Brussels, 18 December 2003
Commission agrees on the strategy to implement structural funds in Estonia for 2004-2006
The European Commission confirmed today that the negotiations on the strategy for the implementation of structural funds in Estonia for the period 2004 to 2006 have been successfully concluded. These negotiations have resulted in an agreement on the priorities for economic and social development strategy for Estonia that will be supported with community funding during the period 2004-2006. Estonia will benefit from Community co-financing of € 371 million during the same period. This strategy covers the priorities and the measures that will be eligible for community co-financing as of 1 January 2004 provided that projects on the ground ensure full compliance with Community legislation in areas such as regional policy, environmental protection, public procurement and financial management and control. The programming documents will only be formally approved upon accession of Estonia on 1 may 2004. During the same period, the cohesion fund will make an additional € 309 million available for Estonia to co-finance infrastructures in the environment and transport sectors.
In announcing the decision, Michel Barnier, Commissioner for regional policy and institutional reform, stressed the progress made by Estonia in its preparation for the future management and implementation of structural funds programmes. Furthermore, he highlighted "the fruitful and constructive partnership and spirit of cooperation with Estonia in developing the strategy for the structural funds". Mr Barnier also expressed the wish that "this collaboration will continue during the next phase to ensure the efficient and rigorous implementation of the programmes in Estonia". He underlined that the agreement foresees a concentration of resources on four priorities, noting that "it will facilitate the achievement of the overall goals of this strategy, including and increase in GDP and reduction in unemployment. Estonia has now to ensure that all relevant legislation is in force so that the implementation of the programmes can start in January 2004, as provided for in the Treaty of Accession."
The strategy is based on the following four priorities, which seek to promote development and structural adjustment in Estonia:
In addition, € 14.6 million in Community contribution will be available for technical assistance.
Solidarity among the peoples of the European Union, economic and social progress and reinforced cohesion form part of the Community's overall objectives of "reducing disparities between the levels of development of the various regions and the backwardness of the least favoured regions", as laid down in the Treaty establishing the European Communities. The instruments of solidarity, the structural funds and the cohesion fund cover about one third of the EU budget (roughly EUR 36 billion in 2004) and have a major impact on the competitiveness of regions and contribute significantly to improving the living conditions of their citizens, particular in the poorer regions. Most of the funding is spent through multi-annual development programmes, managed jointly by the Commission services, the Member States' and regional authorities. It is to be stressed that the selection of projects to be co-financed by these programmes is the competence of national, regional and local authorities, in application of the subsidiarity principle.
For the period between 2004 and 2006, € 22 billion have been earmarked for all structural instruments in the 10 countries acceding to the EU on the 1 May 2004. The Treaty of Accession provides that the acceding countries may benefit from the eligibility of expenditure under structural funds as of 1 January 2004 where all the conditions laid down in the structural funds and cohesion fund regulations are fulfilled. These conditions concern full compliance with the implementation rules for the structural and cohesion funds, as well as with Community policies and legislation in areas ranging from environmental protection, public procurement, elimination of inequalities, transport policy to competition and state aid.
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