Cohesion policy funds cannot be held hostage when dealing with the refugee crisis

Written by Pavel Poc on 22 October 2015 in Opinion
Opinion

The EU cannot depend on cohesion policy funds to solve the refugee crisis, writes Pavel Poc.

Solidarity is one of the EU's main principles. It was at the heart of all key developments in the European integration process, and remains so today. There are numerous examples of this; the financial help provided to European farmers who suffered under the Russian embargo; the mobilisation of the solidarity fund to address emergencies and disasters; the globalisation fund focusing on the reintegration of unemployed people into the labour market and cohesion policy as a whole.

Nevertheless, in the last few days, it appears that this very important principle has become a tool of compulsion rather than of honest European partnership and cooperation. It is often used to condemn member states that don't agree with how a measure to tackle the refugee crisis should be implemented - namely, the mandatory quotas.

It has been suggested recently that the European budget should reflect the so-called uneven spread of solidarity between the member states in the crisis. The European Commission was asked to come up with a proposal to urge the member states to move forward in this regard. 


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Last month, European regional policy Commissioner Corina Creţu called for greater flexibility within the financial tools of regional policy, in order to accommodate the rising costs of the refugee crisis. She added that solidarity must work both ways.

There should be no doubt that EU countries cannot simply enjoy the benefits of their membership - they must also share the responsibilities that arise from it. In this respect, it is important to keep in mind that the main objective of cohesion funds is to reduce regional and national economic and social disparities between member states, and not simply to focus on the refugee crisis.

There are still disparities and social exclusion, and these are being exacerbated by the recent economic crisis. Therefore, redeploying or reprogramming funds needed to support critical economic regional and social investments is wrong.

It would be extremely difficult to justify mandatory resettling of refugees becoming a general condition for obtaining EU funding for economic cohesion and social inclusion. 

This would mean that regions and vulnerable groups receiving vital support would become hostages, suffering because of a disagreement between European and national policymakers.

This would cause considerable legal difficulties, because such conditions are not mentioned in the Lisbon treaty, nor are they laid out in provisions for particular funds.

The logic that cohesion policy funds can become the cornerstone of the solution to the migration crisis can also be disproved from a completely different perspective. European structural and investment funds aim to increase social standards in those countries that receive them. 

This standard of living is exactly why these thousands of refugees seek to come  to Europe. If we decide to abandon our regions and vulnerable groups, and stop supporting the implementation of projects with a true European added value, the EU will face further difficulties.

This could result in an increasingly uneven distribution of both the European population and immigrants, both regular and irregular - and to rising tensions, as people go looking for a better life elsewhere.

 

About the author

Pavel Poc (S&D, CZ) is a Vice-Chair of Parliament's environment, public health and food safety committee

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