The Cohesion Forum was held in Brussels from 31 January to 1 February 2011. It was organized by the European Commission and the main goal was closure the public consultation launched last November on the future, post-2013 Cohesion Policy. A number of European policy makers, ministers, regional presidents and heads of operational programmes participated in the work, which was opened by Commissioner Barroso and the Hungarian and Polish Prime Ministers. Commissioner Hahn, who is in charge of regional policy, led the forum from beginning to end.
What can we take away from this forum? First, a physical impression that Europe really exists with, of course, its differences and divergences. The audience listened attentively to the presentations, which were for the most part of a very high level and constructive. Commissioner Hahn’s conclusions gave a glimpse of the negotiations in the upcoming months. The key role cities play in the Cohesion Policy was reaffirmed and, as a result, so was the necessity that they be involved in developing operational programmes, along with the importance of integrated development. Yet, one must recognize that cities, as key players in development and inclusion, did not get special treatment at the Forum.
The Commission clearly insisted on the necessity of choosing limited objectives on which the Cohesion Policy should focus, while hoping for tailoring of each operational programme rather than have a uniform approach.
I will end with the objectives of method that will resonate particularly well for URBACT partners: effectiveness, results and impact. And to these three goals can be added another requirement everyone agreed on: simplified procedures. The margin for progress in this area is great, both on a European and a national level. Negotiations over Cohesion Policy content and how it will be implemented are now entering their active phase.
Head of the URBACT Secretariat