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EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Regional policy

28-06-2019

The principal aim of the EU's regional policy, also known as cohesion policy, is to address the territorial, social and economic imbalances that exist between the different regions of the EU. Regional policy covers all regions and cities of the European Union, helping to support job creation, business competitiveness, economic growth, sustainable development, and to improve citizens' quality of life. To achieve these goals and address the diverse development needs in all EU regions, €351.8 billion ...

The principal aim of the EU's regional policy, also known as cohesion policy, is to address the territorial, social and economic imbalances that exist between the different regions of the EU. Regional policy covers all regions and cities of the European Union, helping to support job creation, business competitiveness, economic growth, sustainable development, and to improve citizens' quality of life. To achieve these goals and address the diverse development needs in all EU regions, €351.8 billion – almost one third of the total EU budget – has been set aside for cohesion policy for the 2014-2020 period. This financial support is distributed through two main funds: the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund (CF). Together with the European Social Fund (ESF), the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), they make up the European structural and investment (ESI) funds, which provide support that can make a real difference to the lives of people in the EU's regions. With the current programming period (2014-2020) drawing to a close, work is now under way on planning the cohesion policy priorities for the next programming period (2021-2027). During its 2014-2019 term the European Parliament was called upon numerous times to adopt new legislative acts, amend older rules and to provide opinions on many topics relating to the EU's regional policy. Within the European Parliament, the Committee on Regional Policy is responsible for the Union's regional development and cohesion policy, as set out in the Treaties. In anticipation of its expected withdrawal from the EU, the UK, until now a net contributor to the EU budget, will no longer contribute to the post-2020 EU budget, which means that the EU will have fewer resources to allocate to its policies in the future, including cohesion policy. The European Parliament has, however, strongly advocated maintaining the level of funding for cohesion policy at its current level or even increasing it. This is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

Transnational clusters and the Danube macro-regional strategy

18-03-2019

As geographical concentrations of enterprises, which work together in the same field to develop a high level of expertise, services and skills, clusters are hotbeds of innovation and play an important role in the EU economy. Known as transnational clusters when they involve actors from two or more countries in the same geographical area, clusters tend to generate higher employment growth than firms located outside clusters, and are estimated to account for a significant proportion of jobs in the ...

As geographical concentrations of enterprises, which work together in the same field to develop a high level of expertise, services and skills, clusters are hotbeds of innovation and play an important role in the EU economy. Known as transnational clusters when they involve actors from two or more countries in the same geographical area, clusters tend to generate higher employment growth than firms located outside clusters, and are estimated to account for a significant proportion of jobs in the European Union. Linking countries from across a wide geographical region, the EU's macro-regional strategies provide a useful framework to support transnational clusters. Launched in December 2010, the EU strategy for the Danube region (EUDSR) covers 14 countries that differ both in terms of their development and their relationship with the EU, including nine EU Member States and five third countries. With one of the major challenges in the Danube region being the uneven levels of innovation performance between the highly developed western part of the region and the less-developed east, transnational clusters have the potential to help redress this balance and to increase regional competiveness. The development of clusters is firmly supported by the EUSDR's action plan, which outlines a number of actions to foster clusters across the Danube region. This has led to several cluster projects, with a particular emphasis on the bio-based and agri-food sectors, building on the expertise of local enterprises in this field. The European Commission and academic experts have welcomed the progress made in the development of clusters in the Danube region in recent years, yet challenges remain, with issues such as funding difficulties, the lack of visibility of macro-regional strategies and declining political commitment all causes for concern. Future discussions on the content of cohesion programmes post-2020 provide a golden opportunity to highlight the potential of macro-regional strategies for fostering regional development and how transnational clusters can contribute to this process. This briefing has been produced at the request of a member of the Committee of the Regions, in the framework of the Cooperation Agreement between the Parliament and the Committee.

Mechanism to resolve legal and administrative obstacles in a cross-border context

25-01-2019

Often isolated, and with generally poorer access to public services, the EU's border regions face a unique set of challenges. This has been recognised under Article 174 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which provides that particular attention should be paid to cross-border regions when developing action to strengthen the EU's economic, social and territorial cohesion. Yet while the EU has provided significant support over the years, particularly within the framework of European ...

Often isolated, and with generally poorer access to public services, the EU's border regions face a unique set of challenges. This has been recognised under Article 174 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which provides that particular attention should be paid to cross-border regions when developing action to strengthen the EU's economic, social and territorial cohesion. Yet while the EU has provided significant support over the years, particularly within the framework of European territorial cooperation, helping to strengthen connectivity and create new growth and jobs, numerous obstacles continue to hamper cross-border cooperation. Organised to identify these remaining bottlenecks, the Commission's 2015 cross-border review revealed legal and administrative barriers to be the main obstacle to cross-border cooperation while, in parallel, the 2015 Luxembourg Presidency put forward plans for an EU cross-border mechanism, with an informal working group set up to develop the idea. Both processes have fed into discussions in recent years to create a mechanism for cross-border areas, leading to the current proposal, introduced as part of the multiannual financial framework's cohesion policy package. Second edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

European Union Solidarity Fund

28-06-2018

Established in 2002 to support disaster-stricken regions, the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) complements the efforts of public authorities by helping to fund vital emergency and recovery operations in areas affected by catastrophes such as flooding, earthquakes or forest fires. With an annual budget of €500 million, EUSF funding is granted following an application from a Member State or candidate country, and may be used to finance measures including restoring infrastructure to working order ...

Established in 2002 to support disaster-stricken regions, the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) complements the efforts of public authorities by helping to fund vital emergency and recovery operations in areas affected by catastrophes such as flooding, earthquakes or forest fires. With an annual budget of €500 million, EUSF funding is granted following an application from a Member State or candidate country, and may be used to finance measures including restoring infrastructure to working order, providing temporary accommodation or cleaning up disaster areas. Although a revision of the EUSF Regulation took place in 2014, simplifying rules and clarifying eligibility criteria, several problems still remain. European Commission reports on the EUSF have drawn attention to the long waiting time countries still face before receiving EUSF funding, while industry experts also point to the risk that the EUSF could run out of funding in the event of several large disasters taking place within a short space of time. With a number of major natural disasters occurring over the past years, the EUSF has attracted renewed attention, leading the European Commission to put forward new proposals addressing the issue of post-disaster support. Parliament was also actively involved in these discussions, adopting a resolution on the EUSF in December 2016 which included several measures aimed at improving its operations, also calling on Member States to use ESI funds to invest in disaster prevention. Recent developments, such as new rules that allow reconstruction operations to be financed under the European Regional Development Fund and the proposal for a reinforced Civil Protection Mechanism, have helped create greater coherence between the EUSF and other EU measures. Perhaps most importantly, by complementing the work of the EUSF, these measures have the potential to improve the effectiveness of the EU's disaster prevention and response operations. The planned increase in the EUSF budget outlined under the recent MFF proposal can also help contribute to this process by strengthening the EUSF's response capacity, yet these plans will be subject to tough negotiations in the Council and Parliament. The next few months will arguably be of critical importance for ensuring the continued strength of the EU's disaster response capabilities and, in particular, the EUSF's role within this process. This is an updated edition of a Briefing published in January 2017, PE 595.896.

Harnessing the potential of the Urban Agenda for the EU

27-06-2018

Our towns and cities are home to nearly three quarters of the EU's population, and most EU policies concern them, be it directly or indirectly. While the revised 2014-2020 cohesion policy framework introduced a number of new instruments intended to enhance the urban dimension of cohesion funding, a shared vision of urban development has gradually taken shape at inter-governmental level, accompanied by increasing calls to give city authorities and stakeholders a greater say in policymaking. To help ...

Our towns and cities are home to nearly three quarters of the EU's population, and most EU policies concern them, be it directly or indirectly. While the revised 2014-2020 cohesion policy framework introduced a number of new instruments intended to enhance the urban dimension of cohesion funding, a shared vision of urban development has gradually taken shape at inter-governmental level, accompanied by increasing calls to give city authorities and stakeholders a greater say in policymaking. To help guide these discussions, the European Commission launched a public consultation following its July 2014 communications on the urban dimension of EU policies. Its findings indicated broad support among city stakeholders for an Urban Agenda for the EU. The European Parliament also prepared an own-initiative report on the issue, as part of a process that would ultimately lead to the signing of the Pact of Amsterdam on 30 May 2016, a clear political commitment to deliver an Urban Agenda. With the pact providing for the creation of 12 urban partnerships focusing on key urban themes, all partnerships are now in operation. Developments such as improved coordination within the Commission on urban issues and new resources including a permanent secretariat have consolidated the Urban Agenda, yet challenges remain. The Commission's proposals for the cohesion framework post-2020, which include the creation of a European urban initiative to support the Urban Agenda, have the potential to further strengthen the Urban Agenda but these plans will be subject to tough negotiations in the months ahead. Ultimately, the success of the Urban Agenda will depend on the partnerships' ability to deliver concrete action plans and on the extent to which they are taken up by the Commission, a process requiring full commitment from all the partners. This Briefing is a further update of an earlier one originally published in June 2016, PE 614.595.

Promoting sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks in key network infrastructure

25-04-2018

Ahead of the Commission’s forthcoming proposals on the new Multiannual Financial Framework, which are expected in May 2018, the May I plenary session is expected to discuss an own-initiative report which assesses the implementation of cohesion policy and the thematic objective of promoting sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks in key network infrastructure, including recommendations for the post-2020 period.

Ahead of the Commission’s forthcoming proposals on the new Multiannual Financial Framework, which are expected in May 2018, the May I plenary session is expected to discuss an own-initiative report which assesses the implementation of cohesion policy and the thematic objective of promoting sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks in key network infrastructure, including recommendations for the post-2020 period.

European territorial cooperation

23-03-2018

Established in 1990, the first European territorial cooperation initiative, Interreg I, focused on cross-border cooperation. Action in this area has expanded over the years to cover broader initiatives such as trans-national cooperation, involving countries from wider geographical areas, and inter-regional cooperation, which brings together regions from across the whole EU. These three strands together make up European territorial cooperation, which is one of the two main goals of cohesion policy ...

Established in 1990, the first European territorial cooperation initiative, Interreg I, focused on cross-border cooperation. Action in this area has expanded over the years to cover broader initiatives such as trans-national cooperation, involving countries from wider geographical areas, and inter-regional cooperation, which brings together regions from across the whole EU. These three strands together make up European territorial cooperation, which is one of the two main goals of cohesion policy today. With the removal of Europe's frontier posts, travelling across borders has become second nature for millions of European citizens. European territorial cooperation has brought Europeans closer together, strengthened connectivity and improved the natural environment, supported by EU mechanisms such as the European groupings of territorial cooperation, and macro-regional strategies. Yet despite these achievements, numerous obstacles to closer cooperation still remain, such as divergent national rules in the areas of employment, healthcare and social security. Recent years have witnessed increased calls to address these hurdles, with the 2015 Luxembourg EU Presidency putting forward a proposal for a new instrument for cross-border projects, and the European Commission organising a cross-border review to identify remaining bottlenecks in the area, leading to a 2017 communication on boosting growth and cohesion in EU border regions. The European Parliament has also adopted a resolution on European territorial cooperation as part of this process. With discussions under way on the future of cohesion policy, there is general agreement on the importance of strengthening Interreg beyond 2020. Yet despite the many achievements of this policy over the years, continued EU support for European territorial cooperation is arguably critical, with the partial reintroduction of border controls in recent years revealing just how fragile territorial cooperation can be. This is an updated edition of a briefing from September 2016: PE 586.666.

Integrated territorial investment – Implementation and future prospects

07-03-2018

An optional territorial development tool, integrated territorial investments (ITIs) make it possible to combine resources from the European Social Fund, European Regional Development Fund or Cohesion Fund under priority axes of one or more operational programmes. While ITIs may be used to implement sustainable urban development as well as other territorial strategies, they also allow Member States to delegate management tasks to the local level. Their take-up in the current period, however, has been ...

An optional territorial development tool, integrated territorial investments (ITIs) make it possible to combine resources from the European Social Fund, European Regional Development Fund or Cohesion Fund under priority axes of one or more operational programmes. While ITIs may be used to implement sustainable urban development as well as other territorial strategies, they also allow Member States to delegate management tasks to the local level. Their take-up in the current period, however, has been relatively low, leading to questions regarding their current form. Commentators have highlighted a number of obstacles to implementing ITIs, such as their complex structure, the administrative burden they represent for local authorities and the reluctance of many Member States to delegate responsibilities to the local level, with the European Parliament also adopting a resolution on this topic in 2016. There is clearly room for improvement and the current discussions on the future cohesion policy framework provide fresh impetus to further develop this tool. Stakeholders have put forward a number of proposals, finding common ground on issues such as ensuring the wider use of ITIs and a place-based approach, the need for greater simplification, and the importance of strengthening the sub-delegation of powers to involve the local level more in selecting projects. With a commitment to maintaining a key role for cohesion policy in the EU budget after 2020, the Bulgarian Council Presidency has made this policy one of its priorities. Yet in a context of increasing budgetary pressure, it remains unclear whether Member States will wish to strengthen a tool that devolves greater power, at some financial risk, to the local level.

Outermost regions of the EU: A stronger and renewed partnership

19-01-2018

The EU's outermost regions qualify for special treatment owing to structural difficulties, such as remoteness, difficult topography or economic dependence on a few products, which can severely hamper their development. Specific support mechanisms exist under cohesion, agricultural and fisheries policies, with the Commission outlining measures aimed at assisting outermost regions in its communications published in 2004, 2008, and 2012. Nevertheless, with the outermost regions continuing to face numerous ...

The EU's outermost regions qualify for special treatment owing to structural difficulties, such as remoteness, difficult topography or economic dependence on a few products, which can severely hamper their development. Specific support mechanisms exist under cohesion, agricultural and fisheries policies, with the Commission outlining measures aimed at assisting outermost regions in its communications published in 2004, 2008, and 2012. Nevertheless, with the outermost regions continuing to face numerous challenges in areas such as mobility, unemployment and climate change, discussions were launched on the formulation of a new strategy, which was published in October 2017. The result of extensive consultation with stakeholders, including Parliament and the outermost regions themselves, the 2017 communication puts forward a new approach to support their development by making the most of the outermost regions' assets, exploiting new opportunities for growth and job creation and giving greater recognition to their specific circumstances and needs. To achieve this, the communication outlines a series of concrete and coordinated actions to be taken at EU and national level, as well as by the outermost regions, and calls for a stronger partnership between outermost regions, their respective Member States, and the EU. While broadly welcoming the new strategy, the outermost regions and its partners have highlighted several key issues that it fails to cover. Equally, although the Commission puts forward many commitments and positive measures, the strategy is very much a work in progress, and its measures will need to be developed further and incorporated into the EU legislative framework before they can be rolled out on the ground. In this context, the future shape of the EU's legislative and financial proposals post-2020 will be of crucial importance for the successful delivery of this strategy. This is a revised and updated version of a briefing from March 2017, PE 599.365.

Implementation of EU macro-regional strategies

10-01-2018

One of the EU’s main instruments for promoting European territorial cooperation, macro-regional strategies bring together regions from Member States and third countries confronted with a common set of challenges. While each macro-regional strategy differs in terms of the countries involved or the scope of its policies, they all share the same common aim: to ensure a coordinated approach to issues best tackled together. Parliament is due to discuss an own-initiative report on the implementation of ...

One of the EU’s main instruments for promoting European territorial cooperation, macro-regional strategies bring together regions from Member States and third countries confronted with a common set of challenges. While each macro-regional strategy differs in terms of the countries involved or the scope of its policies, they all share the same common aim: to ensure a coordinated approach to issues best tackled together. Parliament is due to discuss an own-initiative report on the implementation of macro-regional strategies during its January plenary session.

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