Regional Development MEPs exchanged views with Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, on the new EU proposals regarding the recovery plan, REACT-EU and long-term budget.
In her introductory speech, Commissioner Ferreira presented the different proposals published last week. She underlined the central role that cohesion policy has taken in EU’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and said that the economic recovery proposals under “Next Generation EU” have a strong “cohesion DNA”. She underlined the need to resume as soon as possible the negotiations on the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework, as well as kick start work on the new proposals, in order to make best use of the proposed instruments.
MEPs welcomed the recent European Commission proposals as a good step forward to start negotiations and acknowledged the efforts to table concrete solutions, in order to bring back the EU economy on the right track and avoid deepening of divides. A large majority of speakers also warmly welcomed the adequate funding foreseen for the Just Transition Fund.
Committee members raised as well a number of concerns. MEPs questioned the distribution of the funds under REACT EU, defending the territorial cohesion principles, and its focus towards the less developed regions. Many also underlined the fact that the new MFF proposal on the 2021-2027 cohesion budget remains lower than the previous period, and considerably lower than the European Parliament’s position. MEPs called for more resources to be channelled through the well-established cohesion instruments, rather than through temporary top-ups and loans.
Members also referred to unclear aspects regarding control mechanisms, the analysis concerning the territories that will be the most affected socially and economically, the environmental aim of the recovery instruments, the nature of projects to be financed, as well as the related timetable. MEPs also called for reinforcing the social dimension.
Members finally underlined the need for appropriate time to consider all aspects of the new proposals.
EP Regional Development Committee Chair, Younous Omarjee (GUE/NGL, FR) said: “More than ever, Europe needs to work together in a very coherent and cohesive manner. Our committee is ready to work to safeguard the cohesion policy principles in the recovery package. I am confident that our concerns will be translated into constructive improvements. No regions must be left behind. Cohesion policy built Europe, it will also help rebuild it.”
On 27 May 2020, the European Commission revealed its proposals for the EU recovery plan and a new long-term budget (MFF 2021-2027). The REACT-EU initiative, which continues and extends the crisis response measures implemented through the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative and the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus, will deliver €55 billion of additional funds for the current programming period (2020-2022). Moreover, the new Recovery and Resilience Facility will provide large-scale financial support to reforms and investments undertaken by Member States (€310 billion in grants and €250 billion in loans).
For the next MFF, the Commission proposed the reinforcement of the Just Transition Fund to €40 billion (compared to the initial €7.5 billion). In addition, a new loan facility will support public sector investment in regions most affected by climate transition (under the Just Transition Mechanism).
For cohesion policy, EU countries will have additional flexibility, compared with the current programming period, to transfer resources among the funds at any point in time (amended proposals were presented for the regulations on common provisions, as well as the European Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund). However, the amounts proposed in 2018 per thematic priority and per Member State remain valid.