economy as one of the eligible areas for funding, neither at the level of thematic objectives nor at the level of investment priorities or anywhere else in the ESIF regulatory framework.

Although there are some individual exceptions to the above fact, such as the EU-level managed UIA (Urban Innovative Actions) Initiative and URBACT Programme, which may occasionally use Circular Economy as a topic for funding, the limited size and the specific type of these financed actions cannot contribute decisively to this shift.

What does the Partnership on Circular Economy suggest to change this? What results do you expect from this?

We are now convinced that one of the most needed options to reverse or at least mitigate the effects of climate change, carbon dioxide emissions and natural resources scarcity is to shift towards the circular economy. The circular economy is both a response to climate change and an opportunity for growth in a Europe that is already poor in natural resources.

In this context, the Partnership proposed for the EU Cohesion Policy post 2020 to seize the opportunity and mainstream the circular economy as an eligible field for funding thus creating the appropriate conditions for stimulating and consolidating the circular economy in urban areas, and facilitating opportunities for circular innovations in order to ensure the required impetus towards this shift.

In particular the Partnership on Circular Economy suggested that more detailed and clear references to the circular economy are made in the post 2020 Cohesion Policy, not only in the scope of support, but also when it comes to the specific eligibility fields (e.g. in terms of investment priorities falling under respective policy objectives). Moreover, we proposed for circular economy to be mainstreamed in all relevant implementation mechanisms such as the integrated territorial approach instruments and the smart specialization strategies. Some of our proposals comprise indicatively:

  • Supporting of enterprises dealing with remanufacturing, refurbishment and re-use of products and components
  • Supporting recycle and reuse of materials, packaging and other products
  • Supporting the design of new products or re-design of existing ones on the basis of Life Cycle Assessment
  • Promoting eco-design
  • Supporting industrial symbiosis based on the use of wastes/ byproducts between enterprises in the urban territory
  • Promoting sustainable building and circular re-use of buildings and public spaces under the circular economy concept (design, construction, use, demolition, material recovery and reuse)
  • Promoting bioeconomy and the use of biological raw materials and biological processing methods
  • Promoting collaborative economy, sharing models and change of consumption patterns (e.g. avoidance of food waste) in order to facilitate access to employment and combat poverty
  • Supporting research and innovation in circular economy, particularly through Research & Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation
  • Promoting circular economy strategies for urban areas, including strengthened cooperation between local and regional stakeholders
  • Promoting the development of integrated territorial strategies which take into account the circular economy dimension
  • Promoting the circular economy aspects in the Cross-Border and Transnational Cooperation Programs, as well as in the Macro-Regional Strategies
  • Supporting the adaptation of employees, enterprises and entrepreneurs (including the development of the required human resources skills and competencies) to the shift towards circular economy

The framework for the implementation of EU Cohesion Policy is proved over the programming periods to be one of the most effective and efficient means to enable major policy innovations across EU, due to the magnitude of the financial resources (public and private) that can be mobilized for related investments, as well as the financial and legal certainty which provides.

We expect that the European Commission in its regulatory proposals for the 2021-2027 programming period which are expected to be public at the beginning of June 2018 will consider our proposals submitted last month and provide for a satisfactory framework which will allow for boosting circular economy at urban areas over the next period.

Eventually, who will benefit from the success of this action?

As members of the Partnership on Circular Economy and in line with the mandate in the context of the Urban Agenda for the EU, our efforts in this action focus on demonstrating the need and value for the EU cohesion policy to finance actions/ investments leading to the shift towards circular economy in the urban territory. To this end, we are mainly targeting to urban authorities, local actors and enterprises as well as urban dwellers as the main beneficiaries.

We consider that the places where circular economy could be more effectively applied are urban areas, where the economic, social and territorial impact is greater and the conditions for integrated interventions are met. Thus, cities and local authorities and stakeholders can play an important role, since they are primarily able to make a real contribution to shifting the growth paradigm from the linear to the circular concept and changing the everyday culture through a bottom-up approach.

How can you, as a representative of a Member States, contribute to this action and to its implementation?

From our position as national coordinating authority for the ESIF in Greece, we utilized our very good knowledge on EU Cohesion Policy and regional/ urban development issues and our significant experience both in the planning, strategy and negotiation processes of this policy and in the management issues of the relevant co-funded actions. Moreover we utilized the deep knowledge and long experience of our partners from the Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy on circular economy issues. These capacities led us to undertake the leadership of the implementation of this action and we hope for a successful result.

What does your institution expect from this action ?

We hope to see in the upcoming Commission's regulatory proposals a satisfactory introduction of the circular economy aspects in the eligibility fields for co-financing with sufficient potential for substantial funding, able of triggering the consolidation of this concept. We also hope that the new regulatory framework will provide the appropriate options and flexibility to the urban authorities, in order to adapt the eligible circular economy's actions to their needs and potential and to facilitate their management and implementation.

 

More information

Read the Partnership’s proposals for the regulatory framework post 2020 here.

The draft Action Plan is avaiable here.