The CoR calls for a budget 2014-2020 worth 1.14 % of EU GNI and urges Member States to fully respect co-decision procedures
The Committee of the Regions (CoR) is the first EU institution to formally react to the last proposals presented by the European Commission and by the European Council within the negotiations on the Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2014-2020. The opinion drafted by CoR First-Vice President Mercedes Bresso (IT/PES) refers to the review of the Commission MFF proposal presented on 6 July taking into account the recent evolution of Member States’ economic performance as well as the financial needs related to the accession of Croatia. The opinion, unanimously adopted by the plenary session, also includes an evaluation of the last negotiating box unveiled by the Cyprus Presidency on 18 September.
“The recent developments in the negotiation have led to a worrying scenario, not only for regional and local authorities, but also for a number of Member States whose investment strongly rely on EU funding” said Bresso referring to the updated figures provided in July by the Commission which could lead to cuts of more that 5,5 billion € of resources for cohesion policy. “Regions and cities – stressed Bresso - reiterate their full support for the position expressed by the European Parliament and call for a budget 2014-2020 worth 1,14 % of EU Member States’ GNI”.
CoR President Ramon Luis Valcárcel praised the intense cooperation with the European Parliament on budgetary issues and stressed that: “In this critical phase, Europe needs a budget focused on growth-enhancing projects, capable to produce clear results for our citizens and to promote territorial cohesion allowing all regions and cities to benefit from the internal market”.
For what concerns the last negotiating box, which will be a basis for discussion at the extraordinary European Council of 22 and 23 November, the CoR would consider unacceptable an agreement that covers subjects which have not been previously submitted to the attention of the European Parliament after consultation of the CoR, in compliance with the co-decision procedure. This issue concerns e.g. the introduction of a “capping” to the amount of cohesion funds provided to Member States.
Addressing the CoR plenary, the European Parliament co-rapporteurs on the MFF, Reimer Böge (DE/EPP) and Ivailo Kalfin (BG/S&D) called for a pro-cohesion EU budget. “The European Parliament is determined to negotiate on all details” said Mr. Böge, who also commented on the timing of the negotiations: “Of course we are interested in a quick solution, but not at any price. And nothing is decided until everything is decided”. Co-rapporteur Mr Kalfin summarised the situation as follows: “The European Commission proposed to freeze the EU budget, some Member States want instead a 10 % cut. The Parliament considers it unacceptable to agree to any reduction of EU policies for growth”.
The scenario of an institutional impasse impeding a timely approval of the new budget has been evocated by Mercedes Bresso: “It would be alarming for EU citizens as well as for local and regional authorities who need to plan their growth strategy for the coming period. As regions and cities, we must put in place all efforts to convince Member States of the vital relevance of an adequate MFF with a strong regional policy, both here in Brussels and in our capitals, as requested by the leaders of the major EU institutions a few days ago”.
Specifically regarding the cohesion policy reform, CoR key positions, fully shared by the EP, have been further clarified within the opinion, i.e. the firm opposition to any macroeconomic conditionality and the support for the introduction of the new category of “transition regions”.
The President of the CoR EPP Group Michael Schneider (DE/EPP) stressed the importance of providing regions and cities with a clear framework to start shaping their programmes: “Regions and cities want to start work on programmes for the new financial period, but we can only do that when the rules and the budget is in place. Every month gained will be better for jobs and growth in Europe”.
PES Group President, Karl-Heinz Lambertz (BE/PES) insisted on the role of EU regional policy: “Cohesion is about showing that Europe is not there just to save banks but also to create jobs and growth”. According to the President of the ALDE Group, Bas Verkerk (NL/ALDE) “Europe’s credibility is at stake, we should be able to stand up and show that we can deliver, that people are able to find a job and start a business thanks to our work”. For the European Alliance, Brian Meaney (IE/EA) said that: “European people expect a clear plan to tackle problems, they need policy makers to make the right decision at the end of November”.
The Committee of the Regions
The Committee of the Regions is the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives. The mission of its 344 members from all 27 EU Member States is to involve regional and local authorities and the communities they represent in the EU's decision-making process and to inform them about EU policies. The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council are obliged to consult the Committee in policy areas affecting regions and cities. It can appeal to the EU Court of Justice if its rights are infringed or it believes that an EU law violates the subsidiarity principle or fails to respect regional or local powers.
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