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Report on the future of Cohesion Policy proposes ways to maximise its effectiveness and impact

Illustration on the front page of the report on the future of cohesion policy

The independent Group of High-Level Specialists on the Future of Cohesion Policy set up by the European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira, has presented its final report.

It outlines strategies to ensure that Cohesion Policy continues to drive prosperity and convergence throughout the EU, continuing to deliver on the green and digital transition and helping regions adjust to ongoing demographic, industrial, and geopolitical challenges.

The report is the outcome of intense work carried out by the Group throughout this past year, enriched by academic contributions, input papers prepared by the Commission, and presentations by different stakeholders.

It also addresses challenges identified in the 8th Cohesion Report and assesses the state of economic, social, and territorial cohesion in the EU.

Future directions for Cohesion Policy

The report is structured around three key questions

  • Why is Cohesion Policy crucial for the future of Europe? 
  • What are the current roles of Cohesion Policy, and what should they be?
  • How can Cohesion Policy more effectively promote economic, social, and territorial cohesion, particularly in the face of the green and digital transition and demographic changes?

Based on these questions, the Group came up with recommendations for the Cohesion Policy to:

  • tailor future-oriented investments to the unique strengths, challenges, and needs of each region,
  • promote sustainable and resilient growth through local capabilities and diversification.
  • focus on human capital development and social integration to address inequalities, while building better institutions and fostering innovation.
  • enhance development strategies through strong partnerships and shared management, connecting regions for global opportunities.
  • streamline administrative processes to improve efficiency and user-friendliness, while maintaining a focus on sustainable development, competitiveness, and adaptability to urgent challenges.

Commissioner insights

Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira praised the recommendations: 'I thank the members of the High-Level Group on the Future of Cohesion Policy for their engagement and hard work over a whole year of intense debates. Since its inception, Cohesion Policy’s objective is to leave no one behind. It shall continue to do so in the future, by evolving together with changing circumstances and new challenges. The Group’s Report is a valuable contribution to this process and an important input for the reflections on the future shape of Cohesion as a pillar of EU integration.'

Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit said that 'Social cohesion is the glue that keeps the EU together. All regions of Europe should be in a position to offer their citizens quality jobs, good prospects and social protection. Cohesion Policy precisely enables the EU to address the different needs and gaps that exist across the Member States through targeted investments and support, advancing social Europe. For this reason, Cohesion Policy will continue to be an indispensable tool in the future.'

The findings will be discussed at the 9th Cohesion Forum, scheduled for 11-12 April 2024. The Group’s reflections may also contribute to the 9th Cohesion Report, due for release in Spring 2024.