The coordinators of the Renew Europe Group in the European Committee of the Regions (Renew Europe CoR) have reacted to the European Commission’s proposal of a major €2.4 trillion recovery plan based on using a powerful and modern EU budget to deliver a more sustainable, digital and fair Europe.
Renew Europe CoR coordinators commented:
COTER coordinator Michiel Rijsberman was critical about certain aspects, which, while seemingly boosting the Cohesion Policy in the first two years of the framework, weaken some of its fundamentals in the long run. He regrets that the MFF itself is lower than the one proposed in May 2018, and within it, the ERDF allocations have decreased somewhat, too. “Dutch regions like my own also benefit from the EU funds and facilities, which help us in overcoming societal challenges. EU Cohesion policy remains vital for the regional economies in the Netherlands, too,” he said.
Rijsberman also worries that the React EU programme, proposed at €50 billion, and the new Recovery and Resilience Facility, which got a significant boost at €767 billion, will not assist poorer regions in wealthier Member States, such as his region, the province of Flevoland in the Netherlands: “Disparity in Europe should not increase because of the focus on the Member states instead of the regions”.
Expressing this concern with the European Commission Director-General Marc Lemaitre, Rijsberman also said: “I expect more clarity on the interplay between the different new mechanisms, such as React EU, Just Transition Fund, and Recovery and Resilience Facility. Otherwise, instead of simplifying regulation, we will end up with more rules and complexity: Member States will react to the lack of clarity and uncertainty about the interpretation of EU rules by armour-plating them with even heavier national restrictions.”
Lemaitre responded positively to this call, explaining the Commission intended to watch this very carefully and point to practices of exaggerated heaviness and draw attention to best practices. Lemaitre also stressed the importance of sound and normal rules over the continued use of crisis rules.
NAT coordinator Manuel Alejandro Cardenete Flores said: “This historical proposal confirms that the European Union is not ready to compromise on its founding principles of solidarity and responsibility. This is reflected by the fact that the European recovery fund of €500 billion will be distributed as grants, with no repayment requirements. I am also pleased that the funding will be available from 2020 to support vulnerable sectors including the tourism sector which is in a dire situation. As the decision on the proposals require unanimity of the Member States, I therefore call on them to send a positive signal to future generations by enthusiastically approving these unprecedented measures. All economic and social forces of our countries are expecting these funds.
ENVE coordinator Vincent Chauvet commented: “As a Mayor, I am very relieved to see that the European Commission found the courage to propose a common European reply to the management of the recovery, not neglecting, but fostering the path towards the green transition, maintaining climate objectives and sustainable development goals at its heart. The steps that we take now are decisive for the future of European cities and regions and therefore European citizens! Only by investing together in a digital and green future can we avoid being surprised by another crisis, increase our climate and societal resilience for the generations to come – and in doing so, boost our hurt economy.”
ECON coordinator, Juan Jose Martinez, sees potential in the revised MFF proposal and the recovery package, but warns that the regional dimension needs to be at its core: “Ensuring liquidity for our businesses will be key in the short run and we have yet to fully assess whether the mechanisms proposed have enough firepower to do that by 2022 when they would expire. While the support that the Recovery and Resilience facility aims to provide is key to make our economies better prepared for the green and digital transition, I fear that basing it on the European Semester alone will importantly bypass the regions; now it is particularly important to continue working to strengthen coordination between European Semester and Cohesion Policy. Finally, I hope the Council will consider the proposals for new own resources very seriously because if there ever was a time to step forward more bravely and more united, it is today.”
SEDEC coordinator Kate Feeney said: “I am sincerely happy to be able to reply to the citizens: Europe acts! Whether it is for maintaining your jobs, creating hiring subsidies, short time work schemes, youth employment measures and working capital for SMEs, you are not left alone! This is what the European Recovery Plan stands for. In addition, by increasing Erasmus Plus, we are investing in shaping future generations of Europeans for whom European solidarity will be a natural feeling. I would just have liked to see a more pronounced Horizon Europe share in the budget, as research showed once again that it is the backbone of the society we are trying to build.”
CIVEX coordinator, Jean-Luc Vanraes is pleased that the Commission’s proposal is not only about the economy but also about EU values and fundamental rights: “This crisis has shown how vulnerable our democracy is and requires us to regain the trust of citizens and I believe that the Conference on the Future of Europe is a great opportunity to engage with LRAs and citizens so that together we build the Europe of our choice. This unprecedented crisis has caused damages, not only to our values, health system and economy but also to those of our neighbours; that is why I welcome the proposal to reinforce the Neighborhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument and strengthen the Humanitarian Aid Instrument. A peaceful and prosperous European Union depends on a stable and safe neighborhood and also on a strong local organisation to empower citizens, promote and identify the tools and industries indispensable to ensure an autonomous welfare and economic policy.”