Written by Clare Ferguson,
Jobs, growth and investment are a top EU priority, and come high on the European Parliament agenda. Following Monday’s joint debate on reducing economic and social inequality between regions through current EU cohesion policy, Members will look to the future and vote on an own-initiative report on the building blocks for post-2020 cohesion policy. Priorities for the next funding period are likely to include further simplifying access to funding; and the more thorny issues of striking a balance between structural and more flexible emergency funding; as well as the effect UK withdrawal from the EU might have on the financing available. One thing is certain, there is plenty of ambition in the Parliament to ensure that future cohesion policy has sufficient funds to harness the potential of technology, specialisation, and rural-urban connections to tackle climate change and promote growth, jobs and competitiveness in all of the EU’s regions.
EU cohesion policy relies on partnerships between the EU, public authorities, civil society and business. Each project funded by the EU must obtain matching funding in the Member State concerned through partner organisations, and the Commission is largely satisfied that the system is working. However, to increase partnership in cohesion policy, maximum efficiency and transparency are important, and stakeholders warn against creating ‘superficial’ partnerships. Parliament’s Regional Development Committee report, also on the agenda for debate on Monday, agrees that there is room for improvement, particularly in increasing ownership of projects at regional level, so that citizens are more aware of the benefits of EU projects.
However, a European Parliament report scheduled for discussion on Wednesday afternoon, on the implementation of EFSI 1.0 funding, highlights the uneven geographical distribution of projects receiving financial support from the European Fund for Strategic Investments. One of the three pillars of the investment plan for Europe, EFSI funding is meant to mobilise €315 billion from 2015-2018, and provide targeted initiatives that meet the needs of the real EU economy. Parliament’s report also calls for speedier decision-making and greater transparency in funding disbursement, as well as encouraging greater investment diversification, and ensuring project compatibility with the EU’s climate goals.
Listen to podcast ‘Increasing partnership in cohesion policy‘
The European Parliament is a staunch supporter of the EU Horizon 2020 programme, a strand of funding which promises to match almost €80 billion of private finance for research and innovation, encouraging breakthroughs that put Europe ahead of its competitors and boost sustainable economic growth.
One aspect of Horizon 2020 funding is the proposed EU participation in the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (known as PRIMA). Here, the EU’s contribution is destined to fund research and innovation tackling agro-food systems and integrated water management, the region’s two key socioeconomic issues. The initiative will be spread over a ten-year period, and aims at providing around 25 % of the total EU funding for institutions in third countries. Negotiations have set the Horizon 2020 financial contribution at a minimum of €200 and a maximum of €220 million. PRIMA partners Israel, Tunisia and Turkey, as well as Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Morocco, will match this funding under this public-public partnership agreement. Parliament will discuss the proposal on Monday evening.
Tackling climate change
While the President of the United States has decided to withdraw the nation from the COP21 Climate agreement, the decision has not met with approval in the EU, and Parliament’s President is in discussion on EU joint initiatives with Presidents Juncker and Tusk. The EU has no intention of abandoning the Agreement, and the issue will be discussed in plenary on Wednesday morning. In the meantime, Tuesday morning’s plenary session begins with a report on the framework for energy efficiency labelling –for which a new scheme is to be agreed. Changes to the scale used to label household appliances have had the unintended consequence of discouraging consumers from buying the most energy efficient models. While the Commission has proposed changing the labelling, Parliament seeks to speed up the process, raise public awareness, and develop market surveillance that can, in future, spot problems sooner.
Listen to podcast ‘Framework for energy efficiency labelling‘
Important national election dates arrive thick and fast recently, with elections in the United Kingdom, and legislative elections in France on 11 June, the same day as Kosovo goes to the polls in anticipated Parliamentary elections. Members are scheduled to vote on Tuesday afternoon on the European Commission’s 2016 country report on Kosovo, which highlights progress on reform, while at the same time decrying the recent turbulence and continued misuse of political influence and corruption in the country. For its part, Parliament is concerned about Kosovo’s lack of progress on an unimpeded judiciary, freedom of speech, and the fight against organised crime, and reiterates the condition that Kosovo make progress in its dialogue with Serbia before visa liberalisation can be considered.
In keeping with European Parliament President Antonio Tajani’s emphasis on seeing ‘Africa through African eyes’, Parliament will welcome President of the Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, who will address the plenary in a formal sitting on Wednesday lunchtime. President Ouattara heads a country with ambitions to achieve emerging economy status, and it will host the next EU-Africa Summit, in November 2017. In recent years, the country has experienced impressive economic growth. Nevertheless, it continues to suffer its share of violent protest and social instability.
Celebrating European Capitals of Culture is by now a well-established tradition in the EU. The programme’s success in promoting cultural heritage and contemporary arts has encouraged the Commission to propose broadening the reach of the European Capitals of Culture programme to include European Free Trade Association countries party to the European Economic Area. Parliament will vote on the proposal on Tuesday, and is keen to ensure a true European dimension, and genuine local citizen engagement in the events. Parliament’s Culture Committee also proposes that a network of former Capitals of Culture is set up to support future candidates. In another celebration, Members will mark the 30th Anniversary of the Erasmus programme this year, on Tuesday lunchtime.
|A list of all material prepared for this Plenary Session:|
|EU participation in the PRIMA partnership (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|European Capitals of Culture broaden their reach (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Implementation of EFSI 1.0 (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Framework for energy efficiency labelling (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Increasing partnership in cohesion policy (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Building blocks for post-2020 cohesion policy (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Kosovo: 2016 country report (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|
|Serbia: 2016 country report (available in DE – EN- ES – FR – IT – PL)|