How is the cohesion policy important for the regions and the European project?
In the first place, I think it is important to emphasize that cohesion policy can benefit all regions. This project was created with the aim of levelling out the inequalities that exist between the different regions of Europe.
This cohesion policy is also the main investment tool in a crisis situation. Thus, during the last financial crisis, while some states have already paid in retirement and pensions, the first budget cuts have invariably affected investments. Several countries, including Greece, have received full funding for their investments from European funds.
In some countries, notably in Eastern Europe, the European Union still finances 80% of public investment. And the richest regions are not left out. In fact, wherever pockets of poverty persist, Europe invests significant resources in public structures, such as hospitals and schools.
While working on our own modernisation for several years, we are working to better meet the needs of the regions, both in terms of infrastructure and research and innovation; these two components are the real engines of growth, and that’s why the pursuit of the cohesion policy seems to me, essential today.
Today, we are here to highlight the importance of cohesion policy and to increase our visibility and, above all, to make our proposals heard in all European regions. According to our figures, more than 70% of Europeans do not know that it’s Europe that directly finances the schools where their children study, the hospitals that treat them or the roads they use every day. It is, therefore, necessary for me to be aware of the extent of European commitment in such fundamental areas. This commitment is essential to express the social and economic solidarity between the Member States.
What role do you think regions will play in the future of the European project?
Regions are of paramount importance, and I am committed to representing them in the various commissions. Of course, I defend their development needs, especially when resources at the national level are insufficient.
We have just celebrated 30 years of cohesion policy, and we hope to continue our mission for the next 30 years! We would also like to help all regions of the Member States to improve the quality of life of their inhabitants because this is our ultimate goal.
Conducting a cohesion policy is not an end in itself; our objectives are concrete: to improve the quality of a citizen’s life, their safety, their health, to participate in the fight against climate change, or to invest in innovation and research. We are working on many fronts, so I think that the specialisation strategies put in place by the regions to strengthen their strengths will pay off. Of course, not all regions are designed to look like Silicon Valley, but they are rich in many other important specialties, such as agribusiness or aeronautics. Always with a view to improving the quality of life, it is very important to work hand-in-hand with the regions, at the local level with the mayors and on a larger scale with the regional presidents.
What conclusions do you draw from this morning’s meeting?
The main purpose of this meeting was to report on the number of organisations supporting cohesion policies. This initiative, therefore, seems to be positive for the millions of citizens who are directly concerned, as well as for the Heads of State and the European Commission.
On 2 May, the committee will present its draft for the next EU financial period. The future of cohesion policy is found among the main legislators.