The Cohesion policy is the EU’s strategy to promote an even development of all the European regions. Its main aim is therefore to strengthen economic and social cohesion and to reduce disparities among regions. In the 2014-2020 timeframe, the Cohesion policy (also called Regional policy) received circa 32,5% of the total EU budget.
By Milena Parotti / 3.10.2020
The financial foundations of the Regional policy are three of the European structural and investment funds (ESIF): the European regional development fund (ERDF), the European social fund (ESF), and the Cohesion fund (CF).
In contrast to other kinds of European funds (direct funding), this policy is based on the subsidiarity principle, which aims at ensuring that decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen: by Member States, regions, and cities. This means every state receives a certain amount of funding every 7 years, based on their GDP, and agrees on a Partnership Agreement in cooperation with the European Commission. Then, every region writes an Operational programme, that is a detailed plan, to explain how the ESIF will be spent during those 7 years.
It might seem complicated, but it is an efficient and fair way to make sure every region invests their money on what really matters.
When Covid-19 started to spread in Europe in March 2020, the European Commission decided to take advantage of this financial instrument for a first response to the emergency. The ERDF has been used for health expenditure and for small and medium-sized enterprises. The ESF, instead, has been used for smart-working needs, for payroll subsidies, for e-learning and a lot more in the job field.
Most of all, a lot of restrictions have been overcome to allow regions to spend the remaining funds for the pandemic. The simplification of the bureaucratic procedures helped regions to redirect their resources to the emergency when Member states were still really far from an agreement on the Recovery fund.
These measures were launched in April 2020 as Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII) and the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus (CRII+), which were endorsed by the European Parliament and the European Council, and then supplemented on the REACT-EU package.
According to Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, “Three months after the adoption of the CRII+ and pending agreement on the REACT-EU package, Member States are making full use of the flexibilities and liquidities offered by Cohesion funds to help those most impacted: healthcare workers and hospitals, SMEs, and workers. […] the CRII provided emergency response where it was most needed. We have excellent examples on the mobilisation of funds and the measures introduced in many cities and regions across Europe”.
An example: Bulgaria reallocated more than 20 million euros of Cohesion policy funds to strengthen the healthcare sector’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. The same was done by most of the EU Member states. Eager to know more? Here you can find more information and more examples: https://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/newsroom/coronavirus-response/