Major deficiencies in the communication process between the EU, the bloc’s 28 national governments, and the local authorities recently came to light when a Eurobarometer survey revealed that a whopping 60% of those who live in the European Union have no knowledge about EU-funded projects in their respective regions. 

The finding has forced the European Committee of the Regions to come to terms with the fact that major weaknesses exist when it comes to proper communication concerning the EU’s cohesion policy – the bloc’s most powerful investment tool which corresponds to one-third of the European Union’s budget.

The incoming Commission of Ursula von der Leyen has noted that to effectively relaunch and re-establish trust in the European project, the next College of Commissioners must make a concerted effort to raise awareness about the EU’s commitment to local communities through effective communication and cooperation initiatives that will involve all of those involved in each specific project.

According to the Committee of Regions, the 2021-2027 regulation which will be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in the next few months, should contain a specific technical assistance budget for that would provide publicity for the cohesion policy projects.

Local leaders hope to have a communication mechanism that has clear strategies and different targets. As a result, the Committee has asked the European Commission to call on the political representatives from Europe’s regions and cities to help with the management of operational programmes for ESI funds. This would make it easier for local and regional authorities and beneficiaries to test new forms of communication and provide a forum for citizens to be better involved in the decision-making process related to EU funds.

“Better communication of cohesion policy is a shared responsibility following multilevel governance. Consequently, we, mayors and local governments, should play a fundamental role in implementing cohesion policy and in ensuring the visibility of the projects funded by this policy. The European institutions alone cannot be the only driving force behind this challenge,” said Adrian Ovidiu Teban, a Romanian member of the European People’s Party and mayor of Cugir, a town of 21,000 people in central Romania.

Europe’s cohesion policy is enshrined in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and aims to strengthen economic and social cohesion by reducing disparities in the level of development between the EU’s regions. Approximately 32.5% of the bloc’s budget is allocated to financial instruments that support the strategy.

The founding principle of the policy is to promote more balanced and sustainable territorial development.