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Greater support from cohesion fund needed for local communities - new study

Research details use of regional funds by municipalities during pandemic

Municipal authorities across the EU are struggling to navigate through the Covid-19 pandemic, with many having to rely upon EU cohesion fund to maintain public services, says a new study commissioned by the Left in the European Parliament.

Written by three experts at the European Policies Research Centre Delft, Community Support? Municipalities’ use of EU cohesion funds in response to Covid-19: current experience and lessons for the future’  looks in details how regional authorities and municipalities have had to battle against rising expenditure amidst falling tax revenue, and using cohesion fund to plug the gaps in public services when national governments have been unable to provide regional help and financial assistance. 

The authors looked at six specific case studies – Lanarca in Cyprus, Corsica, Rotterdam, Slovenia and the German-Polish cross-border region of Frankfurt an der Oder/Słubice – and asked what questions can be learned from the successes and failures in the organisational and distribution of cohesion funds in the various EU’s crisis support packages,

The study will be launched online today from 15h30-17h00 at the European Parliament. Details can be found here

Amongst the key findings: 

  • Support from the European Union plays an important role, particular through the cohesion fund and other packages*
  • However, municipal authorities are struggling as many are located in the worst-hit areas within their respective countries – with all expressing serious concerns about their financial situation.
  • The authors argue that pre-existing disparities between regions and municipalities have been exacerbated by the pandemic, and that long-standing neoliberal economic and fiscal policies are to blame;
  • The crisis has underlined the vital role of transport links for continued economic activity.
  • The economic effects of the crisis have been particularly hard for certain sectors, such as retail, tourism and hospitality.
  • A ‘staged approach’ to economic recovery in Corsica and Rotterdam underlines the importance of cooperation between different governmental levels, as well as between public and private actors;
  • Instruments which are already in place to facilitate the direct steering of Cohesion Policy investment by municipalities should be strengthened.

Commenting ahead of the launch, Martina Michels MEP (Die Linke, Germany), a member of the Parliament’s Regional Development committee (REGI) who helped commission this study, said:

“The Covid-19 pandemic struck and affected us on all levels last year, and municipalities across the EU have been at the forefront when it comes to offering direct support for local people.”

“Together with these municipalities and regions, we must make sure this crisis will not lead to even greater disparities between rich and poor. Closing that gap and ensuring dignified living conditions for all remain an critical goal for us”.

“This crisis therefore offers new opportunities in achieving parity but only if we maintain and reinforce the strong solidarity that had been evident during the early months of the crisis. Our study showcases such examples in the EU, and the findings will only ensure that they can be used more widely,” she added.

REGI committee chair Younous Omarjee MEP (France Insoumise, France) added:

“Covid-19 has posed immense challenges to local and regional authorities.”

“In that regard, cohesion policy is on the frontline in helping them to face this unprecedented crisis. This study shed light on what regions and cities experienced, their contribution to the implementation of cohesion policy, and the areas for improvement.”

You can download the study in full here.

*EU funds & support packages including REACT-EU, the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RFF), as well as  Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII) and the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus (CRII+).

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