EU cohesion policy not only needs adequate funding, it should also be more flexible to reflect regional differences, says Parliament in two resolutions adopted on Thursday on cohesion policy priorities after 2013.
MEPs also call for simplification and better monitoring of the policy and insist that the European Social Fund should remain part of cohesion policy albeit with its own rules.
Well funded and respecting differences
"A strong and well financed EU regional policy is a condition sine qua non for achieving social, economic and territorial cohesion," say MEPs in the first resolution, on EU cohesion and regional policy after 2013, tabled by the Regional Development Committee.
MEPs believe the current policy design, which allows funds to be distributed according to objectives – "Convergence", "Regional Competitiveness and Employment", "Territorial Cooperation" – should be preserved and cooperation among regions should be enhanced. Gross domestic product should remain the key yardstick for determining eligibility for regional assistance, while other indicators may be added with room left for national authorities to decide on additional criteria depending on local specificities.
Focus on cities and smart control
Future policy will need sufficient flexibility to respond to different needs of the regions, and more attention must be paid to cities, says the resolution. MEPs therefore suggest allocating funds for investments in urban and suburban projects, and that an appropriate funding instrument be considered.
The resolution calls for further streamlining of procedures, making the policy more user-friendly. MEPs call for the policy to be more "result-oriented", which entails creating a better balance between quality of performance and financial control.
Some flexibility of the European Social Fund
In the second resolution, on the future of the European Social Fund (ESF), tabled by the Employment Committee, MEPs argue that the ESF must be strengthened as the main instrument underpinning the Europe 2020 strategy and underline the importance of the ESF as a key tool in combating unemployment, improving education and life-long learning and combating poverty and exclusion.
They also call on the Commission to strengthen the potential of the structural funds through flexibility and improved procedures, emphasising social integration.
There are considerable advantages in maintaining the ESF under the basic regulation of cohesion policies but with its own rules, say MEPs.
The two resolutions were adopted ahead of the publication of the Commission's report on cohesion, which will give a first glimpse next month of the future of the policy. Draft legislation is expected as of mid-2011. The resolutions also provide input to the current debate on the EU's long-term budget review.
The resolution on EU cohesion and regional policy after 2013, drafted by Danuta Hübner (EPP, PL) and the resolution on the Future of the European Social Fund, drafted by Pervenche Berès (S&D, FR) were adopted by show of hands.