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Brussels, December 22, 2000

Structural Funds: Commission satisfied with implementation of socio-economic development programmes in 1999

The Commission makes a positive assessment of the implementation of the regional and human resources programmes part-financed by the Structural Funds in 1999. In its "11th Annual Report on the Structural Funds (1999)", the Commission highlights the results achieved in two priority areas: job creation and equal opportunities for men and women. The report traces progress so far on the implementation of 'Agenda 2000' and looks ahead to the new programming period for Community assistance, which runs from 2000 to 2006.

Adopted on a proposal by Michel Barnier, the Commissioner responsible for regional policy, and his Commission colleagues Anna Diamantopoulou, responsible for employment and social affairs, and Franz Fischler, responsible for agriculture and fisheries, the 1999 Report on the Structural Funds stresses the following points.

The year saw the implementation of all the assistance packages planned for the 1994-99 programming period.

As in 1997 and 1998, the implementation of appropriations speeded up considerably in 1999, in many cases enough to make up the backlogs which had accumulated during the early years of the programming period. This was true of both the national initiative programmes (Community support frameworks/single programming documents) and the Community Initiatives.

The 11th Report estimates that 99% of the total assistance from the Structural Funds for the period 1994 to 1999 had been committed and 75% paid by the end of 1999. Under the rules in force, payments at local level for 1994-99 may continue to be made until 31 December 2001. As in previous years, the Member States that had the best rates of implementation of appropriations were the least prosperous Member States, and therefore the main beneficiaries of the Funds.

The implementation of the Community Initiatives also speeded up considerably, partly thanks to the reallocation of finance carried out in 1998. By the end of 1999, some 95% of total appropriations for the period had been committed, and 57% had been paid, a considerable improvement over previous years.

Several national regional aid maps were approved in 1999.

The Commission asked the Member States to send in their new national regional aid maps. Some of these were approved in 1999.

The main themes were employment and equal opportunities.

The European Employment Strategy, launched in 1997, was consolidated in 1999. The Commission's employment guidelines, adopted in 1998, were amplified in 1999. The regulations governing the Structural Funds for the 2000-06 period require the Member States to incorporate the employment guidelines and, more generally, the principles set out in the European Employment Strategy into their development plans.

Equal opportunities was the other priority for structural policy in 1999. This theme will also be emphasised throughout the 2000-06 programming period. The principle of equality between women and men is enshrined in numerous articles of the new Regulation on the Structural Funds (Regulation (EC) No 1260/1999). In addition to being taken into account in policy, equal opportunities has been progressively mainstreamed in Structural Fund programmes in recent years. It will be systematically included in programmes for 2000-06. In particular the Member States have had to submit an ex-ante evaluation of the principle of equal opportunities for their new programmes, specifying, among other things, appropriate monitoring indicators. The report gives many examples of action to promote equal opportunities.

1999 was a crucial year for the launch of the new programming period.

Following the proposals for regulations on the Structural Funds drawn up in 1998, numerous decisions were taken in 1999.

At the extraordinary European Council in Berlin on 24 and 25 March, the financial perspective for the Structural Funds was adopted for the entire 2000-06 programming period, as part of the broader Agenda 2000 package. After lengthy discussions by the various Community institutions, the Commission proposals for regulations were adopted by the Council in May and June 1999.

On 1 July the Commission then approved decisions on: the indicative allocation by Member State of the commitment appropriations for all the Objectives; the allocations to each Community Initiative; the list of regions eligible under Objective 1, including those eligible for transitional support, and the ceiling on the population eligible under Objective 2 in each Member State. Finally, the list of regions eligible under Objective 1 was also approved on 1 July, and most of the plans under this Objective reached the Commission by 31 December 1999. The majority of them were considered acceptable, and the negotiations with the national authorities were soon under way. The lists of areas eligible under Objective 2 came later. These took longer because of the more complex nature of the criteria to be taken into account. This meant that the Commission had received no Objective 2 plans by 31 December 1999.

All aspects of the programming work have of course continued in 2000 and will be covered in the next annual report.

For any further information (text of the report) see:

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