Territorial cohesion

Cohesion Policy aims to reduce disparities in territorial development between the regions of the European Union. It supports a wide range of key investments for regional development, from mobility and health services to broadband rollout, support for employment and environmental transition. With a budget of €392 million for the period 2021-2027, Cohesion Policy has a crucial role to play in addressing the specific challenges of Europe's mountain regions.

In order to promote its overall harmonious development, the Union shall develop and pursue its actions leading to the strengthening of its economic, social and territorial cohesion. In particular, the Union shall aim at reducing disparities between the levels of development of the various regions and the backwardness of the least favoured regions. Among the regions concerned, particular attention shall be paid to rural areas, areas affected by industrial transition, and regions which suffer from severe and permanent natural or demographic handicaps such as the northernmost regions with very low population density and island, cross-border and mountain regions. Article 174 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union

Paying more attention to mountain areas in Cohesion Policy

The territorial development of some regions can be hampered by natural and demographic constraints, such as those faced by mountain areas. The European Union’s policies – first and foremost Cohesion Policy – must respond to these problems by paying particular attention to these territories, including mountain areas, as provided by Article 174 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Cohesion Policy does not yet take sufficient account of the needs and specific characteristics of mountain areas, as demonstrated by Gilda Carbone’s expert report in 2018, highlighted by the European Parliament’s 2016 report on Cohesion Policy in mountain areas and reiterated by the 2022 opinion of the European Committee of the Regions.

Euromontana therefore advocates for mountain areas to be given greater consideration in the post-2027 Cohesion Policy and in the implementation of the EU’s Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas. We are bringing this message notably through DG REGIO’s Dialogue with Common Provision Regulation partners 2021-2027 and through the various European Parliament intergroups of which we have been supporters, such as RUMRA & Smart Villages, and in the previous mandates RUMRA and the Group 174.

We call for
  • Earmarking funds for mountain areas in the post-2027 Cohesion Policy. Progress has been made in the current programming period with the creation of the new Objective 5 “A Europe closer to its citizens”, which aims to respond to the needs of territories and supports the uptake of tools such as Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI) and Community Led Local Development (CLLD). However, these funds are not specifically targeted at rural and mountain areas. In addition, 60% of Cohesion Policy funding for 2021-2027 is allocated to objectives 1 and 2 for a more competitive Europe and a greener Europe respectively. Euromontana calls on the European Commission to earmark funds for all objectives in order to facilitate access to funding for mountain areas and to increase their contribution to the success of European objectives.
  • Encouraging Member States to create Operational Programmes dedicated to mountain areas. Past experiences with such mountain-specific programmes have contributed to better address the needs of mountain areas. In addition, programmes covering a whole mountain massif can help to overcome administrative boundaries and respond to the global challenges of a massif spanning several regions.

Strengthening the territorial anchorage of macro-regional strategies

For more than 10 years, macro-regional strategies have provided an integrated framework for cross-border cooperation and territorial cohesion in regions facing similar challenges. They are a powerful tool to better address territorial cohesion by linking the different Structural and Investment Funds and territorial cooperation programmes. These strategies also help to better respond to local needs, in particular through bottom-up governance and the involvement of civil society. The EU Strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP) has been particularly effective in addressing the challenges and opportunities of mountain areas, in particular through innovative and youth-oriented governance and its actions in support of Smart Villages in the Alps.

We call for
  • Better harmonising European, national and regional policies and funding with the EUSALP objectives. In particular, Operational Programmes can allocate specific funds to the Strategy’s objectives, as highlighted in the European Parliament’s 2016 report on EUSALP.
  • Establishing a macro-regional strategy for the Carpathians. The current strategy for the Danube focuses mainly on the river basin, while the Carpathian massif presents its own challenges, as highlighted in the European Committee of the Regions’s 2019 opinion. Euromontana calls on the European Commission to engage with Member States to assess the potential of a new macro-regional strategy that would better respond to the realities of this massif.

Bringing Cohesion Policy closer to mountain stakeholders

Cohesion Policy offers many opportunities for the development of mountain areas. However, Euromontana considers that these opportunities are not sufficiently well known by local and regional actors and are relatively difficult to implement. Euromontana recognises the need to maintain a certain continuity in the rules in order to ensure long-term monitoring and to spare beneficiaries from having to deal with rule changes every programming period. However, certain changes would help to unlock the great potential of Cohesion Policy for mountain areas.

We call for
  • Communicating better to potential beneficiaries about the funds and tools available. Montana174 has shown that mountain stakeholders are too often unaware of the opportunities offered by the Cohesion Policy, and certain tools, such as CLLDs and ITIs, are not widely used in our regions.
  • Simplifying the use of funds for beneficiaries. In particular, this can be achieved by facilitating a multi-fund approach, providing pre-financing for small organisations, simplifying costs, and facilitating reporting with a principle of proportionality in controls.
  • Creating one-stop shops for all Managing Authorities of Structural and Investment Funds. This would complement communication and simplification efforts by facilitating access to information and funding with a single system for monitoring funds.