Territorial cohesion may be enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty but, since 2007, the concept of European solidarity has weakened to the point of vanishing almost completely. The legitimacy of the EU as a whole is at stake. The current framework regulation of the cohesion policy provides the most support to underdeveloped regions in relation to the convergence objective, less finance to other regions in order to stay with the EU 2020 Strategy objectives, and even less subsidies to support territorial cooperation.
It becomes clear that the important contribution of cohesion policy to public investment and the achievement of the goals laid down in the EU 2020 strategy will not be enough to convince national policy-makers and European citizens that maintaining funding for all regions is in their own interest. Consequently, if we want to ensure cohesion policy’s continued existence, we must substantially reform it.
In the programming period beginning in 2020, cohesion policy will therefore have to respond, both in its ambition and its content, to the dual problem of adapting to geopolitical, socio-economic, technological and environmental change and renewing forms of solidarity. Given its visibility in the daily lives of citizens, it is no exaggeration to argue that public support for the pursuit of other major European projects depends on the ability of cohesion policy to rise to this challenge.
In this Policy Paper, realised with the support of the European Commission – DG REGIO, Marjorie Jouen, adviser at the Jacques Delors Institute, first reviews the theoretical basis for the notion of solidarity, outlining its uses in cohesion policy over successive programming periods as well as presenting the current challenges to solidarity and the need to promote it within the EU. In the second part, she examines various ways of reconstituting cohesion policy by putting forward a series of proposals for the future.