Future Cohesion Policy
CoR and Parliament on same wavelength
By Isabelle Smets | Tuesday 06 October 2009
Members of the European Parliament and locally and regionally elected representatives are basically on the same wavelength when it comes to ground rules for the EU’s future Cohesion Policy. The debate is barely under way, but the European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions both adopted opinions over the past two years
(1).The former set out its views in the resolution on the green paper on territorial cohesion and the state of the debate on the future reform of Cohesion Policy, in March 2009. The Committee of the Regions (CoR) staked out its position in its opinion on the ‘Fifth progress report on economic and social cohesion’, in November 2008. The CoR is also drawing up an opinion on future Cohesion Policy for April 2010, which concurs on many points.
TARGETING ALL EU REGIONS
Both institutions support a policy that targets all EU regions. Funding should go above all to economically disadvantaged areas, but the policy should not evolve to such an extent that entire areas of European territory are excluded. The Commission shares that view. But the debate is certain to resurface in member states, with the usual reservations being voiced by net contributors to the EU budget. In terms of funding, the CoR considers that the present level of financing “is no more than the minimum needed”. Parliament notes that Cohesion Policy needs to be “further developed”.
On the question of determining the regions eligible for ‘disadvantaged’ status, both institutions voice doubts over the use of per capita GDP as the main selection criterion. Parliament recommends “further reflection” on this question, while the CoR “hopes that the substantive assessment of disparities in development and progress on cohesion will take into account not just GDP”. It adds, however - demonstrating that the question stirs debate even among regions - that “the Community-wide indicators for the demarcation of eligible areas have proved valuable”. The two institutions are calling for a special status for regions in transition, ie those that are just emerging from the ‘disadvantaged’ category.
Parliament and the CoR do not necessarily share the Commission’s approach of placing more emphasis on the priorities of the Lisbon strategy, although both find that the objectives of cohesion and growth are compatible.
COR MORE CRITICAL
The CoR is more critical in this respect, but Parliament also hints at certain doubts. It “approves with reservations” the requirement of earmarking a large share of the Structural Funds for Lisbon projects.
Both institutions agree on the need to reinforce the urban dimension of Cohesion Policy and would look favourably on the re-inclusion of rural development. Here, too, the CoR expresses this wish more clearly, while Parliament “is concerned about the usefulness of a separate approach to cohesion and rural development”. For both the CoR and Parliament, the future Cohesion Policy must be simplified, while its key principles - concentration, programming, co-financing, additionality and partnership - are safeguarded. Both call for “real multilevel governance” and hope to see the territorial cooperation dimension strengthened during the next programming period.
The European Parliament also suggests that part of EU aid should be distributed at NUTS III regional level (today, it is NUTS II) as a means of giving greater account to internal disparities and that the feasibility of a merger between different EU funds - European Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund, Cohesion Fund and European Agricultural Fund for Regional Development - should be considered.
The CoR considers that the present level of financing “is no more than the minimum needed” (1) For the EP, see the resolution on the green paper on territorial cohesion and the state of the debate on the future reform of Cohesion Policy, March 2009. For the CoR, the opinion on the ‘Fifth progress report on economic and social cohesion’, November 2008. The CoR is also drawing up an opinion on the future Cohesion Policy for April 2010. The rapporteur is Michael Schneider (EPP, Germany), chair of the Committee of the Regions’ Commission for Territorial Cohesion Policy.