For the next Europe Together event in Valencia we will be focusing on the EU Cohesion Policy. How can we bring EU funds closer to the people? What needs to change? How can we help improve the already existing mechanisms?
Investment has fallen by 15% in the EU since the outbreak of the financial crisis in 2007 while the gap between poorest and richest regions has widened. This is untenable: The EU needs a credible and ambitious investment agenda which creates sustainable growth and quality jobs, and supports the ecological transition. Such an investment agenda requires a more robust EU cohesion policy, which represents at the same time the EU’s main investment tool and the most significant expression of solidarity within the Union. Cohesion Policy was created 30 years ago to reduce regional disparity, ensuring nobody is left behind.
Against this background, we call for a stronger EU cohesion policy based on the following ten priorities:
1. Prepare for the future. Cohesion policy must be part of a coordinated, comprehensive stimulus programme to strengthen the ongoing Fourth Industrial Revolution in Europe. We need to make better use of a whole range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds. We must set ambitious targets for the digital and ecological transition, and boost research and innovation. Add your comment here!
2. Put human capital first. The future cohesion policy should be geared to more inclusive growth and give priority to qualitative and human capital investment. The focus must be on high-quality education, training and vocational training to address youth unemployment, promote gender balance as well as social inclusion, combat poverty, and make the work-force more resilient to globalisation. Add your comment here!
3. EU support for all regions. The objective of convergence has gradually been broadened to include issues affecting all Member States, such as growth, investment and employment, as well as tackling climate change. Considering that disparities between regions have increased since the recent crises, we believe that a strong cohesion policy must apply to every single region of our Union. Targeting financial assistance at the poorest regions only would be counterproductive as it might prompt a renationalisation of cohesion policy in the richer Member States and thus a diminishing sense of solidarity throughout the EU. Add your comment here!
4. More funding for cohesion policy. The current level of funding for cohesion in the EU budget is not sufficient. Indeed, the current EU cohesion funding which amounts to only 0.5% of the equivalent funding from national budgets, does not allow for EU-wide answers to the global challenges of climate change, migration or globalisation. We also reiterate our call for a “golden rule” whereby co-financing provided by local and regional authorities under EU cohesion policy is excluded from the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact. Add your comment here!
5. Evaluate the quality of progress, not just the figures. As indicated by the Social Progress Index, regions with the highest GDP per capita are not necessarily the top performers in terms of social progress. We therefore stress the need to include this Index in the new generation of European Structural and Investment Funds to complement the current GDP-based measurement. Demographic, social, environmental and geographical disparities and political priorities such as the European Pillar of Social Rights and the implementation of the COP 21 agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals should be taken into account in determining eligibility for cohesion funding at regional and subregional levels. Add your comment here!
6. A participatory cohesion policy. The “partnership principle”, which gives stakeholders a voice in decisions that concern them directly, must be upheld at all stages of planning and implementing cohesion policy, with full involvement of regions, cities, communities, social partners, chambers of commerce and associations. Add your comment here!
7.”No borders” within our Union. A substantially increased share of the cohesion funds should be earmarked for European Territorial Cooperation, i.e. cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation, since such activities encourage solidarity between EU regions and neighbours, and facilitate the exchange of best practice. Add your comment here!
8. Serve the public interest, not private profit. Cohesion policy is based on regional strategies aimed at increasing economic, social and territorial cohesion and thereby ensuring the balanced and harmonious development of the EU as a whole. It supports investment through “patient capital” as part of a long-term approach to funding essential services and infrastructure. Such an approach does not fit the logic of making quick profits. Grants rather than loans must remain the main policy tool of cohesion policy. Add your comment here!
9. Cut red tape. The complexities of cohesion policy management, and the need for further simplification, are the main challenges ahead. Applying for EU funds should be eased, particularly in order to avoid smaller entities – such as SMEs, associations and small municipalities – being put off from applying altogether. Add your comment here!
10. Smart and flexible. The necessary long-term planning of cohesion policy, -possibly for a 5+5 year programming period, should go together with sufficient flexibility to cope with new and unforeseen challenges. We therefore call for a flexibility reserve to be created with uncommitted sums which should not be returned to the Member States. Add your comment here!
In order to grow in all teritorial member units, each of it has to be treated objectively and helped to redefine its basic characteristics. First, a team of specialists in economy, marketing, finances, hr etc. has to analize the present situation in detail. Then, the strategic objectives must be set, planned and quantified in order to ensure the achieving of our main purpose: the increase of all the important indicators used in all aspects of our life. The locals have to know and believe the strategy in order to work for it, being guided and supported the whole time by the above mentioned team. Each unit has its pluses, values, specific resources and even if these aren’t sufficient, there are always innovative alternatives, already discovered or even undiscovered yet. There’s always a set of solutions, provided motivation and grit already exist. If we truly desire that Europeans live similar satisfactory lives, no matter in which country they’re located, then more action is what needs to be done as fast as possible. Each area will require a team of inspirational and transforming leaders, both male and female (50% each gender), of all age segments, to be the locomotives of the locals. In conclusion – there’s no target to high, just undetailed ones and/or handed to unsuitable people (plus the Elvis Presley song: A little less conversation, a little more action ;).
Only way for European socialists to catch up with time and stay ahead of things, would be to combine so called libertarian economy with “small government” and establish social security paid through either negative tax or basic income. Libertarian economy is something we all know, even if many don’t know it by name. It is the idea of market and economic relations,which are completely liberated from governments planning and regulation, with government stepping in only to prevent threats to national security(if state is conservative) or environmental disaster (if state is progressive). For a past 25 years this idea dominated economic thinking, was claimed by conservative part of political spectre, was never truly implemented to the max, but was nevertheless dominant across the planet, from New Zealand to Sweden. Many traditional socialists condemned the idea on numerous occasions, but were unable to stop the pover of profit disregard; even 2008 crisis didn’t help . Free market economy generates incredible wealth and prosperity; in fact its capacity of satisfying the demand, and hence-populations needs is unprecedented in human history. It is especially important to mention that the prosperity happened disregard political regime in the countries who tried free market, and especially considering the repetitious collapse of any attempt to build state supported nationalized economy to satisfy peoples needs; would it be hard core communist planning, or state run agencies in a free countries. As socialists we must admit, however that march of free market libertarian economy also caused incredible, and unfair inequality, return of brutal zero-chance poverty and eventual suffering. Even a brief unbiased look allows to see that core of the problem is not luck of regulation or state planning, problem is purely with distribution of wealth… So called trickle down economy, idea that rich people would invest and spend money, if released from tax burden, works well with millionaires who need to re-invest to keep themselves rich. Or, in worse case scenario,who simply buy houses, limousines, jewelry for lovers, designer closes-eventually outraging public opinion, but giving jobs for thousands if not millions of designers, car manufacturers, craftsman or textile workers. It does not work with billionaire though, with notorious “1%”. At this level money looses its pover as a tool of purchase and reward: for people who have that much capital the wealth is often a matter of sport-like a fun competition, etching ones personal pride to be at the top of Forbes list. So, eventually, big portion of wealth is simply sitting somewhere at saving accounts, un-invested and not spent. Its our job, as social democrats, to ensure the fair and acceptable way of wealth redistribution: so while billionaire upper class would compete for a place in “Top 10 of rich peoples” rating, starving family in Greece or homeless teen in Paris would not feel like they are abandoned by society. It can go either through tax, or through government bonds or other borrowing, and ensure that it would go through proper social contract, without leaving both capital owners and welfare recipients frustrated. It is worth mentioning, that in the situation when traditional job market and employer-worker relations are dying under pressure of outsourcing and automatisation, resurrection of small businesses, individual enterprise, gig economy, service based jobs is inevitable. So our focus should be not with collecting social security benefits from the meting iceberg of labor market, but establishing fair and efficient system of personal income tax. Getting back to libertarian roots of my idea – I would propose to move away from the progressive tax rate, when percentage of tax was depended on income, and to tax whole population, everyone who earns income above welfare limit (and all active entities) . To set one, single, same rate, would it be 10, 20 or 25 percent. Rate will depend on who is in pover of course This way we can move away from truly Babylonian system of tax reboots, tax heavens, tax shopping and debates about which social groups contributes more to economy. From something which even most accountants fail to understand. Should the same, universal tax rate apply not only to all individuals in the state, but also to all EU member states? Isn’t going to happen tomorrow, but in a Dream Europe-may be. It is worth mentioning that in the left circles, there is a belief that once collected, tax will and shell be spent for a good cause in any developed society. The reality, however, is far less optimistic.. Currently half of budget in most developed countries is spent on wars, and another half on corporate subsidies or huge Social Security bureaucracy, who is supposed to supervise distribution of social aid, and punish those who breach the rules (say – someone painted neighbors house for a fee without declaring). And only scraps go to those in need, which does not help to solve poverty. That’s why the idea of “small government” is vital; system which would be covering the needs of people without often grotesque planning and research-either through basic income, or preferably, through negative tax, providing tax refund to anyone who declares income below certain welfare line. The Dutch system of “housing subsidies”, and “health insurance subsides” , paid directly by tax office, which is existing for decade already, and works as a clock, can be used as wider model of such tax refund welfare. But no real equality in Europe would be possible unless there would be income and social security equality among members of different member states. it is high time to establish pan European minimal income and social security threshold so the welfare and prosperity of EU citizens would not be depended on what passport individual holds. Situation when Romanian national has to work extra hours to earn 600 Euro , while welfare recipient in Northern Europe receives twice as much as social aid is an economic and social cancer which might rot out whole thing if not dealt with in due time… Chinese say that thousand miles way starts with a small step, so even one step this direction will be a good start. Nicholas Gabrichidze
Cohesion policy will be based on solidarity or it won’t have a solid and bright future. It must support citizens in their personal development. It must be about sustainability, quality infrastructure and economic development which reduces the gaps between regions, between generations and between gender. Cohesion policy must be visible for the citizens. This is absolutely crucial for the image of Europe. It must invest in areas where national investments lack and it must also be ready to deal with new challenges such as migration. We must aim for a greater coherence through thematic concentration, a proper control mechanism, a single audit chain, the implementation of a standard cost and a coordination with EU macroeconomic policies in order to achieve simplification and so increase the efficiency of the cohesion policy. This will e.g. enable cities to better tackle urban problems such as poverty or pollution and will positively influence cross-border & territorial cooperation which will also aid in reducing inequalities. A strong “social pillar” & focus on human development through better education are indispensable for an EU that is & also feels “together”.