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(03 April 2020) - The European Commission has proposed numerous changes to its cohesion policy rulebook in order to draw €37 billion of unused funds to finance various measures during the coronavirus pandemic.

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The money is to come from unused structural funds, which normally have to be returned to the Commission each year. Thus, €8 billion, which were planned for 2019, are to remain in the hands of the member states, and another €29 billion are to be paid out early.

To implement this, the Commission proposed changes to the rules of cohesion policy to make the use of the funds more flexible and less bureaucratic. Member states should be given the opportunity to shift unlimited funds between the different funds this year, and also to transfer money between richer and poorer regions.

Nevertheless, the impact of structural funds could be limited. Despite accounting for around a third of the current EU budget, the €454 billion euros are mostly programmed for years in operational programmes and can, therefore, only serve for emergency measures to a limited extent. Above all, they are likely to be used for the longer-term development of health infrastructure in the regions. (EurActiv)

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