On September 13th for Riga hosted an international Riga Cohesion conference, which brought together policy makers from Baltic States, Germany and Sweden, high ranking officials from institutions such as European Commission, European Investment bank, Committee of Regions as well as academia and businesses. The conference focused on future of Cohesion policy and most effective solutions to achieve convergence goals in European regions.
The discussions highlighted rather complicated political ‘’climate’’ in Europe and global political economy, which will play crucial role in negotiating next EU multiannual financial framework. Participants argued that number of elements could be improved in current proposal for Cohesion policy regulation. The participants agreed that most heated debates are to be expected regarding allocations among different EU policies financed from EU budget, as well as financing rules within Cohesion policy itself. There were also a consensus that it is crucial to find the right allocation mechanisms, which would ensure sufficient funding for both low growth regions and regions with fast growing economies but who is still lagging far behind the EU average in terms economic development.
Panellists shared an opinion that Cohesion policy isn’t a solution for everything and it is equally important to carry out structural reforms in order ensure sustainability and effectiveness of public investments. Different opinions were expressed regarding themost effective tools to ensure the links between Cohesion policy and reform process in member states. Moreover, discussions revealed how important is to have complementary financial tools like InvestEU, which are essential to implement large-scale projects and can help to speed up the convergence process if resources are distributed in territorially balanced way.
When it comes to Cohesion policy priorities the panellists at large emphasized necessity to focus on the measures promoting productivity and innovation. At the same time, it was reminded that in some EU regions the gaps in infrastructure still remain high. There were general support for greater flexibility in EU regulation to ensure possibility for EU member states to invest in policy areas with highest leverage effect in particular territory.
Further debating territorial development panellists shared the thoughts that most effective solutions for specific communities won’t be tailored in cabinets of EU institutions and national governments. Those solutions should be made in strategic and integrated manner at local level, which will demand the local authorities to get out of their comfort zone and involve themselves in a dialogue with entrepreneurs, citizens and neighbouring regions.
Most crucially, all participants were convinced that Cohesion policy is essential to speed up convergence process in less developed EU regions and it should remain as one main policies financed from EU budget. As it was demonstrated by project examples in the conference, Cohesion policy has far reaching impact on various aspects of people’s lives, starting from way how commute to what products we produce and what skills do we develop.
Minister of Finance of the republtvia