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Quo Vadis, Kohesiebeleid? Streeksontwikkeling in Europa by die kruispad

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By Thomas Schwab, 'n senior kenner vir Europese ekonomie by die Bertelsmann Stiftung, 'n nie-partydige stigting gebaseer in Gütersloh, Duitsland.

Kohesiebeleid, die basis van Europa se streeksontwikkeling, staan ​​by 'n deurslaggewende kruispad. Vir dekades was dit instrumenteel in die vermindering van ekonomiese, sosiale en territoriale ongelykhede regoor die EU. Onlangse uitdagings vra egter dringende aandag en aanpassing.

Firstly, Cohesion Policy operates in a shifting global landscape. The Russian invasion of Ukraine intensified global trade competition, and the pressing need to address progressing climate change have introduced new priorities. These changes affect regions unevenly and raise essential questions about balancing efficiency and equity. Essentially, the challenge lies in distributing benefits fairly while sharing costs equitably. Cohesion Policy, rooted in the EU’s commitment to making the Single Market beneficial for all, must evolve to meet these new global demands.

Finansieel is die kohesiebeleid beduidend, wat verantwoordelik is vir ongeveer een derde van die EU-besteding, wat nou agter die gemeenskaplike landboubeleid (GLB) volg. Met opkomende prioriteite wat fondse vereis en bestaandes soos die groen oorgang onderbefonds, word mededinging vir EU-finansiële hulpbronne verskerp. Hierdie situasie laat kritieke vrae ontstaan ​​oor die doeltreffendheid van Kohesiebeleid en die vermoë van streke om die meeste uit kohesiefondse te maak. Ten spyte van noemenswaardige suksesse, veral in Sentraal- en Oos-Europa, moet kohesiebeleid voortdurend die relevansie daarvan bewys.

The design of Cohesion Policy needs enhancement. The Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), initially a crisis response tool, has emerged as a new player in structural development – until 2026. It showcases a more centralised approach, bypassing multi-level governance and regional stakeholder participation and emphasise performance-based budgeting with ex-ante conditionalities. While it offers valuable lessons, a comprehensive assessment of the RRF’s impact is still pending. Nonetheless, the pressure is on to integrate performance-based budgeting and other elements into Cohesion Policy to boost its effectiveness.

Kohesiebeleid moet ook meer sinergieë met ander EU-inisiatiewe skep. Die beginsel van kohesie strek verder as Kohesiebeleid. Die balansering van billikheid en doeltreffendheid is 'n uitdaging oor verskeie beleide heen. Die bevordering van innovasie behels byvoorbeeld die keuse tussen die ondersteuning van toonaangewende navorsingsentrums in ontwikkelde streke of die ontsluiting van potensiaal in minder ontwikkelde gebiede. Die groen energie-oorgang hou ook belofte in vir die vermindering van ongelykhede, wat dit inherent samehangend maak en vra vir beleidsbelyning.

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Verder kan die integrasie van nasionale streeksontwikkelingsprogramme beter met die EU-kohesiebeleid die impak en doeltreffendheid maksimeer.

The coming weeks and months will be decisive. On June 18, the General Affairs Council will discuss Cohesion Policy, followed by the European Council’s deliberations on the strategic agenda for 2024-2029 on June 27 and 28. These meetings will shape the future of regional development across the EU. With a new Commission taking office in the fall and negotiations for the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) starting next year, Cohesion Policy will be at the forefront of political debates.

Cohesion Policy and, thus, regional development in Europe, faces pivotal moments. The European Council’s upcoming decisions will guide the way for the future of this policy. An upgraded Cohesion Policy with a clear mission, improved design, and a solid financial basis can be central to the European Union’s efforts to master global challenges, improve its position in the world, and serve as a backbone for European integration, as intended from its inception.

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