Yesterday I participated in the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where the debate focused on three valuable reports on different areas covered by Cohesion Policy. I cannot stress enough how important these reports are, as they directly feed into our reflection on the policy and its future.
The first report dealt with the review of the Europe 2020 Strategy and its impact on Cohesion Policy. It stressed that the review could provide a basis for the future Cohesion Policy architecture. I welcomed the report's suggestions on how to strengthen the Strategy's governance, involving all stakeholders at local, regional and national levels, to improve knowledge and ownership of the Strategy on the ground.
The second report detailed the European Parliament's opinion on the link between Cohesion Policy and macro-economic conditionality. Indeed, Cohesion Policy underwent important reforms for 2014-2020, including its relation with the wider EU economic governance. We are fully committed to respecting these new provisions and fully available for a structured dialogue with the Parliament on their application.
The last report provided the European Parliament's opinion on the EU Strategy for the Adriatic Ionian region (EUSAIR), welcoming it, as the Strategy represents a great opportunity for the macro-region's Member States to step up a gear in their cooperation. A macro-regional strategy is an integrated framework which can be supported by the European Structural and Investment Funds to address common challenges faced by Member States and third countries located in the same geographical area. We recently adopted the main Cohesion Policy programme supporting the Strategy and I highlighted that EUSAIR's success depended greatly on the strong political commitment of the participating countries, and on an active involvement of all relevant stakeholders - national and regional parliaments, civil society, etc.
Finally, I answered a question on the issue of simplification, which gave me the occasion to talk about the first meeting of the High Level group on Simplification that happened last week in Brussels.
The High Level Group on simplification for beneficiaries has been set up to assist in identifying the obstacles and barriers to simplification and to find a way to address them. I have asked the Group to make recommendations for concrete actions that can maximise the potential for simplification in the current period and we will share these with all bodies concerned in the implementation of the funds. I have got a positive impression from the first meeting of the High Level Group, from its sparkling debate and the members' enthusiasm to explore and discuss a variety of simplification measures.
The Group will also monitor the progress of the Member States in their uptake of the simplification measures as set out in the European Structural and Investment Funds Regulations 2014-2020. In 2017 the High Level Group will focus on the post-2020 framework and its final report will be one of the cornerstones of the Commission's reflection on the future of Cohesion Policy.