The pandemic, last year alone, caused costs of around 125 billion euros to cities and regions and reduced revenues of around 55 billion euros. This hole of more than 180 billion euros can only be made up with the help of the cohesion funds and the stimulus for recovery decided by the European Union (EU).
The president of the European Committee of the Regions, at the 19th Edition of the European Week of Regions and Cities, which began today in Brussels, at the press conference anticipating the opening of the work, alongside Commissioner Elisa Ferreira, did not spare criticism from the governments of the member states of the EU: “National governments are ignoring regions and cities. Our barometer found that very few national governments spoke to regional and local authorities before submitting their funding requests to the European Union”.
Tzitzikostas Apostles warns: “The very public authorities that provide many of our basic services may not get the money they need. And that will have negative consequences for our people. So what we need to do is work together to prevent it. Make no mistake, these funds need to reach the citizens, providing an answer to the real problems. Only in this way can we respond to the crisis. And this is the only way out of it.” warns the representative of the European Regions, 230 in the EU, along with ninety thousand municipalities, more than one million local elected representatives, representing 400 million voters.
Avoid “space blindness”
Elisa Ferreira does not share the criticism made by the president of the Committee of the Regions: “No, I don’t think the states are not helping the regions. First, we have to know what we are talking about. The money that has been reprogrammed to tackle emergencies and therefore, in some states, the emergency was more most important in the big cities, in other cases it was in the small towns, and therefore, we Commission allowed this reprogramming depending on where the problems were”.
From the emergency response to the implementation of the projects presented, there is a whole way to go: “What we now have to look at is to relaunch the economy, look at the RRPs (Recovery and Resilience Plans) and the 2020-2027 cohesion funds and what we are demanding from member states is that there is no management of PRRs with spatial blindness that then has to be corrected”.
Elisa Ferreira adds that “in support of balanced spatial development”, which is contained in the supports from 2021 to 2027, “we are working with the Portuguese Government”, as well as with the other member states. Greece has already had this program approved, “but it’s good that a robust program is in fact made and that takes advantage of synergies with the PRR so that there is a multiplier effect and centered on a new way of making the country grow much more forward-looking, much more technological and much more cohesive territorially, with a balanced spatial distribution”.
In terms of community funding of national projects in the 27, Elisa Ferreira clarifies, in an interview with TSF at the start of the work of a Week of Regions still in a hybrid format, that “what happens in education, or in supporting industry, or in supporting business, or in supporting roads, happens in a territory. And this perception, this territorial sensitivity has to be there in such a way that then the typical cohesion funds that , these are for cohesion, are articulated with synergies and coherence with what is done at the level of the PRR”.
PRRs include another aspect that is “to be able to finance reforms and we have in fact an enormous dynamic to be launched with reforms at the level of public administration, namely in many member states”, admitting that these reforms “cannot be territorially blind because otherwise we do with one hand what we take with the other”.
The Portuguese European Commissioner, however, recognizes that “the pandemic generated a crisis where regions and cities were the first to feel the burn of the impact and the first to develop solutions and responses.” And, at European level, it understands that Cohesion Policy “It was, in fact, one of the first to respond. And now that we’ve moved from an emergency situation to a situation of repair and recovery, regions and cities must remain at the forefront of the response, as does Cohesion Policy.
“Recovery Together” is the motto of the Week of Regions, which takes place in Brussels: “I find this very inspiring and very true, because this is much more than a slogan; it is the way in which, in cohesion, we manage our policy, with the principle of partnership at the center. It is also the only way to avoid a recovery at two speeds and the two-tier society and the fragmented union”.
Tzitzikostas, in fact, criticizes national governments, but not the work carried out by the Portuguese Commissioner, recognizing that European cities and regions “they must be very grateful to have Elisa Ferreira, in the roles she performs”, taking into account the current context: “I would like to thank Commissioner Ferreira for her efforts to ensure that Cohesion Policy remains the basic pillar of our common European project. , to local and regional leaders, a vital tool to respond on the ground. We would not have been able to respond efficiently to this crisis if the Commission, especially Commissioner Ferreira, had not done what it did, bringing flexibility to the way we allocate the backgrounds”.
More money and new funds for the regions
The politician who governs the Greek region of Central Macedonia does not fail to echo the concern that citizens feel, based on the Second Regional and Local Barometer that the Committee has just published: “The finances of many regions and cities have suffered a violent crisis. Our report tells us that in 2020, the pandemic has increased costs for regional and local authorities by 125 billion euros and at the same time reduced revenues by 55 billion. So this €180 billion gap could lead to cuts in public services, and more money from national funds and new funds are urgently needed to support local projects and programmes.”.
Twelve thousand participants, one thousand speakers, three hundred events. A mega-event of cities and regions meeting in Brussels until Thursday, with most participants still at home, in front of their computer screen.