4 MIN READ TIME

Younous Omarjee

Each year, the European Week of Regions and Cities is a highlight and an important time for regions and cohesion policy in Europe. I hope that this year, despite the public health measures in force, it will remain a driving force in all the regions of Europe for new cooperation and projects, and will inspire future projects.

For all EU regions and cities, this year marks a turning point and, I hope, a new beginning. This is the start of a new generation of Structural and Investment Funds. I know that all regions are currently working on their 2021 - 27 programmes and negotiating them with the European Commission. The implementation of recovery plans necessary to relaunch many economic activities, as well as employment and growth, is also beginning.

In 2021, Europe is not the same as it was before 2019. Brexit and the COVID -19 pandemic have weakened the economy and employment in all EU territories. New inequalities have emerged, and with them new economic, social, territorial and health divides, creating difficulties in many territories and for many European families. Cohesion policy has never been as necessary as it is now on the ground, and will be instrumental in recovering from the crisis and rebuilding the Europe of tomorrow.

From the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, cohesion policy has played its role in enabling the simplified redeployment of ERDF and ESF funds through CRII and CRII+ Regulations. This will continue with REACT-EU, which also aims to cope with new emergencies. Of course, we could have wished for more funds, as the needs were very important, but cohesion policy has been there to support and played its role.

In the midst of the crisis, the Parliament, the Council, and the Commission completed the complex and lengthy negotiations that led to a new generation of funds for 2021-27. With React EU and the Just Transition Fund, EUR 385 billion will be deployed throughout the EU until 2027. Investment in territories and cities, through cohesion policy, has become the EU's main budgetary line, and its position as a European pillar has been reaffirmed.

Regional policy is at the heart of the European project, and not only in budgetary terms. Regional policy is the effective implementation of solidarity. Its purpose is to reduce territorial inequalities and thus progressively drive states and regions towards the same level of development. Much has already been done since the creation and first enlargement of the EU. However, this process is not complete, which is why our task is to constantly find new solutions to reduce these inequalities.

"It is now up to the regions, locally elected officials and stakeholders to properly implement and translate the regulations into projects"

We hope that this last quarter of 2021 will be a new beginning. The new cohesion policy, as we designed it, prioritises the transition to sustainable societies, and to carbon-neutral and more smart and digitalised economies. We hope that, by 2030, at the end of this new programming period, the objectives we have set up will be delivered. It is now up to the regions, locally elected officials and stakeholders in the field to properly implement and translate the regulations into projects, and we are confident that they will do so.

One of the major challenges of this new programming period will also be the adaptation to climate change. This summer, we have seen extreme and violent natural disasters multiply in Europe. The devastating floods in Belgium and Germ any and the uncontrollable fires in Greece and Italy shocked us all.

If the EU Solidarity Fund is an essential tool for responding to an emergency, we must anticipate and prevent better as these exceptional disasters will increase in number and intensity in the years ahead, and are becoming a permanent situation. All vulnerable territories must adapt to this.

We in the European Parliament will be very attentive to all transitions at stake for Europe's regions while prioritising the objective of cohesion and equal development. We will also monitor the implementation of the Just Transition Fund, which is extremely important.

With these funds and all the objectives and safeguards that we have set out in our regulations, cohesion policy has become the first investment pillar of the new European Green Deal. We are proud to have co-built t his essential tool for European territories.

Finally, I want to say, on behalf of the European Parliament's Committee on Regional Development, that all regions of Europe can count on us to support them and listen to them. We will work together for the EU's recovery and major transitions.

"Cohesion policy has never been as necessary as it is now on the ground, and will be instrumental in recovering from the crisis and rebuilding the Europe of tomorrow"

This article appears in the EURegionsWeek 2021 Issue of TerritoriALL

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This article appears in the EURegionsWeek 2021 Issue of TerritoriALL