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Cohesion Alliance - 02.06.2020

Cohesion and partnership must be the driving force for European recovery
The #Cohesion Alliance – an EU-wide alliance of 12,000 signatories calling for a stronger cohesion policy after 2020 – welcomes the European Commission's revised 2021–2027 EU budget and Recovery Plan proposals including the extension of the current cohesion programmes with increased flexibility and additional funding.

However, the Alliance urges the European Commission and Member States to ensure the involvement of cities, municipalities and regions and maintain a strong focus on cohesion in all recovery measures, aimed at rebuilding the economy, fostering sustainability and strengthening the territorial and social fabric of our Union, including in the European Semester process. 

The EU's Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) and Recovery Plan must focus on cohesion as a fundamental value of the European Union, to pursue major challenges such as the European Green Deal, the Sustainable Development Goals, the European Pillar of Social Rights as well as the digital transformation. In the current crisis, cities, municipalities and regions need the direct support of a strong cohesion policy more than ever to prevent widening territorial disparities and an asymmetric recovery as Member States have different financial means to address the current economic and social challenges.

The #CohesionAlliance welcomes the European Commission's proposal to ensure the role of Cohesion policy as a strong EU long-term investment policy, as well as the investment of 55 bn EUR (2018 prices) through REACT-EU to provide an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its social and economic consequences. The extension of the current Operational Programmes will allow for a quick implementation of crucial investment.

In addition, the increased flexibility for transferring resources between funds and the widening of scope to support the health services, tourism and culture sectors as well as to provide working capital to SMEs will help local and regional governments invest money where it is most needed, provided that it fully respects the cohesion core principles.

The Alliance is nevertheless concerned that without consideration for the diverse needs of regions, cities and municipalities as well as strong involvement of local actors, the Recovery and Resilient Facility – which is the most powerful investment tool of the EU recovery plans - is at risk of failure. For now, most measures are only directed to Member States without clarifying how much say local and regional authorities would have in revising programmes and in spending resources.

The strong link of the Facility to the European Semester and to country specific recommendations can lead to a further centralisation of the recovery plans. The Alliance urges all EU and national institutions – and in particular EU Reforms and Cohesion Commissioner Elisa Ferreira – to take the needed steps to ensure that the national plans for recovery and resilience comply with the Partnership Principle, respond to the real needs of citizens and businesses and allow for stronger and more structured involvement of local and regional authorities.

The #CohesionAlliance partner organisations have put forward their priorities in a new draft declaration affirming cohesion as a fundamental value of the European Union and a key objective for all its policies and investment. The partners of the Cohesion Alliance 2.0 will launch the new declaration during their next meeting in early June.
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