The Portuguese Presidency of Council of the European Union approved the legislative package regulating the more than 330 billion euros making up the financial envelope for the Cohesion Funds. These are the funds intended for regional development and territorial cohesion to which Member States are entitled between 2021 and 2027. Approval was given in Brussels, at a meeting of the Member States' Ambassadors to the European Union, and should be ratified in March, at the next meeting of the Council.
Nelson de Souza, Portuguese Minister for Planning, recalled that "the cohesion policy lies at the heart of European solidarity because people can feel its impact on the ground”, saying that “regions, workers and businesses will benefit from this”. The Minister added that "now we need to conclude the legislative package for the new programming period in order to support the EU's recovery and contribute to the climate and digital transitions".
This aid package brings new investment priorities, in particular a multiannual investment framework, with most of the resources concentrated in less developed countries and regions, in order to promote social, economic and territorial cohesion throughout the European Union. The funds will finance projects ranging from sustainable mobility, hospitals and healthcare, clean energy, climate change, water and waste management, sustainable urban development, research, competitiveness, innovation and digitisation and the circular economy, to job creation, promotion of social inclusion and also education and training.
The new regulations are designed to simplify the rules, cut red tape and increase efficiency, ensuring that resources are deployed more effectively. In addition, provision has been made for temporary use of the funds to respond to future emergency situations, like that being experienced now with the current pandemic crisis.
This new mechanism has grown out of recent experience, in which the Cohesion Policy proved essential in the immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In changing the rules for the Funds, the European Commission has allowed Member States to draw on unused financial resources in a flexible way, where they were needed most.