Committee of the Regions (CoR) President Mercedes Bresso today firmly opposed Commission plans to suspend all EU regional development funds for countries that breach European deficit rules. At the same time, the CoR President welcomed reform proposals for EU regional policy that would help regions and cities to face globalisation and the environmental and demographic challenges ahead.
The European Commission today presented its legislative proposals for the next generation of regional development funds for the years 2014-2020. One of the cornerstones of its reform programme is to suspend EU funds for countries flouting the stability and growth pact or other deficit rules. In a first reaction, Committee of the Regions President Mercedes Bresso underlined that regional and local authorities have repeatedly rejected this proposal in the past: "It is irritating that the Commission ignored the strong opposition of the Committee of the Regions, the European Parliament and of the other concerned stakeholders on this point."
President Bresso emphasised the damaging knock-on effects that the 'funding suspension' would have on the ground: "The current crisis has devastating effects on our regions and cities, and EU support has a crucial role to play in their economic recovery. This is why we cannot accept the proposed 'funding suspension' for countries breaching EU deficit and debt rules. Withdrawing EU funding from an already ailing economy will only make matters worse. And this measure will punish regional and local authorities for the failures of their national governments", Bresso said.
At the same time the CoR President broadly welcomed other parts of the legislative package: "Many of the reform proposals go in the right direction, giving regions and cities the tools they need to deliver better results on the ground. In my opinion, the new common framework for all major EU funds, a stronger role for local and regional authorities in new partnership contracts, support for 'transition regions', the proposed regionalisation of the European Social Fund or increased options for territorial cooperation are promising innovations." President Bresso also welcomed the Commission's efforts to promote an integrated approach towards regional development, and said that the Committee will "carefully scrutinise the new provisions on simplifying the management of regional policy."
The new legislative package will dominate discussions among the 6.000 regional and local stakeholders expected at next week's OPEN DAYS - the European week of regions and cities - co-organised by the Committee of the Regions and the European Commission in Brussels.
The official CoR opinions on the proposed rules will be drawn up by rapporteurs nominated in the CoR's Commission for territorial cohesion. Catiuscia Marini (IT/PES), President of the Umbria Region, will draft the Committee's opinion on the 'general regulation' which applies to all structural funds. Michael Schneider (DE/EPP), European affairs state secretary of the Land of Saxony-Anhalt will scrutinise the Commission plans for the European Regional Development Fund, whereas Romeo Stavarache (RO/ALDE), Mayor of Bacau municipality will cover the European Cohesion Fund. The draft law on the European Social Fund (ESF) will be analysed by Konstantinos Simitsis (EL/PES), Mayor of the City of Kavala, and the proposal for European territorial cooperation will be explored by Petr Osvald (CZ/PES), Councillor of Plzen. Michel Delebarre (FR/PES), Mayor of Dunkirk, will analyse plans to revise the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC).
First discussions with the rapporteurs and CoR members will take place on 11 October in Brussels and on 19 October in Warsaw. The final opinions are expected for adoption by the CoR plenary in spring 2012.