-Regional policy should remain an EU priority after 2020
-Continued support is needed for cohesion regions
-Tailor-made strategies, programmes and actions
Projects that build cohesion among EU regions must remain at the heart of EU investment policies, despite pressures on the EU budget, MEPs said on Tuesday.
The “adverse effects of the economic and financial crisis”, especially for low-growth regions, have reduced the margins of budgetary policies, leading to public investment cuts, MEPs stress in a resolution passed by 488 votes to 90 with 114 abstentions on Tuesday.
Besides EU priority funding, these regions need tailor-made strategies to close gaps and offer dynamic prospects to their populations, they add.
MEPs call for measures to:
-define “lagging” regions at NUTS III level and better target funding on these areas,
-boost education and training to reduce unemployment and help young people to remain in these regions,
-ensure easier access to credit for businesses,
-support and improve the management of their regional institutions and
-support productive business activities, including sustainable tourism, the circular economy and agriculture.
The rapporteur, Michela GIUFFRIDA (S&D, IT), said: “This report follows up from an initiative which we took in 2015 with Commissioner Crețu in order to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the lagging regions and the difficulties that they had faced, which had been also exacerbated by the recession. I think it is very important for us to remain aware of the vital role that is played by cohesion policy in enhancing competitiveness. These regions are very disadvantaged and helping them is a priority for the European Union."
An EU Commission report on “Competitiveness in low-income and low-growth regions” published in April 2017 focused on 47 regions lagging behind in 8 member states: ”low-growth regions” with a GDP close to the EU average but low growth rates (in Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal) and ”low-income” regions with low GDP but with encouraging growth trends (in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Poland).
Around one in six EU residents lives in a region lagging behind (83 million inhabitants) of which 32 million live in low-income regions and 51 million in low-growth regions.