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#CohesionAlliance videoconference: “Heading towards the finish line: The final stretch of negotiations on the cohesion policy package for 2021-2027”

On 26 November 2020, the network of the #CohesionAlliance organised a videoconference bringing together institutions and associations representing local and regional authorities to discuss the state of the negotiations of the Cohesion Policy package, which are entering the final phase, with representatives from the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the German Council Presidency. The participants showed their concern about macroeconomic conditionality, the risk of centralisation, the full implementation of cohesion and the future of REACT EU. They also urged for cohesion as a fundamental value for our continent.

AEBR took part in the discussion, along with Assembly of European Regions (AER), the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR), the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) and EUROCITIES. The debate was moderated by Ms Isabelle Boudineau, Chair of the CoR COTER commission, who expressed her concerns for a delay in the budget and the direct impact that this would have in citizens. She also pointed how essential are these funds for local and regional authorities to take action against the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and accelerate a sustainable and socially-fair recovery.

After a welcoming message by the European Committee of the Regions, a series of opening statements followed:

Mr Younous Omarjee, MEP, Chair of the REGI committee, pointed how Cohesion Policy must be powerful now more than ever due to the situation we are facing, and also, how the principles of cohesion should be at the heart of the recovery. He stressed that we must plead for a recovery that is sustainable, but also fair and equitable.

Dr Heinz Hetmeier, representing the German Presidency​ of the Council, said that their goal is to conclude the files on Cohesion Policy during their presidency, due to the importance it has within European Policy in general and it is something we have seen during this crisis. He also highlighted the good cooperation existing between institutions on the current negotiation.

Mr Marc Lemaître, Director-General DG REGIO, European Commission​; encouraged not to forget the financial dimension of the recovery package and the cohesion related instrument. He also pointed how the cohesion challenge is closely related to our climate ambitions.

After the opening statements, different representatives from each association took part on the debate:

Mr Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the Association of European Border Regions (AEBR), took the floor stressing the fact that thematic concentration is important, but we have to let a door open to small projects, people-to-people projects and micro projects, which are really important for contact between Europeans especially with the populist retreat to nationalism going on.

He also pointed the difficulties for recovery in regions with different pre-existing handicaps such as border regions, peripheral, sparsely populated, mountainous, etc., these factors should be considered when planning the allocation of new or extended EU programmes. The participation of local and regional authorities and stakeholders in the design and management of these programmes mean a better identification of the needs to address and the best way to proceed, adding a great value to their implementation while guaranteeing high-quality delivery.

To conclude, he expressed his hope on the approval of the European Cross Border Mechanism, since it is particularly important to have a new cooperation instrument.

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