The basic tools
Local and regional authorities (LRA) in all countries in the European Union have become increasingly worried about recent developments in the planning and distribution of the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) money that is intended to cover: 1. Basic human needs like education, health care, environmental protection, transports, R&D and energy. 2. Generic support to enterprises, renewable energy sources, routes and the job market, especially for creating jobs for young people, and also 3. Digital services, railways, continuing formation and reinforcing of institutional capacities. All these fields are about to go through particularly degrading changes and yet they are all things that we as European citizens are acquainted with in our everyday life both at work and at home.
The new requirements with negative effects
The struggle concerns the so called European politics of cohesion to which the above mentioned funding domaines belong. Until now the role of the institutions like the Council of Ministers and the the Commission was to take a decision on the sums to be allocated to the LRA’s instances but in the latest Report (the 6th) there are new measures which have been introduced like the macro-economic conditionality. It means that because of the euro crisis on the national levels, the European instances are requiring a better control over the allocated funds and their usage even on the LRA level. This is scaring the local and regional authorities because they probably will lose part of their autonomy that until now was entirely in their hands what comes to the distributing of the funds; now the Commission intends to reinforce the monitoring of their usage. The LRA instances claim that this would be particularly unfair since the debts at the national level are not the fault of the LRA level, who are not a decision taking instance but mainly an operational one and furthermore, they are under a constitutional obligation of budget balance. From the point of view of ordinary citizens the risk is huge because instances like townhalls, regional councils etc. are those which guarantee the social functioning of our everyday life.
What can or should be done ?
The suspension of the allocations to the different structures and for the objectives mentioned above could seriously damage the role of public services within the European societies and therefore create unemployment and unrest within the populations. The Parliament has put its objection to these plans, as well as the Council and it is seen as an unjust sanction. Now, the reason why there is still hope that this proposition will not be implemented is that juridically it will be difficult to transfer funds from one case to another, especially if the funds are already allocated for a specific purpose. In fact, also the Juncker Plan repeats this while trying to transfer already allocated funds among which ESF funds as well as the means already allocated to financing Erasmus+ programs, all this confusion comes about to fulfill the promises given in the Juncker plan. Finally, there are at least two huge regrets or consequences to present because of this pretentious macro-economical conditionality and the lack of imagination within the Juncker Plan. First, the situation of already vulnerable populations like students, unemployed and immigrants will become even harder as means allocated to associations and NGO’s working with them could be cut off. Second, instead of stealing from the poor, proper European sources could be implemented.
It is all the more regrettable that the New Deal for Europe ECI had to be interrupted, since its intention was precisely to put forward a financing plan with taxes like the FTT (Tobin tax) and the CO2 tax as own financial sources for Europe in order to balance the public debts and to create jobs especially for young people. The stubborn attitude of the Commission is particularly annoying and the article emphasizes the fact that it seems that we are going towards a one-level decision taking system instead of the multi-level (supranational, national, regional and local level) funding distribution system in Europe. All this reflects the lack of capacity of looking at peoples lives in space from the right angle – from the town-halls and regional councils etc. who are close to their populations. Instead we are conducted by a bunch of European Commission executives whose blindness is not far from that of Oedipus, the founder of the famous complex…