Cities join EU-wide call for stronger Cohesion Policy

21 March 2024

With just three months until the European elections, leaders in the Eurocities network have joined local and regional representatives from across Europe to call for a reinforced Cohesion Policy that continues to tackle disparities and leaves no one behind.

In a joint call, Eurocities and their partners in the EU Cohesion Alliance have stated that the next European institutions must keep the Cohesion Policy as the main pillar of the EU’s development plans.

The joint call, which was signed at the European Summit of Regions and Cities in Mons, outlines the need for an EU agenda that strengthens social, economic and territorial cohesion.

The call also states that the Cohesion Policy must continue to provide targeted support for cities and their surrounding areas, given the many significant challenges they are currently facing, including increasing inequality, responding to climate change and the growing digital divide.

Ricardo Rio, Mayor of Braga, who represented Eurocities at the signing of the joint call, said: “As discussions on the evolution of the Cohesion Policy intensify, it is crucial for us to be outspoken and forge stronger alliances. The Cohesion Alliance’s joint call to action clearly puts the spotlight on the principles we must protect.

“Firstly, the need to promote a strong Cohesion Policy for all territories, and secondly, the need to truly ground Cohesion Policy in solutions that are tailored to specific places with different challenges, especially cities which participate actively in European economic development.”

City and regional leaders who signed the joint Cohesion Alliance call for a reinforced cohesion policy

Supporting sustainable growth in cities

The Cohesion Policy, which is the EU’s main investment fund, is aimed at building a smarter, greener, more connected Europe that is closer to its citizens.

It enhances economic, social and territorial cohesion by reducing imbalances among regions and cities. For 2014-2020, the EU invested €352 billion in its regions and cities. This has risen to €392 billion for 2021-2027, around a third of the EU’s budget.

However, as debate gathers pace on design of the policy after 2027, there is uncertainty about whether the current level of investment will be maintained. For example, there are concerns that the European Commission may view its NextGenerationEU recovery plan as an alternative delivery model for cohesion funds.

But for cities, the importance of cohesion policy remains clear. During the last funding cycle, nearly €20 billion from the policy’s Regional Development Fund was channelled to cities in Europe, supporting the development of around 1,000 strategies promoting sustainable urban development.

This support enabled urban communities to develop vital sustainable infrastructure and address increasing social disparities. Additionally, many cities capitalised on opportunities to foster institutional and social innovations.

The city of Milan, for instance, benefited from the PON METRO, a national operational programme dedicated to 14 metropolitan cities. The city received over €122 million that was invested in several key areas, including the digital metropolitan agenda, the sustainability of services and urban mobility, services and infrastructure for social inclusion and technical assistance.

Cities have also benefited from the policy’s integrated territorial investments, using them to develop strategies that support unprecedented urban-rural collaboration between them and their surrounding metropolitan and rural areas.

The Czech city of Brno has developed an innovative €300 million integrated strategy to ensure links between the city and its surrounding 180 municipalities and rural areas are maintained.

“Looking at the current funding cycle, cities will continue benefiting from substantial resources allocated with the same commitment to partnership and multilevel governance,” said Mayor Rio. “And yet the current discourse alerts us to the fact that we cannot presume the continuity of this support.

He added: “This is why we must stand together to defend the Cohesion Policy.”

“Without cohesion, there is no Europe”

Recent farmers’ protests are the most visible sign of a rising discontent against the EU’s green and economic policies that could increase poverty and social exclusion across Europe, particularly in rural areas.  

In response, the Cohesion Alliance’s joint call argues that economic, social and territorial cohesion should be at the top of the EU agenda, boosting digital and environmental transitions and improving resilience to disasters and crises at all levels.​​

Speaking during the call’s signing, Elisa Ferreira, European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, stated that the Cohesion Policy must continue to evolve and develop to prepare for the future of the EU, including its enlargement.

“Cohesion Policy does not offer charity, but solidarity and support for our member states, cities and regions to develop,” said Commissioner Ferreira. “Without cohesion, there is no Europe.”

These comments were supported by Younous Omarjee, Chair of the European Parliament REGI Committee, who stated: “Without cohesion there is no European project, cohesion is the very basic idea of Europe.”

Adding to these messages, Emil Boc, Mayor of Cluj-Napcoa, which is a Eurocities member, said that every EU strategic policy must be accompanied by cohesion, which is crucial to ensure a successfully implemented European Green Deal.

“We can’t lose the territorial dimension of European policies, they must stay place-based and foster partnerships and shared management,” said Mayor Boc. “In the light of growing green discontent, the EU must also better connect with its citizens through cohesion.”

Call for a renewed cohesion policy

To properly tackle current and future challenges, the Cohesion Alliance is calling for a renewed Cohesion Policy for the post-2027 period, based on the following principles:

  1. A policy available to all regions, cities and municipalities: All “territories” matter, whether they are located in richer or in poorer countries.
  2. A policy that helps to anchor social, economic and territorial cohesion within the new green deal industrial policy and the strategic autonomy of the EU.
  3. A policy driven by the overarching goal of ‘just transition’: The transformational path towards climate neutrality will impact every single area, regardless of characteristics. It could lead to further disparities and uneven social consequences if not properly managed.
  4. A policy that builds on place-based solutions: The diversity of territories in the EU is an asset. A well-designed Cohesion Policy must be exible enough to enable the local level to develop strategies adapted to their particular area while ful‑lling the EU’s overall political objectives, within a stable and predictable framework.
  5. A policy that builds upon its golden principles: shared management, strengthened partnership with all parts of society, multi-level governance based on genuine dialogue between local, regional, national and EU authorities.
  6. A policy based on a new culture of trust between the diff­erent layers of government in the EU.
  7. A policy that strengthens territorial cooperation and supports territorial innovation and democracy.
  8. “Do no harm to cohesion”: All EU policies must support the strengthening of economic, social and territorial cohesion.


If you are a city or regional administration, and you would like to sign the Cohesion Alliance’s joint call for a renewed Cohesion policy for the post-2027 period, it is available for you to read and sign here.


Andrew Kennedy Eurocities Writer