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 The visions of idealists in Europe and elsewhere have always
 been diminished by the political process necessary for their
 realization.  The implementation of European Union, most
 fundamentally by the dilution of national sovereignty cannot
 be achieved in a day.  We should be able to analyse  the
 question of the convergence of the European economies and
 recognize that much remains to be done without throwing into
 question the essential integrity of the ideal of European
 From its origins the Community has sought to ensure "a
 harmonious development by reducing the differences existing
 between the various regions and the backwardness of the less
 favoured regions".  Yet the Treaty of Rome was relatively
 silent on mechanisms to provide financial solidarity between
 Member States and between the regions.  The underlying
 belief at the time was that convergence would best be
 ensured by the creation of a genuine internal market.  In
 fact, the period 1960-73 did witness a pronounced
 convergence between the original six members.
 It has been the successive enlargements of the Community
 that have proved to be the catalysts for movement toward
 developing policies directly aimed at reducing differences
 between regions.  Thus the accession of the UK, Ireland and
 Denmark brought with it the establishment of the Regional
 Development Fund and a strong regional bias in the operation
 of the Social Fund.  However, the operation of these
 structural funds coincided in the 1970s with a period of
 great economic instability and the weaker countries and
 regions suffered most.  Furthermore, there were shortcomings
 in the operation of the Funds; the impact of the Regional
 Fund was weakened because of its functioning through
 national quotas.  Most importantly, however, the scale of
 the transfers effected through the Community budget was
                   - 2 -
 The introduction of the EMS and the return to greater
 economic stability has facilitated the coordination of
 economic policy throughout the Community and there is now an
 outlook of modest growth for the years ahead.  This will
 help the process of convergence.
 With the accession of Spain and Portugal the Community is at
 a turning point as regards convergence.  The new Act of
 European Union is of great significance in this regard
 because it formally incorporated the commitment to
 convergence and requires that Member States economic
 policies, the completion of the internal market and the
 further development of the common policies, should
 contribute to the achievement of convergence.  The
 Commission had undertaken to bring forward a comprehensive
 proposal on the operation of all the structural funds and
 the Council had undertaken to act on this proposal within
 one year.  Everything is to play for.
 The introduction of the IMPs programme is an important
 pointer to the future direction of Community policy.  The
 Commission is strongly committed to an integrated approach
 to regional development.  The political reality is that
 additional transfers will only be obtained out of the system
 if these additional transfers can be seen to work  and to be
 effective.  There is no room in today's world for overlaps
 and gaps in regional development, for bad planning, poorly
 thought-out programmes and wasteful projects.

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