The Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) unequivocally opposes plans to reduce the ambition of Cohesion policy for the post-2020 period, as alluded to in two internal European Commission documents seen by Agence Europe.

In particular, the CPMR firmly opposes the creation of a EU umbrella fund for social investment after 2020 resulting in the European Social Fund (ESF) being taken out from Cohesion Policy. The CPMR also rejects budgetary scenarios leading to a 30% reduction of the Cohesion Policy budget for the post-2020 period.

A scenario merging the ESF into one single social investment fund is a threat to the integrity of Cohesion policy, whose objective of social cohesion, enshrined in the Treaties, is mainly achieved through ESF funding. The ESF must therefore continue to be an integral part of Cohesion Policy to ensure that the EU’s renewed focus of Social Europe can be realised on the ground. A recent CPMR study confirmed that the ESF has an essential territorial dimension and many European regions have competences regarding social issues.

CPMR Secretary General Eleni Marianou said “Disconnecting the European Social Fund from Cohesion Policy would be a serious loss both for EU Cohesion Policy and for regional authorities, which have been able to develop place-based and tailor-made solutions to address social issues in their territories thanks to the essential territorial dimension embedded in the ESF.”

The CPMR also rejects the establishment of a direct link of social funding to policy priorities agreed with Member states in the European Semester without any formal involvement of regional authorities. Country Reports and Country Specific Recommendations cannot become the only reference documents for programming EU investments on the ground, as they are devoid of any territorial dimension. The CPMR recalls that the European Social Fund, and more broadly Cohesion Policy, should not evolve to become an EU instrument to incentivise Member States to carry out structural reforms.

President of the Government of the Azores and President of CPMR Mr Vasco Cordeiro said that ‘Europe has never needed Cohesion policy has much as today. Any reduction of the ambition of Cohesion policy after 2020 would be extremely damaging for the European Union and its citizens

The CPMR will continue to defend its vision of Cohesion Policy for the post-2020 period in the coming months as the EU strategic investment policy for all European citizens and territories, pursuing simultaneously the objectives of economic, social and territorial cohesion.