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Press Release

The EU's Assembly of Regional and Local Representatives

COR/10/36

Brussels, 15 April 2010

Committee of the Regions presents outline for cohesion policy reform

50 billion Euros a year are at stake in the forthcoming reform of EU regional policy. To make sure that the requests of regions and cities are taken on board at an early stage, the Committee of the Regions today presented its outline for the future of EU cohesion policy after 2013. Following a plenary debate with Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, local and regional politicians adopted an outlook opinion drafted by Michael Schneider (DE/EPP). The opinion urges EU partners and national governments to retain an ambitious cohesion policy as a "core element" of the European integration model.

EU regional aid co-finances thousands of projects benefitting Europe's citizens, from railway links to vocational training. The current EU budget is set until 2013, but important decisions determining eligibility rules and funding levels for post-2013 could be taken as early as next year. Following extensive consultations, Michael Schneider, State Secretary of the German Land of Saxony-Anhalt, prepared a draft outlook opinion on the future of cohesion policy. The amended opinion was adopted at the Committee of the Regions plenary session today, making it the first EU body to formulate an official position on the issue.

Michael Schneider commented: "The long-term nature of European support should give all regions the security to press ahead with development and enable them to respond to their own particular situations without the fear that funding may be capped. However, in general, I believe that the majority of Cohesion Funding should continue to be targeted at the neediest regions and that the existing criteria have proved their worth." Referring in particular to the so-called 'transition regions' where future funding is in jeopardy, he added: "Regions in transition need special consideration. Aid to regions which will no longer be covered by the convergence objective should be guaranteed independently of the future architecture of regional policy and its various objectives."

Addressing the Committee of the Regions plenary session for the first time, EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn, said: "We are united by a common interest, strengthening the regional and local level. If we want to make Europe visible, we can do this best through a strong regional policy. What we need is a good balance between focusing on selected core priorities and maximum flexibility for tailor-made implementation of these priorities in the regions."

Welcoming Commissioner Hahn's commitment to cooperation with the Committee of the Regions, Michel Delebarre (FR/PES), Mayor of Dunkirk and Chairman of the CoR's Commission for territorial cohesion, emphasised: "Commissioner, you have a struggle ahead of you in the College of Commissioners, where some of your colleagues are not necessarily allies of cohesion policy. It is up to you to raise awareness of the territorial effects that other EU policies have. Cohesion policy can not be expected to repair the damage done by other EU policies."

Key points of the Committee of the Regions outlook opinion

The EU's regional and local representatives believe that cohesion policy must evolve with the aim of continuing in the future to narrow development gaps sustainably, strengthen sustainable growth and employment in European regions, support social inclusion and competitiveness in all the Member States and regions, safeguard subsidiarity and ensure financial sustainability. Thanks to the system of multi-level governance, Europe is able to pursue common objectives while at the same time leaving due scope for establishing specific regional and local priorities. The Committee of the Regions feels that this – in addition to financial solidarity – represents the added value of cohesion policy.

The members of the Committee of the Regions further agree that cohesion policy should continue to be applied to all of Europe's regions, focusing in particular on the regions in greatest need. The major share of available resources must continue to go to the neediest and most problem-ridden Member States and regions. Furthermore, regions in transition need special support so that the successes they have achieved are not jeopardised by the funding being discontinued. The 'competitiveness and employment' objective must also continue to support all the other EU regions, not least in order to boost innovation, social cohesion and competitiveness.

The Committee of the Regions emphasises that the existing support for cross-border, transnational and inter-regional cooperation has proved successful and should be continued and beefed up beyond 2013. In order to reduce red tape in cohesion policy, the Committee sees no need to conduct a full compliance audit in each funding period. Instead, the established rules in place for national funding should be deemed sufficient.

The current principles of cohesion policy with respect to the system of multilevel governance, multiannual programme planning, partnership, focusing of effort, indicator-based programme management and assessment, have proved successful. The Committee of the Regions therefore rejects any shortening of the timeframe of the seven-year programme.

The subsidiarity-based approach must be retained and further expanded. To this end, it is above all important to further strengthen the role of local and regional authorities at every stage of the programming, implementation and assessment of cohesion policy.

The consolidated outlook opinion will be available on the CoR website soon.

Related links:

Interview with Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for Regional Policy

Interview with Michael Schneider (DE/EPP), CoR rapporteur on the future of cohesion policy

Interview with Michel Delebarre (FR/PES), Chairman of the CoR's Commission for territorial cohesion

Interview with Flo Clucas (UK/ALDE), CoR rapporteur on the European Commission's Sixth progress report on economic and social cohesion

Visit the CoR's website: www.cor.europa.eu

The Committee of the Regions

The Committee of the Regions is the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives. The mission of its 344 members from all 27 EU Member States is to involve regional and local authorities and the communities they represent in the EU's decision-making process and to inform them about EU policies. The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council are obliged to consult the Committee in policy areas affecting regions and cities. It can appeal to the EU Court of Justice if its rights are infringed or it believes that an EU law violates the subsidiarity principle or fails to respect regional or local powers.

For more information, please contact:

Michael Alfons

EU Committee of the Regions

Tel.: +32 (0)2 546 8559

Michael.Alfons@cor.europa.eu

To read previous press releases, click here.


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