Cohesion policy: Council sets out guiding principles for the future

The Council today approved conclusions, setting out its position on key aspects for the future development of cohesion policy. The conclusions will serve as a basis for discussions in the coming years and for the Commission’s work on the legislative framework for cohesion policy after 2027.

The conclusions emphasise that cohesion policy must remain a key pillar of the EU and, to this end, must maintain as its sole objective the strengthening of the EU’s economic, social and territorial cohesion and the reduction of regional disparities.

While cohesion policy is a policy for all EU regions, more targeted and adaptable support should be ensured for the less-developed regions. Particular attention should be paid to the needs of rural areasareas affected by industrial transition, and regions which suffer from severe and permanent natural or demographic handicaps, such as the northernmost sparsely populated regions, as well as island, cross-border and mountain regions.

The Commission is invited to systematically consider the needs of the outermost regions and the impact of its legislative proposals on those regions. The Council also highlights the need to measure and evaluate the specific needs of the different territories, and to address the problem of the regions in the development trap.

Recalling the crucial role of cohesion policy in addressing recent crises, the Council considers that cohesion policy should be able to adapt to new developments and unexpected events, while preserving its long-term transformational nature and structural objectives.

The Commission is asked to develop options to better help regions manage various new challenges, including demographic trends, migration, and the green and digital transition, and to further channel investments towards growth-enhancing reforms.

The Council also recalls the importance of shared management and of the partnership principle for cohesion policy, as well as ensuring a place-based approach in its design and programming.

It encourages efforts to further simplify the management of cohesion policy, while guaranteeing high standards for the prevention of and the fight against fraud and corruption.

The Commission is also asked to further ensure complementarities between cohesion policy and other relevant European policies and initiatives from their design phase, and to facilitate operational coordination between the programmes that support cooperation between regions.