Other available languages: FR
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 Union. 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 inadequate. - 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.