THE FUTURE OF EU COHESION POLICY. OPEN DIALOGUE ON PRE-ACCESSION

The meeting highlighted the need to re-launch cooperation between the countries bordering the Adriatic sea in view of the future EU programming period with a new multilateral programme, which will capitalize the positive experience of IPA Adriatic CBC.

 

 

 

Cohesion and pre-accession policies, migration, EUSAIR and the Mediterranean region, the fight against fraud: These were the four topics dealt with during the seminar organized by the IPA Adriatic CBC Programme upon the initiative of the Managing Authority, Ms Paola Di Salvatore, to the branch office of the Abruzzo Region in Brussels on 8 November 2017.

Many were the keynote speakers at the event, among whom EU MPs, representatives of the EU institutions and of the countries in the Adriatic-Ionian region. The addresses gave an overview of the current and future framework of the EU cohesion policy and territorial cooperation, as well as of the issues concerning the relations between the member States and the pre-accession countries, as well as the approaches to future development in the Adriatic-Ionian and Mediterranean regions, which will lay the basis of future EU programming from 2021.

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The huge work carried out by the IPA Adriatic CBC Programme was acknowledged by the various EU institutions and some of the representatives of the 8 countries involved: reporting some numbers, 244.8 million Euros, 102 funded projects (of which 11 by the innovative targeted call on EUSAIR), 893 beneficiaries and 191 partners. This shows why the IPA Adriatic CBC Programme represents a valuable example of EU fund management.

“The Abruzzo Region and the Managing Authority Paola Di Salvatore – declared Luigi Nigri from the European Commission Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy – accepted the harsh challenge to lead such a complex Programme involving 8 countries, four in the pre-accession phase, and carried out this task in the best way possible in terms of use of funds, ability to understand and share the different needs.”

Rossella Rusca in charge of regional policies and structural funds to the permanent representation of Italy to Brussels spoke of “Italian pride”, “because despite the harshness at the very beginning, the IPA Adriatic CBC Programme has clearly contributed to the enlargement and integration policy of the countries bordering the Adriatic sea that aspire to become members of the Union in the full observance of the Community spirit.”

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“The strong impact, which was not only financial, the IPA Adriatic CBC Programme had on the 8 countries –Ms Di Salvatore explained – raises the need to allocate resources to multi-lateral programming that pursues the cohesion policy principles, even more at the benefit of the pre-accession countries along their way to EU membership. Developing strategic sectors characterizing the Adriatic-Ionian region remains a priority to implement under measures that encourage institutional capacity building and integration among the member States and pre-accession countries, thus overcoming legislative and legal-administrative divergences. To converge European Territorial Cooperation actions towards the migration crisis is of extreme relevance to render the European Union safer, more inclusive and more stable.”

The topic of migration was tackled by Italy’s EU MP Cécile Kyenge who underlined the importance to face the migration crisis in a constructive manner altogether, so as to operate in a managed way and to allow the member States to know exactly the EU funds they can rely on. “From the latest meeting between the European Union and the African Union – Ms Kyenge added – it emerged the need to share the responsibilities deriving from managing migration flows but we must act with a bottom-up approach, thus considering not what we can do “for” them rather “with” them”.

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Eleni Marianou, Secretary General of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPRM), took the floor and spoke about “building bridges as a symbol of cohesion policy, which represents the real EU added value because it speaks to people before speaking to the institutions.”

A strategic role in this direction was played by the IPA Adriatic CBC Programme, like the representatives of the involved countries underlined. They stressed once more how this Programme has been and must continue to be the reference point for the Adriatic-Ionian region also during the future programming period, the driving force to identify the fastest and most effective way to get closer to European standards, each one with their own identity and differences.

So, Croatia’s MP Zeljana Zovko believes that “we need to commit to implementing the necessary institutional and technical reforms required by the EU, convinced that a more harmonized framework may help stabilize the region and encourage cooperation”, while the President of the Adriatic-Ionian Euro-region and the Croatian region of Dubrovnik-Neretva Nikola Dobroslavic declared that “the Programme made everyone understand how cooperating together at all institutional and non-institutional levels may help overcome divergences and challenges that each of us has to face. That is why my wish is to continue to look at the region in a comprehensive manner to encourage the homogeneous development among the countries lagging behind and the most advanced ones”.

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“We are aware of the issues afflicting Europe and most member states or countries willing to become members – Sladan Bevanda, Minister of the Interior of the Herzegovina-Narenta Region (Bosnia-Herzegovina), explained – but we can overcome the hindrances just if we remain united and cooperate. We must bear in mind that the key work must be carried out by the institutions themselves in terms of reforms that get countries closer to one another and to Europe”.

“We must protect and enhance our cultural identity and our landscape – the Mayor of Mostar Ljubo Beslic highlighted – but the mankind is cut out for improvement and is willing to tackle the new and more and more complex challenges that globalization brings before us. We cannot think of doing everything by ourselves and for this reason, Europe can contribute to reducing the existing disparities among territories and across our territories. We invested in renewable energy, environment and promotion of our historical-cultural heritage also thanks to the projects implemented by the IPA Adriatic CBC Programme, and Mostar applied to become the European Capital of Culture, in the conviction that this is a way to deal with modernity”.

Aldrin Dalipi, President of the Regional Council of Tirana – but it is no good to play with the hopes of Albania, Serbia, Montenegro and of the other pre-accession countries, that is why we ask the European Commission to continue to invest resources in territorial cooperation and cross-border programmes, which have the necessary vision of the whole as it happened with IPA Adriatic”.

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These concepts were reiterated also by the President of the Regional Council of Schoker, Ms Greta Bardeli, who highlighted the positive impact that the Programme has had in both terms of the technical achievements of single projects and the contribution towards shaping a new mentality in those who cooperated in the projects. “We can and must do more – added Mario Djuracic, representative of the Republic of SRPSKA – to broaden the knowledge on the opportunities that Europe offers to its citizens by involving public administrations, enterprises and universities”.

Thomas Wobben, Director for Legislative Works at the European Committee of the Regions “We must avert the risk that in the following months, the forecasted budget reduction at the detriment of cohesion policy is confirmed because the regions lagging behind would turn out to be the most penalised of all. The European spirit is to reduce disparities and we must tackle the issue to encourage responsibility of the regions in fund management, thus rendering them increasingly aware and efficient when identifying priorities and spending capacity”.

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Finally, Antonio Bellucci from OLAF (European Anti-fraud Office) spoke about fighting irregularities and fraud and acknowledged the work conducted by IPA Adriatic with the cycle of seminars held in the participating countries. Moreover, he provided the data of the work conducted between 2010 and 2016, namely over 1,600 investigations and a recommended recovery as regards the EU budget amounting to approximately 3.6 billion Euros.