The EU's cohesion policy budget for 2014-2020 should at least equal the current one, to enable poor regions to catch up and all regions, including frontier ones, to deploy their economic and innovative potential in line with the EU 2020 strategy. In four non-legislative resolutions on regional development, voted on Thursday, Parliament seeks to defend the architecture of EU structural funds.
In the debate, MEPs declared themselves in favour of a cohesion policy that is effective, ambitious and founded on solidarity, one "which has proven itself and provides impetus for growth and employment" said Markus Pieper (EPP, DE), author of a consolidated report on strategy for cohesion policy post-2013, the vote on which was postponed to the next plenary session, at the start of July. In the debate with regional policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn, MEPs stressed their firm opposition to any attempt to transfer cohesion policy to national level or split it by sector, in particular via new thematic funds such as climate, energy or transport.
Cross borders, integrate town and country
By approving the detailed proposals of Marie-Thérèse Sanchez-Schmid (EPP, FR) on the "future agenda for cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation" (612 votes in favour, 46 against, 15 abstentions), Parliament encourages the Commission to increase the share of structural funding allocated to objective 3 (territorial cohesion) from today's 2.5% to 7%, notably to improve transport infrastructure. Stepping up co-operation between towns and outlying suburbs and rural areas, so as to achieve more balanced regional development, is a key aim of the proposals of rapporteur Oldřich Vlasák (ECR, CZ), approved with 603 votes in favour, 41 against and 3 abstentions.
On the basis of reports by Miroslav Mikolášik (EPP, SK) on the implementation of the Cohesion Policy programmes for 2007-2013 and Georgios Stavrakakis (S&D, EL), MEPs ask that the aid allocation process be simplified and accelerated, notably to benefit small and medium-sized firms, and that multi-funding and cross-funding be encouraged. Improving synergies between the various funds should make it possible focus regional development policy more closely on results, says Mr Stavrakakis' report on "future synergies for increased effectiveness between the ERDF and other structural funds", which was approved with 601 votes in favour, 61 against and 12 abstentions.
At the end of September, the Commission is to propose a legislative package consisting of a general regulation and specific rules for the social, cohesion and regional development funds and for territorial co-operation. At the end of 2011, this will be followed by a proposal for a common strategy framework for all EU funds.
Procedure: Co-decision (1st reading) and consultation