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Brussels, 27 April 2009

Barca Report: Commissioner Danuta Hübner and Fabrizio Barca present reform proposals for EU Cohesion Policy

Danuta Hübner, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, and Fabrizio Barca, Director General in Italy's Ministry of Finance and Economy, today present the findings of the "Barca Report - an agenda for a reformed Cohesion Policy". The report, requested by the Commissioner, sets out the rationale for a European Cohesion Policy and puts forward recommendations for a comprehensive reform based on ten "pillars". Doctor Barca's proposals have been developed in full independence from the Commission, with input from academic experts and Member State officials following a series of meetings held throughout 2008. The report is part of a thorough reflection process on the future policy post-2013, which began in 2007 with the Fourth Report on Economic and Social Cohesion.

Commissioner Hübner said: "The Barca Report confirms that the Cohesion Policy is a central pillar of the European integration process. It recognises that all regions should be able to realise their potential in terms of economic development and that all citizens should benefit from the policy, wherever they live. The report confirms that the reforms we have already introduced over the past few years are the correct ones. It also opens new, bold avenues which will widen our perspective on the renewal of the policy."

Fabrizio Barca emphasised: "The review of facts and theory conducted by the report shows that the Union needs a policy for economic and social development tailored to the specific needs of very diverse places. It must be capable of enhancing opportunities and tackling the challenges facing EU citizens created by the unification of markets. A reformed Cohesion Policy can fulfil this through advanced methodologies, a strong focus on results and modern multilevel governance."

The report's recommendations for reform are based on ten “pillars”:

1: Concentration on core priorities

Dr Barca says the EU should concentrate around 65% of its funding on three or four core priorities, with the share varying between Member States and regions according to needs and strategies. Criteria for the allocation of funding would remain much as now (i.e. based on GDP per capita). One or two core priorities should address social inclusion to allow for the development of a "territorialised social agenda".

2: A new strategic framework

The strategic dialogue between the Commission and Member States (or Regions in some cases) should be enhanced and based on a European Strategic Development Framework, setting out clear-cut principles, indicators and targets for assessing performance.

3: A new contractual relationship, implementation and reporting

The Commission and Member States should develop a new type of contractual agreement (a National Strategic Development Contract), focused on performance and verifiable commitments.

4: Strengthened governance for core priorities

The Commission should establish a set of “conditionalities” for national institutions as a requirement for allocating funding to specific priorities and should assess progress in meeting targets.

5: Promoting additional, innovative and flexible spending

The Commission should strengthen the principle of "additionality", which ensures that Member States do not substitute national with EU expenditure, by establishing a direct link with the Stability and Growth Pact. A contractual commitment is needed to ensure that measures are innovative and add value.

6: Promoting experimentation and mobilising local actors

The Commission and Member States should encourage experimentation, and a better balance between creating an incentive for local involvement in policies and preventing the policy from being “hijacked” by interest groups.

7: Promoting the learning process: a move towards prospective impact evaluation

Better design and implementation of methods for estimating what outcomes would have been had intervention not taken place would improve understanding of what works where, and exert a disciplinary effect when actions are designed.

8: Strengthening the role of the Commission as a centre of competence

Develop more specialised expertise in the Commission with greater coordination between Directorate-Generals to match the enhanced role and discretion of the Commission in the policy. This would imply significant investment in human resources and organisational changes.

9: Addressing financial management and control

Achieve greater efficiency in administering the Structural Funds by pursuing the ongoing simplification agenda and considering other means of reducing costs and the burden imposed on the Commission, the Member States and beneficiaries.

10: Reinforcing the high-level political system of checks and balances

A stronger system of checks and balances between the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council, through the creation of a formal Council for Cohesion Policy. Encourage an ongoing debate on the content, results and impact of the Cohesion Policy.

To read the full report in full, as well as all background papers, click here:

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