European Regional Development Fund supporting European territorial cooperation

Analysis of the REGI Committee position on the proposal of the Commission on specific provision for the support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to the European territorial cooperation (ECT).

This Draft legislative resolution of the REGI Committee awaiting first reading on the European Parliament (EP) to be approved, stresses the growing importance of the European Territorial Cooperation (ECT). Tacking into account the success and the relevance of this instrument, this draft report underscores the attachment of the REGI Committee to strengthen ECT within the Cohesion Policy. Thus, the most relevant amendments made by the Committee refer to:

•    The increase of the ECT financial allocation up to 7% of the overall cohesion policy budget.
•    The enhance of cross-border cooperation taking into account multisectoral approaches,  including cross-border mobility, transport accessibility, support to basic infrastructure on  energy networks, as one of the investment priorities.
•    The search for a better flexibility of the implementation of the cooperation programmes
•    The enhancement of macro-regional and sea-basin strategies.

It should be welcomed that the European Parliament highlights and recognizes the benefits and the added value of ECT. Nevertheless, the report focuses almost exclusively on the cross-border dimension of the ECT, thus disregarding the untapped potential, and the success of the transnational cooperation. Indeed, not questioning the imbalance between the cross-border component of the ECT (73,24%) and the transnational dimension of the ECT (20,78%), the European Parliament underestimates the growing importance of macro regional and sea basin strategies within the Cohesion Policy. The possibility for each Member State to reallocate up to 15% of the funds between these two components is not enough to ensure the development of transnational and bottom-up initiatives such as macro regional strategies.
Moreover, it appears that the position of the EP on these territorial and integrated initiatives is paradoxical. In one hand, the REGI Committee seeks to foster the success of these integrated, multisectoral and territorial approaches, wants to support a better coordination of all the Union funds and operational programmes to direct funds to these initiatives but in the other and, the Committee does not supports the increase of the transnational cooperation budget that is yet the most relevant and appropriate frame for implementing such – transnational- strategies. To really support the development of this innovative and bottom-up approaches it is essential to enhance –concretely and not just with words – transnational cooperation and search for a better coordination with existing programmes.
As the EP underscores, the participation of the Members State and the Regions in these strategies is vital. However, with the aim to achieve a real multilevel governance it should be highlighted also the role of cities and local authorities within, the elaboration, the implementation and the evaluation of  macro regional and sea basins strategies.
According to the urban dimension of the territorial cooperation, existing networks created by the territories themselves and based on long term relationship should be enhanced rather than creating new structure disconnected from the realities on the ground. In this view, by rejecting the concentration of the ERDF support on a predetermined list of cities the REGI Committee goes in the direction of the bottom-up approaches.
Furthermore, regarding the multisectoral challenges cities have to deal with, special attention should be paid to the urban dimension of the cooperation programmes in order to ensure the consistency of the means implemented within the objectives (sustainable development,  transport accessibility and contactability…). To this end, it should be highlighted that the allocation of 5% of the ERD to urban sustainable development is a minimum to be increased.
To conclude, the initiative of the EP to reach a better flexibility rising up the flat for staff cost up to 20% of the direct cost and increasing the number of thematic objectives for each programme should be strengthened by reducing administrative procedures and facilitating the possibility to combine different funds under each priority axes and projects of each programme.

A brief by Tamara Guirao, CAAC Coordinator

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