Europe’s social democrats call for a strengthened cohesion policy post-2020, focused on decent jobs, clean environment, investment in human capital and new technologies, a packed hall of conference delegates heard today.

Some 150 delegates, plus online participants, discussed leading contributions from European Commissioners Corina Creţu and Maroš Šefčovič, PES president Sergei Stanishev, Committee of the Regions first vice-president Karl-Heinz Lambertz, Slovakian deputy prime minister Peter Pellegrini, and other high-level speakers.

In a packed conference hall, Corina Creţu and Sergei Stanishev spoke in their keynotes speeches on the challenges of maintaining effective cohesion policy beyond 2020 in the likely context of a reduced overall EU budget.

Expert panels also debated how cohesion policy can power the green economy, how to preserve pan-European solidarity, and how to use European investment to create sustainable jobs.

Mr Stanishev said:

“The three decades of cohesion policy are a great achievement of which our progressive family can be proud. But this also means that we have special responsibility for taking good care of its future.

“First and foremost, we need to counteract this tacit but widespread agreement that the EU will be devoting less money to its regional policy after 2020. I have a sense that this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy — but I have a fundamental problem with this. Cohesion policy is the most successful investment tool in the EU. It creates hundreds of thousands of jobs every year, and helps to increase quality of life better than any other policy in the EU.”

Ms Creţu said:

“Cohesion policy is the cement that holds the European Union together. It is the best way to towards a strong and caring Europe for all. And it is also the most genuine expression of European solidarity in all our countries.”

A second major PES conference, entitled ‘A new economic model for Europe’, is scheduled for 12 October 2017. There will also be further PES cohesion events in the years to come as priorities for 2020 spending are negotiated and agreed.