Let’s agree on MFF: The urgent need to change the way Member States are using cohesion funds

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Let’s agree on MFF: The urgent need to change the way Member States are using cohesion funds


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When it comes to having MFF (Multiannual Financial Framework) it’s not the last call yet, but time is running out. There are serious concerns based on significant objections coming from the various Member States.

Some of them are insisting that there is no way to cut even one euro from CAP and most of them – even net contributors – are saying no to reducing the cohesion envelope. The reality is a little bit more complicated.

First, we must have MFF after May 2, otherwise, uncertainty will drive the EU into turbulence.

Second, we have to do more with less. The Member States that are dependent on cohesion funding must find a way to operate with less as soon as possible.

The methodology of additionality is one of the cornerstones of EU support through structural funds. It relies on the axiom that EU funds should not crowd out national expenditure, but rather enhance each Member State’s investment priorities by adding European value.

What will happen to the Member States that have limited investment capacity due to a lack of their own resources? If EU funds are reduced, those Member States that are inevitably dependent on structural funds for all their investment needs will be in trouble. The entire EU funding ecosystem (managing authorities, public and private beneficiaries, EU funds consultants) will be threatened and, in order to survive, it will need to adapt.

Under this perspective, three things must happen.

First, politicians should campaign in order to facilitate a conceptual shift on EU funding with a focus on additionalities and impact on the real economy.

Second, beneficiaries should re-focus towards a gradual shift from subsidies as a pre-requisite to invest towards a European mindset of additional value that could benefit from EU funds.

Last, but not least, there should be a smart use of EU grants with complementarities among all sources of funding, be it public or private in order to maximise impact and investment volume. If we are to have a next Multiannual Financial Framework that will benefit most of us Europeans, we must first change our conceptual framework for it.

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