Brussels, 11 October 2012
EP REGI and CoR COTER join forces to improve cohesion policy reform and call for the next EU budget to be consistent with Europe 2020 Strategy
The European Parliament Committee for Regional Development (REGI) and the Commission for Territorial Cohesion of the Committee of the Regions (COTER) presented yesterday their shared proposals to improve the ongoing reform of the EU cohesion policy and expressed their deep concerns for the most recent developments of the negotiation on the Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2014-2020.
"REGI and COTER members have been working closely together to shape, as democratically-elected representatives, the new cohesion policy post 2013" said REGI Chair Danuta Hübner, (EPP, PL) stressing that: "In this delicate phase of the negotiation within the Council on the new Multi-annual Financial Framework, the Parliament is determined to make sure that regions and cities dealing with the crisis can count on new and more effective rules and on adequate funding to achieve Europe 2020 objectives". COTER President, Marek Wozniak (PL/EPP), Marshall of the Wielkopolska region, underlined how "The joint commitment of the two institutions succeeded in developing a common understanding on crucial issues, such as the risk connected to macroeconomic conditionality, the need for a balance between thematic concentration and the right degree of flexibility in the operational programmes, and the introduction of the new category of transition regions".
Deleting macroeconomic conditionality from the current legislative proposals is one of many improvements the European Parliament, as a fully fledged co-legislator, is defending in the ongoing negotiations with the Council on the future cohesion policy. "The banking sector may be too reluctant to provide credit for example to SMEs and the municipalities when a particular project could be interrupted due to macroeconomic conditionality if the national minister of finance does not do his job", warned Ms Hübner. The controversial sanctioning mechanism could lead to suspending payments to regions for lack of budgetary discipline of their national government, unjustly penalising the regions.
All relevant EP and CoR rapporteurs were then involved in a lively discussion on the next steps that should be taken to make cohesion policy the key tool in supporting EU regions and cities to overcome the crisis. The EP co-rapporteurs on the general regulation for EU funds, Lambert Van Nistelrooij (EPP, Netherlands) and Constanze Krehl (S&D, Germany) stressed the urgency of a good agreement on the overall EU budget. "Europe cannot set a clear agenda such as the Europe 2020 Strategy on the one hand, then, on the other hand, shape a completely different budget, not capable of bringing that agenda into reality" said Mr. Van Nistelrooij. In this perspective, he also underscored that "Regions and cities will benefit from a stronger thematic concentration, allowing them to build their own specialisation and to growth in a sustainable manner". Ms. Krehl recalled that: "In these days the heads of all major EU Institutions have clearly stated that Europe needs investment, growth and jobs for the youth". "Great – she said - now we only need a budget with adequate resources. After this agreement we can negotiate all the details".
CoR Rapporteur on the regulation on the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Michael Schneider (DE/EPP), State Secretary, Delegate of the State of Saxony-Anhalt for the German Federation, clarified the position of regions and cities on thematic concentration using concrete examples: "In Germany many regions are dealing with a strong demographic change, in Saxony-Anhalt the number of educated youth leaving their community is threatening the competitiveness of the local economy. Local authorities should be allowed to address this problem also through ERDF funding, customising their operational programmes on the basis of their actual needs".
According to the EP rapporteur on ERDF, Jan Olbrycht (EPP, PL), the new rules would indirectly allow also this kind of issues to be faced: "The focus on the urban dimension of the new ERDF regulation is linked to these challenges, for it includes a balanced relation between rural and urban areas, and a better integration with the Rural Development and Common Agricultural Policy is foreseen". The potential impact of the Cohesion Fund in addressing demographic changes and an aging society has been underscored by Victor Bostinaru (S&D, Romania), EP rapporteur on the Cohesion Fund regulation: "Under the new regulation the fund will help tackling emerging problems such as the raising energy bills for households, or mobility for the elder citizens, our regions will be able to provide better answers to the needs of their communities".
The focus on the urban dimension of the new cohesion policy has been highlighted by Konstantinos Simitsis (EL/PES), Mayor of Kavala: "We support the reference to the complementarity between ESF and ERDF interventions where the ESF is used to support sustainable urban development strategies. At the same time such measure should be extended to strategies for the integrated development of rural regions, e.g. combining ESF and ERDF funding in addressing problems associated with extreme poverty in rural regions such as Roma camps in central and eastern Europe".
During the debate, CoR rapporteur on Cohesion fund regulation, Romeo Stavarache (RO/ALDE), Mayor of Bacau, called for simplification of the MFF and for the association of the local and regional authorities at the EU scoreboard exercise for simplification recently proposed by the Commission: “The overarching simplification objective should prevail in the negotiation and measures to reduce administrative burden must continue at Member States level in the preparation and implementation of the partnership contracts”. Petr Osvald, CoR rapporteur on European Territorial Cooperation (ETC), also clarified the risks connected to a rigid application of the thematic concentration principle: "If ETC were too narrowly focused solely on the core priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy, it would be incapable of fulfilling its distinct role of creating and improving the conditions for its implementation".
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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.
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