EU cohesion policy in 2020, acting against COVID-19

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2020 was one of the most challenging years in the history of the European Union: a relentless pandemic and a severe economic crisis. In this context, EU cohesion policy’s support to healthcare and economic activity was literally vital.

 There is now the risk of an asymmetric recovery with widening disparities, where some regions bounce back while others stagnate or decline. In the longer term, Europe’s transition to a carbon-neutral economy will be more challenging for some regions than for others – EU must ensure that no region is left behind. 

How did cohesion policy respond to this challenge and what does it bring concretely for citizens? Which specific actions have been taken against COVID-19, the economic crisis and climate change? To what extent and how did EU funds reduce disparities and contribute to economic, social and territorial cohesion? 

The Annual Activity Report (AAR) for the Directorate-General Regional and Urban Policy brings together the answers to all these questions – and more – with an overview of the role played by this Directorate-General in 2020. The AAR demonstrates the strengths of the policy and the added-value of the interventions, but also identifies challenges and actions where there is room for progress. 

The AAR also helps to get a comprehensive picture on the functioning of the management and control systems of cohesion policy programmes. For 2020, reservations were made for 48 programmes, where weaknesses were identified and corrective and preventive actions are needed to ensure that the EU budget is correctly implemented. Despite that, the analysis suggests a steady decreasing trend of weaknesses and errors linked to cohesion policy expenditure.