Today, together with mayors of major European cities, we are having our second meeting to discuss efficient ways to strengthen the integration of migrants in cities across the EU, especially with Cohesion Policy investments in innovative urban projects.
We have an important but difficult work to accomplish together in Europe and we are at the beginning of a long journey. Today's meeting shows our readiness to financially support cities in coping with a pressing need for more inclusion. But beyond that, it is a mark of our strong political commitment to tackle a growing trend that is taking root in many countries, a trend that promotes rejection and selfishness.
Integrating migrants is not only our duty of solidarity as European citizens, it is also a great opportunity to make our society more inclusive and cohesive as a whole, enriched by diversity. That is our message today, and we need to make sure that EU citizens hear it.
Cohesion Policy will help, in a very concrete way. We are working to exploit synergies between EU Funds that can invest in social and professional inclusion projects and we stand ready to provide guidance to local authorities.
Last June, we reviewed national Cohesion Policy envelopes for 2017-2020, to take into account the impact of the economic crisis. Over €4 billion of extra Cohesion Policy money is allocated to Member States that were affected the most. We are currently discussing with countries who benefit particularly from this adjustment, namely Greece, Italy and Spain, with a view to focusing the additional amounts on measures to support the integration of migrants - in addition to strategic investments for growth and jobs and to tackle youth unemployment.
Furthermore, following our invitation to ministers responsible for EU Funds to use the European Regional Development Fund to map current needs and challenges, I am pleased that some 2014-2020 programmes have already been modified to include more explicit measures aimed at integrating migrants.
For instance the programme of the Brussels-Capital region was modified to fund the activities of two care centres dedicated to providing healthcare and social services to those most in need in the city.
In an effort to increase flexibility we stand ready to examine and adopt other modifications. We will continue to work and fully exploit the potential of the biggest investment force the EU has at its disposal.
We are also active on the regulatory side: in the context of the review of the Multiannual Financial Framework, we proposed an amendment to the Cohesion Policy regulation in order to introduce a specific investment priority to support the reception and social and economic integration of migrants.
Now, I believe that the Urban Agenda for the EU we launched last May, and in particular the partnership focusing on integration of refugees and migrants proactively led by Amsterdam, is a major opportunity for local and regional authorities to make their voices heard and influence policies to create more inclusive societies. Important work has already been done in the context of the partnership and we look forward to seeing the first draft of the Action Plan this June.
And finally our Cohesion Policy-supported "Urban Innovative Actions" have been focused also on integration of migrants in cities. A first call is already completed and five cities (Antwerp, Bologna, Munich, Utrecht, Vienna) are now on the way to implementing inventive and meaningful projects. A second call was launched in November 2016, to help new ideas see the light of day. I encourage you, the mayors, and all interested cities to use this opportunity to get access to more EU funding for your specific needs.
Because migration is largely an urban reality, and no one is closer to this reality than you are, we want to hear from you. Do let us know what the EU can do more to be more helpful. Together I believe we can shape policies to respond to this new challenge and better integrate migrants into our society.
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