The global economy is changing. With the rise of international migration, and the development of new transport and communication technologies, borders between countries are becoming less and less important. Increasingly, the world economy is more about cities and regions and less about countries.
Regions and cities around the world are competing with one another to attract foreign investment and skilled workers. Integrating into the global economy requires good connectivity and accessibility (both physically and digitally) via quality infrastructure, as well as an openness to trade, investment, competition, and human capital.
However, there are big challenges facing EU cities and regions in the race for this investment. They need to ensure their education systems are equipping workers with the right skills, that their economies promote innovation and entrepreneurship, and that migrants are well-integrated into society (as the rise of populist, anti-immigrant parties across Europe shows).
Is there a role for the EU to help regions compete in the global economy? The EU’s cohesion policy, through its cohesion fund, aims to reduce economic and social inequalities and promotes sustainable development in EU Member States with a Gross National Income (GNI) of less than 90% of the EU average.
Curious to know more about EU cohesion funds? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).We had a comment sent in from Dana, who wanted to know how EU cohesion policy could be changed to make it more effective.
To get a response, we spoke to Dr. Michael Schneider, President of the European People’s Party Group in the European Committee of the Regions (the EU’s assembly of regional and local representatives). What would he say?
Dana, this is a very good question. It’s a crucial question. We have to change cohesion policy to make it more effective. And what do we have to change? We have to change the bureaucratic burden that is laying upon cohesion policy. We have to simplify the use of structural funds, and then we will get much better results than we have today.
Next up, we had a comment from Jana, who believes there should be sanctions for breaking EU rules. Is she right? For example, should EU cohesion funds be conditional on implementing EU fiscal rules? What would Dr. Michael Schneider say?
I don’t think so, and the Committee of the Regions does not agree with this position. We think that cohesion funds must be used for special reasons, for reducing disparities between European regions. If Member States do not respect fiscal rules and macroeconomic rules, the European Union has to use different instruments to force Member States to respect these rules, but not punish the regions and local authorities.
How can cohesion policy #MakeEURegionsGreatAgain? What would you change about EU cohesion policy to make it more effective? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!