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Time to revise the EU long-term budget to boost growth and respond to migration crisis
Van den Brande: "More flexibility needed but not solution to insufficient resources. We must avoid a new payment backlog and abolish return of unspent funds to Member States."
Local leaders want the mid-term review of the current Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) to be a full-scale revision directing more funding towards structural growth policies and measures such as the Youth Employment Initiative, the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) and the European Agenda on Migration.
The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) delivered its position on the mid-term review of the MFF setting EU annual spending ceilings for 2014-2020. The review, to be tabled in 2016 by the European Commission, can be complemented with a revision of ceilings and functioning rules.
Regional and local leaders, in line with the European Parliament, consider the revision as necessary and set out their priorities in an opinion led by Luc Van den Brande (BE/EPP) and adopted by the Committee on 15 June. " The revision of the MFF is a discussion about political priorities, European added value, subsidiarity, a discussion about Europe! It cannot be only amongst Member States, regions and cities have to be involved", said the rapporteur, who also warns "against any attempts to centralise the funds at European level."
In light of this, the CoR recalls that regional policy, worth more than €350bn until 2020, is designed to support long-term intervention and currently does not provide the right tools to address unexpected crises.
This call was reiterated by the CoR President, Markku Markkula, who argued that: "The EU budget needs to keep the pace with the times to better meet the new challenges we face. If it is to promote growth and competitiveness, the EU's main investment tool – cohesion policy - must be strengthened so citizens see the impact it makes in their everyday lives".According to President Markkula : "A smart mix of grants and loans, sound budgetary stability and timely implementation are crucial to transform the EU's resources into real opportunities for citizens and businesses."
The need for a swift implementation was emphasised also by the European Parliament's co-rapporteur on the MFF review, Jan Olbrycht: " The European Commission should present a thorough MFF review, identifying weak points of the current implementation system. Simplification is the key. We have still more than a half of the current financial perspective ahead of us, some changes need to be introduced immediately to improve the spending environment for beneficiaries across Europe ."
According to the CoR, a proper revision of the EU's financial framework for 2014-2020 is needed also to address the increasing gap between goals and the level of funding for Horizon 2020 – Europe's research and innovation programme – and the Connecting Europe Facility - which funds strategic infrastructures. The revision should at the very least compensate the cuts introduced in the envelopes of these tools to finance the newly established EFSI.
Referring to covering additional spending, regional and local leaders warn that flexibility cannot be a solution for insufficient financial resources. European objectives such as the reception and inclusion of migrants can be achieved only by raising the spending ceilings of the relevant budget headings. They also invite the European Commission to propose a solution to strengthen the EU financial capacity to deal with crisis without jeopardising its efforts to boost growth and reduce disparities.
The strengthening of the EU's own resources should be carefully considered, together with new provisions such as the abolition of the return of unspent EU funds to national budgets. "Without an adequate increase in payment appropriations, a new payment backlog risks to seriously hinder the implementation of EU policies on the ground " warned rapporteur Van Den Brande.
The CoR also introduced its first proposals for the future MFF post-2020, such as the preference for a 10 years duration with a compulsory substantial mid-term revision after the first five years.
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