Challenges for EU cohesion policy: Issues in the forthcoming post-2020 reform

29-09-2017

The debate on the shape of the post-2020 cohesion policy is well under way. Stakeholders have identified a number of principal issues or questions in this regard, relating to the operation of the policy itself as well as its impact and relationship with other EU polices and with the wider goals and objectives of the Union. One issue debated is how cohesion policy can best contribute to the twin objectives of competitiveness and cohesion. Finding the most efficient form of support is another important point of discussion: should it be grants, repayable assistance, financial instruments, or possibly a mix of all of these along with further thematic concentration? In addition, the way that cohesion policy addresses new or growing challenges such as migration has been raised. Simplification of the policy for beneficiaries, flexibility, the importance of achieving better governance, and the contribution of cohesion policy to the EU's economic governance are all widely debated. Other specific matters raised relate to the urban dimension in cohesion policy and the impact that the policy can have upon growth, jobs and innovation in sparsely populated areas, regions lagging behind and regions with special geographical characteristics. The departure of the United Kingdom from the EU will have a significant impact on the EU budget and consequently on the financial envelope for cohesion policy. Finally, the European Commission (EC) has published a number of white papers on the future of the EU that provide further ideas for reflection on the overall functioning and priorities of the Union. These reflections also have repercussions for cohesion policy. This briefing is an update of an earlier edition, published in February 2017.

The debate on the shape of the post-2020 cohesion policy is well under way. Stakeholders have identified a number of principal issues or questions in this regard, relating to the operation of the policy itself as well as its impact and relationship with other EU polices and with the wider goals and objectives of the Union. One issue debated is how cohesion policy can best contribute to the twin objectives of competitiveness and cohesion. Finding the most efficient form of support is another important point of discussion: should it be grants, repayable assistance, financial instruments, or possibly a mix of all of these along with further thematic concentration? In addition, the way that cohesion policy addresses new or growing challenges such as migration has been raised. Simplification of the policy for beneficiaries, flexibility, the importance of achieving better governance, and the contribution of cohesion policy to the EU's economic governance are all widely debated. Other specific matters raised relate to the urban dimension in cohesion policy and the impact that the policy can have upon growth, jobs and innovation in sparsely populated areas, regions lagging behind and regions with special geographical characteristics. The departure of the United Kingdom from the EU will have a significant impact on the EU budget and consequently on the financial envelope for cohesion policy. Finally, the European Commission (EC) has published a number of white papers on the future of the EU that provide further ideas for reflection on the overall functioning and priorities of the Union. These reflections also have repercussions for cohesion policy. This briefing is an update of an earlier edition, published in February 2017.