Dr. Nicola Francesco Dotti is a Senior Researcher in Regional Economics and Policy Studies at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and is coordinator of the RSA Research Network on EU Cohesion Policy (CPnet).
We are a network of scholars and policy experts working on EU Cohesion Policy across Europe, gathered thanks to the support of the Regional Studies Association (RSA). For many years, we have engaged in debates about EU Cohesion Policy. In this difficult time, we want to contribute by proposing some evidence-based recommendations on how Europe is responding to the Coronavirus / Covid-19 crisis.
- Cohesion Policy has proven to be an effective policy tool to address many of the most recent crises, such as the refugee crisis (2014-15), the earthquakes in central Italy (2009 and 2016) and now the coronavirus/covid-19 crisis (2020).This shows that Cohesion Policy can rapidly respond to emergency situations. However, the question is whether Cohesion Policy should be the main instrument to face these crises, when it is intended to address long-term objectives.
- Despite its flexibility, the primary goal of EU Cohesion Policy is to promote social, economic and territorial cohesion, i.e. investments in less developed European regions, support for regional and urban competitiveness, social integration and environmental sustainability, and cross-border cooperation. While we welcome the responsiveness of European decision-makers to this crisis through the reallocation and distribution of financial resources, Cohesion Policy should be kept as a separate policy tool with adequate resources to achieve its intended objectives. The EU needs flexible, effective instruments, initiatives and mechanisms to more efficiently and rapidly face future crises in addition to Cohesion Policy.
- Cohesion Policy addresses spatial inequalities, especially in peripheral regions, territories affected by the urban-rural divide, cross-border regions and cities. Spatial inequalities in healthcare sectors have been only marginally addressed. However, if the policy scope is extended to more explicitly address health policy objectives, then Cohesion Policy would need a substantial increase in resource and funding to avoid a substitution effect, whereby support for other fundamental investments aimed at preserving and improving quality of life across Europe is reduced.
- Thanks to Cohesion Policy’s technical assistance, investment in human capital and support to the digital agenda, European regional and local public administrations have improved their capacity to react to crises. Cohesion Policy has contributed to building administrative capacities in a context of multilevel governance, despite significant public sector disinvestment in the last decades.
- Cohesion policy also supports businesses. The current health crisis is having and will have a devastating economic impact. Cohesion Policy should be used to support investments in firms located in the most affected areas to promote a geographically balanced economic recovery. Without undermining its geographical scope, Cohesion Policy can be an effective instrument to support economic recovery, in addition to other EU financial support tools such as European Stability Mechanism or, eventually, the much debated “coronabonds”.
- Cohesion Policy has been an effective instrument to address social issues such as poverty, social deprivation and marginalisation. The current crisis is hitting harder the most vulnerable. For these reasons, the social dimensions of Cohesion Policy should be further reinforced to support recovery and promote new place-based solutions.
We hope our contribution can help to move forward the debate, especially in the recovery from this crisis that will be needed for the whole European Union.
Partners of CPnet
Sebastien BOURDIN (EM Normandy Business School)
Alberto BRAMANTI (Bocconi University of Milan)
Mattia CASULA (Ca’ Foscari University, Venice)
Eduarda Marques DA COSTA (University of Lisbon)
Sonia DE GREGORIO HURTADO (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid)
Claudia GLOAZZO (Independent researcher)
Bryonny GOODWIN-HAWKINS (Aberystwyth University)
Dagmara KOCIUBA (Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin)
Nicola MATTEUCCI (Marche Polytechnic University)
Leaza McSORLEY (University of Sunderland), coordinator of the CPnet
Ida MUSIAŁKOWSKA (Poznań University of Economics and Business)
Christian OBERST (German Economic Institute, IW, Cologne)
Serafin PAZOS-VIDAL (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, Brussels)
Laura POLVERARI (University of Padua)
Oto POTLUKA (University of Basel)
Paula TULPPO (University of Lapland)
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