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Stronger Cohesion Policy for Stronger EU

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Stronger Cohesion Policy for Stronger EU

Corina Crețu

(October 10, 2017 Sofia) Just a few years ago, many people said the European Union was facing the most serious challenge in its history: the member states' ratings were falling, the private sector in the Eurozone was shrinking, and economic growth was stagnating.

Now, seven years later, when the macroeconomic indicators show that the economic and financial crisis has been overcome and GDP and employment are at record-high level, the Seventh Cohesion Report helps us learn lessons from the crisis and set out milestones for the future.

The report looks at Europe from a variety of perspectives: regional GDP, investment, innovation, governance, migration, energy, cities - the issues are so diverse that they far exceed a short article. That's why I decided to focus on some of them.

The report shows that due to the economic and financial crisis, the gradual reduction of regional disparities in Europe - which has lasted for decades - has stalled, and these differences have deepened. The data testify that regional disparities are beginning to decline again, but we still have a lot to do.

In recent years, GDP per capita has grown in the poorer regions of Europe and has risen closer to the EU average, but this is mainly due to the increase in productivity at the expense of the employment rate.

By contrast, richer European regions are growing faster than ever before, while in the middle of the table, growth has slowed down; the production sector of these countries is not growing, and these regions are most vulnerable to the shocks that globalization is causing.

It is clear from the report that during the crisis, cohesion policy has helped member states as well as local and regional authorities through long-term, stable and predictable investment in all member states.

In the period of limited investment by member states, cohesion policy has become a vital factor for European cities and regions. During the current financial period, support will be provided to 1.1 million small and medium-sized enterprises, more than 7.4 million unemployed will be assisted in finding work, and 8.9 million will be re-qualified.

Sixteen billion euros will be invested in the digital economy, with electronic administrative services expanded and about 15 million households will get broadband access. Investing in energy efficiency, environmental protection and improving public transport as well as on the European road and rail network.

Over the past ten years, cohesion policy investments in Bulgaria have made possible the upgrade of over 1 200 km of the road network; 400 000 people have benefited from improved water supply and over 8,300 jobs have been created.

It is expected that by 2023, thanks to these investments, the country's GDP will increase by 2.1%.

All this shows that cohesion policy must continue to be the strongest investment instrument for all regions beyond 2020, as no one is insured against future globalization shocks, technological challenges and economic crises.

Against the backdrop of the alarming fact that extremism gains a foothold in Europe, the Seventh Cohesion Report reminds us that promoting Europe's many benefits to our villages, cities and regions is the best way to counter intolerance, selfishness and the forces of self-destruction, which fuel extremism.

A stronger and more simplified cohesion policy in the future will help build a stronger and more caring Europe for all.

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