April was the month of cohesion, a pillar and cornerstone of EU policy-making. As a promising prelude to it was a report of a high-level group of specialists released in March 2024 on possible scenarios for the future of EU Cohesion Policy.

April saw the release of the Ninth report of the European Commission on economic, social and territorial cohesion, a massive document of 300 pages, well illustrated by graphics and charts to demonstrate the achievements of Cohesion Policy during the last two years. To give a human face to the documents Brussels hosted a Cohesion Forum on 11-12 April 2024 with an opening speech by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the Commission and a keynote speech from Enrico Letta, former Prime Minister of Italy. The director of European House Budapest who was among the participants resist the temptetation to enumerate all the speakers/panelists coming from the 27 Member States but pays special tribute to Commissioner Ferreira, responsible for cohesion and reform who was present during the whole event making diligently notes, friendly socialising during the breaks and making a remarkable summary at the end.

The Cohesion Report highlights, among others, the significant upward economic and social convergence experienced in many parts of Europe but acknowledges that it has been an uneven process; it helped to mitigate the recent series of crises but also revealed the vulnerability of many regions. It acknowledges that youth unemployment remains a significant challenge and argues for a reinforced partnership and involvement of regional and local actors, social partners and civil society. There is still a long way to go and the prevailing feeling among the Forum participants could be described as careful optimism mixed with realism.

Connect newsletter will address various questions raised by the Cohesion Report in its future issues.