For more than 20 years, cohesion policy has consistently proven its added value and has become for citizens the example of European solidarity. Cohesion policy is the perfect example of multi-level governance. In the Treaty of Lisbon, cohesion policy is a responsibility shared between the European Union and Member States including Local and Regional authorities.
European cohesion policy represents one-third of the EU budget and has a real financial leverage and institutional partnership effect. It is the main tool to support the growth and competitiveness objective and to implement the goals of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth of the Europe 2020 Strategy. The European Structural and Investment Funds also reinforce the institutional abilities of all levels of government.
The coordinated action of the various levels of government, on the one hand, and the coordination of policies and instruments, on the other hand, are vital to improve European governance and the implementation of Community strategies.
The Commission COTER of the CoR is competent for the items related to cohesion policy.
The partnership principle
Multi-level governance has been enshrined in the Regulations governing cohesion policy. According to Art. 5 of the Common Provisions Regulation, the European Commission shall set out a common set of standards to improve consultation, participation and dialogue with partners such as regional, local, urban and other public authorities, trade unions, employers, non-governmental organisations and bodies responsible for promoting social inclusion, gender equality and non-discrimination during the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of projects financed by the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF). The principle of Multi-level governance is further developed in the European code of conduct on partnership, which lays down the conditions for involvement of partners in the preparation and implementation of 2014-2020 partnership agreements and programmes.
European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation: EGTC Portal
In some large geographic areas of the EU, the cohesion policy is implemented via the macro-regional strategies, bringing the principle of multi-level governance into reality.
A 'Macroregional strategy' is an integrated framework endorsed by the European Council, which may be supported by the European Structural and Investment Funds among others, to address common challenges faced by a defined geographical area relating to Member States and third countries located in the same geographical area which thereby benefit from strengthened cooperation contributing to the achievement of economic, social and territorial cohesion.
The territorial cooperation is one of the pillars of cohesion policy. Cohesion policy encourages regions and cities from different EU Member States to work together and learn from each other through joint programmes, projects and networks, at cross-border, transnational and interregional level. The territorial cooperation to promote economic, social and territorial cohesion is carried out also with countries from outside the EU.
EGTCs can carry out many types of cooperation actions. They are a tool to empower regions and cities and also to implement multi-level governance.
Since the entry into force of the EGTC Regulation, the number of EGTCs has steadily increased, involving more than 750 national, regional and local authorities in 19 Member States.