Mapping the post-2020 Cohesion Policy

In the fourth year of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020, crucial questions have been raised concerning the impact of the Cohesion Policy on the EU regions.

According to recent data of Eurostat concerning 2015, the disparities among the European regions have remained stable, taking into account that 19 regions are below 50% in PPS per inhabitant of the EU 28, while 4 regions have more than the double percentage of the EU average.

Despite the unemployment’s reduction in 8,2% at the EU-28 in 2016, all the countries of the Southern Europe still hold a percentage over 10%, while Greece and Spain score 23 and 18,4% respectively.

Post-2020 reform: What has been done until now?

In February, the European Parliament published a summary on the challenges for the post-2020 Cohesion Policy. In particular, this briefing describes the current situation for the programming period 2014-2020 and analyzes the upcoming challenges and goals.

The European Commission will present a proposal for the post-2020 MFF before the 1st of January 2018. In the meanwhile, issues such as migration, security and investment policy have made the reform of the MFF essential, as well as it is probable that the Brexit will have an impact on the EU budget.

Priorities

The main priorities defined by the Commissioner of the Regional Policy, Corina Cretu concerning the reform of the Cohesion Policy, are flexibility, performance, economic governance along with structural reforms and simplification.

More concretely, special focus will be given on the better access to the SMEs, simplification in administrative procedures, the use of online tools and the assistance by the local communities in the implementation of the projects. Also, the main thematic areas that will be covered are the Research and Development, low-carbon economy, employment, SMEs and the ICT sector.

Urban Agenda

The adoption of the Pact of Amsterdam in June 2016 puts the cities in the core of the Cohesion Policy and their contribution should be reinforced for a sustainable and inclusive growth. In this regard, 50% of the ERDF will be invested in the urban areas.

EFSI funds

Another topic of a high importance is the EFSI funding and the Financial Instruments and their contribution in the development of the regions, through the leverage of 315 billion euros until the end of 2020.

Until now, the main concerns in regard to the implementation of the EFSI is the potential competition with the ESI funds and the over-optimistic goals of the particular programme. In this regard, the CoR and the EP have emphasized at the importance in the complementarity of EFSI with the structural funds and the better synergies between these tools.

Photo: pes.cor.europa.eu

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EU strengthens its communications strategy to build the trust of citizens

Undoubtedly, 2017 is a crucial year for the European Union. Following the Brexit vote in June 2016 and the anti-European Trump’s election in November 2016, as well as the nationalists’ voice (Lepen, Wilders) increasing all around Europe, the Union will certainly have to give its battle to go ahead.

Apart from the political challenge, expressed emphatically with the presence of the 27 EU leaders declaring unity in Rome last week, the Union has to face another more important one: The battle of communication.

“After the crisis, the EU found itself in an uncharted territory”, said European Commission’s Director for Strategy and Corporate Communication Mikel Alvarez, in an event on March 28th. “There is a decline of trust of citizens (towards the institutions) in the last 10 years”, he added, mentioning the necessity for the EU to execute an integrated communication strategy.

One intense critical point about the structure of the EU is its lack of communication with the European citizens. Brussels is considered as a place of punishment for the “untamed” member states, institutions are blamed for producing bureaucracy, while the EU officials are considered as faceless technocrats who have no relation with reality. On top of that, the financial crisis and the migration enlarged the negative criticism, strengthening Euroscepticism all around Europe.

“We have to construct a narrative of hope and show what the EU can do for Europeans, showing the human side of the policies”, said Alvarez, emphasizing at the importance of using different communications channels, taking into account the needs of citizens belonging in different target groups, nationalities, age and cultures of Europe.

In this regard, the EC’s Communications chief presented some relevant projects. The “InvestEU”, an online campaign informing the citizens about the impact of the Investment Plan on the citizens, the “SMARP” project, a campaign involving the EC employees’ active presence in social media and the “60 Rome”, including 60 minutes’ videos of people describing the benefits of living in the Union.

Mediating the EU policies to the public

Communication plays an increasingly important role in the EU affairs. The EU bugdet, directly or indirectly, covers various communication activities. For instance, €185,5 million are spent for the “Europe of Citizens” programme during the period 2014-2020, aimed at strengthening the European identity. Another programmes are the European Citizens’ Initiative and Debating Europe, an online platform of discussion.

Raising awareness activities, social media campaigns, events’ organization are among the top priorities of the EU-funded programmes. To that extent, the broader communication of projects and the dissemination of their outcomes to the public are intensely encouraged by the Commission.

The European Parliament has also repeatedly emphasized at the build of trust between the EU and the citizens. EP communication activities include the usage of digital tools, streamlined videos in 24 languages, audiovisual material and an intense presence in Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. In addition, the MEPs are constantly increasing their online presence, while an important part of their expenses is spent in various events such as conferences, exhibitions, film projections, etc.

Photo: European Commission