Procedure : 2014/2245(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A8-0173/2015

Texts tabled :

A8-0173/2015

Debates :

PV 08/09/2015 - 11
CRE 08/09/2015 - 11

Votes :

PV 09/09/2015 - 8.12
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P8_TA(2015)0308

REPORT     
PDF 408kWORD 231k
27.5.2015
PE 546.892v02-00 A8-0173/2015

on ‘Investment for jobs and growth: promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion in the Union’

(2014/2245(INI))

Committee on Regional Development

Rapporteur: Tamás Deutsch

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
 EXPLANATORY STATEMENT
 OPINION of the Committee on Budgets
 OPINION of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs
 OPINION of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy
 OPINION of the Committee on Culture and Education
 OPINION of the Committee on Womens Rights and Gender Equality
 RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

on ‘Investment for jobs and growth: promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion in the Union’

(2014/2245(INI))

The European Parliament,

–       having regard to the Commission’s sixth report on economic, social and territorial cohesion entitled ‘Investment for jobs and growth: promoting development and good governance in EU regions and cities’ of 23 July 2014 (hereinafter ‘the Sixth Cohesion Report’),

–       having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and in particular Articles 4, 162, 174 to 178 and 349 thereof,

–       having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 (hereinafter ‘the Common Provisions Regulation’)(1),

–       having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1301/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on the European Regional Development Fund and on specific provisions concerning the Investment for growth and jobs goal and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1080/2006(2),

–       having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1304/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on the European Social Fund and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1081/2006(3),

–       having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1299/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on specific provisions for the support from the European Regional Development Fund to the European territorial cooperation goal(4),

–       having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1302/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 amending Regulation (EC) No 1082/2006 on a European grouping of territorial cooperation (EGTC) as regards the clarification, simplification and improvement of the establishment and functioning of such groupings(5),

–       having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1300/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on the Cohesion Fund and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1084/2006(6),

–       having regard to Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013 of 2 December 2013 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020(7),

–       having regard to Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union and repealing Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002(8),

–       having regard to the ‘Territorial Agenda of the European Union 2020: Towards an Inclusive, Smart and Sustainable Europe of Diverse Regions’, agreed on at the Informal Ministerial Meeting of Ministers responsible for Spatial Planning and Territorial Development meeting in Gödöllő, Hungary, on 19 May 2011,

–       having regard to the Commission’s eighth progress report on economic, social and territorial cohesion entitled ‘The urban and regional dimension of the crisis’ of 26 June 2013,

–       having regard to its resolution of 14 January 2014 on smart specialisation: networking excellence for a sound Cohesion Policy(9),

–       having regard to its resolution of 14 January 2014 on EU Member States preparedness to an effective and timely start of the new Cohesion Policy Programming period(10),

–       having regard to its resolution of 26 February 2014 on the European Commission’s 7th and 8th progress reports on the EU Cohesion Policy and the Strategic Report 2013 on programme implementation 2007-2013(11),

–       having regard to its resolution of 26 February 2014 on optimising the potential of outermost regions by creating synergies between the Structural Funds and other European Union programmes(12),

–       having regard to its resolution of 27 November 2014 on delays in the start-up of Cohesion Policy for 2014-2020(13),

–       having regard to the communication from the Commission of 19 October 2011 entitled ‘A framework for the next generation of innovative financial instruments – the EU equity and debt platforms’ (COM(2011)0662),

–       having regard to the communication from the Commission of 26 November 2014 entitled ‘An Investment Plan for Europe’ (COM(2014)0903),

–       having regard to the communication from the Commission of 13 January 2015 entitled ‘Making the best use of the flexibility within the existing rules of the stability and growth pact’ (COM(2015)0012),

–       having regard to the Special Report of the European Court of Auditors entitled ‘Financial Instruments for SMEs co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund’ (Special Report No. 2/2012),

–       having regard to the Council conclusions on the sixth report on economic, social and territorial cohesion: investment for jobs and growth, adopted by the General Affairs (Cohesion) Council on 19 November 2014,

–       having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 3 December 2014 on the sixth report on economic, social and territorial cohesion(14),

–       having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 21 January 2015 on the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Sixth report on economic, social and territorial cohesion: investment for jobs and growth(15),

–       having regard to the communication from the Commission of 9 March 2015 on the 2015 EU Justice Scoreboard (COM(2015)0116),

–       having regard to the communication from the Commission of 20 January 2015 entitled ‘Draft Amending Budget No 2 to the General Budget 2015’ (COM(2015)0016),

–       having regard to the Annual report 2013 on the protection of the EU’s financial interests – Fight against fraud,

–       having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–       having regard to the report of the Committee on Regional Development and the opinions of the Committee on Budgets, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, the Committee on Culture and Education and the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (A8-0173/2015),

A.     whereas the determining role of EU cohesion policy in reducing regional disparities, promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion among the regions of Member States, and supporting job creation is incontestable; whereas cohesion policy represents the main EU-wide investment policy in the real economy and is an established tool for growth and jobs in the EU, with a budget of over EUR 350 billion until 2020; whereas, during the economic crisis, cohesion policy is proving to be an essential instrument for maintaining investment levels in the various Member States; whereas in some Member States it forms the principal source of public investment; whereas the concrete and visible nature of the results of cohesion policy has been confirmed by many different evaluation methods;

B.     whereas the latest figures for 2013 portray long-term unemployment in the Union at a historically high level of 5.1 % of the labour force; whereas long-term unemployment has crucial consequences for individuals throughout their lives and can become structural, particularly in peripheral regions;

C.     whereas there has recently been a 15 % decline in public investment in the Union in real terms, and whereas many regions, especially those facing demographic challenges, have been unable to contribute adequately to the Europe 2020 targets, in particular the headline target of reaching 75 % employment by 2020, the target of decreasing poverty by 20 million people and the target of limiting early-school leaving;

D.     whereas it is justifiable that the goals of cohesion policy have evolved over time, in response to the new challenges and threats facing the EU, and that the policy itself has become more closely linked to the overall policy agenda of the EU; whereas, nevertheless, the original role of cohesion policy – the strengthening of economic, social and territorial cohesion in all EU regions, and particularly of less developed and the least favoured regions – should be reinforced; whereas cohesion policy ought not to be regarded as merely an instrument to attain the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy and other EU development strategies but also as an investment policy in the territories;

E.     whereas, according to the Sixth Cohesion Report, the economic crisis has had a negative effect on the long-term trend towards a narrowing of regional disparities and, despite some positive tendencies, at the beginning of the new programming period disparities between regions of many different kinds remain wide;

F.     whereas through thematic concentration, cohesion policy resources are targeted at a limited number of strategic goals with growth-enhancing, job creation, social inclusion, environmental and climate change potential;

G.     whereas high rates of growth and regional economic convergence cannot be achieved without good governance, given the need for more effective involvement of all partners at national, regional and local level, in line with the principle of multitier government and including the social partners and civil society organisations;

H.     whereas the Partnership Agreements and Operational Programmes are strategic tools to guide investments in Member States and regions, provided for in Articles 14, 16 and 29 of the Common Provisions Regulation with a timeline for their submission and adoption, according to which Partnership Agreements should have been adopted by the end of August 2014, and Operational Programmes by the end of January 2015, at the latest;

I.      whereas the informal Council that met in Gödöllő, Hungary, in 2011 has asked the successive Council presidencies of 2015 and 2016 to evaluate and consider whether the EU Territorial Agenda 2020 should be reviewed, taking account of how it works in practice, and then eventually lead any such review;

J.      whereas, according to Article 175 TFEU, Member States shall conduct their economic policies and shall coordinate them in such a way as to attain the objectives of overall harmonious development and strengthening of economic, social and territorial cohesion, and whereas the new Investment Plan for Europe shall therefore also contribute to these objectives;

Achievements and challenges of cohesion policy in the context of the economic and financial crisis (programming period 2007-2013)

1.      Underlines that cohesion policy is the main instrument of the European Union aimed at reducing the economic, social and territorial disparities across European regions, boosting their competitiveness, tackling climate change and energy dependence, while at the same time contributing to the achievement of the Europe 2020 strategy goals; underlines that even though they have been difficult for some Member States and regions to co-finance, cohesion policy investments have cushioned significantly the negative effects of the economic and financial crisis, and have given stability to regions by ensuring the flow of funding when national and regional public and private investments have fallen sharply; underlines that cohesion policy funding was equivalent to 21 % of public investment in the EU as a whole and to 57 % in the cohesion countries taken together;

2.      Highlights that cohesion policy has proven its capacity to react quickly with flexible measures to tackle the investment gap for Member States and regions, such as reducing national co-financing and providing additional advance payments, as well as redirecting 13 % of total funding (EUR 45 billion) to support economic activity and employment with direct effects; considers it essential, therefore, to carry out a substantial in-depth medium-term review of objectives and funding levels in line with any developments affecting the social and economic situation of the Member States or any of their regions;

3.      Underlines that the Treaty on European Union includes the objective of promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion and solidarity among Member States (Article 3 TEU);

4.      Welcomes the recent reform of cohesion policy aimed at tackling these challenges, based on a coherent strategic framework for 2014-2020 with clear objectives and incentives for all Operational Programmes; calls on all actors, especially the main authorities involved, to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the implementation of the new legislative framework for cohesion policy by strongly focusing on achievement of better performance and results; calls on all actors involved to establish properly functioning, multilevel governance and coordination mechanisms to ensure consistency between programmes, support to the Europe 2020 strategy and the Country Specific Recommendations;

5.      Stresses that a stable fiscal and economic – as well as an efficient regulatory, administrative and institutional – environment is crucial for the effectiveness of cohesion policy, but this must not undermine the achievement of its aims and objectives; recalls, in this respect, that a suspension of payments, as provided for in Article 23 of the Common Provisions Regulation, could undermine national, regional and local authorities’ capacity to plan effectively and implement the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) for the 2014-2020 period; emphasises that, in order to achieve both the cohesion and Europe 2020 objectives, the policy must be aligned closely with sectoral policies and synergies shall be achieved with other EU investment schemes; recalls, however, that in line with Article 175 TFEU all economic policies shall pursue the attainment of the objectives of economic, social and territorial cohesion;

6.      Underlines that increasing administrative capacity for programming, implementation and evaluation in the Member States is crucial for timely and successful performance of cohesion policy;

7.      Points out that although cohesion policy has softened the impact of the crisis, regional disparities remain high and that the cohesion policy objective to reduce economic, social and territorial disparities, providing special support to less developed regions, has not yet been reached everywhere;

8.      Points out that, despite the crisis and the fact that local finances have been put under great pressure, local and regional authorities have had to continue to meet the demands of citizens for more accessible public services of higher quality;

9.      Underlines the importance of reindustrialising the EU in order to ensure that industrial production represents a share of at least 20 % of Member States’ GDP by 2020; recalls, therefore, the importance of proactively supporting and strengthening the principles of competitiveness, sustainability and regulatory reliability in order to promote jobs and growth within Europe;

Implementation and payment problems

10.    Expresses its serious concern about the significant structural delays in the start-up of the cohesion policy programming periods, resulting from delay in the adoption of Operational Programmes, including through the carry-over procedure; notes that this delay may increase the pressure on payments, especially in 2017 and 2018, and thereby add to concerns over the regrettable backlog in payments, amounting to ca EUR 25 billion for the 2007-2013 programming period; notes that even though – when seen in a wider context – the situation in the cohesion policy is better than in rural development or fisheries, this concern remains as, for several Member States, a significant number of programmes have yet to be adopted; stresses that these delays may undermine the credibility of the EU budget and the cohesion policy, its effectiveness and sustainability, challenging national, regional and local authorities’ capacity to finalise implementation of the 2007-2013 period and to plan effectively and implement the ESIF for the 2014-2020 period; welcomes the recent efforts of the Member States and the Commission in this respect, but calls on the Commission to do its utmost to make sure that all remaining Operational Programmes are adopted without further delays, since the multiannual financial framework (MFF) revision necessary to use unallocated 2014 resources, and the accompanying Draft Amending Budget, have already been approved by Parliament;

11.    Recalls that the issue of the persistent payments backlog concerns cohesion policy more than any other EU policy area, with EUR 24.8 billion of unpaid bills at the end of 2014 for the European Social Fund (ESF), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund (CF) 2007-2013 programmes, i.e. a 5.6 % increase compared with 2013; encourages the Commission to use all available means to cover these outstanding bills; underlines that this situation hits first and foremost the smallest and most vulnerable beneficiaries of cohesion policy, such as SMEs, NGOs and associations, as their capacity to pre-finance expenditure is limited;

12.    Welcomes the fact that the Council, the Commission and Parliament have arrived at an agreement to reduce the level of unpaid bills, particularly in cohesion policy, at year-end down to its structural level in the course of the MFF, as laid down in the joint statement accompanying the 2015 budgetary agreement, and takes note of the Commission’s ‘Elements of a payment plan to bring the EU budget back onto a sustainable track’ received on 23 March 2015; reminds the Commission of its commitment to put forward a payment plan as soon as possible, and in any event before the presentation of the 2016 draft budget; furthermore, reminds all institutions of their commitment to agree on and implement such a plan as of 2015 and by the mid-term revision of the current MFF;

13.    Underlines the fact that the proposed revision of the MFF ceilings(16) transferring EUR 11.2 billion in commitments for sub-total heading 1b under Article 19(2) of the MFF Regulation, and the carryover(17) of EUR 8.5 billion in commitments under Article 13(2)(a) of the Financial Regulation from 2014 to 2015, avoid cancelling these appropriations in heading 1b, but neither genuinely address the underlying problem of the delays in programming, nor change the fact that chronically delayed implementation and systematic late payment can pose significant challenges to final beneficiaries;

14.    Underlines that the aforementioned backlog under Heading 1b of the EU budget is in fact the most important immediate factor endangering the implementation of cohesion policy, both in the previous and, prospectively, in the current 2014-2020 programming period; reiterates that the impact of this backlog is felt forcefully by the cohesion policy actors on the ground, sometimes to the extreme; calls, therefore, on the Commission to elaborate a roadmap envisaging a specific timeline of concrete, step-by-step policy actions, backed up by singled-out budgetary means, in order to reduce, and then eliminate, the backlog; hopes the Council will finally realise the seriousness and unsustainability of the situation, and be ready to contribute actively to finding a stable solution to the problem; is convinced that the first objective of these actions ought to be making 2015 the year in which this backlog reduction is felt in a tangible manner;

15.    Stresses that it is imperative to start the implementation of the Operational Programmes as soon as they are adopted, in order to maximise the results of the investments, boost job creation, raise productivity growth and contribute to the Union’s climate and energy targets, and that the Commission and the Member States should do their utmost to speed up their adoption, without any prejudice to their quality; demands that the Commission – while keeping a high focus on the need to keep up the fight against fraud – analyses all possible ways of streamlining its internal procedures in order to speed up procedures based on the two scenarios envisaged for the adoption of Operational Programmes, to avoid any further delays in the start of implementation;

16.    Asks the Commission, in view of the above: to present to Parliament the measures it envisages to facilitate, as soon as possible, the implementation of the Operational Programmes, especially in order to avoid decommitments of funds in 2017, together with a proposed timeline; to explain the impact of the delay in payments on the start of implementation of the new Operational Programmes; and to put forward solutions to limit the damage as far as possible; demands, furthermore, that the Commission, in the context of the report on the outcome of the negotiations provided for in Article 16(3) of the Common Provisions Regulation, analyses the possible impact of the belated start-up of the 2014-2020 cohesion policy on growth and jobs, and that it provides recommendations based on the lessons learnt;

17.    Considers that the 2014-2020 MFF resulting from the Commission’s proposed modification of the MFF Regulation, carrying over to 2015 alone appropriations not allocated in 2014, significantly increases the risk of de-commitment in 2018 in respect of programmes not adopted in 2014, and hence fails to encourage the full take-up of EU resources or effective support for EU investment in growth and jobs; calls on the Commission, in drawing up the 2017 strategic report provided for in Article 53 of the Common Provisions Regulation, to propose, sufficiently well in advance, appropriate legislative and other measures, so as to avoid the risk of decommitment;

18.    Is concerned about the low absorption of funds in the 2007-2013 programming period in certain Member States and warns that the underlying reasons should be tackled in order to avoid recurrence of the same problems in the next period; underlines that administrative capacity is essential for the effective and efficient implementation of cohesion policy; stresses that instability in the civil service, combined with weak policy coordination, may undermine the successful implementation of the ESIF and pose a threat to effective policy management overall;

19.    Suggests that, for the preparation of the next programming period, regulatory provisions concerning programming could be introduced separately and in advance of budgetary proposals, thus decoupling debates about content and money and leaving enough time for thorough preparations of programmes; recalls that even though the regulatory provisions are very extensive, this would not provide Member States and regions with complete assurances and may be a source of differing interpretations; notes that there is still room for simplifying regulatory provisions;

20.    Calls on the Commission to consider carefully – taking into account the possible repercussions for growth and jobs – the application of financial corrections or suspension of payments;

Cohesion policy at the core of smart, sustainable and inclusive investments 2014-2020

21.    Reiterates the original role of cohesion policy to promote economic, social and territorial cohesion and reduce regional disparities, providing particular support to less developed regions; underlines that by its nature and original set up, as stipulated in the Treaty, the policy contributes inherently to the objectives of the Union, in particular to the Europe 2020 goals of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, as well as to the fundamental Treaty objective of strengthening territorial cohesion;

22.    Welcomes the new European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) and its potential leverage effect; underlines that the EFSI’s main objective should be to ensure economic, social and territorial cohesion, and that it should therefore benefit all the regions of the EU; highlights the need to ensure the additionality of EFSI’s resources – and, hence, the complementarity and synergy between it and ESIF, while keeping each financially separate from the other – and, in the same vein, advises the parties concerned to build on the experiences gained from the implementation of the European Economic Recovery Plan in 2008, in particular regarding smart investments;

23.    Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure enhanced coordination and consistency among all EU investment and development policies, and in particular the cohesion policy, as well as among ESIF, other EU funds and the national and regional funding instruments, in order to ensure complementarity and enhanced synergy, avoid overlaps and duplication of support, and guarantee a high European added value of EU funding; invites the Commission to report on synergies in the forthcoming Cohesion Reports; suggests that the implementation of the new EU investment plan builds on the experiences of the three joint initiatives JEREMIE, JESSICA and JASMINE, which allowed an increase in the delivery of Structural Funds from EUR 1.2 billion in 2000-2006 to EUR 8.4 billion in 2007-2012; calls for a broad and detailed analysis to be undertaken in consultation with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Investment Fund (EIF);

24.    Underlines that cohesion policy legislation provides for the extended use of financial instruments – in order to double their contribution to about EUR 25-30 billion in 2014-2020 – by extending their thematic scope and offering more flexibility to Member States and regions; highlights the role of financial instruments in mobilising additional public or private co-investments in order to address market failures in line with the Europe 2020 strategy and with cohesion policy priorities; supports, in particular, the risk-sharing ‘SME initiative’, and calls on the Commission to make all efforts to make financial instruments easily usable and tempting for Member States and regions, thus ensuring that the doubling of contributions to financial instruments is achieved on its own merits and that stakeholder ownership of this target is well established; emphasises the need to ensure transparency, accountability and scrutiny for financial instruments that involve EU money;

25.    Warns, however, that the EFSI should not undermine the strategic coherence and long-term perspective of cohesion policy programming; stresses that a re-direction of Structural Funds would be counterproductive and can therefore not be accepted, as it would put their effectiveness – and the development of the regions – at risk; points out that the financial allocations to Member States agreed on under Heading 1b in the MFF for 2014-2020 cannot be modified for the purposes of the EFSI; emphasises that the replacement of grants by loans, equity or guarantees, while having certain advantages, must be carried out with caution, taking into account regional disparities and the diversity of practices and experiences between regions concerning the use of financial instruments; points out that the regions most in need of investment stimuli often have low administrative and absorption capacities;

26.    Warns that the flexibility allowed in selecting projects for EFSI funding poses a risk that investments are channelled to more developed Member States, undermining the economic, social and territorial cohesion; asks the Commission to monitor closely the relationship between EFSI and ESIF;

Effectiveness, efficiency and performance orientation of cohesion policy 2014-2020

27.    Highlights the importance of all measures aimed at increasing the effectiveness, simplification, efficiency, and result and performance orientation of cohesion policy that should ensure a shift from funds absorption criteria towards quality of spending and high added value of the co-financed operations; suggests in this respect to come forward with technical adjustments of the ESIF regulations concerned;

28.    Welcomes the thematic concentration in support of investments in smart, sustainable and inclusive growth aimed at creating growth and jobs, tackling climate change and energy dependence, and reducing poverty and social exclusion, as well as the enhanced focus on results and measurability in the 2014-2020 programmes, which should contribute to further increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of cohesion policy; maintains, at the same time, the requirement of greater flexibility for the regions, depending on local and regional specificities, especially in the context of the severe crisis, in order to reduce the development gaps between the various regions of the Union; calls for a genuinely integrated and territorial approach to target programmes and projects that address the needs on the ground;

29.    Calls on the Member States and the Commission to ensure coherence between National Reform Programmes and Operational Programmes with the aim of addressing the Country Specific Recommendations adequately and of providing full alignment with the economic governance procedures, thus limiting the risk of early reprogramming;

30.    Recalls, in this context, Parliament’s initial opposition, and emphasises its responsibility to be fully involved, to control and to scrutinise; demands that the Commission and the Council provide full, transparent and timely information on the criteria for, and on the entire procedure that could trigger reprogramming or a suspension of commitments or payments of, the ESIF in accordance with Article 23(15) of the Common Provisions Regulation; points out that the decision on the suspension of commitments or payments should be taken as a last resort, when all other options have been exhausted and after assessments have been made of possible repercussions on growth and jobs, because suspending commitments or payments could have serious consequences for national, regional, and local authorities, as well as for the achievement of cohesion policy goals as a whole; considers that the aim of macroeconomic conditionality should be to make cohesion policy more sustainable and efficient, and rejects the idea that regions, localities or citizens should be penalised for macroeconomic decisions taken by national governments; draws attention to the possibly considerable administrative workload entailed in reprogramming of funds; recalls that a proposal for re-programming submitted in accordance with Article 23(4) of that regulation requires the prior consultation of the monitoring committee concerned as referred to in Article 49(3) of the same regulation;

31.    Points out that irregularities stem to a considerable degree from complex requirements and regulations; underlines that the number of irregularities in the implementation of cohesion programmes could be reduced through the simplification of management and procedures, early transposition of the newly adopted relevant directives and reinforcement of administrative capacity, notably in the less developed regions; stresses, therefore, the need to minimise the administrative burden for beneficiaries when ensuring the verifications necessary to ensure proper use of ESIF appropriations, as well as the need for efforts to optimise and improve the flexibility of management and control systems, place greater focus on risk assessment and correct the allocation of responsibilities among all authorities, while at the same time not undermining established strengthened control procedures, in order to prevent irregularities more effectively and, as a consequence, avoid financial corrections and interruptions in, and suspensions of, payments; is concerned about the low rates of disbursement of financial instruments to beneficiaries, in particular in view of the objective to increase the use of these instruments; asks, in this regard, the Member States, the managing authorities and other relevant stakeholders working with these financial instruments to make full use of the technical assistance provided through the Financial Instruments-Technical Advisory Platform (FI-TAP) and the fi-compass;

Employment, SMEs, youth and education

32.    Stresses that the ESIF could make a significant contribution to reversing the negative social consequences of the crisis, and that, for this to happen, an integrated approach offered by multi-fund programming should be facilitated and simplified, with more efficient coordination of, and greater flexibility among, the funds, allowing for better exploitation of the synergies between the ESF and the ERDF in particular; emphasises that investments funded by the ESF cannot produce optimal results if the relevant infrastructure and appropriate institutions are not in place; draws attention to the fact that the ESIF can effectively support social inclusion, and should therefore be mobilised to help the integration of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, such as Roma and persons with disabilities, as well as to support the transition from institutional to community-based services for children and adults;

33.    Calls on the Commission to pay special attention to the situation of minority groups across the Union, as they are subject to all forms of social exclusion and are therefore more likely to suffer from structural unemployment; considers that any policy planning towards social cohesion in the Union must take into account the integration of minorities;

34.    Emphasises the key role of SMEs in job creation and points to their potential for promoting smart growth and the digital and low-carbon economies; calls for a favourable regulatory environment that is conducive to the setting-up and running of such enterprises, especially those launched by young people and those situated in rural areas; underlines the importance of cutting bureaucratic burdens imposed on SMEs and of facilitating their access to finance, as well as the need to support programmes and training that promote the development of entrepreneurial skills;

35.    Underlines that SMEs make up 99 % of the EU’s corporate fabric and account for 80 % of jobs in the Union;

36.    Expresses its concern over the too low ceiling (EUR 5 million) set by the Commission on ERDF support to small-scale cultural and sustainable tourism infrastructures, defined, moreover, as total costs rather than eligible costs, and stresses the strong positive impact that such projects can have on regional development in terms of socio-economic impact, social inclusion and attractiveness;

37.    Agrees with the Commission’s analysis that economic and social priorities, in particular as regards economic growth, on the one hand, and social inclusion, education and sustainable development, on the other, could be better balanced in some Member States, underpinned by a meaningful dialogue with partners and stakeholders; emphasises that a clear strategy for improving Member States’ institutional framework in terms of administrative capacity and quality of justice is a key determining factor for success in achieving these priorities;

38.    Stresses the importance of the ESF, with the Youth Guarantee and the Youth Employment Initiative, which must sustain as many viable job-creation projects as possible, for instance in the form of business initiatives;

39.    Warns that the alarming rates of youth unemployment threaten to bring about the loss of an entire generation, especially in less developed regions and those regions which have been hit hardest by the crisis and unemployment; insists that advancing the integration of young people into the job market must remain a top priority, to the attainment of which the active contribution of the EU is indispensable, and to which the integrated use of the ESF, the ERDF, the Cohesion Fund and the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI ) can make a major contribution; considers that a more results-oriented approach should be taken in this regard in order to ensure the most effective use of available resources, thereby boosting employment and competitiveness, generating more revenue and benefiting the entire EU economy; underlines, in this context, the vital role of the Youth Guarantee in helping young people under 25 either to find a good quality job or to acquire the education, skills and experience needed to find employment; highlights that all resources needed to implement the Youth Guarantee and the other measures covered by the YEI must be provided as soon as possible; believes that clear and readily understandable impact indicators should be used by which the contribution of EU funds to growth and employment can be gauged properly;

40.    Maintains that efforts must continue to be made to find further ways of improving performance as regards youth employment, given that, notwithstanding the adoption of the ESF Regulation and the Youth Employment Initiative, the results have not been good; points out that the EU is politically committed to providing immediate support for the integration of young people into the job market;

41.    Emphasises that, on account of changes in production patterns and an ageing population, the role of the ESF, and of investments in adapting workers’ skills, have grown significantly; strongly believes that, in this respect, the ESF should be complementary to national approaches in the Member States; calls on the Member States and the Commission to ensure that available resources are used as effectively and efficiently as possible with a view to ensuring workers’ employability, social inclusion and gender equality; underlines, at the same time, that training programmes financed under the ESF should also be tailored to the needs of entrepreneurs and staff at managerial level, in order to ensure the sustainable development of companies – especially SMEs – that generate a majority of the job opportunities in the Union;

42.    Calls on the Member States and the Commission to continue to work, in particular, to improve and extend the EURES platform as an effective tool for facilitating worker mobility in Europe, in particular cross-border mobility, by improving workersʼ knowledge of the Union labour market, informing them of job opportunities and helping them with formalities; encourages the Member States to develop and support EURES networks, not least in recognition of the fact that cross-border workers are the first to be hit by adaptation problems and difficulties in securing recognition of professional qualifications; notes that by bringing together public employment services, the social partners, local and regional authorities as well as other private stakeholders, these networks facilitate and support cross-border mobility;

43.    Emphasises the need to direct the creation of quality jobs with the assistance of new technologies; is of the opinion that the Commission should link the reduction of unemployment with the Digital Agenda and Horizon 2020 tools;

44.    Points out that the number of early school leavers in the Union is still very high and is affecting the youth unemployment rate; stresses that this problem needs to be tackled by modernising education systems and curricula, making use of ESF assistance;

45.    Points out that without effective cooperation between educational institutions and labour market players it will be impossible to remedy the high level of unemployment among young graduates in the EU; stresses, in particular, that through teaching of the knowledge and skills needed on the labour market, the youth employment rate has been raised and social differences narrowed;

46.    Underlines the importance of the gender dimension in job creation; calls on the Commission to allocate sufficient funding to tackle unemployment among women; is of the opinion that women could benefit from technological advances allowing for more flexible working hours, and calls on the Commission to invest in this area;

47.    Reaffirms the need to establish childcare facilities for young children so as to boost the presence of women in the labour market, and calls, therefore, on the Commission to support innovative projects in this direction; points out that investment in public infrastructures, such as childcare facilities, increases the chances for women to take active part in the economy and the labour market;

48.    Calls on the EU institutions and the Member States – with a view to achieving goals related to employment and social inclusion – to take into account the needs of women returning from maternity leave, motivate employers to recruit women after maternity leave, facilitate flexible working arrangements, and promote further education (lifelong learning) enabling women smoothly to resume their professional careers;

Governance of the policy

49.    Emphasises that cohesion policy needs to be conducted within the spirit of properly functioning multi-level governance, combined with an effective set-up for responding to the requests of the public and businesses, and with transparent and innovative public procurement, all of which is crucial to enhancing the policy’s impact; stresses, in this regard, that, notwithstanding the importance of decisions taken at EU and Member State levels, local and regional authorities often have primary administrative responsibility for public investment, and that cohesion policy is a vital tool enabling these authorities to play a key role in the EU; reiterates, hereby, the need for widespread implementation of the partnership principle as detailed in the Common Provision Regulation and the Code of Conduct on Partnership;

50.    Recommends that cohesion policy resources and knowledge be used to bolster the administrative capacity of public authorities in a significant way, especially at local and regional levels, including through greater use of new technologies and a drive for more streamlined procedures, so that their ability to offer quality services to the public is improved; calls on the Commission to define forms of administrative assistance on key issues, such as setting targets for initiatives, assessing their results through appropriate indicators and determining the next steps to be taken to help establish an administrative culture based on monitoring and evaluation across the EU; considers it important to ensure that assistance is given to local and regional authorities on the innovative financial instruments, which are crucial to increasing resources and investments, and on public procurement, which should increasingly feature as a public administration tool for spurring innovation and creativity;

51.    Regrets that the Sixth Cohesion Report does not include an in-depth assessment on the achievements of the technical assistance facility JASPERS, which during the 2007-2013 period provided the Member States with the technical expertise needed to prepare high-quality major projects for co-financing with EU funds; welcomes the launch of the JASPERS Networking Platform for capacity-building activities in 2013 and the establishment in 2014 of the Networking and Competence Centre division for delivery of specialist expertise in project preparation for the programming period 2014-2020; welcomes the establishment of a Competence Centre on administrative capacity building regarding ESIF that should contribute to enhancing the capacity of all authorities in the Member States involved in the management and implementation of ESIF;

52.    Welcomes the fact that the Commission is increasingly paying attention to the role of governance, and agrees that good governance and high-quality public services –including the absence of corruption – are essential for a stable investment environment; calls for high ambitions when it comes to making cohesion policy spending less prone to fraudulent use, and for strict application of anti-fraud measures;

53.    Is convinced that the Code of Conduct on Partnership will strengthen participation within the regions throughout all stages, in form and substance, and must be fully implemented, as it has a fundamental role to play in boosting the effects of cohesion policy and consolidating its impact on the ground; congratulates those Member States and regions that have managed to involve their partners in the preparation of the Partnership Agreements and Operational Programmes in accordance with the Code of Conduct on Partnership; raises serious concerns, however, about the numerous cases of weak application of the partnership principle, and calls on the Commission not to approve programmes in which the involvement of partners has not been sufficient; stresses the importance of disseminating examples of good practices in organising partnerships, as detailed in the Code of Conduct; asks, furthermore, the Commission to present, on a regular basis, a report to Parliament assessing the state-of-play of the implementation of the partnership principle;

Territorial dimension

54.    Notes with concern the relative lack of references to the territorial approach, and in particular to cross-border cooperation, in the Sixth Cohesion Report, despite the fact that it is an essential tool for strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion; points out that the inclusion of all the cross-border and macro-regional aspects would have had an enriching effect, as far as e.g. infrastructure, labour markets and mobility, the environment (including a joint contingency plan), water use and disposal, waste management, health care, research and development, tourism, public services and governance are concerned, as all of these areas include remarkable cross-border elements and potential; is of the opinion that in the programming period 2014-2020, the performance of European border and cross-border regions in coming to terms with the crisis – by growing smarter, more inclusive and more sustainable – will improve considerably;

55.    Stresses that the integrated and territorial approach is essential, in particular when it comes to environmental and energy matters;

56.    Welcomes the introduction of new tools for coordinating stakeholders and integrating EU policies, and for focusing investments on the real needs on the ground, such as the Integrated Territorial Investments and the Community-Led Local Development instruments, seeking balanced territorial development; points to the importance of adopting instruments for assessing the territorial impact of policies, the main objective of which is to consider the territorial impact of EU policies on local and regional authorities, and to draw greater attention to that impact in the legislative process, while noting the existing challenges to implementing integrated territorial approaches, given the remaining regulatory differences across the EU funds and the greatly varying degree of empowerment of regional and local communities among Member States and managing authorities; calls for an overall, integrated EU investment strategy, and a strengthening of the EU Territorial Agenda 2020, adopted under the Hungarian Presidency in 2011 and scheduled to be evaluated by the presidencies of 2015, which includes the EU Urban Agenda; is of the opinion that particular attention should be paid to strengthening the role of small- and medium-sized urban areas;

57.    Notes with concern the lack of reference to how the principles and priorities of the EU Territorial Agenda 2020 have been taken into account through the implementation of 2007-2013 cohesion policy programmes; calls for appropriate evaluation mechanisms to be undertaken during the 2014-2020 period so that an assessment can be made of the territorial dimension of cohesion policy;

58.    Approves, nevertheless, of the fact that urban issues are highlighted by the report, given the importance of cities in the globalised economy and their potential impact in terms of sustainability; notes the commitment of European regions and cities to make the transition to greener growth, as embodied by the Covenant of Mayors; suggests that the major gaps in development between rural and urban areas should also be duly addressed, as should the problems in metropolitan regions, which are showing resilience while remaining vulnerable;

59.    Regrets that the Sixth Cohesion Report does not refer to polycentric territorial development as a key element of achieving territorial cohesion and territorial competitiveness in line with the EU Territorial Agenda 2020 and the 2013 ESPON Report “Making Europe Open and Polycentric”; highlights the role of small and medium-sized towns and the importance of enhancing the functional links of the urban centres with their surrounding areas to achieve balanced territorial development;

60.    Calls for greater respect for Article 174 TFEU on territorial cohesion, in particular in rural areas, with attention duly paid to the important relationship between cohesion policy and rural development, in particular as regards areas affected by industrial transition, and regions that suffer from severe and permanent natural or demographic handicaps, such as outermost regions, northernmost regions with low population density, and island, cross-border and mountain regions; recommends that consideration be given as well to other demographic challenges that have a major impact on regions, such as depopulation, an ageing population and highly dispersed populations; asks the Commission to pay particular attention to the most geographically and demographically disadvantaged areas when implementing cohesion policy;

61.    Is of the opinion that the Sixth Cohesion Report pays insufficient attention to European Territorial Cooperation (ETC), given that this has been a fully-fledged cohesion policy objective since the 2007-2013 programming period; recalls the potential of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC) not only as an instrument for managing cross-border governance, but also as a means of contributing to a comprehensively integrated territorial development;

62.    Calls for closer coordination between cohesion policy, the Instrument for Pre-accession and the EU Neighbourhood Policy, as well as for better assessment and dissemination of the results of projects;

Cohesion policy in the long-term perspective

63.    Recalls, in view of all of the above, the necessity for a new dynamic to be given to the EU cohesion policy debate; states that the 2019 European Parliament election year will be decisive, as the then newly-elected Parliament, and new Commission, will have to deal with the termination of the Europe 2020 strategy and an upcoming new MFF, as well as to ensure the future of cohesion policy after 2020 with an adequate budget and prepare new legislation for cohesion policy; notes that the cohesion policy debate must take into account the serious time constraints and delays experienced at the beginning of the current programming period;

64.    Stresses the crucial importance of administrative capacities; calls on policy makers at all governance levels to favour targeted technical assistance for the implementation of cohesion policies in general, and in particular for the extended use of financial instruments in combination with the ESIF;

65.    Considers that cohesion policy measures have an essential role to play in reducing internal competitive disparities and structural imbalances in regions that need it most; calls on the Commission to consider pre-financing in order to facilitate the full use of funds by the Member States concerned in the 2014-2020 period, while always ensuring that the principle of budgetary accountability is upheld;

66.    Calls on the Member States to conduct regular, high-level political debate within the national parliaments on the effectiveness, efficiency and timely implementation of the ESIF and on the contribution of cohesion policy to the fulfilment of macroeconomic objectives;

67.    Calls for regular Council meetings to be held with the ministers for cohesion policy, to address the need to monitor, and to respond to, the constant challenges facing the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the EU;

°

°         °

68.    Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1)

OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 320.

(2)

OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 289.

(3)

OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 470.

(4)

OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 259.

(5)

OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 303.

(6)

OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 281.

(7)

OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 884.

(8)

OJ L 298, 26.10.2012, p. 1.

(9)

Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0002.

(10)

Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0015.

(11)

Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0132.

(12)

Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0133.

(13)

Texts adopted, P8_TA(2014)0068.

(14)

OJ C 19, 21.1.2015, p. 9.

(15)

Not yet published in the Official Journal.

(16)

Proposal for a Council Regulation amending Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020, COM(2015) 0015, 21.1.2015.

(17)

Commission Decision on non-automatic carryover from 2014 to 2015 and commitment appropriations to be made available again in 2015, C(2015)0827, 11.2.2015.


EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

Background

According to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the European Commission is to present every 3 years a Cohesion Report „on the progress made towards achieving economic, social and territorial cohesion...ˮ. The publication of the Sixth Cohesion Report was delayed due to the adoption of the new legislative framework for cohesion policy 2014-2020; its traditional structure has been changed, now reflecting the Europe 2020 strategy.

Achievements and challenges of cohesion policy in the context of the economic and financial crisis

Looking back, the Sixth Cohesion Report illustrates that during the programming period 2007-2013 cohesion policy has mitigated the impact of the sharp decline of public investment, attaining over - 60 % in some Member States and - 20 % at EU average. Cohesion investments gave stability to regions by ensuring the flow of funding when national public and private investments fell or even ceased. However, regional disparities have recently widened and employment gains obtained since 2000 as well as competitiveness of several Member States were lost, especially in southern Member States.

Looking forward, the report points to the core targets of cohesion investments 2014-2020: energy efficiency, employment and SMEs - areas where the potential for creating sustainable jobs is indeed promising. It is important for the rapporteur to underline that the original role of cohesion policy and its instruments as defined by the Treaty make it inherently the main investment policy to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth across the EU. Thus, cohesion policy cannot be considered a mere instrument for other sectoral strategies. On the contrary, its long-term integrated and multilevel governance approach provides essential added value to the implementation and ownership of EU measures that a purely sectoral policy approach cannot deliver.

Against this background, the rapporteur welcomes the new EU Investment plan for Europe to complement structural and cohesion investments. Experiences gained from the cohesion policy’s joint initiatives with Financial Instruments, such as JEREMIE, could be helpful, since the increased use of Financial Instruments is at the core of this new investment plan. At the same time it must be clearly stated, though, that neither the budget nor the long-term strategic programming of cohesion policy can in any way be negatively impacted by this new investment initiative, as this would endanger not only the development of the regions, but also the effectiveness of the EUR 350 billion cohesion policy investments programmed for regional development 2014-2020. In fact, it has to be considered that the regions most in need of investment stimulus are often the ones with lower administrative and absorption capacities which will not qualify for the new investment plan.

Effectiveness, efficiency and performance orientation of Cohesion policy

The new measures to increase effectiveness and result orientation include thematic concentration in particular on innovation, the digital and low carbon economy, education and SME support. The rapporteur requires some flexibility for the regions, depending on their local situation, especially in the context of the severe crisis. Continuous efforts to simplify procedures and cut red tape are necessary to increase accessibility and absorption of funds and to keep error rates - often due to complex public procurement and state aid rules, not to cohesion regulations - at the lowest possible level.

The link to the European Semester and the Country Specific Recommendations can also help to make cohesion investments more effective. The European Parliament’s key role to scrutinize the whole procedure that could trigger a suspension of commitment or payments of ESIF has to be highlighted in this context. The rapporteur requests full respect of Article 23(15) of the Common Provisions Regulation, stipulating transparency and timely information of the Parliament by the Commission and the Council.

Employment, SMEs, Youth and education

Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union states that full employment and social progress are among the objectives of the EU and the EU 2020 Strategy sets the target of having 75 % of 20-64 year olds in employment by 2020. However, with the onset of the crisis this goal seems to be more difficult to achieve with EU unemployment staying above 9.5 % since early 2010, and being above 15 % in many Member States even in 2014.

The situation of young people is particularly worrying in terms of employment – in the second quarter of 2014, EU youth unemployment rate was 21.7 %, more than twice as high as the adult unemployment rate (9.0 %), which means that over five million people under 25 were unemployed in the EU-28 area in this period. The number of young Europeans (between 15 and 24) who are neither in employment, nor in education or training (NEETs) is also unacceptably high.

The support which cohesion policy delivers to SMEs is also highly important, as SMEs act as the backbone of EU growth and employment, having created 85 % of net employment growth over the 2002-2010 period. With a view to all this, the synergies between Structural Funds and the programme for Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME) and the Horizon 2020 Framework programme will be increased in the period 2014-2020 through smart specialisation strategies at regional level.

Implementation and payment problems

Your rapporteur recalls that according to the Common Provisions Regulation, Partnership Agreements should have been adopted by the end of August 2014 and Operational Programmes by the end of January 2015 at the latest. However, there is a clear delay in the programming process, with only just over 100 Operational Programmes adopted at the end of 2014. Two scenarios have been envisaged for the adoption of the programmes, both implying further delays for the start of implementation, namely: (i) the carry-over procedure for those programmes considered ‘ready for adoption’ by 31 December 2014, and (ii) the rebudgeting of the unused 2014 allocation for the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) –entailing a technical revision of the multiannual financial framework (MFF) – for those considered ‘not ready for adoption’ by the end of 2014.

According to the timeline presented by the Commission, Operational Programmes could be adopted between 15 February and 31 March 2015 under the carry-over procedure, and after 1 May 2015 under the rebudgeting procedure. Parliament expressed serious concerns about the significant delay in the implementation of cohesion policy for the 2014-2020 period, stressing that these delays are challenging national, regional and local authorities’ capacity to plan effectively and implement the ESIF for the 2014-2020 period. Your rapporteur shares this concern. He asks therefore the Commission to present to Parliament measures to facilitate, as soon as possible, the implementation of the Operational Programmes, together with the timeline envisaged.

In addition to the delay in implementation for the 2014-2020 programming period, cohesion policy faces a backlog in payments amounting to about EUR 25 billion for the 2007-2013 programming period. The Commission is therefore also called upon to explain the impact of this delay in payments on the start of implementation of the new Operational Programmes, and to put forward solutions for limiting the damage as far as possible.

Cohesion Policy is expected to help deliver sustainable growth and employment, but the recurring problem of payment backlog leading to late payments, hindering the implementation of programmes and putting a burden on the budgets of beneficiaries and Member States, is not acceptable. Budgetary discipline means not wasting public money: but it also means paying the bills on time. Your rapporteur therefore believes that this part of the problem is the most challenging and urgent one.

Governance issues

Cohesion policy resources and knowledge need to be used in order to significantly bolster administrative capacity of public authorities, especially at the local and regional level, so that their ability to offer quality services to the public is improved, including through greater use of new technologies and a drive for more streamlined procedures. It is important to ensure assistance to local and regional authorities on the innovative Financial Instruments which are crucial to increase resources and investments, and on public procurement, which should increasingly feature as a public administration tool for spurring innovation and creativity.

Your rapporteur underlines that the Code of conduct on partnership would strengthen participation in programming in the regions, in form and substance, and would have a fundamental role to play in boosting the effects of cohesion policy and consolidating its impact.

Territorial dimension

The Sixth Cohesion Report does not use the opportunity to explain the problems and potentials in particular of cross-border cooperation, only briefly described; its results are not presented at all. Further, with few exceptions, the qualitative aspects are completely missing, even though the text offers enough possibilities to consider them (see specific boxes on single topics/areas as cities, maritime and outermost regions). Also, from the thematic and qualitative point of view, the inclusion of cross-border aspects would have had an enriching effect on the content of several chapters, as for example infrastructure, labour market and mobility, environment, water use and disposal, waste management, health care, research and development, tourism, public services and governance. All of these areas include remarkable cross-border elements and potentials. Your rapporteur is of the opinion that European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) can provide an important contribution to European integration.

These considerations tie in, last but not least, to the issues concerning the ETC and the instrument of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation (EGTC). The ETC cross-border cooperation component, in particular, influences the cohesion of cross-border regions. Your rapporteur therefore proposes that the Cohesion Report should in future include an assessment of the cohesion of Europe’s cross-border regions, including an analysis of their key problems, as well as an assessment of the impact of cross-border cooperation Operational Programmes. This instrument should be given greater attention not least because it promotes cooperation and pools experience between authorities across the Member States and moves towards an administrative system that is increasingly based on shared values and operating methods. In this context, also the external dimension of cohesion policy ought to be brought into consideration.

Cohesion policy in the long-term perspective

Your rapporteur would like to pay special attention to the future of cohesion policy after 2020. Being fully aware that the implementation of cohesion policy 2014-2020 has only just started, and the policy is already experiencing problems due to the late adoption of programmes, the proper implementation of cohesion policy 2014-2020 has to be focused upon. However, one must not lose sight of the fact that in the year 2019 many important issues will have to be dealt with at the same time - the then new Parliament and Commission will have to deal with the end of the Europe 2020 Strategy, an upcoming new MFF, the preparation of new legislation for cohesion policy after 2020, to name a few. Given the serious time constraints, your rapporteur urges to think about the post-2020 cohesion policy already now, in order to place communities and citizens at the core of cohesion policy after 2020, to realize their common welfare, based on the well-being of the individual.


OPINION of the Committee on Budgets (16.4.2015)

for the Committee on Regional Development

on investment for jobs and growth: promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion in the Union

(2014/2245(INI))

Rapporteur: Jean-Paul Denanot

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Budgets calls on the Committee on Regional Development, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions into its motion for a resolution:

1.  Welcomes the fact that over recent years cohesion policy has proven its ability to mitigate the negative impact of the economic and financial crisis on public investment levels in the Member States, inter alia by reducing national co-financing requirements and redirecting a significant part of cohesion funds towards measures with a direct and immediate effect on growth and job creation; underlines the positive contribution that other policies and instruments beyond the field of cohesion make towards achieving the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy; is confident that, owing to the usual time lag between action and impact and the fact that funds from the 2007-2013 period may still be used until the end of 2016, these beneficial effects will continue to grow over the next few years;

2.  Stresses the importance of the investment plan drawn up by the Commission because it is the first step in balancing the insufficient volume of public and private investment in the Union, which poses a serious risk to attaining the targets set by the Europe 2020 strategy; stresses that the fall in investments that followed the economic crisis has been particularly marked in the least wealthy regions; recalls, however, that the Juncker plan represents only EUR 315 billion in potential investments over three years while, according to the Commission, the European Union has an investment gap of at least EUR 300 billion per year; insists, therefore, on the need to restore additional room for manoeuvre for investment in the EU budget and in Member States’ budgets; stresses, that projects guaranteed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) should contribute to meeting EU policy objectives, comply with the objectives of cohesion policy as defined in Article 174 TFEU and respect the principles of additionality, economic viability and sound financial management; recalls, in this regard, that Member States’ financial contributions in the form of one-off measures to the EFSI to support dedicated investment platforms and national promotional banks and which benefit from the EU guarantee are covered by the full range of the existing rules of the Stability and Growth Pact;

3.  Points out that, despite the crisis and the fact that local finances were put under great pressure, local and regional authorities had to continue to meet the demands of citizens for more accessible public services of higher quality;

4.  Underlines the importance of the reindustrialisation of Europe in ensuring that industrial production represents a share of at least 20 % of Member States’ GDP by 2020; therefore recalls the high importance of proactively supporting and strengthening the principles of competitiveness, sustainability and regulatory reliability in order to promote jobs and growth within Europe;

5.  Recalls that the issue of the persistent payments backlog concerns cohesion policy more than any other EU policy area, with EUR 24.8 billion of unpaid bills at the end of 2014 for the European Social Fund (ESF), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund (CF) 2007-2013 programmes, i.e. a 5.6 % increase compared with 2013; encourages the Commission to use all available means to cover these outstanding bills; underlines that this situation hits first and foremost the smallest and most vulnerable beneficiaries of cohesion policy, such as SMEs, NGOs and associations, as their capacity to pre-finance expenditure is limited;

6.  Welcomes the fact that the Council, the Commission and Parliament have arrived at an agreement to reduce the level of unpaid bills, particularly in cohesion policy, at year-end down to its structural level in the course of the current Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), as laid down in the joint statement accompanying the 2015 budgetary agreement, and takes note of the Commission’s ‘Elements of a payment plan to bring the EU budget back onto a sustainable track’ received on 23 March 2015; reminds the Commission of its commitment to put forward a payment plan as soon as possible, and in any event before the presentation of the 2016 draft budget; furthermore, reminds all institutions of their commitment to agree on and implement such a plan as of 2015 and by the mid-term revision of the current MFF;

7.  Is concerned about the serious delays at the start of 2015 in the programming process for the period 2014-2020 in this area; underlines the fact that the proposed revision of the MFF ceilings(1) transferring EUR 11.2 billion in commitments for sub-total heading 1b under Article 19(2) of the MFF Regulation and the carryover(2) of EUR 8.5 billion in commitments under Article 13(2)(a) of the Financial Regulation from 2014 to 2015 avoid cancelling these appropriations in heading 1b, but neither genuinely address the underlying problem of the delays in programming nor change the fact that chronically delayed implementation and systematic late payment can pose significant challenges to final beneficiaries;

8.  Welcomes the extended use in cohesion policy of financial instruments, such as loans and guarantees, to support and mobilise investment, create new jobs in order to foster sustainable growth at Union level and increase the efficiency of public funding; encourages the Member States and regional authorities to make full use of these additional financing opportunities, such as the possibility of using guarantees under the new SME Initiative to cover higher-risk projects; emphasises the need to ensure transparency, accountability and scrutiny of such financial instruments;

9.  Takes note of the stronger thematic concentration of resources on a limited number of priorities with the potential to create growth and jobs, tackle climate change and energy dependence, and reduce poverty and social exclusion, as well as the enhanced focus on results and measurability in 2014-2020 programmes, which should contribute to further increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of cohesion policy; underlines, nonetheless, the need to apply this principle flexibly, with full respect for territorial, economic and social specificities, in order to reduce the development gaps between the various regions of the Union;

10. Agrees with the Commission’s analysis that economic and social priorities, in particular a focus on economic growth on the one hand and on social inclusion, education and sustainable development on the other, could be better balanced in some Member States, underpinned by a meaningful dialogue with partners and stakeholders; emphasises that a clear strategy for improving Member States’ institutional framework in terms of administrative capacity and quality of justice is a key determining factor for success in achieving these priorities;

11. Welcomes the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), designed to provide dedicated funding to help implement the Youth Guarantee, and calls on the Member States to pay greater attention to the implementation of projects aimed at reducing unemployment in this age group in regions with particularly high levels of youth unemployment; calls on the Commission to respect its commitment to continuous monitoring, reporting through annual reports and evaluations assessing the effectiveness, efficiency and impact of joint support from the ESF and the specific allocation for the YEI, including for the implementation of the Youth Guarantee (Article 19 of the ESF Regulation and Annex II thereto, Articles 47-59 of the Common Provisions Regulation);

12. Regarding measures linking the effectiveness of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) to sound economic governance, requests that the Commission take into account the different baseline conditions in each Member State and the varying degrees of effort needed to meet the pre-conditions and to take particular care neither to disadvantage those regions that are most in need nor to punish certain local and regional authorities for specific challenges encountered at national level;

13. Reiterates its deep conviction that a thoroughgoing, genuine mid-term revision of Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013 on the MFF to be presented by the Commission by the end of 2016 at the latest, would be the ideal opportunity to make sure that it accurately reflects the Union’s priorities, in particular addressing the budgetary consequences of delays in implementing the structural funds, the problem of youth unemployment in Europe, the financing of the EFSI and new proposals on the Union’s own resources, and addresses the most urgent needs in the Member States and regions in the remaining years of the MFF, as well as the persistent problem of insufficient payment appropriations which emerged towards the end of the MFF and the possible impact on payments of the delayed implementation of operational programmes in the area of cohesion policy;

14. Welcomes the efforts of the Commission to ensure good governance and stresses that high ambitions for making cohesion policy spending less prone to fraudulent use and for strict application of anti-fraud measures should be maintained.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

16.4.2015

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

23

4

5

Members present for the final vote

Jean Arthuis, Reimer Böge, Lefteris Christoforou, Jean-Paul Denanot, Gérard Deprez, José Manuel Fernandes, Eider Gardiazabal Rubial, Ingeborg Gräßle, Iris Hoffmann, Monika Hohlmeier, Zbigniew Kuźmiuk, Vladimír Maňka, Ernest Maragall, Sophie Montel, Siegfried Mureșan, Younous Omarjee, Pina Picierno, Paul Rübig, Patricija Šulin, Eleftherios Synadinos, Indrek Tarand, Isabelle Thomas, Inese Vaidere, Marco Valli, Daniele Viotti, Marco Zanni

Substitutes present for the final vote

Bernd Kölmel, Andrey Novakov, Ivan Štefanec, Nils Torvalds, Derek Vaughan, Tomáš Zdechovský

(1)

Proposal for a Council Regulation amending Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020, COM(2015) 15 final, 21.1.2015.

(2)

Commission Decision on non-automatic carryover from 2014 to 2015 and commitment appropriations to be made available again in 2015, C(2015)827 final, 11.2.2015.


OPINION of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (20.4.2015)

for the Committee on Regional Development

on investment for jobs and growth: promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion in the Union

(2014/2245(INI))

Rapporteur: Danuta Jazłowiecka

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Employment and Social Affairs calls on the Committee on Regional Development, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions into its motion for a resolution:

A. whereas, in certain Member States, the financial crisis has impacted upon cohesion policy and led to even higher unemployment rates, increased poverty, social exclusion and increased divergence between regions of the Union;

B.  whereas the latest figures for 2013 portray long-term unemployment in the Union at a historically high level of 5.1 % of the labour force; whereas long-term unemployment has crucial consequences for individuals throughout their lives and can become structural, particularly in peripheral regions;

C. whereas there has recently been a 15 % decline in public investment in the Union in real terms, and whereas many regions, especially those facing demographic challenges, have been unable to contribute adequately to the Europe 2020 targets, in particular the headline target of reaching 75 % employment by 2020, the target of decreasing poverty by 20 million people and the target of limiting early-school leaving;

D. whereas regions which suffer from severe and permanent natural or demographic handicaps usually have higher unemployment rates, less economic growth and a lack of significant investment, leading to a structural divergence in the Union; whereas in these regions employment rates are, on average, around 10 percentage points below the national target as compared to only 3 percentage points below in the more developed regions;

E.  whereas the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) are still one of the Union’s main investment instruments, with the potential to reduce disparities and structural imbalances between regions, alleviate negative trends resulting from the economic crisis and create quality and sustainable jobs, as well as sustainable growth, especially in the regions that need it most, if used efficiently; whereas the European Social Fund (ESF) is the main instrument for investing in human capital, promoting integration in the labour market and combatting poverty and social exclusion;

F.  whereas socioeconomic imbalances between Member States have deepened further, while the reverse is true with regard to the goal of regional convergence; whereas the core-periphery gap in unemployment has increased from 3.5 % in 2000 to 10 % in 2013; whereas this divergence increases the risk of fragmentation and threatens the Union’s economic stability and social cohesion; whereas the Sixth Cohesion Report highlights the role that the ESIF play in overcoming inequality, especially during the crisis;

1.  Considers it regrettable that the job creation potential of Union funds is still insufficient, and notes that it should be further strengthened through more efficient and results-based policy-making and implementation; expresses, in this regard, its concern about delays in the adoption and implementation of operational programmes for the programming period 2014-2020, and urges the Commission and the Member States to speed up the process; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ease the access to funding for all beneficiaries, especially SMEs, which have recently generated 80 % of the new jobs in the Union;

2.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to design tailor-made policies to support quality job creation for the long-term unemployed, senior unemployed people, women and other priority groups hit especially hard by the crisis;

3.  Considers it regrettable that the unemployment rate among young people still remains too high, especially in those Member States hardest hit by the economic crisis; calls on the Member States promptly to make best possible use of the money available under the Youth Employment Initiative, especially the EUR 1 billion in pre‑financing – once it has been released – in order to facilitate access to employment for young people; encourages the Member States to use available Union funds to complement and enhance national programmes aimed at boosting cohesion, regional competitiveness and employment, and at fostering an entrepreneurial spirit, particularly amongst young people; calls as well, in this respect, on European higher education institutions to make a greater effort to adapt their programmes to the needs of the labour market and society in general, and to develop individual guidance programmes and counselling that can help fight large-scale youth unemployment;

4.  Points out that the number of early school leavers in the Union is still very high and is affecting the youth unemployment rate; stresses that this problem needs to be tackled by modernising education systems and curricula, making use of ESF assistance;

5.  Underlines the importance of the gender dimension of job creation; calls on the Commission to allocate sufficient funding to tackle unemployment among women; is of the opinion that women could benefit from technological advances allowing for more flexible working hours, and calls on the Commission to invest in this area;

6.  Calls on the Commission to pay special attention to the situation of minority groups across the Union, as they are subject to all forms of social exclusion and are therefore more likely to suffer from structural unemployment; considers that any policy planning towards social cohesion in the Union must take into account the integration of minorities;

7.  Emphasises that, on account of changes in production patterns and an ageing population, the role of the ESF, and of investments in adapting workers’ skills, have grown significantly; strongly believes that, in this respect, the ESF should be complementary to national approaches in the Member States; calls on the Member States and the Commission to ensure that available resources are used as effectively and efficiently as possible with a view to ensuring workers’ employability, social inclusion and gender equality; underlines, at the same time, that training programmes financed under the ESF should also be tailored to the needs of entrepreneurs and staff at managerial level, in order to ensure the sustainable development of companies, especially SMEs, which generate a majority of the job opportunities in the Union;

8.  Calls on the Member States and the Commission to continue to work, in particular, to improve and extend the EURES platform as an effective tool to facilitate worker mobility in Europe, in particular cross-border mobility, by improving workersʼ knowledge of the Union labour market, informing them of job opportunities and helping them with formalities; encourages the Member States to develop and support EURES networks, not least in recognition of the fact that cross-border workers are the first to be hit by adaptation problems and difficulties in securing recognition of professional qualifications; notes that by bringing together public employment services, the social partners, local and regional authorities as well as other private stakeholders, these networks facilitate and support cross-border mobility;

9.  Emphasises the need to direct the creation of quality jobs with the assistance of new technologies; is of the opinion that the Commission should link the reduction of unemployment with the Digital Agenda and Horizon 2020 tools;

10. Stresses that the Union should invest in businesses and support business creation with a particular focus on SMEs and micro-enterprises, which represent 99 % of all businesses in the Union and have recently generated 80 % of the new jobs, by facilitating access to finance, reducing bureaucratic burdens, simplifying legislation within the REFIT programme, and providing a hospitable environment and the right regulatory framework, also for start-ups; underlines that such measures should not lead to the undermining of labour and social rights in the EU; welcomes, therefore, the intention to set up the new European Fund for Strategic Investments as a complementary tool to the Cohesion Policy, with the potential to generate 1.3 million additional jobs within three years;

11. Emphasises that cohesion policy should be used to generate smart and sustainable growth in those regions that need it most by supporting the start-up and development of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises through a range of measures and financial instruments;

12. Calls on the Member States, with a view of reaching socio-economic convergence, to ensure that also outer and small regions have the necessary capacity such as human resources to absorb available funds;

13. Calls on the Member States, in view of the negative effects that the ageing population and other demographic challenges have on labour markets, to develop projects that address population decline and support mobility;

14. Calls on the Commission to ensure that investments are targeted to economically weaker regions suffering from high unemployment, and to SMEs in such regions, given their limited access to financing, in order to ensure that these efforts have a meaningful impact where they are needed most, with choices made with due regard to the economic features of the investments; shares the Commission’s view that there is a need for a skilled work force in growing sectors such as the digital economy, green sectors and health care;

15. Recalls that aligning wages with productivity is important not only for social cohesion, but also for maintaining a strong economy and a productive labour force;

16. Stresses the role of territorial cohesion and, in this respect, underlines the importance of investments in cross-border infrastructure, such as inland waterways, in recognition of their role in fostering socio-economic development of regions;

17. Considers that cohesion policy measures have an essential role to play in reducing internal competitive disparities and structural imbalances in regions that need it most; calls on the Commission to consider pre-financing in order to facilitate the full use of funds by the Member States concerned in the 2014-2020 period, while always ensuring that the principle of budgetary accountability is upheld;

18. Considers that budgetary discipline is of vital importance for achieving growth and job creation that is smart and sustainable; calls for a renewed focus on better spending and on combatting fraud;

19. Stresses that growth and jobs policies have differentiated territorial impacts, depending on the specific situation in each region, and that regional disparities have been widening since the beginning of the crisis; stresses that the Country-Specific Recommendations should take into account territorial differences within Member States to boost growth and jobs while preserving territorial cohesion.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

16.4.2015

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

39

13

2

Members present for the final vote

Laura Agea, Guillaume Balas, Tiziana Beghin, Brando Benifei, Mara Bizzotto, Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Enrique Calvet Chambon, David Casa, Ole Christensen, Martina Dlabajová, Lampros Fountoulis, Elena Gentile, Arne Gericke, Danuta Jazłowiecka, Rina Ronja Kari, Jan Keller, Ádám Kósa, Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, Jean Lambert, Jérôme Lavrilleux, Patrick Le Hyaric, Jeroen Lenaers, Verónica Lope Fontagné, Javi López, Thomas Mann, Dominique Martin, Anthea McIntyre, Joëlle Mélin, Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, Georgi Pirinski, Marek Plura, Terry Reintke, Maria João Rodrigues, Claude Rolin, Anne Sander, Sven Schulze, Siôn Simon, Jutta Steinruck, Romana Tomc, Ulrike Trebesius, Ulla Tørnæs, Marita Ulvskog, Renate Weber, Tatjana Ždanoka, Jana Žitňanská, Inês Cristina Zuber

Substitutes present for the final vote

Amjad Bashir, Elmar Brok, Tania González Peñas, Eva Kaili, Neoklis Sylikiotis, Ivo Vajgl

Substitutes under Rule 200(2) present for the final vote

Maria Grapini, Ivan Jakovčić


OPINION of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (25.3.2015)

for the Committee on Regional Development

on investment for jobs and growth: promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion in the Union

(2014/2245(INI))

Rapporteur: Neoklis Sylikiotis

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Industry, Research and Energy calls on the Committee on Regional Development, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions into its motion for a resolution:

1.  Underlines that the economic crisis has challenged economic, social and territorial cohesion in the EU, creating additional differences between Member States and regions; recalls that since the onset of the crisis over 3.8 million jobs have been lost in manufacturing in the EU(1); emphasises the need to reinforce the EU’s cohesion policy with a clear statement of priorities, highlighting the need to reduce regional disparities and to achieve the EU-wide goals of growth and jobs;

2.  Highlights the fact that substantial efforts are needed to bring the EU back on track so as to meet the 20 % reindustrialisation target by 2020; calls for the strengthening and renewal of the industrial structure in the Union in order to boost competitiveness, growth and jobs; emphasises that in order to achieve this, investments need to be made in digital, energy and transport infrastructure, and also, in a longer-term perspective but no less urgently, in education, research and enhancing the skills of workers;

3.  Acknowledges that cohesion policy investments have helped mitigate the negative effects of the economic and financial crisis and have become a significant part of the investment budget in certain European countries; acknowledges the Commission’s efforts in redirecting cohesion policy investment to areas that were hit the hardest by the crisis;

4.  Underlines that the Treaty on European Union includes the objective of promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion and solidarity among Member States (Article 3 TEU);

5.  Emphasises that the goals set in the Europe 2020 strategy should be taken fully into account in cohesion policy; stresses that cohesion policy investments should be targeted on growth, increasing innovation, SMEs, the digital economy and a low-carbon bioeconomy; highlights the fact that in particular investments in these sectors have the potential not only to secure existing jobs but to trigger the creation of growth and further jobs;

6.  Underlines the key role that the industrial sector, and manufacturing in particular, play in the European economy, accounting as the sector does for 80 % of exports and 80 % of expenditure on R&D; notes that an estimated 594 000 new jobs were created from 2007 to 2012 through EU regional policy alone(2);

7.  Recommends that cohesion policy should be modernised; recommends a central role in cohesion policy for renewing industry and structures and supporting innovation in order to enhance employment Union-wide;

8.  Emphasises the importance of simplifying management and procedures for cohesion policy programmes; stresses that the administrative burden arising from different managing and monitoring procedures must be reasonable when compared to the amount of funding obtained from cohesion policy programmes;

9.  Underlines that SMEs make up 99 % of the EU’s corporate fabric and account for 80 % of jobs in the Union;

10. Considers that further efforts are needed to strengthen the industrial sector in several Member States, facilitate access to investment and credit for manufacturers, and tackle unemployment; underscores the need for an approach based on regions’ specific strengths in order to achieve economic growth;

11. Considers that all the new projects and investments under cohesion policy are geared towards maximum results and impact, and respects the new performance framework aimed at boosting smart, sustainable and inclusive growth; also stresses that projects and investments promoted by EU funds should aim at the creation of new jobs; stresses therefore, that Member States should aim for the creation of quality and sustainable jobs while implementing their operational programs for the current funding period, in order to take measures against high youth unemployment and enable the regions to develop healthy and sustainable economies; recalls that investments and projects should take into account environmental protection, in particular in order to promote renewable energy sources as well as energy efficiency measures; recalls that the global market for eco-friendly products and services is projected to almost double by 2020 to EUR 2 trillion a year;

12. Welcomes the proposal for a Capital Markets Union and considers it an important tool to complement to the Investment Plan for Europe and improve SMEs’ access to credit by creating and developing alternative sources of funding to bank loans, including through improving initial public offers;

13. Calls for the Capitals Markets Union to be rapidly implemented and made use of in order to support industry-led work in developing European private placement markets and supporting the take-up of long-term investment funds; believes that a successful Capital Markets Union will reduce fragmentation in the EU’s financial markets, thereby helping reduce the cost of funding;

14. Stresses that investments should focus on areas that are capable of producing multiplier effects on jobs and growth, such as innovation or education;

15. Stresses the importance of regional funding for small and medium-sized companies, which act as a regional engine for job creation, smart growth and the moves towards digital and low-carbon economies;

16. Underlines the importance of cohesion policy funding for the transition to a low-carbon economy and achieving the 2020 and 2030n objectives for CO2 reduction, energy efficiency and renewables;

17. Notes that reporting on projects financed by EU funds is usually focused on the expenditure itself and on compliance with administrative rules and not on the achievement of tangible results, resulting in a lack of knowledge regarding the effectiveness of EU subsidies; stresses in this regard the importance of systematically collecting information on the impact of EU funds in order to be able to identify the measures which would be the most effective in fostering the economic development of the EU’s regions;

18. Calls for more coordinated public investment by the Member States and local and regional authorities, and also calls for a more stable, economic and regulatory environment in the EU in order to make it more attractive for private investment, since without this it will be impossible to reach the target of raising industry’s contribution to GDP to as much as 20 % by 2020; underlines the importance of concentrating EU investments on innovative sectors and thematic priorities, such as research and innovation, support for SMEs and the low-carbon economy, in order to maximise the impact of investments on sustainable economic growth and job creation; strongly supports the approach to R&I which aims at reducing the innovation gap within the Union by enabling less advanced regions to adopt, enhance and adapt the innovative solutions developed in the leading regions; calls also for further clarification and swift implementation of the Smart Specialisation concept, which has the potential to boost the sustainable growth of the EU’s regions;

19. Calls for an inclusive industrial strategy which takes into account those areas affected by depopulation and aging processes; considers that its ultimate goals should be tackling unemployment, securing competition, sustainable development and growth and creating more jobs;

20. Emphasises, that in order to enable innovative and productive research activities it is necessary to further increase funding for research and development; calls, therefore, for better alignment of existing funding measures, i.e. the funding from the European Structural and Investment Funds and Horizon 2020 as laid down in Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council;

21. Calls on Member States to accelerate the Youth Guarantee programme, given that the crisis has prevented disproportionate numbers of young people at the beginning of their careers from finding jobs and youth unemployment has reached alarming levels in half of the regions;

22. Calls, in order to improve the employment situation, for proper account to be taken of the needs of SMUs when laws and regulations are drawn up and for access to credit to be facilitated for undertakings, whatever their size, which create jobs;

23. Calls, in order to improve the situation as regards innovation, exchanges of knowledge and ideas and the competiveness and innovativeness of European undertakings, for the digital internal market to be completed.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

24.3.2015

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

47

7

9

Members present for the final vote

Bendt Bendtsen, Reinhard Bütikofer, Pilar del Castillo Vera, Christian Ehler, Fredrick Federley, Ashley Fox, Adam Gierek, Juan Carlos Girauta Vidal, Theresa Griffin, Marek Józef Gróbarczyk, András Gyürk, Roger Helmer, Dawid Bohdan Jackiewicz, Eva Kaili, Barbara Kappel, Krišjānis Kariņš, Seán Kelly, Jeppe Kofod, Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, Janusz Lewandowski, Ernest Maragall, Edouard Martin, Nadine Morano, Dan Nica, Angelika Niebler, Miroslav Poche, Miloslav Ransdorf, Michel Reimon, Herbert Reul, Paul Rübig, Algirdas Saudargas, Jean-Luc Schaffhauser, Neoklis Sylikiotis, Dario Tamburrano, Evžen Tošenovský, Claude Turmes, Miguel Urbán Crespo, Vladimir Urutchev, Adina-Ioana Vălean, Kathleen Van Brempt, Henna Virkkunen, Martina Werner, Hermann Winkler, Flavio Zanonato, Carlos Zorrinho

Substitutes present for the final vote

Pervenche Berès, Simona Bonafè, Cornelia Ernst, Yannick Jadot, Werner Langen, Morten Messerschmidt, Clare Moody, Dominique Riquet, Inmaculada Rodríguez-Piñero Fernández, Anne Sander, Maria Spyraki, Paul Tang, Pavel Telička, Anneleen Van Bossuyt, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen

Substitutes under Rule 200(2) present for the final vote

Isabella Adinolfi, Ignazio Corrao, Antanas Guoga

(1)

Industrial Scoreboard 2013, Commission Staff Working Document (SWD(2013)0346 , 20 September 2013), p.6.

(2)

‘Making Europe’s regions and cities more competitive, fostering growth and creating jobs’ . http://europa.eu/pol/pdf/flipbook/en/regional_policy_en.pdf - p. 6


OPINION of the Committee on Culture and Education (26.3.2015)

for the Committee on Regional Development

on investment for jobs and growth: promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion in the Union

(2014/2245(INI))

Rapporteur: Silvia Costa

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Culture and Education calls on the Committee on Regional Development, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions into its motion for a resolution:

1.  Recalls that in order to contribute efficiently to combating the high levels of youth unemployment, EU cohesion policy needs to be fully in line with the Europe 2020 strategy, and in particular the headline targets for education of reducing school drop-out rates to below 10 % and increasing the share of young people with a third-level degree, diploma or equivalent vocational training qualification to at least 40 %, and with the benchmark for an average of at least 15 % of adults to participate in lifelong learning and no less than 95 % of children to take part in early childhood education, thereby recognising the validation of skills and acquired experience;

2.  Points out that, in order to achieve the Europe 2020 strategy targets and particularly those for education and the reduction of school drop-out rates, there is a need to improve access to education infrastructure and the quality of socio-cultural services in the EU’s regions, in particular those affected by economic stagnation; recalls the importance of education in bringing about greater social and regional cohesion and enhancing democratic consciousness and participation among young people;

3.  Highlights the fact that 12 % of the population aged 18-24 are early school leavers; calls on the EU to identify the main factors leading to early school leaving and monitor the characteristics of the phenomenon at national, regional and local level as the foundation for targeted and effective evidence-based policies; considers that policies to reduce early school leaving must address a range of factors, including educational and social challenges that might possibly be leading to such a phenomenon;

4.  Points out that without effective cooperation between educational institutions and labour market players it will be impossible to remedy the high level of unemployment among young graduates in the EU; stresses in particular that through teaching of the knowledge and skills needed on the labour market, the youth employment rate has been raised and social differences narrowed;

5.  Regrets the fact that insufficient funding is allocated to education at present and highlights the need for greater investment in modernising educational systems in the fields of vocational training and formal and informal education; recalls that this applies also to renovating school buildings and providing new technology for education and research (access to research databases, IT training, e-learning);

6.  Underlines the importance of strengthening links between education, research and business at regional, local, national and supranational level; calls on the Member States to act on education-related country-specific recommendations (CSRs) in the European Semester and other Commission recommendations as soon as possible;

7.  Highlights the importance of both lifelong learning and, in order to attract and keep qualified teaching staff, better training and working conditions for researchers and professors as key factors for economic growth; points out how important it is that young people acquire digital skills, and that teachers are trained accordingly, since such skills are becoming increasingly important on the European labour market;

8.  Stresses that labour market needs are changing rapidly, and that young people face increasing difficulties in their transition from education to work and therefore are usually more vulnerable to unemployment; reiterates the importance of investing in human capital and people, and in particular in Europe’s young people in order to enhance their employability and pathway of professional qualifications; calls for the improvement of the existing EU Skills Panorama which identifies the jobs and skills needed, and for the education and training systems of Member States to be remodelled accordingly so that people will be provided with the right skills for the right job;

9.  Stresses the need to promote partnerships between the educational world and employment policies by involving all stakeholders, including social partners, decision makers, training providers and employers;

10. Welcomes the Youth Employment Initiative introduced to enhance the Youth Guarantee Scheme, in particular in regions with a youth unemployment rate of over 25 %, and points out that this is an efficient means of reducing youth unemployment and will serve as a fundamental structural reform in the mid- and longer term; calls on Member States to establish strong cooperation with stakeholders, in particular employers and SMEs, and to make full use of the European Social Fund, the Youth Employment Initiative and other structural funds when implementing the scheme and creating an infrastructure therefor;

11. Calls on the Commission to help ensure the Youth Guarantee Scheme is implemented efficiently by exchange of examples of good practice; points out that the budgeted funds for the Youth Guarantee Scheme within the Youth Employment Initiative expire on 31 December 2015; calls on the Commission to take the necessary action to ensure that the programme can continue;

12. Emphasises the need for the development of entrepreneurial skills within the framework of the Youth Guarantee Schemes; considers, nevertheless, that early intervention and activation and, in many cases, reforms are needed, such as improving vocational education and training systems, and that the exchange of best practices related to the dual education system could contribute to structural changes in the labour market and lead to higher levels of employment;

13. Welcomes the new European Fund for Strategic Investments; hopes that education and training are considered to be strategic investments and are therefore part of one of the priority actions;

14. Urges the Commission to recognise the full potential of culture in contributing to sustainable economic development and the competitiveness of regions and in improving social cohesion; stresses, in particular, the role of Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs) and the digitisation of cultural heritage as strategic drivers for economic recovery and growth in the EU and for regional development, since they currently generate, directly or indirectly, more than 7 million jobs;

15. Emphasises the importance of the cultural sector in combating youth unemployment, since it is very attractive to young people and offers them more job opportunities; recalls also the role played by culture in generating more and better employment through education, skills development, training and informal learning; seeks to direct cohesion policy instruments towards improving and increasing the number of jobs in the cultural and creative sectors;

16. Calls on the Commission to evaluate the scope for using EU Regional Development and Social Fund monies to promote cultural activities in the Member States, and in particular to promote the creative sector; asks the Commission to submit a report on the findings of the evaluation to Parliament, at the latest together with the Creative Europe programme mid-term report, i.e. by 31 December 2017;

17. Recalls that culture and tangible and intangible cultural heritage are key elements for sustainable urban and rural regeneration and the attractiveness of cities and regions, and for economic development through cultural tourism and creative SMEs; calls for the establishment of regional cultural hubs in which towns, cities and regions can work together to promote and preserve their cultural heritage and turn it into an economic asset;

18. Calls on the Commission to commit itself to taking all necessary steps to ensure effective protection for the tangible and intangible goods that make up Europe’s cultural heritage and are of fundamental importance for boosting cultural and socioeconomic development that draws on and promotes common European identity and the cultural distinctiveness of European countries, regions and cities; calls on the EU’s cities and regions to use the cohesion policy instruments for this purpose;

19. Takes the view that the EUR 5 million (or EUR 10 million of the total cost where sites on the UNESCO list are involved) ceiling adopted by the Commission on the basis of total project costs is overly rigid and will result in less support for cultural heritage, not least because it makes no provision for the deduction of documentation and management costs and of non-reducible expenditure (e.g. VAT), and that it reduces the scope for public and private partnerships and for investment in culture, which is of vital importance to social and economic development in the EU;

20. Stresses that there is no legal basis for this approach in EU law, and calls on the Commission, in this connection, to review the decision and to clarify, in the thematic guides, the interpretation of Article 3(e) of Regulation (EU) No 1301/2013 (ERDF) with regard to investment in the development of endogenous potential through fixed investment in equipment and small-scale infrastructure for culture and sustainable tourism;

21. Calls on the Member States to allocate a larger share of their budgets and of regional development funding to culture and cultural heritage with a view to making regions attractive, promoting their effective and comprehensive development and tapping their potential;

22. Highlights the importance of simplification, and recommends that the Commission and the Member States continue their efforts to simplify implementation of the cohesion policy, in order to improve targeting of policy outcomes and cut red tape at all levels; stresses the importance of platforms for sharing best practice in the various areas of implementation.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

24.3.2015

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

23

3

2

Members present for the final vote

Isabella Adinolfi, Dominique Bilde, Andrea Bocskor, Silvia Costa, Mircea Diaconu, Damian Drăghici, Angel Dzhambazki, Jill Evans, Emmanouil Glezos, Giorgos Grammatikakis, Petra Kammerevert, Andrew Lewer, Svetoslav Hristov Malinov, Fernando Maura Barandiarán, Luigi Morgano, Momchil Nekov, Michaela Šojdrová, Helga Trüpel, Sabine Verheyen, Julie Ward, Bogdan Brunon Wenta, Theodoros Zagorakis, Bogdan Andrzej Zdrojewski, Milan Zver, Krystyna Łybacka

Substitutes present for the final vote

Sylvie Guillaume, György Hölvényi, Dietmar Köster, Ilhan Kyuchyuk, Ernest Maragall, Emma McClarkin, Martina Michels


OPINION of the Committee on Womens Rights and Gender Equality (1.4.2015)

for the Committee on Regional Development

on investment for jobs and growth: promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion in the Union

(2014/2245(INI))

Rapporteur: Julie Girling

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality calls on the Committee on Regional Development, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions into its motion for a resolution:

A. whereas historically women have been more affected by unemployment than men - despite today representing 59 % of new graduates(1), which is also inconsistent with the low numbers of women in positions of responsibility; whereas the female employment rate has increased slightly, from 60 % to 63 %, over the last five years, and women’s unemployment stands at 10 % across the EU, with significant regional variation (although such differences has been significantly decreasing)(2); whereas even for women who are employed, their professional qualifications and level of salary and pension contributions are not proportional to the degrees they have obtained;

B.  whereas only 29 % of women have a degree in ICT and only 4 % are directly employed in the ICT sector(3); whereas according to the Commission’s figures there are more women than men in tertiary education; whereas, however, women are still under-represented in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), which restricts economic opportunities for them, even though is no scientific evidence that men are more talented than women in STEM subjects;

C. whereas women are particularly affected by low wages (21.2 % in 2010, as against 13.3 % for men), especially female employees with a low level of education and those on fixed-term contracts(4);

D. whereas the gender pension gap reveals that on average across the EU, women’s pensions are 39 % lower in comparison to men;

E.  whereas women are more exposed to poverty and social exclusion than men, all the more so when they are aged over 60 (22.2 % in 2010, as opposed to 17.3 % for men)(5);

F.  whereas gender equality represents an important tool for economic development and social cohesion;

G. whereas cohesion policy is the main tool for implementing measures against unemployment and social exclusion and relies on investment in education and enlarging education capacities;

H. whereas a series of economic and social problems have become apparent in rural areas over time, such as poorly developed entrepreneurial culture, low participation of adults in lifelong learning and training, absence of further training in rural areas, and the high percentage of persons working in subsistence agriculture;

I.   whereas the employment rate for women is still low with respect to the objectives set out in the Europe 2020 strategy (11.5 % below the target of 75 %)(6);

J.   whereas according to OECD projections, equal participation by women and men in the labour market would result in a 12.4 % increase in GDP per capita by 2030;

K. whereas women are under‑represented in managerial positions and only 30 % of new start‑ups in Europe are established by women(7);

L.  whereas more than two thirds of Europeans live in cities which are productive and innovative centres, but at the same time give rise to a concentration of the socially excluded persons and are therefore key to tackling the challenge of social exclusion;

M. whereas being a single mother or single parent continues to be a handicap in the labour market;

N. whereas equal opportunities for men and women and the principle of gender-based integration are expressly laid down in the Structural Funds Regulations as cross-cutting elements in terms of programming and political application;

O. whereas family businesses offer women higher remuneration than SMEs and the opportunity to enter male-dominated industries; whereas women working in family businesses are more likely to attain management positions; whereas the EU and the Member States should be encouraged to promote this type of activity and persuade women to enter family businesses to a greater degree;

P.  whereas support for equality, aside from being a question of justice and fundamental rights, is also an issue of competitiveness since the talents of all those women affected by occupational marginalisation are going to waste, a situation which is inconsistent with efforts to support the knowledge-driven economy;

1.  Regrets the fact that Member States have not done more to address the gender pay gap; is concerned that women in the EU earn on average 16.4 % less than men doing work of equal value and work the equivalent of 59 days for free per year, which places them at an economic disadvantage and sometimes makes them dependent on their partner; stresses the importance of measures to address the gender pay gap, which also creates a pension gulf of 39 % between men and women in the EU; highlights the fact that in nine Member States this difference has increased over the past five years; notes that according to the European Value Added Assessment, a 1% decrease in the gender pay gap would bring about an increase of 0.1 % in economic growth; notes that giving women access to positions of responsibility can increase the competitiveness of organisations; calls on the Member States to improve and update their statistics on the gender pay gap;

2.  Calls on the Commission to demand transparency of remuneration in relation to jobs that it creates or funds through cohesion policy, and thereby to reject any unjustified inequality in pay;

3.  Considers that the Union should, at all stages of implementation of the ESI Funds, aim at eliminating inequalities and at promoting equality between men and women and integrating the gender perspective, as well as at combating discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation;

4.  Calls for multiple types of discrimination to be recognised and addressed, that is, not only inequality based on gender but also inequality based on religion or personal convictions, social origin, sexual orientation, age, ethnic origin and disability, so as to put in place a relevant and effective policy of social inclusion;

5.  Notes that the economic crisis has set equality back in many areas; emphasises the importance of ensuring that the economic crisis is not used as an argument for perpetuating inequality between women and men and that work on equality continues, even during such a crisis;

6.  Calls on the Member States to change this dynamic by pioneering policies that actively favour equality, with schemes and budgets aimed at increasing GDP per capita by such means;

7.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to actively use the European Structural Funds as tools to enhance gender equality: request the Member States and the Commission to carry out a gender analysis and to work with gender budgeting with the aim to achieve gender-equal allocation of financial resources;

8.  Asks the Commission to incorporate statistical indicators into Eurostat on a state-by-state basis, so as to measure the influence of equality on economic progress in terms of both the actual participation of women in the labour market and the extent to which they are incorporated into positions of responsibility and senior management;

9.  Recognises that SMEs make a significant contribution to the European economy, in particular by creating jobs; is disappointed that women lead SMEs to a much lesser extent than men; notes that 5 % of company boards in the EU are chaired by women and the corresponding figure for board members is 18.6 %; regrets that in the period 2003-2012 the female entrepreneurship rate has only slightly increased, from 10 % to 10.4 %;

10. Calls on the Member States to exchange best practices for encouraging women to set up SMEs, to develop strategies for the promotion of female entrepreneurship, and to facilitate the access of female entrepreneurs to financial support; is pleased that the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is providing support to women-led SMEs and encouraging support for activities focused on training and access to funding; calls on the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) to prioritise the collection of information on female entrepreneurship, in particular on access to financing and economic networks;

11. Deplores the fact that so little is being done to promote the participation of women in decision-making bodies or to encourage them to set up their own companies; notes that discrimination on grounds of pregnancy, for example, is used extensively to exclude women from the private and public labour market;

12. Notes that the under-representation of women in STEM subjects originates from gender stereotypes ; urges the Member States and the Commission to promote entry by women into sectors traditionally viewed as ‘male’ sectors, notably the sciences and new technologies, in particular through information and awareness-raising campaigns, with a view to benefiting fully from the human capital represented by European women;

13. Notes that women are more likely to be engaged in part-time work, low-paid jobs or precarious work, which may be beneficial for mothers having returned from maternity leave but may also result in in-work poverty and a gender pension disparity; notes that employed women in Europe are still four times more likely to be working part‑time than employed men(8); is concerned about the variation in part-time work figures among the Member States; calls on the Commission to produce an updated, in-depth analysis of the different types of employment, including comparisons within and between Member States, in order to chart gender-based injustice in forms of employment, with particular reference to part-time work;

14. Reaffirms the need to establish childcare facilities for young children so as to boost the presence of women in the labour market, and thus calls on the Commission to support innovative projects in this direction; points out that investment in public infrastructure such as childcare facilities increases the chances for women to actively take part in the economy and the labour market;

15. Recommends that the Commission, in the context of cohesion policy, should devote a larger portion of ERDF and ESF funding to projects that enable women to gain access to high-quality training and jobs;

16. Notes that there is a strong trend among the female population to migrate from rural areas to cities in search of job opportunities, thereby creating a gender imbalance in employment in rural areas; stresses the impact this has on the economy and population, and the importance of developing the rural economy in a way which taps into the potential of men and women and gives sectors normally dominated by women the same status as male-dominated work, and of contributing to this through schemes supporting women’s entrepreneurship and facilities for harmonising the services available in rural areas, such as childcare, assistance for the elderly, healthcare, and education; also calls for long-term work to combat the factors which assign women and men to different industries, in order to achieve equality in the labour market; calls on the Member States and the Commission to promote women’s entrepreneurship in rural areas;

17. Stresses that it is crucial to start implementing programmes focusing on the development of women’s entrepreneurial and managerial skills, in order to increase the number of firms in both rural and urban areas; underlines the importance of promoting equal employment opportunities, by involving women, especially those in rural areas, in setting up their own businesses;

18. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to examine whether gender clauses might be included in public procurement tender notices in order to encourage businesses to strive towards gender equality in their ranks while complying with the EU legislation on competition;

19. Points out that there is a significant digital gender gap that must be addressed by facilitating and promoting access for women to training schemes in new technologies;

20. Calls on the Member States to give priority to the digital economy agenda, and stresses that full broadband access is a vital element in offering options to women, men and businesses in terms of flexible work arrangements and homeworking; calls on the Member States, the Commission and local and regional authorities to support investment in training women in the ICT sector in such a way as to improve people’s work-life balance;

21. Calls on the EU institutions and the Member States, with a view to achieving goals related to employment and social inclusion, to take into account the needs of women returning from maternity leave, motivate employers to recruit women after maternity leave, facilitate flexible working arrangements, and promote further education (lifelong learning) enabling women to smoothly resume their professional careers;

22. Calls on the Commission, the Member States and local and regional authorities to take account of policies for protecting women within their investment programmes, and to ensure that funds are directed towards effective employment and professional growth and are not misused;

23. Requests the Commission, the Member States and the regional and local authorities to systematically encourage the approach of using e-learning platforms in order to develop women’s entrepreneurial skills, as well as entrepreneurship in cross-border areas; expresses particular concern regarding the need to create a network for cross-border partnership based on dialogue and communication between partner institutions, with a view to organising public debates on women’s and cross-border entrepreneurship;

24. Calls for the EU institutions and the Member States, in order to achieve goals related to increasing capacities of early childcare facilities, to make better use of both quantitative and qualitative indicators so as to ensure equal access for all children to high-quality care and education;

25. Urges the Member States to promote investment in training schemes aimed at helping women integrate into the labour market, particularly for those who have previously been full-time mothers or carers for other dependents, as well as in care services for children, the elderly and others in need which are both accessible and affordable and follow a schedule that fits in with those who work full-time, with a view to ensuring a balance between work and family as well as targeting unemployment and social exclusion;

26. Asks the Member States to establish budgetary measures that take account of gender issues in programming cohesion policy, in an attempt to examine not only those schemes that specifically target women but also all other schemes and policies put forward by government, together with their impact on the allocation of resources and their contribution to equality between men and women;

27. Asks the Member States to implement and enhance gender budgeting, and calls on the Commission to promote the exchange of best practice in gender budgeting.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

31.3.2015

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

32

0

0

Members present for the final vote

Daniela Aiuto, Maria Arena, Catherine Bearder, Beatriz Becerra Basterrechea, Malin Björk, Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, Viorica Dăncilă, Iratxe García Pérez, Anna Hedh, Elisabeth Köstinger, Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, Angelika Mlinar, Krisztina Morvai, Maria Noichl, Marijana Petir, Terry Reintke, Michaela Šojdrová, Ernest Urtasun, Ángela Vallina, Elissavet Vozemberg, Jadwiga Wiśniewska, Anna Záborská, Jana Žitňanská, Inês Cristina Zuber

Substitutes present for the final vote

Rosa Estaràs Ferragut, Julie Girling, Constance Le Grip, Marc Tarabella, Julie Ward, Marco Zullo

Substitutes under Rule 200(2) present for the final vote

Bart Staes

(1)

Report on equality between men and women 2014.

(2)

Eurostat figures for 2008 and 2013.

(3)

Commission report (2013), Women active in the ICT sector.

(4)

Ibid.

(5)

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/eplibrary/Pauvrete-dans-l-Union-europeenne.pdf

(6)

Eurostat, Labour Force Survey (LFS), 2014 (second quarter).

(7)

Entrepreneurship 2020 Action plan. Reigniting the entrepreneurial spirit in Europe (COM(2012)0795).

(8)

Report on equality between women and men 2014, European Commission, Justice and Consumers.


RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

5.5.2015

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

32

1

6

Members present for the final vote

Pascal Arimont, José Blanco López, Franc Bogovič, Victor Boştinaru, Mercedes Bresso, Andrea Cozzolino, Rosa D’Amato, Tamás Deutsch, Michela Giuffrida, Anna Hedh, Krzysztof Hetman, Ivan Jakovčić, Marc Joulaud, Constanze Krehl, Martina Michels, Iskra Mihaylova, Andrey Novakov, Mirosław Piotrowski, Stanislav Polčák, Terry Reintke, Liliana Rodrigues, Fernando Ruas, Monika Smolková, Maria Spyraki, Olaf Stuger, Ruža Tomašić, Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso, Ángela Vallina, Matthijs van Miltenburg, Lambert van Nistelrooij, Derek Vaughan, Joachim Zeller

Substitutes present for the final vote

Isabella Adinolfi, Enrique Calvet Chambon, Josu Juaristi Abaunz, Ivana Maletić, Miroslav Mikolášik, Bronis Ropė, Marco Zullo

Substitutes under Rule 200(2) present for the final vote

Ulrike Trebesius

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