CEE Bankwatch Network organised a lobby week in Brussels from 15 to 17 February, where campaigners from five environmental organisations and five central and eastern European countries joined the plenary meeting of the European Community of Practice on Partnership (ECoPP), a platform launched by the European Commission in 2022. Moreover, Bankwatch organised five meetings with high-level officials from the Commission to take stock of the implementation of the recovery plans and cohesion policy programmes across the EU Member States, and to discuss the preparation of the REPowerEU chapters.
The plenary of the European Community of Practice on Partnership took place on 16 February: after last year’s online plenary, this was the first in-person meeting of the network. A wide range of partners gathered in Brussels from all the EU member states: Managing Authorities, regional and local authorities, social and economic partners, civil society organisation, universities. The purpose of this platform is to discuss how to improve the quality of the partnership in the implementation of the EU funds and how to amend the Code of Conduct of Partnership, the legal document which regulated the cooperation between authorities and stakeholders. During the meeting, all participants were divided into small groups where they could discuss more specifically provisions related to the Code of Conduct and how this document could be improved in the next programming period of the EU funds. This plenary allowed sharing knowledge, as well as good and best practices with different organisations, and to see whether there would be room for cooperation for future work on the issue of partnership.
In addition to the plenary, Bankwatch organised a series of meetings with several officials in the European Commission to discuss the priorities on the Recovery and Resilience Facility, REPowerEU, cohesion policy funds and the Modernisation Fund. In two days, we met representatives from the Cabinet of Vice-President of the Commission Frans Timmermans, SG RECOVER, DG ECFIN, DG REGIO, DG ENV, DG CLIMA. In the meetings, we discussed upcoming challenges during the implementation of EU funds, with the goal of ensuring that these can deliver the energy transition by designing measures that do no cause harm to the climate or the environment, and lead to ambitious schemes to benefit citizens at large. Considering the timing of the meetings (member states had just started to draft their REPowerEU chapters), we urged the Commission to carefully scrutinise the investments submitted by the member states and to take into consideration the level of involvement of the civil society in the drafting process.
All meetings that happened during the advocacy week highlighted the role of civil society organisations as watchdogs of EU funds. The value of the input provided in the meetings was recognised by the EU Institutions as playing a significant role in helping the Commission to assess the situation on the ground. During her opening speech at the plenary of ECoPP, the Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira praised Bankwatch for its efforts on monitoring transparency and public participation in cohesion policy funds.