Multiannual financial framework
Cohesion beneficiaries say policy should keep own sub-ceiling
By Gaspard Sebag | Tuesday 10 April 2012
The cohesion policy should have its own sub-heading in the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF) rather than the European Commission’s proposed sub-ceiling, argue the member states benefiting most from said policy. These countries also asked, during an exchange of views in the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper), on 4 April, that the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) stay out of this sub-ceiling. Also in view of preparing the ground for the General Affairs Council, on 23 April, Coreper is scheduled to discuss agricultural spending (Heading 2) in the next MFF, on 18-19 April.
Those net contributing countries that requested that the Commission’s MFF proposal be cut by at least €100 billion said both the amounts allocated to cohesion policy (€336 billion for 2014-2020) and the CEF (€50 billion) should be slimmed down. That said, in general, delegations agreed that cohesion policy, seen as the main tool to reduce disparities between Europe’s regions, should concentrate on the less developed regions and member states. Views diverge, however, as to what the scope and the exact modalities of cohesion policy should be.
As already requested by ten ministers during the March General Affairs Council, several delegations asked that the Commission’s proposed macroeconomic conditionality for structural, rural development and fisheries funds apply to all EU expenditure in the next MFF. The ‘ex post’ conditionality proposed by the EU executive to strengthen the attainment of the ‘Europe 2020’ objectives, the performance reserve, was supported by many delegations under the conditions that it would be voluntary and restricted to a national reserve.
A question mark hangs over the future of transition regions, which the Commission proposed to create for countries with a per capita GDP of 75% to 90% of the EU average. Some national delegations supported the concept, arguing that regions with a comparable development level should benefit from the same support. Others, however, opposed this proposal on grounds of cost and backed instead the proposed concept of a safety net for regions leaving the convergence objective (GDP below 75% of EU average).
The issue of the capping of cohesion policy transfers remains hazy. The ‘reversed safety net’ suggested by the Danish EU Presidency, for example, was defended by some delegations but opposed by others over fears of a double capping.
Several delegations objected the Commission’s proposal that €10 billion of the Connecting Europe Facility should come from the cohesion fund to finance transport infrastructure projects in eligible member states, ie those with national gross income of less than 90% of the EU average. Some member states asked to focus CEF support on transport. Under the Commission’s proposal, this is already largely the case with €31.7 billion out of €50 billion allocated to that purpose, with the rest divided between telecommunication projects (€9.2 billion) and energy (€9.1 billion).