Original publication: July 2019
Authors: Carlos MENDEZ, John BACHTLER and Irene McMASTER

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Executive summary:

This study reviews the current and emerging issues for Cohesion Policy to support the work of the European Parliament’s Committee on Regional Development (REGI) during its new mandate for 2019-2024. The analysis focuses on issues relating to the competences of the REGI committee highlighting key policy themes and political questions for the committee to reflect on as part of its work agenda. The principal issues for the Committee to consider are as follows.
  1. The Agenda for Cohesion Policy in 2019-2024: Key issues for the REGI Committee

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    Strategic framework for Cohesion Policy. There is no overarching EU strategic framework – similar to the Europe 2020 strategy for 2014-20 – to provide strategic direction for the planning of Cohesion Policy at EU, national and sub-national levels. This hampers a coherent approach across and within programmes and unity of purpose among institutions.
  1. Coherence of the Funds. The Commission’s proposals for 2021-27 present threats to the coherence of the Funds through the separation of the Rural Development Fund from ESIF and the growing national focus of ESF+.
  1. Partnership. The principle of partnership is a cornerstone of the policy to encourage vertical cooperation between different levels of government and horizontal collaboration among public, private and third sector actors at all levels. While there is widespread recognition of the value of partnership, the Council is resisting EP proposals to implement Partnership Agreements and programmes through a ‘fully fledged effective partnership’.
  1. Economic governance. Links between the European Semester process and Cohesion Policy are being enhanced by the more active involvement of DG REGIO in the European Semester process, and a news section on Cohesion Policy investment priorities as part of Country Reports to support programming. However, the process still does not take sufficient regard of territorial development opportunities and challenges, and there are important questions about how structural reforms are decided, implemented and controlled from a Cohesion Policy perspective.
  1. Performance vs simplification. An unresolved question is how potentially competing influences on the effective and efficient management of Cohesion Policy at programme level are managed. While the Commission has proposed a range of simplification measures for 2021-27, there are questions about whether they are sufficient to make a significant difference to administrative cost.
  1. Citizen engagement. Despite efforts to engage more actively with citizens, there is a need to give a higher priority to Cohesion Policy communication. There is an opportunity here for the EP to champion a more citizen-focused approach of the policy at programme level, to encourage imaginative and effective ways of involving citizens, and to give people a more direct voice in the second-most important policy area of EU spending.

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