Blog: Debating simpler rules, youth employment and future of cohesion policy with Member States

Met dank overgenomen van C. (Corina) Creţu i, gepubliceerd op dinsdag 21 november 2017.

On 15 November 2017, ministers from EU Member States and I met at the Council, to debate on the future of cohesion policy.

Discussing cohesion policy with ministers of EU Member States is always immensely rewarding as you hear many different positions on a wide range of issues, and this in turn helps me in my reflection on what the future cohesion policy should be like, what it should do, and how to present our future proposal to national governments.

At our 15 November meeting, the first point was what we call in EU jargon the "omnibus regulation"; in more understandable language, this is a proposal that cuts across many EU programmes and aims to simplify access to EU funds for this financial period (2014-2020).

This is a key issue as it concerns tens of thousands of beneficiaries for whom we want simpler ways to access and use EU funds. Despite numerous efforts in the past, the road to EU funds remains difficult to many potential beneficiaries such as small and medium enterprises, smaller towns, young people. And this is why I am working with the Council and the European Parliament to try and simplify some rules.

My ambition is for the EU to be able to give thousands of beneficiaries of EU funds a Christmas present: by the end of year, to be able to tell them "We have made it! In future, rules will be simpler!"

We also discussed an issue that I have at heart: the additional funding of 1.2 billion euros for the Youth Employment Initiative.

Here, the timeline is very tight, and not just for institutional reasons: by definition, the Youth Employment Initiative has a sense of urgency as its aim is to help young people find a job NOW, not in ten years!

And to do this, we need to help Europe's youth now. Immediately, as their future is being decided today.

Finally, I presented to the Member States the cohesion report that was released last month.

The report strengthened my belief that cohesion policy must remain strong, and continue to invest in all Member States and regions.

It shows that the crisis has left scars on Europe's economic fabric: during the crisis, regional disparities have increased, and a number of regions find themselves weaker than in the past…

At the same time, in more developed regions, the risk of poverty or social exclusion remains higher than before the crisis.

Those economic disparities in turn create social disparities if not social fractures.?

And there is no doubt that cohesion policy is our best chance to heal those inequalities.

Cohesion policy goes where the private sector hesitate to invest, therefore it is our best chance to bring back to us the increasing number of Europeans who feel left out, who feel like crowds standing on a railway platform watching the prosperity train leave without them.

Cohesion policy is the ticket that will let them jump on that train!

By combining its economic and social dimension, cohesion policy is the strongest political argument for Europe.

Bringing prosperity to each region of Europe, improving people's daily life across Europe, working directly with local and regional authority, and bringing tangible, visible results is the best way to reconcile Europeans with Europe.

And this is what cohesion policy does, full stop!

For all those reasons, Europe needs a strong cohesion policy beyond 2020.

A cohesion policy without a "one-size-fits-all" approach, a cohesion policy that is a vitamin shot to administrative capacity across Europe, a cohesion policy that implements what I would call "budgetary subsidiarity": each EURO from the EU budget to be spent only where one EURO from national, regional or local authorities would not be present or would not be spent with an equal impact.

All in all, I was glad to hear so many Member States acknowledge the positive impact of cohesion policy and be receptive to our arguments...