Op-Ed/ EU cohesion policy must be strengthened

Op-Ed/ EU cohesion policy must be strengthened

Brussels, April 2, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Neoklis Sylikiotis – AKEL MEP, Vice President of the Group of the European United Left

The economic crisis has indisputably very serious impact on the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the EU. The differences between Member States are increasing dramatically. The gap between rich and poor nations, peoples and citizens, grows more and more. The austerity measures, which were presented as the answer to the crisis, destroyed the industrial sector, led to the de-industrialization of the South, reduced investment, deregulated labour relations, violated fundamental labour rights, led to the closure of many SMEs and condemned millions to unemployment. Since the crisis began, more than 3.8 million jobs have been lost in the EU manufacturing sector alone. Therefore, we need new active steps to reduce the economic, social and regional disparities in the EU.

There is much to be done. We must promote a complete industrial strategy without exclusions, the ultimate goal of which will be to combat unemployment especially among young people, creating new quality jobs and sustainable development. There is a dire need to support the industrial sector and to facilitate access to credit for manufacturers. It is also important to promote research and innovation. For the innovative and productive research activities to be possible, it is necessary to substantially increase funding for research and development programs such as Horizon 2020.

From a comprehensive strategy for cohesion policy one cannot exclude public investment, which should serve the needs of society. SME support measures must also be taken. The SMEs are the backbone of our economy and it is our duty to support them in order to stimulate the real economy and protect thousands of jobs. It is therefore important to provide incentives for development, taking into account the needs of SMEs in the legal and regulatory framework, and to promote measures to facilitate their access to financing.

In regard to projects and investments promoted by the EU funds, it is important to ensure that we aim to create new quality and sustainable jobs, something which must also be the aim of Member States, in order to effectively tackle unemployment and to boost the real economy. In addition to that, new projects and investments should take into account the protection of the environment, to support low-carbon dioxide emissions and to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency measures.

The above proposals have been incorporated in the opinion I tabled on behalf of the Group of the European United Left Committee on Energy, Industry and Energy of the European Parliament and which was voted by the majority of MEPs (46 out of 62 MEPs voted in favour). The title of the opinion is: “Investment for work and development: promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion in the EU”. It now remains to go to practice and implement what is needed to get away from the neoliberal austerity policies that have led to unemployment, the dismantling of the welfare state, inequality, pauperisation and the impoverishment of the peoples. Because, unless the EU changes course and proceeds directly to promote a social and development policy, we will never achieve cohesion.