Regions propose to adapt macro-conditionality
By Isabelle Smets | Tuesday 08 May 2012
Associations of regions are preparing for the eventuality of macro-conditionality in rules governing the EU Structural Funds. They are clearly opposed to it and support the proposals by the European Parliament rapporteurs to delete macro-conditionality from the draft legislation (see
Europolitics 4414). But if this conditionality should be maintained in the future regulations, they suggest adaptations to the European Commission’s proposals. Jean-Yves Le Drian, president of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR), presented the regions’ suggestions to the EP Committee on Regional Development (REGI), on 8 May.
What changes do the regions recommend? 1. If macro-conditionality were to lead to the suspension of aid, such suspension should concern only financial commitments, not payments (the legislative proposal targets payments). This would prevent the mechanism from penalising projects already under way; 2. A ceiling should be set for the amounts that could be suspended based on the GDP of the state concerned (as is the case today for the Cohesion Fund); and 3. The regions should be involved in revision of the partnership contracts and operational programmes that would result from the application of macro-conditionality.
At this stage, Parliament is maintaining its extreme position. Constanze Krehl (S&D, Germany), co-rapporteur on the Structural Fund general regulation, reiterated her determination to see any reference to macro-conditionality completely deleted from the future regulations. “I think there will be a large majority in committee and in plenary” to support this position, she said.
For ex ante conditionality (conditions for aid eligibility), the regions stress the ties with the Structural Fund objectives. “The sole aim of these conditions must be to improve cohesion policy,” said Le Drian. He called for deletion of a number of ex ante conditions listed in the legislative proposals, in particular those related to the transposition of EU directives and regulations. The EU Committee of the Regions expressed a similar request in an opinion adopted on 3 May.
Thematic concentration as proposed by the Commission is another subject of concern for associations of regions. There is no problem with the principle: “setting priorities is essential, especially in a crisis context,” explained Michèle Sabban, president of the Assembly of European Regions (AER). But local and regional authorities have to be given enough flexibility to be able to adapt investments to their specific realities. “Otherwise, there is a risk that the projects implemented may not correspond to needs.” The AER suggests that the list of key actions supported by the Structural Funds, which will have to be found in each partnership contract, should be considered purely indicative.
Also on hand were the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) and Eurocities, which argued for a stronger partnership principle (“the local and regional authorities should not be likened to other types of organisations”) and for a clear urban priority in the regulations (reserving 5% of funds to integrated urban development, as proposed by the Commission, “is really a minimum”).
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has also come out against macro-conditionality. These sanctions “would penalise already weak member states, regions and localities. The result would be the impoverishment of the people of the European Union and thus contrary to the basic principles of economic, social and territorial cohesion policy as reaffirmed in the Lisbon Treaty,” reads a statement, published on 8 May.