European Week of Regions and Cities
7-10 OCTOBER 2019 Brussels

Cohesion for Enlargement: thriving in a stronger Union

Thu 11, October 2018
14:30 - 16:00

In the context of the evolving debates and negotiations on the new EU budget and future cohesion policy after 2020, along with the EU™ renewed commitment to the Western Balkans, this workshop will look at the role Cohesion Policy plays in strengthening the enlargement process in the region. Has Cohesion Policy helped bring the Western Balkans closer to the EU? Does the proposed Cohesion Policy framework retain its relevance as a cornerstone in the EU-Western Balkans partnership? Is the proposed reform fit for a stronger and enlarged Union? These are some of the questions to be explored in this workshop debate.

Vidosava Enderic, Jean-Pierre Halkin, Franco Iacop, Anna Magyar
International cooperation, EU as global actor
Assembly of European Regions
Building SQUARE - Brussels Convention Centre, Room 313.
Address: Mont des Arts, 1000 Brussels

Session summary

Presentations and discussions looked at the future cohesion policy framework and new generation of interregional and cross-border cooperation programmes proposed by the European Commission in May 2018 and how these support the EU enlargement agenda and the European paths of the Western Balkan countries.

Presentations stressed the importance of cross-border cooperation between candidate countries, potential candidate countries and EU Member States supported by the European Regional Development Fund and the Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA).

Presenters shared results from cross-border cooperation programmes, highlighting the importance of its investments to the democratic and economic reforms in the enlargement countries, contributing towards their stability and prosperity.

They also showed how these programmes supported EU future members and its regions to build their capacity to align with EU standards and laws and prepare for the rights and obligations that come with EU membership.

Speakers addressed the opportunities of the new generation of interregional and cross-border cooperation programmes, and the way they were reconfigured to simplify some of the arrangements that previously existed to make implementation more effective.

Some presenters expressed concerns about the European Commission’s proposal to move an amount of European Territorial Cooperation funds from shared into indirect management and to reduce the co-financing rates, fearing these reforms would result in decreased engagement of local and regional authorities in these programmes.  

Take away message

Cross-border cooperation is key to the success of the accession process of the Western Balkan countries. The Commission’s proposals for the new generation of interregional and cross-border cooperation programmes and its emphasis on simplification are welcomed. However, important changes need to be made to some proposals to allow local and regional authorities to make full use of the opportunities created by future Interreg programmes.



'Through enlargement the EU will export stability - not import instability', Vidosava Enderic

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