Speech to the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy

Thank you Chairman.

I would like to congratulate the rapporteur on his draft opinion. We hope that a compromise can be reached swiftly to send clear instructions to REGI regarding our key priority areas, such as digital and energy.

Cohesion policy is an important instrument for increasing productivity and prosperity in the parts of Europe that need it the most, and to that end we welcome the Commission proposal. It concentrates on broadly the most relevant areas for development, such as clean energy, ICT connectivity and innovation, and is not overly prescriptive. We also welcome the Commission’s efforts to harmonise funding rules and reduce administrative burdens, and note potential complementarity between this proposal and economic governance. 

However, while we agree with the priorities, Member States should have maximum freedom to set their priorities according to their specific circumstances. Also, while the simplifications are welcome, we believe that further steps must be taken in this regard.

The rapporteur’s draft introduces welcome elements of flexibility, for example allowing Member States to spend more of the money on their priorities. We also believe that Member States should use the funding to comply with greenhouse gas emissions targets, which is one of the main objectives of clean energy. His proposals on the circular economy, clean energy and regenerating regions suffering from depopulation, also warrant deep consideration. 

That said, we feel that removing compliance with state aid rules would be a step backwards, else we end up picking winners and undermining the market economy that we rely on for development. Similarly, while we have some sympathy with the rapporteur’s objectives, we feel that introducing housing and full employment targets would not have a great stimulating effect on the economy.

Nonetheless we think there is an opportunity to reach a broad compromise with the rapporteur and other shadows, and hope that this committee can positively influence the final regulation. I look forward to working to that end.