PM attended second Friends of Cohesion summit
Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec participated in the second summit of the Friends of Cohesion Group in Prague.
He also called for the preservation of a strong cohesion policy and emphasised the importance of preventing a major slash to cohesion funds at the national and regional levels. At the meeting, the heads of government also adopted a joint declaration regarding the EU’s multiannual financial framework 2021–2027, in which they stressed the importance of cohesion policy to the achieving of some of the European Union’s key objectives, such as economic and social convergence, the functioning of the internal market and the fight against climate change.
The difficult negotiations on the EU’s upcoming multiannual financial framework, which began in July of last year, are expected to enter a crucial phase in December, and the final agreement is expected in the spring of 2020. The objective of the Prague summit is to provide support for a draft multiannual financial framework that would preserve the importance of cohesion policy as a fundamental budget policy of the European Union and also provide adequate funding for that policy. As is known, last year the European Commission proposed a multiannual financial framework 2021–2027 amounting to EUR 1,135 billion, i.e. 1.11 percent of the GNI of the EU 27.
During the discussion, Slovenian PM Šarec said that in an increasingly changing world, “a strong European Union needs an adequate and future-oriented budget”, and noted that this will not be achieved through slashing cohesion funds. “If we want to protect the cohesion policy, the size of the multiannual financial framework must remain near the Commission’s proposal of 1.11 percent of GNI of the EU 27. We also have to be aware that the cohesion policy and the so-called new challenges of the European Union are not separate issues. The cohesion policy directly affects investments in competitiveness, digital technology, knowledge and skills, and over the upcoming seven-year period is also expected to make a significant contribution to the transition to carbon neutrality by 2050”, he added.
He then presented the basic characteristics of Slovenia’s objectives in the negotiations, which include the need to resolve the issue of so-called “statistical updates” and the prevention of a major slash to regional funding: “The Member States simply cannot lose a significant part of the cohesion funds simply because of updated statistical data. At the same time it is not acceptable that any region in the European Union, particularly if it contains half of a country’s population, lose access to the majority of funding from EU structural funds practically overnight.”
He also noted the importance of the Common Agricultural Policy, in particular the rural development policy. These are investments in the economic and social development of rural areas which also contribute to the achieving of climate and environmental targets. Therefore we should not adopt such a drastic slashing of funds under this policy as the Commission has proposed.
Today’s meeting was organised by the Czech Republic, and in addition to Slovenia was attended by representatives of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain, and EU budget commissioner Günther Oettinger. The group’s first meeting was held in Bratislava on 29 November 2018.