Chronology of the EU cohesion policy in 2021

As the EU motto says: “Leave no one behind”. Many citizens in Bulgaria were happy to see that these are not just nice-sounding words. On 19 January a cohesion policy-funded project was started to help people hit hardly by food poverty in times of the Covid-19 pandemic. Persons with disabilities and people over 65 years of age were among those 50,000 of Bulgarians who came from 150 cities and received emergency food packages.

It may be a novelty for the European citizens that overseas areas are also part of the cohesion policy. On 11 February the regional government of Azorean islands presented a joint program of the EU’s Outermost Regions which includes important steps to be taken for economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and using the funds from the EU 2021-2027 budget.

Cohesion policy facilitates the enlargement process of Western Balkans. A big number of projects were realised in the past and involved the region’s civil society actors in different fields of policymaking. For them it was a positive message that on 31 March the European Commission published its report on the accession process in connection with the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region by stating that cohesion policy continues to support civil societies in the Western Balkan to get closer to the EU.

Security has gained particular importance for citizens. In this sense, cohesion policy supports people to achieve greater safe in the urban and rural areas. On April 2021 the European Commission presented new funding opportunities in the field of urban security which encourage civil actors to capture a bigger share of locally-led sustainable development.

The tourism sector of San Marino can be more attractive in the near future. The mini state concluded its accession negotiations with the European Commission in May and will become a member of the EU macroregional cooperation covering the Adriatic and Ionian countries. The membership of San Marino will open up for European civil actors new opportunities to explore the hidden potentials of the country.

Achieving a stronger social cohesion, a just and jobs-rich recovery are not just buzzwords but part of an EU action plan to support Europe’s society hit by the Covid19-crisis. On 7 May the so-called Porto Social Commitment was adopted which includes concrete steps to create a Social Europe for reducing poverty, creating European working conditions and providing equal pay for work of equal value.

Cohesion Policy means also inclusiveness by supporting dialogue and enhanced cooperation between generations. For this aim, the youth should have a stronger voice in shaping a safe and sustainable future of Europe. In this spirit, young leaders, thinkers, entrepreneurs, influencers, social activists and other young actors were addressed at 6th Forum of the European Union Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region, held in Slovenia, 11-12 May.

Cohesion policy brings results in practical areas that citizens can feel in everyday life. One such area is healthcare. On 15 June a big investment in Slovenia started for supporting energy-saving of the hospital building of the University Medical Centre in Ljubljana. This project makes the concrete outcomes of the cohesion policy evident to many thousands of local residents.

On June 24 the EU gave green light when a legislative package on the cohesion policy for 2021-2027 financial period was adopted. This important action was the first step to made the EU countries possible to use funds worth many billions of euros in the coming years.

One month later, Greece as one of the first member states, signed a partnership agreement with the EU on 29 July which was the next step to use funds from the 2021-2027 EU budget.

Beatrice Vio. Bebe was presented by Commission’s President, von der Leyen, on 15 September when she held speech on the State of the Union 2021. Bebe is in the image of her generation: a young leader and has managed to achieve all of that by living up to her belief that – if it seems impossible – then it can be done. This was the spirit of Europe’s founders and this is the spirit of Europe’s next generation – said von der Leyen. .

The European youth, indeed, has been active and shaping policies for the EU macro-regional cooperation. In this line, young leaders from Baltic Sea Region presented their views and experiences on 1 October at the 12th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region.

The 19th European Week of Regions and Cities was held on 11-14 October and organized Citizens’ Dialogue where also civil stakeholders introduced their projects. Access to healthy and fair food at affordable prices all year round in Belgium, unique mobile hospital in Spain; a remote school program in Poland providing rural families laptops – all these are best practices showing that citizens’ engagement in cohesion policy helps speed up an inclusive, participative and fair recovery.

Cohesion policy supports civil society organisations in social economy who bring practical solutions to the citizens. On 18 October the winners of the EU Social Economy Awards were presented in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The best project of a not-for-profit organisation in the Green Transition Category produces and distributes renewable energy across Spain; another winner in the Digitalisation Category educates thousands of women and hundreds of children who have discovered the world of information technology.

Cohesion policy connects people which the local societies in Germany and Denmark could experience in practice. On 29 November the ceremonial opening of one of the largest cohesion policy-funded projects was held. An 18-kilometre-long underwater tunnel will be built between the two countries.

On 2 December, the European Commission announced the winners of the REGIOSTARS Awards 2021 for the best Cohesion policy projects in the whole EU. Awards went to projects among others for providing a unique housing renovation financial scheme for vulnerable homeowners in Ghent, Belgium; for integrating refugees through the development of a needs-based training program in the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium and for uniting cities, citizens, and stakeholders through the co-creation of blue and green infrastructure projects in 10 cities in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Belgium, Norway and Germany.

By the end of the year, the EU spent more than 100 billion euros to save jobs, maintain health care and education in the member countries hit by the devastating effects of the Covid-19 crisis. Protection of citizens and ensuring social and economic cohesion in daily life are proved by a report issued in December on the implementation of the European Structural and Investment Funds.

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