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Brussels, 7 March 2008

Eurobarometer: Europeans in favour of EU regional policy

Danuta Hübner, the Commissioner responsible for regional policy, will today release the results of a Eurobarometer survey of how Europeans perceive this policy. These show that the vast majority of people are convinced of the benefits of this policy – which accounts for more than one third of the EU budget – in their town, city or region. They want it to be more ambitious and tackle head on new challenges such as globalisation, the fight against climate change and demographic trends.

According to Danuta Hübner, “This survey confirms Europeans' confidence in the cohesion policy. Not only do they feel we must continue to support the poorest regions in Europe so as to help them catch up, they also believe that we must continue to help all the regions of Europe. They want EU action to be ever more ambitious and capable of meeting the new challenges of the 21st century, such as climate change, demographic challenges and the effects of globalisation. We must therefore equip ourselves with the means to meet this expectation.”

The Eurobarometer survey, which was carried out last January in the 27 Member States, is part of the public consultation launched by Danuta Hübner last September on the future of regional policy (IP/07/1406). The aim is to involve as many citizens as possible in this process.

A relatively well known and well perceived policy

Half of the sample said that they are aware of the support provided to their region, town or city by the cohesion policy. Such awareness is more widespread in the 12 new Member States (60%) than in the older Member States (47%). Public awareness is highest in Slovenia (66%), Lithuania (65%), Austria (64%) and Ireland (64%), while it is quite low in Bulgaria (35%), Cyprus (35%) and the Netherlands (30%). Germany (46%), France (45%) and the United Kingdom (38%) are below the EU average.

Furthermore, of those who are aware of this policy, the vast majority (70%) think that it is beneficial. Only one person in five (22%) answered that the regional policy did not benefit their region (mainly people from France, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and Slovenia). By contrast, Lithuania and Ireland are examples of countries whose people almost unanimously recognise the positive impact of EU support.

Europeans also approve the reasoning behind the regional policy, since 85% of them support the priority given to the poorest regions to enable them to catch up. Moreover, 58% of them believe that the policy must continue to support all the regions of Europe and not only the poorest ones.

The priority areas for Europeans

The sectors which Europeans wish to be priority recipients of EU investment are education, health, social welfare infrastructure, environmental protection and risk prevention. They then think that this support should focus on vocational training and assistance to small businesses.

A very large majority of Europeans hope that, in future, the scope of the regional policy will be widened to incorporate challenges such as globalisation, the fight against climate change and demographic changes. They consider as priority issues (first or second answer) climate change (85%), globalisation (54%) and demographic challenges (52%).

A positive opinion of how the Funds are managed

Europeans also support the principle of “partnership”, which allows civil society to be involved in managing the Funds. Indeed, 82% of them consider it positive that business organisations, trade unions and organisations working for equal opportunities or the environment are involved in selecting projects on the ground. In other words, they approve the principle of “multi-level” governance, which is what gives the cohesion policy its originality.

The key theme for 2007-2013: more transparency

Nevertheless, the Commission and the Member States must continue to keep the public better informed about the existence of the thousands of funded projects from which they benefit as a result of EU investment.

The Community Regulation on the Funds for 2007-2013 makes it a requirement, for the first time, for the Member States to publish all the lists of projects co financed by the EU, the amounts received and the beneficiaries. Furthermore, they are currently submitting to the Commission communication plans for each of the 450 programmes which will be financed by the Cohesion Policy in 2007-2013. Commissioner Hübner has highlighted the quality of the plans submitted to date, which reflect the increasing efforts on the part of the Member States to communicate better.

The full report on the survey is available at:

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