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Sustainable Development Goals in EU regions

15-12-2020

The Sustainable Development Goals were established in 2015 as part of the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The signatories adopted a policy framework with 17 goals, addressing such issues as poverty, hunger, health and wellbeing, education, gender equality, environment and climate, strong institutions, peace and justice. Sustainable development aims at balancing social, economic and environmental aspects, seeing them as interconnected. The European Union (EU) has contributed ...

The Sustainable Development Goals were established in 2015 as part of the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The signatories adopted a policy framework with 17 goals, addressing such issues as poverty, hunger, health and wellbeing, education, gender equality, environment and climate, strong institutions, peace and justice. Sustainable development aims at balancing social, economic and environmental aspects, seeing them as interconnected. The European Union (EU) has contributed to creating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and takes action to implement them. It has committed to deliver on the 2030 Agenda through its internal and external policies, as outlined in the 'Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030' reflection paper, the European Green Deal, the European Commission's political priorities and its work programme. EU Member States prepare Voluntary National Reviews, in line with UN guidelines. Eurostat publishes annual monitoring reports showing EU progress on implementing the goals through a set of indicators adapted to the European context. Since 2019, the SDGs are included in the European Semester. The Sustainable Development Goals also have a regional dimension, sometimes called 'localisation'. Achieving around 65 % of the targets is estimated to require local and regional authority participation. Numerous regions and cities, including in the EU, have expressed support for the SDGs and many have integrated them in their policy frameworks. Efforts to localise the SDGs are ongoing and regional achievements are featured in the national reviews presented at international conferences. Monitoring SDGs at the regional level can thus help support the overall implementation of the SDGs, reinforce national efforts, support regional development strategies, and provide a broader picture of within-country trends. The European Parliament has expressed its support for an EU sustainable development strategy and enhanced involvement of regional, local and civil society stakeholders in SDG implementation.

REACT-EU recovery assistance

10-12-2020

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission proposed the REACT-EU package for the regions most hit by the crisis. It will mobilise additional resources of €47.5 billion and offer flexibility for Member States to address the coronavirus-related challenges using EU funds. It also complements two previous Coronavirus Response Investment Initiatives delivered through cohesion policy. The European Parliament is expected to vote during its December plenary session to adopt its first-reading ...

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission proposed the REACT-EU package for the regions most hit by the crisis. It will mobilise additional resources of €47.5 billion and offer flexibility for Member States to address the coronavirus-related challenges using EU funds. It also complements two previous Coronavirus Response Investment Initiatives delivered through cohesion policy. The European Parliament is expected to vote during its December plenary session to adopt its first-reading position on the proposed regulation, confirming the compromise political agreement reached with the Council in November.

Just Transition Fund

13-10-2020

The EU aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 % by 2030 and achieve climate neutrality by 2050. This will require a socio-economic transformation in regions relying on fossil fuels and high-emission industries. As part of the European Green Deal, on 14 January 2020, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a regulation to create the Just Transition Fund, aimed at supporting EU regions most affected by the transition to a low carbon economy. In the context of recovery from the coronavirus ...

The EU aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 % by 2030 and achieve climate neutrality by 2050. This will require a socio-economic transformation in regions relying on fossil fuels and high-emission industries. As part of the European Green Deal, on 14 January 2020, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a regulation to create the Just Transition Fund, aimed at supporting EU regions most affected by the transition to a low carbon economy. In the context of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, an amended proposal on the Just Transition Fund (JTF) was published on 28 May 2020, increasingly the previously proposed JTF budget from €7.5 to €40 billion (in 2018 prices, with €10 billion under the core EU budget and €30 billion from Next Generation EU). The European Council cut the core budget part to €7.5 billion and Next Generation EU part to €10 billion in July 2020, while the European Parliament proposed an increase of the core budget resources to over €25 billion in September 2020. Funding will be available to all Member States, while focusing on regions with the biggest transition challenges. The proposed budget for the Just Transition Fund is to be complemented with resources from cohesion policy funds and national co financing. The Fund will be part of a Just Transition Mechanism, which also includes resources under InvestEU and a public-sector loan facility. The Commission expects total funding mobilised under the mechanism to reach at least €150 billion. In the European Parliament, the file has been entrusted to the Committee on Regional Development (REGI). The REGI committee voted on its report on 6 July, and the Parliament subsequently adopted its amendments on 17 September 2020, fixing its position for trilogue negotiations. Third edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

Just Transition Fund

11-09-2020

The EU’s ambition to achieve climate neutrality will require a transformation in those regions relying on fossil fuels and high-emission industries. The Just Transition Fund of €17.5 billion, complementing the existing cohesion policy funds, will provide support to address the social, economic and environmental impacts of the transition in the most affected territories. The European Parliament is expected to vote during the September plenary session on its legislative resolution outlining the Parliament ...

The EU’s ambition to achieve climate neutrality will require a transformation in those regions relying on fossil fuels and high-emission industries. The Just Transition Fund of €17.5 billion, complementing the existing cohesion policy funds, will provide support to address the social, economic and environmental impacts of the transition in the most affected territories. The European Parliament is expected to vote during the September plenary session on its legislative resolution outlining the Parliament’s first-reading position on the proposed regulation, and refer the file back to the Committee on Regional Development (REGI) for interinstitutional negotiations.

European Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund 2021-2027

30-01-2020

In the context of the upcoming Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027, the European Commission published a proposal for a regulation on the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund (CF) on 29 May 2018. The new single regulation on the ERDF and CF (previously covered by two separate regulations) identifies the specific objectives and scope of support for both funds, including non-eligible activities. The majority of ERDF funding (65 % to 85 %) will focus on smart growth ...

In the context of the upcoming Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027, the European Commission published a proposal for a regulation on the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund (CF) on 29 May 2018. The new single regulation on the ERDF and CF (previously covered by two separate regulations) identifies the specific objectives and scope of support for both funds, including non-eligible activities. The majority of ERDF funding (65 % to 85 %) will focus on smart growth and the green economy, while the fund will also support other activities such as connectivity, social issues and local development. The CF will continue to focus predominantly on environmental and transport infrastructure. Special provisions have been proposed for territories such as urban areas and outermost regions. The indicator framework for monitoring progress will include new common results indicators. In the European Parliament, the file was allocated to the Committee on Regional Development, and on 27 March 2019 the Parliament adopted a legislative resolution in plenary constituting its first-reading position. The proposal is currently at trilogue stage with a view to an early second-reading agreement. Third edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

Just transition in EU regions

28-01-2020

The EU plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 % by 2030, and to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. This will require a socio-economic transformation in regions relying on fossil fuels and carbon-intensive industries. As part of the European Green Deal, the new Commission has announced a 'Just Transition Mechanism' of €100 billion to support the territories most affected by the transition towards climate neutrality.

The EU plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 % by 2030, and to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. This will require a socio-economic transformation in regions relying on fossil fuels and carbon-intensive industries. As part of the European Green Deal, the new Commission has announced a 'Just Transition Mechanism' of €100 billion to support the territories most affected by the transition towards climate neutrality.

Better communication for cohesion policy

05-11-2019

Cohesion policy is a major EU investment tool aimed at reducing regional disparities and achieving economic, social and territorial cohesion. It delivers a wide range of results in areas such as new infrastructure, training, job creation, support for small businesses and environmental protection. Communication is key when it comes to making the public aware of existing funding opportunities and informing them of the results of cohesion policy investments. It can also affect public perception of the ...

Cohesion policy is a major EU investment tool aimed at reducing regional disparities and achieving economic, social and territorial cohesion. It delivers a wide range of results in areas such as new infrastructure, training, job creation, support for small businesses and environmental protection. Communication is key when it comes to making the public aware of existing funding opportunities and informing them of the results of cohesion policy investments. It can also affect public perception of the EU and raise awareness of the positive impact of EU support on people's everyday lives. Improving the visibility of cohesion policy is therefore a salient issue for the EU. Communication measures range from requirements for fund managers and beneficiaries on the basis of EU legislation to more informal initiatives such as information campaigns, events and web portals aimed at publicising the policy's achievements. In the framework of multi-level governance, communication activities bring together a wide variety of actors including EU institutions, Member States, regional and local authorities and members of civil society. The ongoing negotiations on the new multiannual financial framework for 2021 to 2027, including new regulations on cohesion policy, and the upcoming conclusion of the 2014-2020 programming period provide a good opportunity for reflection on the issue of cohesion policy communication. This briefing updates an earlier edition, of March 2019. It was originally produced at the request of a member of the European Committee of the Regions, in the framework of the Cooperation Agreement between the Parliament and the Committee.

EU support for coal regions

03-10-2019

The EU has committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 % before 2030, and by at least 80 % by 2050. This will require a transition from relying on fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and in particular a reduction in power generation from coal. While EU production and consumption of coal has declined steadily, coal still provides about a quarter of EU power generation. Coal is mined in 12 Member States, and coal-fired power plants operate in 21 Member States. The European coal sector employs ...

The EU has committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 % before 2030, and by at least 80 % by 2050. This will require a transition from relying on fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and in particular a reduction in power generation from coal. While EU production and consumption of coal has declined steadily, coal still provides about a quarter of EU power generation. Coal is mined in 12 Member States, and coal-fired power plants operate in 21 Member States. The European coal sector employs 238 000 people in directly linked activities, such as coal mines and power plants. An estimated 160 000 jobs could disappear by 2030. Further job losses are expected in indirect activities along the value chain, e.g. power generation, equipment supply, services, research and development. Impacts of phasing out coal are also likely to be felt in the iron and steel sectors, mining equipment manufacturing and coal terminals. Transition to a low-carbon economy will therefore require structural changes in coal-producing regions. Proposed solutions include helping workers to retrain and supporting their search for new employment, promoting local economies' diversification, modernising energy and power generation systems, developing the renewable energy sector, and rehabilitating mining land, for instance by converting former mines for renewable energy use or creating industrial heritage sites. The EU provides a variety of funding that can be used to alleviate the socio-economic consequences for coal regions. Energy and climate adaptation programmes, along with cohesion policy and research funding opportunities, offer financial support, while additional technical assistance is also available. The European Commission's Platform for Coal Regions in Transition assists regions to prepare and implement transition activities. As the EU is currently negotiating its post-2020 budgetary framework, the European Parliament and the European Committee of the Regions call for specific measures and tailored funding sources to offer support to facilitate transition in coal regions. The Commission President-elect has announced the establishment of a Just Transition Fund as part of the European Green Deal, and new legislative proposals can be expected early in her term in office.

Financial instruments in cohesion policy

30-09-2019

Considered a resource-efficient way of using public funding, the use of financial instruments in cohesion policy is increasing. Financial instruments provide support for investment in the form of loans, guarantees, equity and other risk-sharing mechanisms. In the 2014-2020 programming period, financial instruments can be applied in all thematic areas and funds covered by cohesion policy, and they can be combined with grants. The amounts allocated are expected to double in comparison to the previous ...

Considered a resource-efficient way of using public funding, the use of financial instruments in cohesion policy is increasing. Financial instruments provide support for investment in the form of loans, guarantees, equity and other risk-sharing mechanisms. In the 2014-2020 programming period, financial instruments can be applied in all thematic areas and funds covered by cohesion policy, and they can be combined with grants. The amounts allocated are expected to double in comparison to the previous period. The lessons learnt so far from the implementation of financial instruments show that they present both advantages and challenges. Their revolving nature can increase the efficiency and sustainability of public funds in the long term. The requirement to repay can stimulate better performance and quality of investment projects. They can improve access to finance, through targeting financially viable projects that have not been able to obtain sufficient funding from market sources. However, financial instruments can also entail high management costs and fees, as well as complex set-up procedures. Although financial instruments may be a beneficial way to optimise the use of the cohesion budget, in some situations grants can be more effective. It is also important to bear in mind that the primary goal of financial instruments is to support cohesion policy objectives, rather than just to generate financial returns. The new legislative proposals on the post-2020 cohesion policy framework have taken these considerations into account, simplifying the use of financial instruments. This is an updated edition of a 2016 Briefing.

Regional inequalities in the EU

17-05-2019

The issue of inequality has gained increasing importance in the public and political agenda in the aftermath of the financial and economic crisis, and in the context of political movements representing the 'places left behind'. Inequality may relate to income and wealth, but also to a variety of aspects such as access to basic services, education and infrastructure. In the context of regional disparities, it may also refer to differing levels of socio-economic development. Common inequality measures ...

The issue of inequality has gained increasing importance in the public and political agenda in the aftermath of the financial and economic crisis, and in the context of political movements representing the 'places left behind'. Inequality may relate to income and wealth, but also to a variety of aspects such as access to basic services, education and infrastructure. In the context of regional disparities, it may also refer to differing levels of socio-economic development. Common inequality measures have revealed that, while regional disparities have been decreasing when considering the EU as a whole, they have been increasing within some countries. A number of persistently low-growth regions exist in southern Europe, as do many low-income regions in eastern Europe. Every Member State has a number of 'inner peripheries', which are habitually located in post-industrial or rural areas and often characterised by high levels of unemployment, poor infrastructure, lack of skilled workforce and hampered accessibility. Strengthening social, economic and territorial cohesion, and reducing regional disparities is the main goal of EU cohesion policy. As a major EU tool to address regional inequalities, this policy provides a wide range of support for businesses and activities in areas such as research, environment, transport, employment, social inclusion, education and institutional capacity-building. Such support is crucial for addressing the underlying problems of many lagging regions, helping them create better living conditions, retain and attract talent, encourage investment, improve productivity and develop regional innovation systems. Together with economic governance frameworks and EU support for structural reform, EU cohesion policy can play an important role in reducing inequality, in a comprehensive and multidimensional way. While traditionally, GDP per capita has been used to assess regional convergence, a variety of new indicators tracking progress on issues correlated with inequality are available for this purpose today. Moreover, the proposals for the EU's post-2020 policy framework include new additional funding allocation criteria such as youth unemployment, education levels, climate change, and the reception and integration of migrants. These changes possibly indicate a shift towards a more comprehensive view of territorial convergence in the EU.

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