Study: ‘The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine on EU cohesion Part II: Overview and outlook’ - Final study published!

Written By Alessandro Valenza
Publishing 11 November 2022

Spatial Foresight and t33 completed a new study for the Committee on Regional Development (REGI) of the European Parliament exploring the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine on vulnerable territories and societal groups as well as on Cohesion Policy.  The study  is the follow up of a first report  available here.
The study consists of two main parts. In particular, it analyses:

  • How the pandemic and  Russia’s war on Ukraine are affecting Europe’s pathway to cohesion. COVID-19 was indeed a major shock, deeply impacting people, enterprises, public authorities, municipalities and regions. On the other hand, the war in Ukraine is exacerbating vulnerabilities for many  places and societal groups already weakened by the pandemic. Many of the impacts highlight the risks of increasing inequalities  with a consequent further reduction of cohesion in Europe.

  • The medium-to-long-term impact of the pandemic on Cohesion Policy. The study showed that Cohesion Policy proved to be a highly flexible instrument reacting quickly and effectively to the effects of COVID-19.  The new adopted measures (CRII/CRII+), indeed, simplified procedures to quickly supports MSs and Regions and allowed Programmes to easily reallocate financial resources among priorities in favour of the sectors most affected by the crisis.

As part of this second analysis, the report also explores the effects of the new policy instruments introduced by the Next Generation EU to address the emergency, in particular the Recovery and Resilience Facility, on Cohesion Policy. As the RRF may appear to have several advantages in terms of simplification of procedures, time and resources compared to Cohesion Policy, the significant complementarity and lack of coordination between the two instruments could lead to unfair 'competition'. In this regard, the study sheds light on the risk that Cohesion Policy interventions may not only overlap but also be displaced by this new instrument.
On this purpose, the study suggests the European Parliament to stimulate the debate and dialogue with all the EU stakeholders about the future Cohesion Policy after 21-27 period stressing the need for regional, national and European actors to thoroughly coordinate their role in implementing the NRPs and Cohesion Policy. Finally, the study suggests 3 possible scenarios which can be imagined for Cohesion Policy post 2027:

  • Cohesion Policy as the main driver for transition and a policy integrator.

  • Cohesion Policy will become a funding scheme narrowly focused on a set of specific policies, rather than being a funding vehicle for all kinds of policy objectives and priorities.

  • Cohesion Policy does not adapt to the new socio-economic context of the EU and loses its effectiveness being replaced by a range of other policies after 2027.

The study is led by  Spatial Foresight GmbH in consortium with t33.
The final study report is available here.