Based on observations in the 7th Cohesion Report, the European Committee of the Regions is set to send an “early-warning message” to the decision makers at European and National levels on “The cost and risk of non-cohesion: The strategic value of cohesion policy for pursuing the Treaty objectives and facing new challenges for European regions”.
While the Cohesion Report shows that the EU economy is starting to recover from the economic crisis, its full impact has not yet been overcome. Indeed, many regions have not reached their pre-crisis levels of GDP per capita and unemployment, particularly amongst young people, continues to be a concern. According to Mieczysław Struk (PL/EPP), President of Pomorskie Region:
Cohesion Policy remains extremely valid, since it enables all EU citizens, especially from the less developed territories, to benefit from the advantages offered by EU integration. It should not be treated as an optional extra or a nice to have, but as an indispensable pillar of a Single Market linking diverse countries and regions with uneven levels of development.
In an attempt to express the true cost of non-cohesion, the rapporteur underlines that the credibility of the EU to deliver solutions for people living in Europe’s regions and cities could be at stake: “Ultimately, this could lead to an increase in economic and social disparities between regions and greater tensions among Member States, but also disintegration of the Single Market and eventually the EU as a whole” he warned.
With a view to ensuring better cohesion amongst and within the EU’s member states, the rapporteur proposes that better account of the impact on Europe’s regions and cities is taken into consideration when policies are being drawn up via thorough Territorial Impact Assessments, and retaining a strong Cohesion Policy for all regions. In this regard, the opinion text underlines that Cohesion Policy is the main European investment policy and that it should continue to play a significant role in stimulating innovation, exploiting the opportunities of global transformation, bolstering mobility and managing the impact of climate change and demographic challenges as well as safeguarding public investment in the regions.