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Revised guidelines for 2000-2006 programmes
To help the Member States, halfway through the current programming period (2000-2006), to update their programming documents.
Commission Communication of 25.08.2003 - The Structural Funds and their coordination with the Cohesion Fund - Revised indicative guidelines [COM(2003) 499 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
In accordance with the Regulation laying down general provisions on the Structural Funds, the Commission adopted indicative guidelines in 1999. These were used by the Member States to draw up their programming documents for the period 2000-06.
2003 is the year for the mid-term evaluation and revision of the regional and national development programmes. The Commission is publishing this communication to help the Member States in this. While the 1999 guidelines remain valid, the Member States are being given a set of additional guidelines to take account of a number of factors with an impact on the Structural Funds' deployment: the economic downturn, budgetary difficulties in the Member States and the evolution of Community policies with territorial impact. In addition, with enlargement looming, specific guidelines are provided on the programming of the future Member States for 2004-06.
In carrying out this review the Commission has been influenced mainly by:
- policy initiatives emerging from European Councils;
- Community policies whose legal framework has since evolved or is undergoing modification;
- measures aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of the Structural Funds' implementation.
The Member States will be sending the Commission their draft amendments of the regional development programmes. These amendments must include updating of the scoreboards for monitoring State aid schemes.
Commission follow-up of European Councils
The Lisbon European Council in March 2000 defined a new strategic objective for the European Union by 2010: "to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion".
This objective opens the way for the Structural Funds to be reprogrammed so as to put more emphasis on competitivity factors like: the knowledge society, innovation, research, the environment, social integration, education and training.
Community policies whose evolution is likely to be influenced by the "Lisbon strategy" are:
employment and human resources
The new European employment strategy is a key element of the implementation of the Lisbon strategy. Guidelines orient this strategy and pursue the following objectives: achieving full employment, improving the quality and productivity of work, encouraging cohesion and inclusion in the labour market. They specify clearly that the regional and local levels are the most relevant ones for the implementation of measures.
When revising their programmes, the Member States should aim at: actively promoting employment (improvement of the public services for employment, personalised and preventative approach), increasing the efficiency of labour and favouring the integration of the most disadvantaged (women, the elderly and the handicapped, immigrants, minorities), encouraging life-long training, active ageing, entrepreneurial spirit, occupational mobility and equal opportunities.
Priority should go to countering regional disparities and to creating jobs in the social economy.
sustainable development and the environment
The Gothenburg European Council of June 2001 added an environmental dimension to Lisbon. It defined a sustainable development strategy for the EU, one that puts economic growth at the service of social progress and makes it subject to respect for the environment.
Besides launching the Community action programme on the environment, the Commission has put in place a new impact evaluation instrument aimed at improving the quality and consistency of policy development procedures. This instrument makes it possible to identify the positive and negative consequences of proposed actions and extends to all major initiatives since 2003 [COM(2002)276 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The Commission has also launched an evaluation of the contribution of the Structural Funds to sustainable development. Infrastructure projects, pollution and tourism can all have a negative impact on the environment.
Programme review should accordingly include a fresh look at current procedures for the development and selection of projects in the light of their environmental impact. The revised Structural Fund measures may relate to the protection of Natura 2000 sites or to the integrated management of river basins.
Natural disasters during 2002 led to creation of the European Union Solidarity Fund. Its aim is remedial: it helps disaster-hit regions repair/restore infrastructure and equipment. Regional development must involve the prevention of natural, technological and environmental hazards. Before launching a European strategy in this area, the Commission is encouraging the regions and the Member States to adopt natural hazard prevention measures at the time of their mid-term review of programmes. Some examples: geological or stabilisation studies, rural development measures centred on fire/flood prevention, improvement of maritime traffic surveillance, etc.
research and development
In March 2002, the Barcelona European Council set the objective of raising investment in research to 3 % of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2010. It called on the private sector to increase its share of such investment. In 2003, an innovation action plan was launched to achieve the Lisbon goals [COM(2003) 226 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The mid-term review of programmes could be the occasion to extend innovative measures to regions not yet covered. Synergies are possible between the 6th Framework Programme of Research and Technological Development (FPRTD) and the Structural Funds.
The Seville European Council adopted the "eEurope 2005" action plan aimed at EU-wide access to a broad-band network and related Internet services. It is a matter of urgency to bridge the "digital divide" that is opening up between Europe's regions. The Structural Funds can provide financial assistance to less-favoured regions and support the development of electronic communications, especially in fixed and wireless infrastructure.
The Commission is encouraging the Member States to equip themselves with regional indicators and evaluation systems in the area of information and communications technologies (ICT). The guidelines on implementation of the Structural Funds in the electronic communications sector define these indicators.
A lack of innovation and of dissemination of ICT are a brake on competitiveness and entrepreneurial spirit in Europe. The Feira European Council of June 2000 adopted the European Charter for Small Enterprises, which calls on the public authorities to encourage small enterprises in ten key fields, including training, reform of the legal and administrative context and the dissemination of technological capacities.
The Structural Funds programme review could contribute to improving industrial and regional competitiveness through support for the emergence of regional or local "clusters" and of innovative production networks, aid for the creation of technological platforms and the improvement of business support services.
Community policies whose legislative framework has evolved
The Community policies, the legislation for which has evolved since adoption of the 1999 indicative guidelines, are:
the common agricultural policy
Adopted in June 2003, the mid-term review of the CAP enhances in particular the multipurpose role of agriculture through the allocation of extra funding to rural development. It aims to modernise agriculture by setting goals in the areas of the environment, product quality and food safety and to diversify the activities of rural areas.
In the context of the mid-term review of programmes, Member States should look at the compatibility of their existing measures with the reformed CAP. For special attention: developments are under way in the area of State aids in the agricultural sector.
The December 2002 Copenhagen Council ratified the reform of the common fisheries policy. Three new Regulations entered force in January 2003. They relate to the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources, emergency Community measures for scrapping fishing vessels and Community structural assistance in the fisheries sector. The review of the programming of the Structural Funds will make resources available to cover structural measures in this sector. These measures are: a drop in aid for the replacement of fishing vessels, strict safety and quality conditions governing the modernisation of boats, aid for the temporary cessation of activities in the event of unforeseen circumstances, the retraining of fishermen and the diversification of their activities.
The Commission also launched a Community action plan in order to mitigate the social, economic and regional impact of the restructuring of the fisheries sector [COM(2002) 600 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The Structural Funds could help improve the share of renewable energies in electricity production (target: 22 % by 2010), to improving the energy performance of buildings (target: 20 % less energy consumption by 2010) and increased use of biofuels in transport (target: 5.75 % by 2010).
In carrying out the mid-term review, five measures should be taken into account: the modification of the guidelines on national regional aid in the outermost regions, State aid for environmental protection, for capital investment, for large investment projects and for employment.
research and development
Objective 1 regions can benefit from additional Structural Funds support in line with the European provisions on State aid. Synergies are also possible with the 6th Framework Programme of Research and Technological Development (FPRTD) in such areas as infrastructure, cooperative and collective research for SMEs, regional forward studies and the mobility of research workers.
Community policies whose legal framework is undergoing modification
Two Community policies are currently in full development and will have repercussions on the programming of the Structural Funds:
the trans-European networks in the energy sector (TEN-E)
The mid-term review should make it possible, within the context of the progressive opening up of the gas and electricity markets, to reorient Structural Funds assistance toward TEN-E priority projects.
As of 2003 industrial customers will be free to choose their electricity suppliers. The same will apply to the gas sector as of 2004. In 2007, all consumers without exception will be free to choose their suppliers.
The White Paper on transport sets the following goals for 2010: to rebalance modes of transport, eliminate bottlenecks and improve the quality of transport for users..
In preparation for enlargement, the Commission undertook a review of the guidelines for the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) leading to the definition of new priority projects [COM(2003) 564 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The Structural Funds will support this evolution of priorities and will support the link-up of regional networks with the trans-European networks. The following areas are due special attention: the accessibility of transport to all users, the safety of urban transport and the promotion of clean vehicles.
Improving the effectiveness of the implementation of structural measures
The mid-term review is an opportunity for simplifying the implementation of regional policy by integrating the results of the mid-way evaluation. The Commission envisages the following changes:
- taking greater account of the "principle of proportionality" [C(2003) 1255 - Not published in the Official Journal];
- reducing the size of programme documents so as to avoid overlaps with the accompanying programming complement;
- stimulating public-private partnerships (PPP) in the area of TEN -T on the basis of experience gained with the Instrument for Structural policies for Pre-accession (ISPA) and the Cohesion Fund;
- applying specific rules on the level of Community financing of public infrastructure projects receiving aid from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Cohesion Fund or the ISPA.
The Commission will amend the programming documents only once to take account both of the mid-term review of programmes and the allocation of the performance reserve, a budget reserved for the programmes that perform the best, scheduled for the end of 2003. Whatever the nature of the changes, public financial commitments at national and Community levels must be maintained by every means possible.