This Eurocities webinar brought together a record of 175 representatives from 70 different cities across 20 countries in Europe to discuss with the European Commission how cities can access and use the EU funding under the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative.
This was the first in a series of online events organised by Eurocities to inform, connect cities and facilitate city-to-city dialogue and mutual learning on how to prepare, respond and adapt to COVID-19 as well as plan to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the outbreak.
What is the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative?
In the context of the rapidly spreading coronavirus (COVID-19), the European Commission proposed the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII) to direct €37 billion under cohesion policy to provide immediate support in the most affected sectors, including:
- Healthcare (including hospital equipment and infrastructure, inhalators, masks, etc.)
- Support to working capital of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
- Short-term employment schemes
- Community-based services
The CRII provides for non-recovery of unused structural funds due in 2020 and makes COVID-19 related expenditure eligible as from 1 February. It aims to give member states quick access to this EU funding, with maximum flexibility and minimum administrative work.
The European Commission has set up a Task Force as a one-stop shop to answer questions, give advice and assistance on how to use the CRII. The Task Force is supported by country teams led by DG REGIO and DG EMPL directors.
You can find more information in the detailed Eurocities policy brief on EU funding at the link below.
Key takeaways from the webinar
Adriana Sukova, Deputy Director General of DG EMPL in the European Commission highlighted that the EU funding under the CRII is not additional EU funding, but ‘unspent’ EU structural funds already allocated to member states for 2019-2020 (last years of this current programming period). This is what the Commission can do at this stage with the EU funding currently available.
What changes for cohesion policy funding under the CRII:
- The structural funds (ESF, ERDF) ‘unspent’ in 2019 need not be returned to EU but can remain with member state
- Increased flexibility to allocate the funds to different/new priorities under the existing Operational Programmes
- Fast-track procedures to minimise administrative burden
- Retrospective spending to 1 February 2020
- Commission anticipated payment of pre-financing for 2020 to help member states with liquidity
However, there is no change in the mode of management of this EU funding, meaning that the structural funds continue to be managed by the managing authorities in your region / country, who are in charge of re-prioritisation of how to spend the funds in most efficient way.
Results from the webinar
Over 60% of participants to our webinar found out about the CRII from Eurocities thanks to the information we shared before the webinar.
An impressive 93% of participants found the webinar useful or very useful, learning new information but most of them would not know how to apply the new information to benefit their city directly, because they need to first contact their managing authorities.
Nearly a third of participants (30%) already contacted their managing authorities to ask how to access the EU funding under the CRII.
Many cities are motivated to use the information from the webinar to contact their managing authority in the region or country to discuss new priorities from local level where to use this EU funding under the CRII.
However, this re-allocation of EU structural funds to new priorities does not have much impact on the regions and countries that have been successful in using the EU funds almost to the maximum (no ‘unspent’ funds remaining). In this case, we need to follow closely the second package of measures that will be announced soon with the anticipated flexibility to re-allocate between different EU funds. At the same time, we will follow closely the discussions about changing the priorities of the EU budget for the next programming period of 2021-2027.
Recording of the webinar
You can access the recording of the webinar here: https://youtu.be/84c_jAuHM28