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The road to the post 2027 Cohesion Policy is now officially open

Mar 12, 2024 | News, Opinions

Over the last few weeks and ahead of the slow period in between the end of the present Parliament ahead of the June EU elections and the new Commission being in post in the Autum we have had quite important developments that set out the pace of the battle for the future of EU Cohesion policy post 2027. 

One year from now, around May 2025 the Commission is due to table the new Regulations on the EU funds for the 2028-2035 period.  This will open between two or three years of difficult negotiations before the new programmes can start.

This time is really different, tough. The COVID-19 crisis has meant a radical shifting of what the EU can do and how it should invest , notably through the launch of Next Generation EU, the €800 billion package of funds that is double the size of the Common Agriculture Policy and the EU Regional Policy, by far the two largest EU budget headings and the latter being the largest territorial development policy in the world until that point.

On 27 February the Commission published the results of the mid-term Review of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), at €650 billion Next Generation EU’s largest component. In its announcement, the Commission highlighted that less than half of RRF €225bn has been spent so far, after a slow launch in 2021 (all funds must be spent by the end of 2026). The external evaluation commissioned for this review highlights that the EU GDP is 0.4% higher thanks to this new fund. 

Furthermore, the Commission is keen to outline that thanks to the RRF Member States have at last moved in delivering the structural reforms that it had committed as part of the so-called European Semester process: 69% have made “some progress” an improvement from the 52% back in 2020. Some of the evidence gathered points out that RRF is faster expenditure and might potentially be more efficient than other EU funds, however, this has led to an unprecedented degree of centralisation and some concerns about how accurate the milestones that measure the progress of RRF are, as highlighted by the European Court of Auditors.

This is why is so important that the value of the future of Cohesion Policy must once again be highlighted. The High-Level Group set up for this purpose has been working for a year and has reported on 20 March where it highlights the significant development traps that many territories (developed and less-developed alike) while many less developed regions have deep-seated inequalities, which can lead to significant discontent.

While DG REGIO will publish in the 9th Cohesion Report at the EU Cohesion Forum on 12 April its official policy priorities, the European Parliament voted on 27 February on the Novakov Report, the latest of a string of key proposals for the future of Cohesion Policy and the legacy document ahead of the next EU elections in June. One of the key proposals is to realign the Cohesion Policy and Rural Development policy along the lines of the recently concluded 2014-2020 programming period. In this respect, it will be interesting to see the initial take of DG AGRI in the Commission´s public report on the implementation of the EU Rural Vision and the ways forward, which will be published in March 2024. All this in a context where the recent Mid Term Review of the EU Budget 2021-2027 also agreed upon in February, points towards the reduction and realignment of traditional programmes due to the geopolitical and technological challenges the EU is now confronting.  

Without a doubt the road for post 2027 is already on, and no doubt that AEIDL building on the evidence we gather from our many Horizon research projects on Rural and Territorial Development will be keen to be an active actor in shaping future EU policies for local development.