Investing in Europe's future

Every three years, the EU publishes a report on economic, social and territorial cohesion, detailing progress in these areas and how the EU, national and regional governments have contributed. The 5th Cohesion Report(available in several languages) has just been published and presented on 1 February at the Cohesion Forum(includes video clips).

The Forum, attended by several hundred people, was opened by President Barroso who warned that we need to be both ambitious and realistic in designing future policies. “More than ever,” Barroso said, “we need to make more with what we have and create synergies.” This point was further developed by two keynote speakers, Hungarian and Polish Prime Ministers ViktorOrbán and Donald Tusk. Orbán noted that “cohesion policy is not simply a redistribution policy. It improves our competitiveness and makes it possible to catch up with more developed regions. This is our way out of the crisis.” The Polish PM described the achievements made by Poland thanks to the cohesion funds: “GNI per capita rose in Poland from 45 to 60% of the EU average in the last few years. This growth is without precedent in Europe and a clear sign that the EU cohesion policy strengthens our regions, member states and the Union.”

What the Report says:

  • Disparities between EU regions are narrowing
  • More developed regions are more competitive
  • Well-being and life satisfaction are strongly linked to higher household income in the less developed parts of the EU, but not in the more developed regions
  • Better coordination is needed between regional development and other EU and national policies
  • There must be a strong role for regions, cities and local authorities within the Europe 2020 strategy

This view was echoed in the closing speech of Angel Gurria, Secretary General of the OECD. “Strengthening regions,” Gurria argued, “gives a stronger sense of ownership to the local level while contributing to more EU unity.” The OECD promotes a ‘place-based policy framework’ that recognises local social, economic and environmental differences and places regional and local government at the heart of all interactions.

Although, normally not associated with social services, cohesion policy can potentially have real impact on the shape of national and regional social welfare. It underpins the growth model behind the Europe 2020 strategy and supports policies aimed at expanding employment and improving social inclusion. Examples of such projects can be found on the DG REGIO website.

Commissioner Andor, chairing the session on ‘Inclusive growth’ drew delegates’ attention to proposals made on the architecture of cohesion policy. As a result, the European Social Fund could be refocused on securing the 2020 targets and objectives to better serve the European employment strategy and contribute to the fight with poverty and social exclusion.

You can read the 5th Cohesion Report in English, français, deutsch, italiano, español and polski and a summary in all EU languages.