Member states urged to ensure cohesion funds reach regions and cities

MEPs from the European parliament's regional development committee (REGI) have called for member states to ensure that EU cohesion funds reach Europe's regions and cities. Gerald Callaghan reports

By Gerald Callaghan

13 Jul 2012

Europe's regions and local authorities must be more involved in designing regional programmes, said the committee, which insisted the policy have a priority focus on making it easier for final beneficiaries to utilise funding opportunities.

Wednesday's vote followed "over 3000 amendments in 10 committee meetings, in under nine months, 11 working group and countless rapporteur meetings", said regional development committee chair and EPP member Danuta Hübner.

Parliament will now negotiate with the council and the commission over the summer, beginning with yesterday's technical meeting, on Thursday 12 July.

The REGI committee is looking to adopt the rest of its negotiating mandate in the autumn and put the whole package to a final vote once negotiations are concluded.

Constanze Krehl, German socialist MEP and co-rapporteur for the overarching common provisions regulation, said "the agreement has provided a strong mandate to negotiate for an effective cohesion policy for 2014 to 2020".

She said, "We made a starting point yesterday and created a basis for future cohesion policy to look at the best way for development in the regions of Europe."

"Cohesion policy has the biggest part of the EU's budget; therefore it needs a big plan. Now it's simpler, easier and people can use it in a more efficient way."

However, she called on MEPs to "fight for it in the council" as parliament still needs the budget to be approved.

The legislative package includes an overarching regulation, replacing the existing five funds, setting out common rules for the European regional development fund (ERDF), the social fund (ESF), the cohesion fund, the agricultural fund for rural development, and the maritime and fisheries fund.

MEPs agreed in principle to plans to set aside funding for the Europe 2020 strategy's priority areas, but asked for more flexibility in setting the programmes' objectives.

Multi-fund programmes will also be supported, in order to ensure a more integrated approach to cohesion policy, they added.

"We found a balanced solution", said rapporteur on the cohesion fund regulation Victor Bostinaru.

The Romanian S&D member added, "The policy is a considerable boost for renewable resources", which he saw as good news for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as "most projects in renewables will be run by SMEs" looking to create green jobs in their local economies.

ERDF rapporteur Jan Olbrycht also stressed that the "biggest allocation of funds was in energy efficiency", both in the "public and private sphere, especially in housing, schools and historic buildings".

"There is a big crisis in Europe at the moment and banks are not doing their jobs, leading to less public money, while there are calls for a more visible Europe and more public money to be available" - Lambert Van Nistelrooij

According to EPP member Lambert Van Nistelrooij, "There is a big crisis in Europe at the moment and banks are not doing their jobs, leading to less public money, while there are calls for a more visible Europe and more public money to be available."

The Dutch MEP said, "Special times call for special measures" adding that, while the EU has had "good experiences in the last few years in cohesion policy", in times of crisis countries "tend to put money towards their budget rather than to regions and cities."

Meanwhile, Joachim Zeller, German EPP member insisted that "central authorities within member states must transfer responsibilities if they want territorial cooperation to work".

As the draft communication was received late in October last year, he also underlined the time pressure now faced by officials, as it left people "in the regions and cities waiting to find out what the policy will look like" in 2014 and beyond.

"Heads of government and state are beginning to understand the policy's importance, where, only a few years ago, they couldn't spell cohesion policy", he said.

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