With a budget of 351.8 billion euro for 2014-2020, the cohesion policy aims to encourage solidarity between the EU Member States through the territorial development of the 277 regions.
This policy affects economic development, the strengthening of cross-border cooperation and job creation within the Union.
At a time when the negotiations on the next financial framework 2021-2027 are under discussion, the question about the future of this flagship policy of the construction of the EU arises.
A possible decrease in allocations for cohesion policy 2021-2027
The exit of the United Kingdom will generate a dry loss of 10 billion euros in the total budget of the EU. The current geopolitical challenges, particularly in terms of security and migration, are leading to a more sophisticated strategy that probably requires additional funding for these policies. A possible revision of the distribution of Structural Funds at European level is then envisaged. The Commission proposes in its communiqué of 14 February the following 3 scenarios which will be debated in the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.
Scenarios of the European Commission on the Structural Funds
Scenario 1: Support to all European regions
Maintaining the current system: territorial development through access to cohesion policy funding programmes for all regions, namely the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund.
Scenario 2: Support for less developed regions and cohesion countries
Support to less developed regions and cohesion countries: In the event that this scenario is chosen, the cohesion policy budget would be reduced by around 95 billion euro. However, the Structural Funds would cease to support the more developed and transition regions, thus support for the regions in mainland France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and in many parts of Italy and Spain would be abolished.
Scenario 3: Support to cohesion countries only
Support granted to the cohesion countries: implementation of a cohesion policy intended solely for cohesion countries (Member States whose gross national income (GNI) is less than 90% of the Community average).
Investments in favour of the less developed regions of France, Italy and Spain should also be abolished if this scenario is retained. This would amount to a reduction of some 124 billion euro and a cessation of subsidies for 12 Member States.
An endowment needed for all regions
Cohesion policy has a tangible impact on the quality of life of citizens, as demonstrated by projects funded under the European Structural and Investment Funds (EIFS).
The cohesion policy as currently deployed has helped to reduce the development gap between the various regions and the backwardness of the less developed regions.
Maintaining subsidies for the most developed regions is necessary in order to maintain their “locomotive role” to keep the economic dynamism of European regions.
The European Union is already facing a lot of criticism from the biggest contributors to the EU budget that the pecuniary repercussions within their states are too low; would not the possible removal of subsidies under the cohesion policy have the effect of fracturing even more Europe?