The CEPS Ideas Lab, the annual flagship event by the Centre for European Policy Studies, took place on March 5th and 6th in Brussels this year with the opening plenary given by Charles Michel, President of the European Council. Here you’ll find a summary of some of the takeaways from three sessions:

Territorial cohesion: Is rural versus metropole the new divide?

The conflict between rural and metropolitan areas varies in scale across Europe. Though primarily rural regions have suffered from globalization, other regions have profited from it. Regional disparities stayed roughly the same over the last few years, with the level of public investment higher in cities. As low-density regions continue to face problems financing high-quality services, discussions revolve around to what extent it is appropriate to maintain and support regions that are lagging behind.

However, the divide between rural and metropolitan areas is not solely a challenge from an economic point of view. It also can have broad consequences and manifold implications outside the economic sphere. For example, women tend to leave rural areas because culture, jobs, and activities in those places often do not meet their life vision.

Facing the skills challenge: What are the options?

Economic convergence necessarily goes along with skill convergence. Digitalization can distribute chances more broadly because basically everyone can access the knowledge of the world via the internet, and this, in turn, could contribute to more social equality. But in the digital age, different regions in Europe still require different skills. In addition, a big question is if employers or employees in certain regions should be incentivized.

Local unions, associations and labor advocates need to be involved in discussions so that online learning can be tailored to the needs of the local people. The current Corona Crisis could further amplify these discussions.

An unchanged MFF but an ambitious Green Deal?

This discussion mainly revolved around two perspectives on how to implement an ambitious Green Deal while having a multiannual financial framework that is defined for the period from 2021 – 2027:

  • Re-Defining: Adjust the existing multiannual financial framework to the demands of the Green Deal. As challenges change, budgetary changes can also be crucial to cope with them. In the current situation, this would imply an increase in the budgetary scope. But it does not necessarily have to lead to an additional burden for EU citizens. More money for the EU also means that the EU is able to complete more tasks, which would be a relief for national budgets. The Green Deal needs to be adequately funded, otherwise, it is meaningless. Changes to the MFF, according to a 2020 state of the art view on environmental and climate issues, will have to be made.
  • Re-Prioritising: The multiannual financial framework is set for up until 2027. The EU should stick to the budget which the EU Member States have agreed upon as this represents their priorities. To achieve the goals outlined in the Green Deal agenda, the EU needs to talk about re-prioritizing their tasks without a complementarily increase in the budget. Otherwise, the increase in the budget to achieve the Green Deal goals will be significant (e.g., 50% for Germany).

Negotiations to adapt changes in the multiannual financial framework are already ongoing due to consequences of the Brexit, and the Green Deal has to be seen in the light of these budgetary consequences. In addition to that, adjustment due to the prevailing Corona Crisis could be necessary.

But let us not forget that there is also a lot of room for improvement with respect to the proper execution of the budget and that climate change should be seen as an opportunity for growth and employment, especially because the investment gap currently is significant.