Cohesion policy: Council approves conclusions taking stock of implementation and outlining the way forward

F.P. Report

BRUSSELS: The Council today approved conclusions on cohesion policy, providing a general assessment of its role in fostering regional development in the EU, as well as the main implementation challenges and the way forward for the future.

In its conclusions, the Council recalls that the objective of social, economic and territorial cohesion is at the heart of the European project. It also stresses the importance of protecting the financial interests of the EU.

The added value of cohesion policy

The Council stresses that cohesion policy is agile, modern and long-term, and has an important leverage effect, generating an estimated €2.7 of additional GDP at the EU level for each €1 spent. It improves the quality of EU citizens’ lives and supports the transition towards a climate-neutral, circular, green and digital economy, while ensuring a balanced internal market and increasing the competitiveness of the EU on a global scale.

The Council also points to the positive impacts of the shared management mode for its implementation, which contributes to proper engagement at the regional and local levels, a better public administration and the linking of bottom-up programming with new global trends.

2014-2020 programming period

Regarding the 2014-2020 programming period, the Council stresses the need to focus on the effective closure of the programmes and calls for efforts from all those involved to widely disseminate the results and benefits of cohesion policy to the public.

Cohesion policy and recent crises

Noting that cohesion policy has helped to mitigate the effects of the recent crises, the Council considers that the policy should be able to adapt to new developments without compromising its structural and long-term objectives. The Commission is called upon to closely monitor the economic and social effects of Russia’s war in Ukraine and to explore further measures to ensure successful implementation of cohesion policy programmes, if necessary.

2021-2027 programming period

The Council also welcomes the fact that the 2021-2027 legislative framework provides for simpler and more flexible implementation rules, and sets out its assessment of some of its key elements. Member states and the Commission are called upon to ensure a speedy start to the implementation of the 2021-2027 programmes.

In the context of implementation, the conclusions stress the importance of preventing and combating fraud and corruption. The Commission is called upon to continuously substantiate the impact of cohesion policy, determine its impact and analyse its multiple results.

Territorial aspect of cohesion policy

Regarding the territorial aspect of cohesion policy, the Council stresses the importance of taking into account the specificities of regions, paying special attention to the regions suffering from various structural or permanent imbalances. Member states and the Commission are called upon to ensure a timely implementation of the Just Transition Fund, which enables regions to address the socio-economic impacts of the EU’s green transition.

Cohesion policy post-2027

In its conclusions, the Council also provides some guidelines for cohesion policy post-2027, stressing the need to continue strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion in the coming years. It stresses that cohesion policy is a policy for all regions.

When preparing the next legislative framework, the Commission is called upon to explore opportunities presented by performance-based reimbursement and make maximum use of it, to continue efforts to simplify the rules and harmonise them across EU programmes, and to evaluate the existing EU policy instruments before introducing new ones to avoid overlaps between them.

The Council also stresses the importance of focusing on the objective of sustainable development of the EU and its regions in the next programming period, as well as addressing the specificities of regions, in particular regions in a development trap and regions on the external EU border, as well as outermost regions and regions facing various demographic challenges.