By John Bachtler
A more citizen-focused approach to programming and implementation of EU Cohesion Policy was the main message of Professor John Bachtler's presentation to the High-Level Conference dedicated to “EU cohesion policy: post-2020 perspectives for convergence and sustainable regions” hosted by the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union on 8th June 2018.
Speaking as an invited academic expert in a panel on the risks and price of non-cohesion, John Bachtler discussed the role of Cohesion Policy in shaping the perceptions of the EU and EU identity. Drawing on the conclusions of recently concluded Horizon 2020 project, COHESIFY, he noted the evidence for awareness of EU funding and how spending through Cohesion Policy improves recognition of the advantages of EU integration. However, the lessons from the research indicate the need for EU funding to be more regionally and locally differentiated, that communication strategies need to be more citizen-focused and sophisticated in their use of social media, and policymakers need to give much higher priority to involving citizens in the process of deciding objectives and resource allocation – for example experimenting more with participatory democratic tools.
John Bachtler also discussed greater citizen involvement in EU policymaking as part of an interview on the EU Multiannual Financial Framework with Bulgarian National Radio for the international weekly talk-show ‘Saturday 150’ broadcast on 9th June 2018.