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Interinstitutional cooperation to ensure no one is left behind

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Europe and the world, we were just in the middle of the preparation of the new cohesion policy framework. Since the outbreak, local and regional authorities all across Europe have been at the forefront of this crisis, providing citizens with support and solutions that were previously unimaginable.

The European Commission reacted quickly and ensured immediate liquidity within the framework of the 2014-2020 cohesion policy (CRII and CRII+) to finance investments related to the COVID-19 pandemic and introduced exceptional and much-needed flexibility measures.

A survey carried out by the Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy and EU budget (COTER) of the European Committee of the Region and completed by m anaging authorities from across the EU revealed that the majority of the latter are calling for an extension of the flexibility measures introduced in order to support cities and regions with the necessary aid schemes in these difficult times. This extended flexibility could include the extension of the n+3 rule, the temporary increase of the de minimis state aid threshold and the extension of the 100% EU co-financing rate for another year.

The worst might unfortunately not be behind us. Our economies are bearing the brunt of the pandemic and European regions need to be able to continue to rely on adequate flexibility in the management of cohesion policy programmes, as well as on harmonised regulatory frameworks for EU funding and state aid schemes.

2021 has been a difficult year. Cities and regions have been facing the unprecedented challenge of shaping and implementing investment programmes backed by the new Multiannual Financial Framework (M FF) and the Next Generation EU Recovery Plan, while using funds from the REACT-EU programme to overcome the social and economic impact of the pandemic.

"Every year in October, a joint meeting between the Regional Development Committee in the European Parliament (REGI) and the COTER Commission of the European Committee of the Regions takes place during the European Week of Regions and Cities. It is no understatement to say that t his year ?s meeting will be particularly important. Members of the two institutions and the Commissioner in charge of regional policy, Elisa Ferreira, will have the opportunity to discuss the implementation and delivery of the new cohesion policy and find synergies for the benefit of European citizens.

"Every year in October, a joint meeting between REGI and COTER takes place during the European Week of Regions and Cities. It is no under statement to say that this year's meeting will be particularly important ."

Ensuring that the partnership principle is fully respected within the negotiation of the Partnership Agreements and the programming phase, as well as the importance of ensuring synergies with the European Green Deal and other EU policies and tools, such as the Recovery and Resilience Facility, will also be at the core of this year ?s debate.

Over recent years the COTER Commission and the REGI Committee have cooperated successfully on a number of strategic issues, such as the negotiation of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027, the future of EU Cohesion policy beyond 2020, the Urban Agenda and the Just Transition Fund.

"The principle of 'Leaving no one behind' is central to diverse approaches to cohesion. This implies that we recognise mutual interdependencies between economies, societal groups and places"

The European Committee of the Regions and the European Parliament have been working hand in hand to provide tools to support Europe's regions and cities in responding to the crisis and to 'build back better'. Special focus has been placed on how to make the best use of cohesion policy, with increased efficiency, transparency and ownership, as well as ensuring the transition to a sustainable society, as defined in the Sustainable Development Goals and the EU Green Deal, for all cities and regions.

The pandemic is having a severe and differentiated socioeconomic impact on cities and regions, going beyond the traditional dividing lines of urban/rural, central/peripheral, more/less developed regions. The link between recovery and cohesion policy requires a thorough debate on cohesion, and more broadly solidarity, as European values.

The principle of 'leaving no one behind' is central to diverse approaches to cohesion. This implies that we recognise mutual interdependencies between economies, between societal groups and between places. While Article 3 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) mentions solidarity next to cohesion, the recognition of mutual interdependencies underpins the principle of solidarity in order to ensure well-being for all people in Europe and avoid unsustainable disparities, which risk undermining the Union.

The EU Structural and Investment Funds focus on job creation and a sustainable and socially fair European economy and environment. Members of the REGI Committee and the COTER Commission will work together to ensure that EU funds contribute to solidarity in the EU and beyond. The fight against increasing inequalities and territorial fragmentation remains at the forefront of the goals of regional policy.

This article appears in the EURegionsWeek 2021 Issue of TerritoriALL

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This article appears in the EURegionsWeek 2021 Issue of TerritoriALL