This evaluation exercise helps us to assess how Cohesion Policy managed to adapt to the demanding circumstances and challenges of the past years, and feeds into our reflection on the future of the policy. It gives us an indication of how far policy objectives have been achieved and at what cost.
One of the main messages drawn from the evaluation is that, despite its challenges, Cohesion Policy has benefitted all Member States. Indeed, the close market integration within the Union generates additional income for all Member States, through investment driven imports into the supported countries.
During the 2006-2013 period, 250 thousand SMEs were supported, about 1 Million jobs created, almost 30 thousands km of roads constructed or upgraded, close to 4 thousand km of railway lines upgraded, and nearly 6 million more people connected to clean drinking water supply.
In general terms, the econometric analysis suggests that in 2015 Cohesion policy boosted GDP in EU12 by 4%. It also indicates that the investments have a continuing long-term effect so that each euro of Cohesion Policy investment will generate an additional 2.7 EUR of GDP by 2023.
In parallel with the successes we highlight, it is important that we also acknowledge the lessons on a number of issues identified in the ex-post evaluation of the 2007-2013 programmes. Some of these issues had already been taken into account in the 2014-2020 programming.
In the new programming period, we have agreed on more concrete objectives to measure and follow up. Besides, we have insisted on prioritisation and concentration of funds, to be able to make a real difference on the ground through these investments.
Finally, the conference was also an opportunity for me to meet practitioners of the evaluation exercise throughout the Member States, some of which were awarded a special prize for their outstanding contributions to the Evaluation of Cohesion Policy.