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Cohesion as a value rather than a policy. A scenario

October 2023

Cohesion as a value rather than a policy. A scenario

In September we published a first scenario on an EU without cohesion policy, following up on Commission President von der Leyen’s State of the Union speech. As she did not mention cohesion policy or even EAFRD, the two single largest budget lines in the multiannual budget of the EU, at all in her speech, we started thinking about what an EU without these policies might look like – merely as some sort of thought experiment.

The first scenario (Opens in a new window), dwells on the possibility of an EU with a focus on boosting the green and digital transitions and economic growth through sector policies focusing on productivity gains. Cohesion policy is phased out and also the cohesion objective in the EU Treaty does not really play a role in this scenario.

On October 6th, the EU meeting in Granada, Spain, touched upon possible paths to enlargement of nine new countries. These are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia on the Western Balkans, as well as Ukraine, Moldova and possibly Georgia. Certainly, a new round of enlargements will affect the state of social, economic and territorial disparities and cohesion in the EU. It will also further strain the capacity of cohesion policy to deliver cohesion.

New thinking will be needed to achieve the cohesion objective laid down in the Treaty. Therefore, our second scenario focuses on solving the current complexity trap with a new and possibly simpler approach. Also in this scenario, cohesion policy is considered obsolete and phased out. However, the EU objective on economic, social and territorial cohesion is strengthened. Moving on from the ‘do no harm to cohesion’ plea, the EU moves to requiring all its policy to actively contribute to cohesion. It makes cohesion an underlying value of its policy making.

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Topic Cohesion (policy)


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