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!"
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!
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.
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.
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.