#EURegionsWeek puts cohesion at the heart of Europe's Future
Under the headlines "Future of Europe is Youth, Regions and Cities - The future of Europe is unity and cohesion" hundreds of local and regional leaders and top EU leaders came together in Brussels on 8 October to kick off the European Week of Regions and Cities. The yearly conference co-organised by the European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) is the largest event on regional development anywhere in the world.
Established in 1988, EU cohesion policy has over the 30 years become the main investment tool, supporting cities and regions to create jobs and economic growth, increase competitiveness and sustainable development, as well as to improve citizens' quality of life. Its main objective is to address disparities between and within the regions of the EU and to contribute to its harmonious development and the well-being of Europeans.
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said: "Today we are talking about the future of our regions and cities – but we are actually very much talking about the future of our Union, as the two are closely intertwined. Over the next decade, the Commission will further support regions and cities in achieving the transition towards a more innovative and greener economy, for jobs, growth and social progress. Cohesion Policy, one of the most concrete examples of EU solidarity, will play a crucial role in this, and so will Horizon Europe, Erasmus+, InvestEU and all the other programmes and initiatives of our proposal for the EU budget for the future. For this support to reach regions and cities in a timely manner, an agreement on the next long-term EU budget before the European elections is of the essence."
Regional policy Commissioner Corina Creţu stated that: "I am proud of the proposal for a new, more modern, flexible, simplified cohesion policy which we presented in May. However, there is still work to be done. For investment to be able to actually start in 2021 we need to start planning the next programmes now. Today is the first day of the European Week of Regions and Cities. This is a good opportunity to discuss the future of cohesion policy, and so I am going to present my suggestions for helping Member States and regions draw up their programmes."
Speaking at the opening, the President of the European Committee of the Regions, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, said, "Investing in cohesion is much more than just money: it is a reflection of our core European values. Through cooperation between EU, national, regional and the local governments, it shows we can only overcome the major problems of the 21st century by working together, in solidarity. Cutting it is counter to the EU's goals of territorial, economic and social cohesion. Today more than ever before, we need a strong cohesion policy if the EU is to win the hearts and minds of the citizens it serves. A Union without cohesion cannot exist."
Pavel Telička, Vice-President of the European Parliament, said: "Cohesion policy is the strongest expression of solidarity in the EU. Investments made through it deliver the long-term objectives of the Union. Therefore, it is important that we maximise its potential post 2020, strengthening its flexibility, added value, as well as its coherence and consistency with the European Semester process. With more focus in our spending, continuous indicators based objective evaluation and if the need be corrections, we will boost economic growth, creating new opportunities especially in perspective areas for citizens across Europe. The European Week of Regions and Cities offers a great opportunity to discuss the future of Cohesion Policy with those that have the expertise on the ground".
To make the case for a strong cohesion policy for all regions and cities in the new EU budget after 2020, the Committee, together with leading EU associations representing regions and cities, last year launched the #CohesionAlliance - a grass-roots movement open to anyone who believes that EU cohesion policy must continue to be a pillar of the EU's future. Since its launch during the opening of the European Week of Regions and Cities last year, the Alliance's declaration has been signed by more than 8000 supporters, including 114 regions, 110 cities and counties, 45 associations of regional and local governments, 30 Members of the European Parliament, 35 EU sectorial associations and 141 other institutional partners such as universities, research centres, and European Groupings of Territorial Cooperation (EGTCs). The #CohesionAlliance is still open for signature and will closely follow the ongoing interinstitutional budget negotiations.