Index 
 Previous 
 Next 
 Full text 
Procedure : 2006/2107(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A6-0087/2007

Texts tabled :

A6-0087/2007

Debates :

PV 23/04/2007 - 19
CRE 23/04/2007 - 19

Votes :

PV 24/04/2007 - 7.28
CRE 24/04/2007 - 7.28
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2007)0130

Debates
Monday, 23 April 2007 - Strasbourg OJ edition

19. Future enlargements and cohesion (debate)
PV
MPphoto
 
 

  President. The next item is the report (A6-0087/2007) by Markus Pieper, on behalf of the Committee on Regional Development, on the consequences of future enlargements on the effectiveness of cohesion policy (2006/2107(INI)).

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Markus Pieper (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, structural policy is the most powerful expression of Europe’s being a community of solidarity, but, now that the agricultural reform has been accomplished, cohesion policy is the biggest heading in the Budget, and so, as regards their substance and their funding, structural support and regional policy are in the European public’s sights.

The rules we laid down for ourselves in this area have worked up to now; from the regional policy standpoint, the accession of the southern Member States and of Ireland were great successes, and we want more of the same successes, but the challenges are getting bigger. While globalisation is tending to emphasise regional difference, developments on the demographic front offer us the prospect of adverse age pyramids. In a complete contrast with how things were in Western Europe 20 years ago, public budgets are currently very volatile, and we are being faced with new challenges, in the shape of the Western Balkans and – most especially – of Turkey. Never before has a country of Turkey’s size, starting out from such a weak economic position and with such flagrant internal disparities, been integrated into the European Union.

You see, then, that structural policy faces enormous challenges on account of the things it has to do and the condition under which it has to do them, while new Member States present it with growing financial need. Let me give just one figure to illustrate that: if we factor in all the effects that the accession of Romania and Bulgaria had on structural policy, while at the same time imagining that the countries in receipt of pre-accession aid – that is to say, the countries of the Western Balkans, Turkey and Croatia – were already members of the Community, then, were that to be the case, structural policy, under today’s rules and in the period we are in, would cost us EUR 150 billion more than it actually does, and of that sum, 63% alone – an unimaginable amount of money – would be needed for Turkey. We do of course know that these countries will not all be joining the EU at the same time, but they are interested in becoming members of the European Community as soon as possible, and we must, today, address the potential effects if they do that.

I have to say, quite frankly, that I feel let down by the Commission, which believes that the time is not yet ripe for this subject, and says that the financial chapters will not be negotiated until later, yet this issue does, of course, need to be discussed right now. It is not acceptable that we should go cheerfully on negotiating accessions, and notice only at the end that we can perhaps no longer afford an enlargement of the EU along the usual lines.

That is why this report is intended to shake things up a bit. The interests of regional policy demand that European enlargement policy cannot carry on ‘as we were’; we demand to be informed about what is in store for us on the structural policy front. We demand of the Commission that it should at length come up with proposals as to how it evaluates the enlargement strategy from the point of view of regional policy. We are also demanding that Parliament should be consulted, and should have equal rights, as regards the substance of what goes into pre-accession aid, for, at the end of the day, the only enlargement strategy that the people of Europe will accept is one that is transparent and involves their elected representatives.

This House has prepared the ground in three areas. Firstly, we have come to the core and shared conviction that there are important fundamental principles of the European solidarity-based community that must be maintained, that that demands that the structural funds be adequately endowed, and that future enlargements must not be funded by denying certain regions their rights to grants before their economic position has improved.

Secondly, if the structural policy is to continue to offer the European regions a prospect of equalisation and growth, there must be consistent reforms in other areas, by, for example, demanding that regions and nations take more responsibility for themselves, perhaps through more funding through loans, through a review of how funds are used in regions that have received long-term support, by investigating the funding of businesses and even by means of coupling European subsidies to a sensible national economic policy.

The Committee on Regional Affairs is thus proposing things that will demand some rethinking in many European regions, and that will not always be easy. In so far as we demand painful cohesion policy reforms of the existing Community, there will also have to be another enlargement strategy. We want, and are able, to give the countries in receipt of pre-accession aid a prospect of benefiting from our regional policy.

It has to be said, though, that the amendments tabled to my report in the Regional Affairs Committee have made it very plain that Turkey assumes a dimension all of its own, and so, to address major challenges of this kind, we propose a progressive model of regional policy, with which Turkey, too, will be enabled to share more in European cohesion. In place of the watering can of compensation policy, the progressive model envisages, in the first instance, the targeted promotion of growth, that is to say, the giving of support to priority regions and sectors with the potential for development, and we are tying in regional policy with the sharing of values in such areas as equality issues.

This progressive concept is feasible dependent on the achievement of political progress in the candidate countries, so there are no barriers that could not be removed by Turkey itself, although the accession mechanisms of regional policy do not amount to a one-way street. I am aware that this concept of open-ended and progressive preparation for accession is criticised by certain European parties, but I am firmly convinced that this is the only way in which we can ensure that Turkey develops a European connection, and so, far from it getting special treatment, this is the only road – in terms of regional policy, at any rate – that is actually capable of being negotiated.

As I conclude, I would like to thank the many Members who have contributed to this report through their many amendments, and also the House’s scientific service, which, with its many calculations, has been a competent and reliable source of support to us. With the expectation that the Commission, too, will consider the issues of increased efficiency and enlargement from the regional policy angle, we look forward eagerly to the fourth cohesion report and to the structural policy evaluation of the budget review.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Danuta Hübner, Member of the Commission. Mr President, honourable Members, this is a very important report and, in my three minutes of comments, I would like to make five points.

First of all, I fully share your assessment of the importance and successful outcome of the cohesion policy in curbing disparities through growth-enhancing investment, in contributing to Europe’s social, economic and territorial cohesion and in improving administration and public governance, particularly at sub-national level. The fourth cohesion report, which will be published at the end of May, will analyse the situation and economic, social and territorial cohesion trends in the Union, as well as the contribution to the Union’s cohesion of European cohesion policy, of national policies and of other Community policies. On this basis, the report will set out initial reflections on the future shape of European cohesion policy and hopefully, therefore, will also contribute to the overall review without prejudging options. The fifth cohesion report, due in 2010, will take account of the budgetary review and is likely to contain the Commission’s detailed proposal for cohesion-policy reform.

Secondly, I fully share your views on the new challenges facing cohesion policy, both internally and as a result of global trends, in particular your views on the impact of demographic trends, climate change and increasing pressure from dynamic competitors. Let me also assure you that I find your question about the impact of possible future enlargements on the scope of cohesion policy legitimate. But let me also stress that it is precisely with the aim of addressing all these challenges that we have reformed and modernised the cohesion policy for 2007-2013.

Thirdly, with regard to the impact of the possible accession of Croatia and the Western Balkans, let me first of all underline that the potential effect of Croatia’s accession is estimated to be rather small, with a decrease of 0.5% of GDP per head compared to that of the EU-27. The budgetary impact of Croatia’s possible accession will be assessed by the Commission at a later stage in the accession negotiations. In line with the approach to previous enlargements, the final decision on financial allocation lies with the European Council.

Fourthly, as regards Turkey, I would like to stress that under the accession negotiating framework the negotiations are an open-ended process, the outcome of which cannot be guaranteed beforehand. As Turkey’s accession could have substantial financial consequences, the financial aspects of the accession negotiations can only be concluded after the establishment of the financial framework for the post-2013 period, together with possible resulting financial reforms. Any arrangements should ensure that the financial burdens are fully shared among all Member States. However, we must realise that Turkey’s economy might differ greatly in the medium term from its present state.

Fifthly, I agree with your proposals as regards the financial allocation, effectiveness and sound management of cohesion policy. I also consider that a sufficient financial allocation is a prerequisite for the policy’s success. The impact of cohesion policy goes far beyond its financing aspects and embraces governance, networking, best practice and growth-leverage. The cohesion policy reform has already focused on the policy’s increasing leverage effect by strengthening private-capital participation and by using innovative financial instruments. However, I agree that further work in this direction, aimed at further increasing the impact of cohesion policy on new growth cohesion and competitiveness, is necessary. We are also well aware of the importance of developing administrative capacity, implementing sound control and management systems and fighting corruption so as to ensure the effectiveness of cohesion policy.

I will listen carefully to your debate on the report.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Budgets. – (FR) Mr President, the role of the Committee on Budgets was to submit, at the time of a unanimous vote in favour, less one abstention, an opinion relating mainly, of course, to the budgetary impact of future enlargements on the effectiveness of cohesion policy. However, while cohesion policy is, along with all of the structural policies, the supreme expression of the solidarity of the European people, there is a need to match this desire for intelligent solidarity with appropriate budgetary resources.

It is in this way that I wish to highlight two important ideas expressed by the Committee on Budgets. The aim of the first idea is to demand that the Commission and the Council systematically present financial scenarios before deciding to open negotiations with a candidate country, and detailed financial scenarios throughout the negotiation process. The aim of the second idea is to highlight that, as the Union’s resources system currently stands, any future enlargements could not be financed without the current policies’ becoming less effective.

That is why I am urging the Council and the Commission this evening to start an ongoing, constructive dialogue with our Parliament which, I would remind you, is jointly responsible for the budget.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Lambert van Nistelrooij, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (NL) Mr President, this Pieper report has come at the right time. We have laid down unilateral regulations, generally accepted here in this House, between the institutions for 2007 to 2013 and the work on operational programmes is in full swing. Cohesion policy is the keystone for solidarity in the European Union, as well as for competitiveness, something of which all European regions can avail themselves thanks to the three objectives on which we agreed. Europe close to the citizens in all regions. Yet, successful though it has been, there is a need for an early review of the sustainability of this policy. As Commissioner Hübner indicated a moment ago, regional policy must actively prepare for the mid-term review, and that is no more than realistic where the necessary financial frameworks as a result of the proposed enlargement are concerned. The Pieper report opens this debate and invites the Commission to outline specific financial implications. According to this report, it is not only a matter of money, but also of more flexibility, specific planning in stages, more creativity and a different approach to cofinancing.

I should like to add that the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, provided the foundations of regional policy remain in place in the Member States, is prepared to consider a different, more flexible approach, an opportunity which will be coming our way in the fourth cohesion report, which is expected as soon as next month, and later on in the fifth cohesion report, but the message is clear: it will certainly not be possible for policy to remain unchanged in all cases, and so it is good that this House is being involved in the own-initiative report at this stage in its life and to show them the consequences.

I would like, in fact, to finish by expressing the wish that this House should become much more closely involved in this debate, particularly in the next six months, before we carry out the midterm review.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gábor Harangozó, on behalf of the PSE Group. (HU) I would like first of all to congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Pieper, for his own-initiative report. Putting this question on the agenda was very timely. At the same time I would like to thank him for his willingness to compromise and for the enormous amount of time he devoted to making sure that a text would emerge that would be acceptable to all of us.

As the author of a socialist shadow report after the vote in the committee, I am satisfied with the outcome and believe that the final result will be a balanced report. In order to be able to claim this, however, we need to make changes to the original script. For the latter took as its starting point that every candidate country and potential candidate country would join the EU at once. Analysing the effects, it reckoned with dramatic financial consequences that were not at all realistic.

I have submitted numerous proposed amendments, and tried to reach compromises that will give us a clear image of the limits of future enlargements, and allow us to take the right and appropriate approach to the candidate countries. If we examine one by one the impact of a candidate country’s accession on the cohesion policy being followed, we may note the following: neither the accession of Croatia nor that of the Western Balkan countries represents an immediate danger to the Union’s cohesion policy. For the entry of these countries presents many more opportunities from the perspective of Europe’s cohesion than the dangers it conceals. I am convinced that integrating the Western Balkans as quickly as possible can play a major role in helping the regions adjacent to current Member States to catch up. We need to ensure that the regions currently benefiting from cohesion policy support undergo economic and social development, that is, that they are able to catch up to the Union average. The Union needs to guarantee that its regions will not lose their eligibility for funding as a consequence of the statistical effects of further enlargement. As regards the accession of new Member States, we need to take into account the Union’s capacity to integrate them, and whether we are able to finance our policies within the available budgetary framework.

Turkey is a candidate country, and its integration depends above all on its capacity to fulfil the conditions, and secondarily on the capacity, and not the willingness, of the Union to integrate new countries. Therefore, every question mark and condition that is raised after the fact is harmful to the credibility of the Union. Let me make it clear that the purpose of this own-initiative report is to examine the impact and consequences of future enlargement on cohesion policy, and not to adopt a position on the accession of any candidate or potential candidate countries or on any special form of membership. For this reason, the Socialist Group in the European Parliament proposed deleting point 14 of the report. We need to recognise clearly that Turkey’s accession demands a completely new scale of cohesion policy, in light of the country’s size, population and economic development. I agree with any initiative that offers more targeted funding in order to enable Turkey to integrate as rapidly and smoothly as possible, and therefore I support point 13 of the report.

We now have in our hands a report that contains concrete proposals regarding the direction in which we should take our cohesion policy, in the interest of continuing the processes currently under way.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Grażyna Staniszewska, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (PL) Mr President, it is obviously necessary to consider the implications of future enlargements on the effectiveness of cohesion policy, but it would be appropriate to consider not only the negative implications but also the positive ones. Unfortunately, I have the impression that Mr Pieper’s report is essentially an expression of discontent and frustration following the latest enlargements and that regardless of political decisions he is attempting to set up financial barriers against any potential future enlargement of the European Union, notably against Turkey. Particularly harsh treatment is meted out to Turkey.

The report deals with future enlargements almost exclusively as economic burdens, and makes no mention of any positive aspects. It does not provide an answer to the question as to how best to fund cohesion policy in the future.

I believe this is a very controversial document. The Committee on Regional Development tried very hard to change its negative and destructive character in the course of its work. Unfortunately we were not completely successful.

The Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe is now tabling a package of fundamental amendments. If the package is not voted through we shall, however, be obliged to vote for the rejection of the entire report. We consider that the policy of the entire European Union cannot be changed without consulting the Committee on Foreign Affairs. After all, that committee is responsible for the enlargement process.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ryszard Czarnecki, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Mr President, there is an old Polish saying according to which if you want to beat a dog you will always find a stick for the purpose. If Europe’s elite, including the European Parliament, is opposed to enlarging the Union to take in new countries, it will always be able to come up with an excuse to prevent enlargement.

The most elegant method of delaying the access of even the Balkan states, the so-called kid glove method, involves cunningly making enlargement of the Union’s structures conditional firstly on institutional reform of the Union. I would point out that nothing is known about when this reform will take place and what its nature will be if indeed it takes place at all. Secondly, enlargement of the Union’s structures is made conditional on changes to the principles for funding new Members of the Union. This is what the report deals with in detail.

Raising the issue of huge subsidies to Turkey if it became a Union Member in the future amounts to manipulation. Obviously, before admitting Turkey we ought to welcome into our European family countries such as Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania. I should like to make one final comment, namely that we should not pander to our obsessions at the expense of those countries.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gisela Kallenbach, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, it is good that the EU is preparing for further enlargements in good time. This includes carrying out the institutional reforms that have been advocated for years, and also in-depth analyses of the efficiency of the use of European funds. Rules that applied to the EU-15 are not equally applicable to an EU with 27 or even more Member States – we fully agree with the rapporteur on this. I should also like to express my thanks for what has been basically constructive cooperation.

We could not agree on one key point, however, namely the very particular, unbalanced view of Turkey and, to some extent, also the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Commissioner Hübner has just emphasised once more what effect Croatia’s accession would have. An attempt is being made to assess enlargement and integration from an almost exclusively fiscal point of view. The progress that could be achieved by 2013 thanks to cohesion policy is being virtually disregarded. In addition, despite assertions to the contrary, the concept of a privileged partnership is to be restored to grace through the back door. I think that the Committee on Regional Development is clearly exceeding its powers here – and with an own-initiative report, too.

Nor do we consider acceptable the attempt to enforce one law for existing EU Member States and another for future members. It is true that a review of the budget is needed, and also of cohesion policy – but the result must apply across the board. I do not want to see a system of first- and second-class Member States!

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(EL) Mr President, the report which we are debating contains certain moderate political points which, however, are overshadowed by negative technical points. Thus, some of the messages contained in the report, such as the radical reform of the cohesion policy in the middle of the programming period, are not feasible.

I would like to also comment on three other negative points: first, constant mention is made of the Union as the most competitive and dynamic economy. Apart from being tiresome, this sort of thing is untrue and paradoxical, given that the report itself does not mention an increase in the budget that would allow the European economy to reach in fact the levels that it likes to advertise.

Secondly, there is disagreement about the increase in Community spending on the cohesion policy. The text mentions a 'ceiling' of 1.18% of GDP. This means that Parliament would be more royal than the king, because the European Commission itself, on the basis of the statistics for 2000-2016 programming period, has noted that it will take 1.24% of GDP. More Europe with less money will not work and that is something we need to highlight.

Thirdly, there is the technical part that makes provision for certain arrangements that will create numerous problems. Thus the text makes provision for the Union to move away in the future from net financing towards a system of loans on favourable terms. This is clearly a problem, because it will throw the regions of the Union already facing problems into even greater economic problems.

Similarly, there is a message regarding concern about the fact that in certain regions the targeting of Community aid is unsuccessful, with the result that no improvement is achieved in the situation of the regions in question, despite long-term financial support, and as a result Community resources are being wasted. It calls for a maximum period of time to be defined during which the regions will be able to receive structural funding, so as to avoid situations in which the regions that have been receiving Community support for many years remain at the same low level of development. In this way, we are promoting a 'you die so I can live' tactic, on the basis of which the regions will enter into competition in order to secure Community funding. This sort of thing is not viable and we certainly cannot support it.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jens-Peter Bonde, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (DA) Mr President, I have just returned home from the EU’s poorest Member State, Romania. I am again struck by the fact that cordiality and hospitality are greatest where need is greatest. The fact remains, however, that a modest flat cannot be paid for on a Romanian teacher’s salary of EUR 180. In the case of rich countries such as the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria and Germany, our countries are just in the process of ratifying a special rebate on their contributions. Poor countries such as Bulgaria and Romania have to help pay the contributions of the richest Member States. The Sheriff of Nottingham has grabbed the EU coffers, but where is Robin Hood?

When Denmark joined the EC together with the United Kingdom and Ireland, we obtained a rebate. We paid 20% the first year, 40% the next, then 60% and then 80%, and 100% only in the fifth year. We were rich, and yet we were given rebates. Together with the other new Member States, Romania and Bulgaria have to pay their full contributions. In return, the payments they receive are reduced. They receive only 25% of their agricultural aid in the first year, 30% in the next, 35% the year after that, and so on. How mean can we be?

Might I call on the Committee on Budgets to examine the effects of the EU budget and European integration in terms of distribution and to propose a budget reform that redistributes resources from the rich to the poor in the EU? Why not offer free membership to countries with, for example, less than 75% of average income? Why not remove all aid to agriculture over and above, for example, EUR 40 000? Why not stop the payment of structural funds in those countries that constitute the richest half of the EU and in that way focus aid on the poorest countries? A budget along those lines would mean less income for Denmark. I am sure that our voters would happily pay subsidies to help the new Member States. In return, all help for Romania and Bulgaria would have to be transparent so that we could see whether the money was being spent on development or on an old guard of corrupt politicians and their cronies.

I have just read Cozmin Gusa’s book on Romania, which has been issued to all MEPs in English. It provides shocking reading about corruption. Just another few words, Mr President. The Committee on Budgetary Control should lose no time in looking into whether Mr Gusa’s assertions hold water. The sacking of the Justice Minister and the violent attack on Mr Gusa and his colleague before the weekend unfortunately indicate that Mr Gusa is right. Romania needs to be scrutinised carefully, but also encouraged by a fairer budget.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Dumitru Gheorghe Mircea Coşea, în numele grupului ITS. – Încă de la început, vreau să subliniez utilitatea acestui raport şi vreau să-l felicit pe raportor pentru munca deosebit de interesantă pe care a depus-o. Consider că, în condiţiile în care în numai trei ani Uniunea Europeană s-a lărgit de la 15 state la 27, problema implicaţiilor extinderii devine din ce în ce mai importantă, mai interesantă şi mai presantă din punct de vedere financiar. Este evident că orice extindere costă, este evident că orice extindere costă mai mult şi, din acest punct de vedere, cred că raportul pe care îl discutăm astăzi este interesant nu numai pentru a ne explica ceea ce s-a întâmplat, ci şi pentru a putea preveni anumite dificultăţi în viitor. De aceea, cred că acest raport trebuie să fie sprijinit, trebuie să fie extins şi trebuie să fie în atenţia noastră şi în continuare pentru că, pe parcursul discuţiilor viitoare vom avea poate alte puncte de vedere nu numai în legătură cu Croaţia ci şi cu Turcia. Cred că la acest nivel însă, ar trebui să subliniem câteva elemente pe care eu le consider esenţiale din punct de vedere a ceea ce se va întâmpla în viitor cu ţări pe care antevorbitorii le-au menţionat, pe care le reprezint într-un fel, fiind deputat din partea României. În primul rând, cred că orice extindere trebuie să beneficieze de o analiză prealabilă foarte atentă în legătură cu posibilităţile bugetare şi financiare ale Uniunii, în acelaşi timp corelate cu posibilităţile de fonduri colaterale ale ţării respective. Numai după o astfel de analiză, trebuie să se treacă la o definitivare a actului de aderare. În al doilea rând, cred că trebuie să se realizeze cât mai curând posibil o revizuire a cadrului financiar al Uniunii, în primul rând prin analiza modului în care sunt folosite principalele fonduri şi, mă refer aici la Fondul European de Dezvoltare Regională, la Fondul Social European şi la Fondul de Coeziune. În al treilea rând, cred că trebuie definite sursele proprii bugetare. În al patrulea rând un lucru extrem de important din punctul meu de vedre este urmărirea mai atentă a modului în care sunt folosite fondurile şi aplicarea unui regim mai strict de sancţiuni în cazuri de folosire netransparentă sau coruptă a fondurilor. Această situaţie este încă foarte prezentă în multe ţări şi aduce daune considerabile situaţiei financiare a extinderii.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jana Bobošíková (NI).(CS) Ladies and gentlemen, we are discussing the potential consequences of future enlargement on the effectiveness of the neighbourhood policy. The report looks at the Union’s eastward enlargement and calculates how the current Member States will pay for this if the institutional structure remains unchanged and if the financial contribution to the joint budget is not increased.

There will not be enough money to help the new Member States and nothing will be left for the wealthy regions. It makes no sense to discuss how individual GDP coefficients are falling in countries currently in line to join the Union. The problem lies elsewhere and I feel that it lies in what the Union is offering. If we expand only into the impoverished Balkan states the cost of enlargement will be high and it will be up to the citizens of the EU-27 to decide whether or not to show solidarity and foot the bill. I personally feel that they should. EU enlargement possesses not only a financial dimension, but above all – and I would stress this point – it has a political dimension.

I feel we should also ask why countries that do not need the Union as a source of development aid do not want to sign up to the values and policies of the Union. Why, for example, are Norway, Switzerland and Iceland not rushing to join the EU? I feel that it is down to the all-embracing solidarity of the Union, the Bolshevik agricultural policy and the total failure to nurture competitiveness.

It is my firm belief that narrowly-focused enlargement will do nothing to strengthen either the economy of the EU or its political influence on the world stage. The EU can be strengthened only by a fundamental shift away from the overblown emphasis on solidarity in current policies, and away from paternalism and regulation, moving instead towards a policy of healthy free competition. Thank you.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  László Surján (PPE-DE). (HU) When we look at the effect of further enlargement on the Union’s cohesion policy, we begin from the assumption that Member States are in solidarity with each other, and that they seek to reduce the differences among their regions. Our capacities set limits, however, to this good intention.

The rapporteur deserves all our praise for confronting us with the real problems. The current level of cohesion policy will become impossible to finance, if it must be applied to current candidate countries as well. But we cannot treat all candidate countries as if they were the same. The accession of Croatia, for example, causes no concern either on account of its size or of its economic situation. Let us be honest! It is a problem if candidate countries are disappointed as soon as they join. If for the sake of catching up we cut back existing programmes, it is the citizens of the current Member States who feel that they have been deceived. In both cases, the sense of cohesion declines. Moreover, all this is not in the future, but there already exist unjustified inequalities. There is no technical reason for the fact that in its first seven years my country, Hungary, should receive twice as much development funding per capita than its neighbour, Romania. We can see that the inevitable compromise we agreed to regarding the current framework is limiting the options.

Looking to the future, it is an important lesson that the Union cannot work well at a level lower than what Parliament is recommending by accepting the Böge report. I hope that after 2013 it will not be very late to implement the vision of the Böge report.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Constanze Angela Krehl (PSE).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of my group, I should like to make quite clear once more that the Pieper report is a report not about enlargement, but about future cohesion policy. In addition, it comes at precisely the right time; for, if we sleep through our chance to reform cohesion policy and wait until, say, 2011, 2012 or 2013 to consider the kind of policy we want for the following year, it will be too late for reform.

Nor does this report take a decision on the accession to the EU of Turkey or any other applicant country or future applicant country. To dispel any doubts about this and eliminate any possible sources of irritation, however, we shall be voting to delete paragraph 14 from the report. Nonetheless, starting today, we must make sure we are clear as to the kind of cohesion policy we want in future. In this regard, we are right to define a product comprising efficiency, solidarity, sustainable development and focus on the citizen. We must gather all of this together and see how the things we want to do can be implemented in practice.

The rapporteur is absolutely right to mention key phrases regarding, for example, the review of the system of own resources, the elimination of disparities in the whole rather than just a small part of the EU, individual responsibility of the Member States, the issue of whether, in future, greater use should be made of loan financing, and the issue of how to reinforce and increase the use of private cofinancing. Enlargement or no enlargement, we shall also have to face the issue of demographic change.

Thus, the ideas in the Pieper report provide a stimulus for debate, and we need time, as they will undoubtedly give rise to controversy. I think that the mid-term review represents a further step towards reform – but reform is urgently needed, and therefore I would appeal for broad support for the Pieper report.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jean Marie Beaupuy (ALDE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, in my opinion, this report has an advantage and a disadvantage. It has an advantage in the sense that it will allow us, I very much hope, to gain a better insight into the consequences of future enlargements. It could have a disadvantage, if we considered only the negative aspects of these future enlargements, since our fellow Member has actually highlighted a number of disadvantages, which may, incidentally, be rather worrying, and I understand that.

Commissioner, what I personally am requesting of you is that, when you respond to us – as I believe you will be sure to do – you focus on three points. You need to inform us of the financial consequences not only in terms of expenditure but also in terms of revenue, and also inform us of the other kinds of revenue from a human perspective, for example. You also need to tell us what other political prospects and consequences there are.

Let us not bury our heads in the sand; the issue of Turkey has been raised. I am not in favour of integrating Turkey but I am in favour of our examining this issue very quickly, with lucidity and realism, and finding the right solutions in the interest of the EU and in the interest of Turkey and of all the people of Turkey. I would be grateful to you, Commissioner, if you would respond to us on these three points: revenue, expenditure and political development.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jan Tadeusz Masiel (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, enlargement policy and cohesion policy are undoubtedly two of the European Union’s most valuable and influential instruments, but only if they are wisely used.

The European Council’s decision of April 2006 states that with regard to the accession of new Member States, the European Union must be in a position to maintain the momentum of European integration. The report presently before us clearly shows that the Union is not ready for the accession of Turkey, for budgetary reasons also. I shall leave aside today the problem of culture shock and European citizens’ reluctance. Turkey’s accession would decrease the Union’s GDP by 10.5% per capita. The Union is not capable of absorbing that. From an economic point of view, it would be easier for us to take in the whole of the Western Balkans, Ukraine and Belarus at once rather than to accept Turkey.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL).(PT) Mr President, economic and social cohesion, which, after all, is enshrined in the Treaties, should be the cornerstone of Community policies, and should be implemented, for example, by ensuring the redistributive nature of the Community budget. Accordingly, regional development policy is a vital instrument for promoting the reduction of regional disparities and genuine convergence, economic growth and jobs. It is supposed to work as a form of compensation for the economically least developed regions in order to offset the impact of the internal market, the euro and the liberalisation of public services and the commercialisation of goods and services.

I wish to point out that the current regional cohesion policy has undergone changes to its objectives and drastic financial cuts in the current financial framework 2007-2013. The report before us exacerbates these detrimental trends, by proposing guidelines that, if implemented, would distort and undermine a genuine cohesion policy.

As such, we oppose the proposals whereby, in order to maintain current financial resources in the context of future enlargement, the financial resources of cohesion regions and countries will be redistributed among those regions and countries themselves. It will therefore still be the economically least developed countries that will foot the bill for enlargement, whereas those benefiting most from enlargement will be the economically most developed countries. It is also proposed to replace part of financing from Community funds with increased national cofinancing, access to loans or private cofinancing; to establish a maximum period of time during which regions may receive structural funds; and to make access to cohesion policy contingent upon the implementation of a national economic policy defined on the basis of the criteria laid down in the Lisbon Strategy and the Stability and Growth Pact.

We are strongly opposed to these and other intentions, and have therefore tabled a number of amendments to this report aimed at genuinely protecting cohesion policy. We hope that these amendments will be adopted.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jan Olbrycht (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, the report we are today debating is particularly significant, as it amounts to a proposal for the European Parliament’s first statement concerning cohesion policy after 2013. It has become clear in the course of the debate that each individual sees something different in this report. Some detect statements on cohesion policy, whilst others perceive it as dealing only with enlargement and consequently with the European Union’s foreign policy.

The report poses new questions. It challenges us to define future policy. We are confronted once again with questions concerning the renationalisation of the policy and also with questions about whether cohesion policy should be aimed only at the least developed countries or whether it should also be a mechanism supporting economic growth and the creation of new jobs, as it currently is. In the later case it should also be accessible to the more active countries.

The first alternative, to focus on the poorest countries, once again raises issues concerning the criteria for identifying the weakest regions. It will therefore also involve future discussion of the Financial Perspective. A decision would be called for on whether to begin by calculating the resources required on the basis of political guidelines and on the basis of the needs arising from the criteria applied or alternatively whether to begin by establishing what resources are available and then adjust the criteria and methods of distribution accordingly.

During 2007-2013 it will probably become clear that it was wise to broaden the scope of cohesion policy to include action in support of the Lisbon Strategy, but it would be hard to undertake assessments and plan changes to that policy at present. Clearly, political decisions concerning future enlargements must take account of the conduct of cohesion policy after any such enlargement.

Future enlargements will imply changes to cohesion policy, its scope and its legal and financial instruments. Enlargements are not a threat to this policy. They are not simply an expense. Enlargements also bring certain benefits for states already in the Union. The effectiveness of cohesion policy should serve as an incentive to follow a consistent policy on integration through further enlargements. The latter must be well prepared for in terms of financial and legal instruments.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Stavros Arnaoutakis (PSE).(EL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, fifty years of European history have taught us that peace, democracy, security, stability and prosperity are consolidated through enlargement. The European Union was and must remain open to future enlargements.

However, in order to respond to this challenge, it must be efficient and functional. The performance and efficacy of Community policies and, more importantly, of the cohesion policy, the policy that expresses the principle of solidarity with the weakest groups in areas of the Union, is needed more than ever.

Nonetheless, the extent to which a future cohesion policy will make it efficient and functional will depend on the resources at its disposal. This must be clear in light of the interim review of the financial perspective for 2008-2009, because the cohesion policy is a policy that brings Europe closer to the citizens and we must give these resources in order to make it efficient.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Danutė Budreikaitė (ALDE). – (LT) The importance of the cohesion policy and the results of its implementation in the creation and deeper integration of the economies of European Union countries, and in the increase of human welfare, are beyond doubt. However, the report being considered today depicts the latest round of expansion and future new members of the EU as the source of all the EU's misfortunes.

The demand to justify the effects of Bulgaria's and Romania's entry into the EU on the basis of cohesion policy, after they have already entered the EU, goes against the principle of solidarity declared in the report.

What is important for the EU is not only the cohesion policy, but also the effects that the common agricultural policy (CAP) has on the economy and on social welfare. The amount of funds available to be distributed under the cohesion policy will depend on reform of the CAP, on EU budget reform and on the implementation of common foreign and defence policy.

The report suggests that new cohesion criteria be introduced for Candidate Countries. However, these countries have already entered membership negotiations on the basis of the ‘Copenhagen criteria’, which are well known to all.

Honourable colleagues, this report on cohesion policy has looked at cohesion separately from other EU policies, and it is tendentiously skewed against expansion, protecting the interests of rich EU Member States.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Margie Sudre (PPE-DE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, since October 2005, the European Union has been conducting accession negotiations with Croatia and Turkey without prejudging the results of this process. It has also recognised Macedonia’s status as a candidate country and the desire of the other Balkan States to become candidate countries. With the exception of the specific case of Turkey, I share this outlook. Having said that, while I am convinced that, without the Balkans, European unification would remain incomplete, I do nevertheless believe that the path will be long and full of pitfalls and, above all, that the possibility of further enlargements obliges us to provide precise and urgent solutions to three key issues, relating to the institutional, political and financial reforms that the Union urgently needs.

Firstly, we need to conclude a debate that has been sidestepped for too long by our Member States and to establish what the definitive borders of the Union will be for the future. This decision will enable us at the same time to specify the content of the privileged partnership to be proposed as part of an enhanced neighbourhood policy.

The second issue must prompt us to clarify the future of the principle of economic, social and territorial cohesion within the Union. It is unacceptable for the successive enlargements to result in an ever greater number of regions becoming ineligible for European solidarity because of mere statistics, without the existing disparities having been truly eliminated. We must think about having a more progressive model for cohesion policy, with longer transition periods, as much for the new beneficiaries as for those who are no longer entitled to it.

Finally, the last issue naturally concerns the financial reform. Given the current state of our budget, any future enlargements could not be financed without the effectiveness of the current cohesion policies being threatened. The Union needs new own resources and a budget that matches its ambitions. All of these issues can be summed up in one: do we want to provide the Union with the capacity to integrate new Member States? We need to make a decision; we have a duty of responsibility to our fellow citizens and to the countries knocking on our door.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Miloš Koterec (PSE). – (SK) I would like to thank the rapporteur for his thorough report on this issue. The European Parliament initiative in this area only confirms how important to Parliament is the proper functioning of EU systems, including cohesion policy. In my opinion the object of the report is not to look at any one enlargement in particular, but rather enlargement in general. The area addressed by the report should be viewed from at least two angles, one being the effectiveness of the European Union’s cohesion policy, and the other how enlargement may affect it, that is, how to define cohesion policy in the context of enlargement.

In the absence of any reliable assessment of the impact of EU regional development funding, we can speak only in general terms about the effects that enlargement may have on cohesion. But even if we had a sound methodology for conducting, implementing and assessing regional policy, we would not be able to manage without a professional approach on the part of the Member States as the guarantors of justice, and without transparency, a high standard of administration and restrictions on the misuse of funds. It will be interesting to see the medium-term regional policy appraisal in 2008-2009.

The Member States also need to find appropriate ways to fund European cohesion policy properly. It should not involve regions with low levels of development having to scrabble for every euro. EU policy must be objective enough to prevent it being reduced to who gets what from whom. This, however, requires adequate funding. In a resolution in 2005 the European Parliament stated clearly that the regional development budget must be significantly increased for the period 2007-2013.

The solution is to re-assess the way that the European budget is set up, failing which it will clearly be essential to see greater direct financial involvement from those Member States that are receiving assistance and are due to receive it in the future. But where does this leave our proverbial European solidarity? And finally, one more comment: cohesion policy must not fall victim to enlargement, and neither must enlargement be a hostage of cohesion policy. Ultimately, the only system that works will be one that takes account of the links between all of its components, including enlargement and cohesion.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Valdis Dombrovskis (PPE-DE). – (LV) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in taking decisions concerning enlargement of the EU, it is important to assess their impact on the EU budget. The accession to the EU of large and less economically developed countries, such as Turkey, would have a significant influence on regional policy: either it would be necessary to divide the resources up again for the benefit of new Member States, or else it would be necessary to significantly increase funding for regional policy. In either case the European Commission would have to submit detailed information on the expected impact of the enlargement on the budget and possible solutions for EU regional policy. A certain increase in resources for EU regional policy is possible. The European Parliament has supported expenditure in the next financial perspective of 1.18% of EU GNI, including 0.41% of EU GNI for the EU Funds, which is considerably more than the current 0.37%. I assume that we will need to come back to this question in the mid-term review of the financial perspective in the context of further enlargements of the EU, such as the accession of Croatia. The proposal by the rapporteur concerning differentiated cofinancing is to be welcomed. This makes provision for a greater intensity of aid for less developed regions and states. Such an approach fully complies with the goals of the EU’s regional policy and has already been endorsed in the European Parliament’s report on the financial perspective. In future, the per capita GDP of regions should serve as the main criterion in determining the availability of EU funds to regions and states. The proposal, however, to increase the share of funding from the Member States, supposedly in order to improve the effectiveness of regional policy, is worrying. We must acknowledge that the Member States’ share of cofinancing was in fact recently increased, when non-reimbursable VAT expenditure was excluded. Obtaining EU funding already involves too much bureaucracy, and so although the rapporteur’s proposals concerning more linkage between the EU Funds and the Lisbon Strategy goals, and greater transparency, are to be endorsed as a whole, they must not create extra bureaucratic obstacles to obtaining EU funding. Thank you for your attention.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Andrzej Jan Szejna (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, further enlargements of the European Union are inevitable. The impact of successive enlargements of the Union on the effectiveness of current cohesion policy is an important issue being debated at European level. Undoubtedly, measures aimed at accepting more new members into the European Community are important for deepening integration on our continent.

Nonetheless, bearing in mind the demands made on us by the Lisbon Agenda, and the fact that there are still large differences in the level of economic development and consequently in the standard of living between the European Union’s present Member States, we must approach the question of further enlargements with particular care.

The Union’s budget is not a blank cheque. It has certain limits. We are all aware how much funding has been allocated to regional policy up to 2013. Priority should be given to maintaining the processes and actions undertaken in the interests of cohesion and to levelling out living conditions across the Union. Regions must not be allowed to lose their entitlement to aid as soon as their competitiveness and level of structural change is deemed satisfactory, as a result of a statistical effect. Countries aspiring to join the European Union should be offered an attractive package of pre-accession aid that will prove effective in stimulating their economic growth and development and also structural changes before they become full beneficiaries of the cohesion policy.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, the report we are debating contains proposals for rationalising expenditure on regional development and assesses the possible implications of the accession of Turkey, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the countries of the Western Balkans to the European Union. According to the studies undertaken future enlargements of the European Union could result on the one hand, in a 35% increase in the area of the Union’s territory together with a 27% increase in the number of its citizens, and on the other hand, in an increase of Community GDP of barely 4%. This equates to a 18% drop in per capita GDP. There are therefore advantages and disadvantages to consider.

Nonetheless, the Union should develop. A decision on launching institutional, financial and political reform of the Union should be taken after reviewing the financial framework between 2008 and 2009. Assessment of the outcome of current cohesion policy will make it possible to establish when we will be able to afford subsequent enlargements. It is worth remembering, however, that every enlargement so far has always brought added value to the Union. I am confident this will continue to be the case in the future.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Danuta Hübner, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I would like to make clear that I read this report as an expression of concern about the need to maintain or, indeed, improve the effectiveness of European cohesion policy while implementing the EU’s enlargement strategy. Your debate has also provided many ideas which I will take back with me.

I would like to stress three issues that we must remember when having a discussion on cohesion policy in the context of enlargement. Firstly, the financial framework and eligibility rules for 2007-2013 have been decided and they will be applied throughout this period, irrespective of any further enlargement.

Secondly, in 2008-2009, in accordance with the European Council conclusions, there will be a review covering all aspects of EU spending and resources. This review will be carried out in close cooperation with Parliament and there will also be a broad consultation process.

Thirdly, on enlargement, I would like to reiterate that the Commission – in its communication on enlargement strategy – and the December 2006 European Council confirmed that the enlargement strategy is combined with the EU’s capacity to integrate new members. Also, the pace of the accession process will depend on the results of the reforms in the negotiating country. The entry of new Member States will always be based on their merits. This principle will be respected. We also agreed that the Union will refrain from setting any target dates for accession until negotiations are close to completion. The Commission will provide impact assessments on the key policy areas in the course of the negotiations.

I am open to new ideas, especially with regard to the need for new delivery mechanisms to improve the responsiveness of cohesion policy to a rapidly changing environment and the need for new ways of achieving further synergies between development strategies implemented at Community, national and regional level. We must ensure that our cohesion policy ties in with this favourable sustainable national growth policy, the Lisbon Strategy and the integrated guidelines for growth and jobs. I fully agree with you that we have to explore all those links further.

Finally, I would like to say that you should not expect my support for any ideas that tend to weaken the Community aspect of cohesion policy.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday at 12 noon.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Antonio De Blasio (PPE-DE), in writing. (HU) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I consider it of prime importance that the European Parliament is examining the impact of future enlargements from the perspective of cohesion policy, and that therefore new, budgetary considerations and positions can also be included in the debate about enlargement.

The background study to the report has determined that in a 34-member European Union, according to the current rules, Croatia would account for only 7% of the additional funding under the cohesion policy, while Turkey would receive 63% of the additional funds. In my opinion, therefore, the lesson we can learn is that there is no way that we can treat all the accession states on the same level.

I would like to emphasise that given its population and level of economic development, Croatia’s accession would not place a significant additional burden on the EU budget. Of the potential candidate countries examined by the report, only Croatia’s accession would not give rise to any statistical effect in relation to the eligible areas at regional and national level, that is, not a single region currently receiving support would lose its entitlement to EU financial aid.

I therefore propose that before the admission of every candidate country, we take into account how the European Union is able to integrate the state in question, and that we analyse in detail how prepared we are for a comprehensive financial reform in the interest of future enlargements. In my opinion, comprehensive reform makes sense only once we have already reached our current goals with regard to cohesion policy.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Richard Seeber (PPE-DE), in writing. – (DE) As a member of the Committee on Regional Development, I should like to extend the warmest of thanks to the rapporteur, who has succeeded in producing a critique of the aspect of regional policy relating to future enlargements of the European Union, a politically important but at the same time extremely sensitive aspect.

European regional policy must not only take account of overstretched budgets and increasing competitive pressure within the 27 Member States, but also meet the expectations of European structural policy and the Lisbon Strategy whilst also safeguarding its capacity for action.

I should like to express my particular thanks to the rapporteur for showing very clearly that the current aims of cohesion policy can only be achieved by a graduated approach to the enlargement process and by reforms to boost efficiency. In this particular context, the concept of ‘reinforced neighbourhood policy’ should be defined in more detail, and there should be an open discussion – particularly with regard to Turkey – on whether accession or a privileged partnership would make more sense for all parties concerned.

We, as MEPs and citizens’ representatives, owe it to people in not only the new, but also the old Member States to conduct a regional policy that will continue to achieve equilibrium and growth effects and thus guarantee the cohesion of the EU in future, too.

 
Last updated: 6 July 2007Legal notice