Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa has called for greater resources and regional investment for Europe at a debate held with the European Committee of the Regions (CoR).

Costa said Europe must urgently change course to respond to global competition by tackling regional disparities, increasing member states’ contributions to the EU budget, strengthening regional investment and engaging every level of government, the CoR said in a press release on February 1.

The Portuguese premier, a former member of the CoR, said the EU must prioritise social cohesion and convergence between regions and cities.

He called for an increase in the EU budget, saying that 1 percent of GNI was not enough. “In a globalised world, Europe requires more cohesion and a more competitive economy,” CoR quoted Costa as saying.

“To respond to new challenges, we must not weaken the foundations of our Union, such as the Common Agricultural Policy or Cohesion Policy. We have the ambition and we have the policies. If we want a stronger Union that is more resilient to crises and more prepared for new challenges, we must have a Union with more resources,” he added.

Speaking during a debate held in the CoR’s plenary, CoR President Karl-Heinz Lambertz agreed, saying: “We all have a responsibility to put Europe back on a path of balanced economic growth. Social, economic and territorial cohesion is the DNA of our Union, but we need more regional and rural investment. The next EU budget will shape where Europe goes next. That is why member states must strengthen, not reduce, regions’ and cities’ financial means to create jobs and deepen European integration”.

Costa also called for a strong cohesion policy, noting that it has helped Europe reach “every village, every city, every town and every European street”. “That is why cohesion cannot and should not be the adjustment variable for the next Multiannual Financial Framework,” he said.

Costa also called for completing the European Monetary Union. The structural weaknesses of the Eurozone remain unresolved. As long as the Economic and Monetary Union remains incomplete, the risk of further crises remains. That is why I have been advocating for the creation of a euro-zone budget based on own resources,” Costa said.