The debate on the EU budget (or post 2020 Multiannual Financial Framework) is now in full swing here in Brussels, and it’s becoming increasingly complicated. The financial priorities of cities over the next seven years face serious challenges from Brexit, as well as from the rising status of European defence and security, and from financial instruments and loans.
This was confirmed at the informal EU27 summit last Friday and by the European Commission’s communication the week before. Arguing for a budget that better reflects and delivers on the EU’s political priorities, it’s clear that EU and national leaders plan to prioritise new priorities, including security, defence and migration. Scenarios that increase investment for Erasmus, the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (FP9) and the digital transformation have also been proposed. While these are pleasing developments, the main challenge for cities looks set to come from potential cuts for cohesion policy: the scenarios that have been put forward suggest that cities and regions from the EU15 (north west) might no longer benefit from cohesion policy!
“Yes, we will have to make cuts on cohesion and agricultural spending,” Juncker told reporters after the summit.
The EU and national leaders also discussed ideas on modernising the budget, namely by establishing a very costly structural reform instrument. Even though this is intended to provide direct budgetary support to member states, it may come at a high cost to cohesion policy. Also, besides maintaining economic and institutional conditionalities, the Commission is considering adding conditions to link EU funding to the respect of fundamental EU values and the rule of law.
These moves have clearly stirred up the water and incited reactions from many actors, namely from the regional arena, and ourselves. Let’s see how it goes down with national governments who will be the final decision-makers in the coming months (the EU budget proposal is now expected in early May). We will continue our advocacy towards the EU institutions in Brussels, mainly on cohesion policy, which is the most at risk. For us, the cohesion policy has a been a positive inspiration for solidarity, bringing positive results for people across Europe. It needs to continue to reach all people and all cities.