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The main goal of regional policy in the European Union is economic and social cohesion. This is based on financial solidarity, whereby more than 35% of the Union's budget is transferred to the less-favoured regions (EUR 213 billion in 2000-06 plus EUR 21.74 billion for the ten new Member States). Those regions in the Union lagging behind in their development, undergoing restructuring or facing specific geographical, economic or social problems are to be put in a better position to cope with their difficulties and to benefit fully from the opportunities offered by the single market.
The amount of support that regions receive through the EU's regional policy depends on their level of development and the type of difficulties they are facing. The Structural Fund regulations for 2000-06 provide, in particular, for three priority objectives:
- Objective 1: to promote the development and structural adjustment of regions whose development is lagging behind;
- Objective 2: to support the economic and social conversion of areas experiencing structural difficulties;
- Objective 3: to support the adaptation and modernisation of education, training and employment policies and systems in regions not eligible under Objective 1.
This information sheet concerns Objective 3 only. The other Objectives are the subject of separate sheets.
The reform of the Structural Funds under Agenda 2000 concentrates structural assistance on the most pressing development problems. The new Objective 3 of the Structural Funds for 2000-06 thus brings together the former Objectives 3 (combating long-term unemployment, integration of young people into working life, integration of those threatened with exclusion from the labour market) and Objective 4 (adapting the workforce to changes in production). It is the reference framework for all the measures taken under the new Title on employment inserted in the EC Treaty by the Treaty of Amsterdam and under the European employment strategy.
Objective 3 covers all activities relating to the development of human resources. Its goal is to modernise education and training policy and systems and promote employment.
All regions not covered by Objective 1 are eligible under Objective 3. Training and employment measures in Objective 1 regions are already included in programmes receiving assistance from the European Social Fund (ESF) to that end.
Programming is an essential part of implementing EU regional policy. As a first step, the Member States submit development plans to the Commission. These include a precise description of the economic and social situation of the country by region, a description of the most appropriate strategy for achieving the stated development objectives and indications on the use and form of the financial contribution from the Structural Funds.
The plans submitted for financing under Objective 3 cover those parts a Member State not covered by Objective 1. They provide a framework for developing human resources throughout the country's territory.
Next, the Member States submit their programming documents to the Commission. These documents cover the entire programming period (2000-06) and follow the Commission's general guidelines. They can take the form of:
Community support frameworks (CSF) translated into Operational Programmes (OPs). Member States may use this formula for Objective 3 if they consider it necessary. CSFs and OPs describe the socio-economic context of the country and set out development priorities and goals to be achieved. They also lay down the arrangements for financial management, monitoring, evaluation and control. The OPs detail the various priorities of the CSF as they apply to a specific region or development priority. In the case of Objective 3, these priorities can relate to education and training, integration into working life, the spirit of enterprise, the health services and social exclusion.
You can consult these documents on the Internet site of the Directorate-General for Employment and Social Affairs.
Single programming documents (SPDs). For Objective 3, the Commission recommends that the Member States draw up SPDs. These are single documents gathering together the data contained in a Community support framework and operational programme: the programme's priorities, a short description of the proposed measures and an indicative financing plan.
You can consult these single programming documents on the Internet site of the Directorate-General for Employment and Social Affairs.
In addition, in the context of the European employment strategy, the Member States also adopt annual employment guidelines setting out clear priorities and objectives for their employment policy in the coming year. Each Member State applies the guidelines through its national employment policy by means of national action plans (NAP). These national policies are the subject of ex-post checks and an annual evaluation by the Commission and the Member States.
EUR 195 billion (commitments at 1999 prices) is allocated to the Structural Funds for 2000-06; in addition, EUR 14.15 billion is earmarked for the ten new Member States. The allocation for Objective 3 is EUR 24.05 billion over the seven years of the programming period (12.3% of the total) for the EU-15 plus EUR 110 million for the period from 1 May 2004 to 31 December 2006 for the new Member States (0.79% of the total) and is the sole responsibility of the ESF.
Commission Decision 1999/505/EC [C(1999) 1774: Official Journal L 194 of 27.7.1999] and the act concerning the conditions of accession to the EU of the ten new Member States fix an indicative allocation by Member State of the commitment appropriations for Objective 3 of the Structural Funds for 2000-06 as shown below.
|Member State||Objective 3
|United Kingdom||4 568|
|Czech Republic||52 2|
Since their entire territory is covered by Objective 1, the other Member States are not concerned by Objective 3.
Contribution of the Funds
As a general rule, the contribution of the Structural Funds under Objective 3 is subject to the following ceilings: no more than 50% of the total eligible volume and at least 25% of eligible public expenditure. As only the ESF contributes to financing Objective 3, its contribution rates may be higher inside Objective 2 areas than outside them.