Local Intermediate Authorities as direct recipients of European funds
The European Parliament voted on February 14th in favour of allocating more funds to fight rural depopulation and to enable Local Intermediate Authorities to be direct recipients of a significant percentage of FEDER funds. A majority of MEPs have thus officially entrenched the essential role of Local Intermediate Authorities in bolstering cohesion within the EU.
The vote represents a tremendous achievement for Partenalia and an unprecedented victory that will benefit all European Local Intermediate Authorities (LIAs) and, therefore, the EU as a whole.
Partenalia has, indeed, been at the forefront of the process leading to the recognition of LIAs as a crucial level of government within the EU and a precious ally of EU institutions with regards to the efficient and accountable use of European funds.
Indeed, both the Brussels Declaration adopted in 2017 by the members of Partenalia and the meeting between the President of Partenalia, José Manuel Baltar Blanco and the Vice-President of the European Parliament, Ramón Luis Valcárcel, on July 12th last year, have been instrumental in raising awareness at the European level as to the necessity to involve Local Intermediate Authorities in the implementation of European policies at the local level as has been the encounter between President Baltar, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commissioner for Regional Development, Corina Cretu and European Committee of the Regions, Karl-Heinz Lambertz during the opening session of the 2018 European Week of Regions and Cities.
President Baltar had the opportunity to highlight the fact that “rural depopulation must be a decisive factor when voting on the allocation of EU funds” and that “tackling the demographic challenge must the objective”. With regards to the struggle against rural depopulation, an issue common to all EU Member States, President Baltar also stressed the central role and know-how of European provincial governments (NUTS III) which remain the administration closest to the citizens and municipalities that can also rely on a strategic and global approach as well as on a proven administrative capacity to lead European projects and make an efficient use of EU resources.
A historical vote
President Baltar considers the vote as “historical” in the sense that its key aspect is the establishment of LIAs as direct recipients and managers of FEDER funds; a role formerly exclusively held by European regions - NUTS II administrations.
Partenalia has always advocated a greater integration of LIAs in the administrative body of the EU as a way of further enhancing European territorial cooperation in addition to the efforts made in this sense at the national and regional level. Indeed, as President Baltar recalled: “LIAs represent the ideal administrative level to make a reality of the motto “Think globally, act locally” as they combine a global perspective with a profound knowledge of territorial realities and local necessities”.
Concretely, the vote on the new Regulation governing the allocation of FEDER resources within the 2021-2027 financial framework establishes that at least 5% of this European fund dedicated to increasing the level of cohesion between EU territories will go to the development of non-urban areas with accessibility and demographic decline issues augmenting their competitiveness and the quality of life of local citizens.
Collaboration between Partenalia and EU institutions
President Baltar has expressed his sincere thanks to Vice-president Valcárcel for conveying to the European Parliament this long-standing revendication of LIAs of both territorial equality for rural areas - which will receive an estimated 13 billion euros over the 2021-2027 period – and recognition of this level of administration as direct managers of Cohesion funds. President Baltar insisted that “this represents a new step towards greater cooperation between European Institutions and Partenalia which will enable us to move towards a more equal allocation of funds, more exchanges with the European Parliament and more interaction between LIAs and European universities to conceive innovative social policies”.
As Mr. Valcárcel pointed out, this pioneering legislative innovation within the EU legislation will allow not only “the inclusion of the demographic challenge as a specific objective so that affected regions can benefit from EU funds” but also “the development of a distinctive criterion compared to regions” and to “recognise the reality of the dispersion of the population and of population loss” that many European areas face.
In this sense, President Baltar highlighted the fact that the diversity and differences between European provinces are “at the root of their singular potential” and that in order for it to manifest “we must have an equal allocation of EU funds and not distinguish between “more or less peripheral” territories given that we are all at the centre of the necessity to improve public services for our neighbours”.
As President Baltar concluded: “Today’s vote at the European Parliament is a victory for Europe’s proximity to the citizens and its goal of greater social interaction with the reality of rural areas”.