Procedure : 2016/2148(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A8-0385/2016

Texts tabled :

A8-0385/2016

Debates :

PV 15/02/2017 - 17
CRE 15/02/2017 - 17

Votes :

PV 16/02/2017 - 6.11

Texts adopted :

P8_TA(2017)0053

REPORT     
PDF 534kWORD 102k
15 December 2016
PE 587.442v02-00 A8-0385/2016

on investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds: an evaluation of the report under Article 16(3) of the CPR

(2016/2148(INI))

Committee on Regional Development

Rapporteur: Lambert van Nistelrooij

Rapporteur for the opinion (*):

Georgi Pirinski, Committee on Employment and Social Affairs

(*) Associated committee – Rule 54 of the Rules of Procedure

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
 EXPLANATORY STATEMENT
 OPINION of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (*)
 OPINION of the Committee on Budgets
 OPINION of the Committee on Transport and Tourism
 OPINION of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development
 OPINION of the Committee on Culture and Education
 RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

on investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds: an evaluation of the report under Article 16(3) of the CPR

(2016/2148(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 174 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  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 CPR’)(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 1305/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1698/2005(4),

–  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(5),

–  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(6),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 508/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014 on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Council Regulations amending Regulation (EC) Regulations (EC) No 2328/2003, (EC) No 861/2006, (EC) No 1198/2006 and (EC) No 791/2007 and Regulation (EU) No 1255/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council(7),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 2015/1017 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 June 2015 on the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the European Investment Advisory Hub and the European Investment Project Portal and amending Regulations (EU) No 1291/2013 and (EU) No 1316/2013 – the European Fund for Strategic Investments(8),

–  having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘Investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds’ (COM(2015)0639),

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 May 2016 on acceleration of implementation of cohesion policy(9),

–  having regard to its resolution of 6 July 2016 on synergies for innovation: the European Structural and Investment Funds, Horizon 2020 and other European innovation funds and EU programmes(10),

  having regard to its resolution of 26 November 2015 entitled ‘Towards simplification and performance orientation in cohesion policy 2014-2020’(11),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 26 February 2016 on ‘Investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds’,

–  having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 25 May 2016 on the Commission communication ‘Investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds’ (COM(2015)0639),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions of 8-9 July 2015 entitled ‘Outcome of the negotiations on the partnership agreements and operational programmes’,

–  having regard to the Sixth Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion (COM(2014)0473),

–  having regard to the study by its Directorate-General for Internal Policies (Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies) of June 2016 entitled ‘Maximisation of synergies between European Structural and Investment Funds and other EU instruments to attain the Europe 2020 goals’,

  having regard to the study by its Directorate-General for Internal Policies (Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies) of September 2016 entitled ‘Evaluation of the Report under Article 16(3) of the CPR’,

–  having regard to the analysis by its Directorate-General for Internal Policies (Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies) of September 2016 entitled ‘Financial instruments in the 2014-20 programming period: first experiences of Member States’,

–  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 Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on Budgets, the Committee on Transport and Tourism, the Committee on Agricultural and Rural Development and the Committee on Culture and Education (A8-0385/2016),

A.  whereas cohesion policy represents a significant part of the EU budget, amounting to approximately one third of all expenditure;

B.  whereas, with a budget of EUR 454 billion for the period 2014-2020, the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds) are the EU’s main investment policy tool and are a vital source of public investment in many Member States, resulting in more jobs, growth and investment being provided across the EU, as well as reducing disparities at regional and local level in order to promote economic, social and territorial cohesion;

C.  whereas the Partnership Agreements (PAs) form the basis for the Article 16(3) report presented by the Commission;

D.  whereas the negotiations for PAs and Operational Programmes (OPs) for the period 2014-2020 have been a modernised, strongly adjusted and intensive exercise with a new framework for performance, ex ante conditionalities and thematic concentration, but have also resulted in serious delays in the actual commencement of cohesion policy implementation, also because of shortcomings in the administrative capacity of several regions and Member States, matters being further slowed down by the procedure for designation of managing authorities;

E.  whereas it is undisputed that due to the late adoption of the regulatory framework at the end of 2013 as a consequence of the long negotiations and late agreement on the MFF, operational programmes could not be adopted on time; whereas consequently the implementation of OPs had a slow start, thereby impacting the take-up of the policy on the ground;

F.  whereas common provisions were established for all five ESI Funds, thereby strengthening the relationships between them;

G.  whereas cohesion policy is confronted in the current period with many political and economic challenges, deriving both from the financial crisis, leading to a decrease in public investment in many Member States, leaving the ESI Funds and co-financing by the Member States as the main tool for public investment in many Member States, and from the migration crisis;

H.  whereas in the programming period 2014-2020 cohesion policy has acquired a more focused policy approach, through thematic concentration and supporting the priorities and objectives of the Union;

I.  whereas the ESI Funds in the current funding period are more strongly result-oriented and are built on an investment environment that allows greater effectiveness;

J.  whereas there must be a stronger alignment of investment under cohesion policy with the priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and with the European Semester;

K.  whereas the Task Force for Better Implementation has helped ease bottlenecks and backlogs in the allocation of funds;

Sharing results, communication and visibility

1.  Notes that Europe is going through a difficult phase in economic, social and political terms, so that an effective investment policy that is oriented towards economic growth and employment, close to the citizens and more suitable for specific territorial vocations, is needed more than ever, and should seek to tackle both unemployment and social inequalities within the Union, creating European added value; believes that in order to regain the trust of its citizens the EU must initiate adjustment processes to meet the requirements laid down in Article 9 TFEU;

2.  Notes that cohesion policy over the period 2014-2020 has been thoroughly reworked, requiring a change in mentality and working methods at all levels of governance, including horizontal coordination and involvement of stakeholders as well as, to the extent possible, of Community-led Local Development (CLLD); points out that the recent forward-looking and exemplary reforms are often ignored, but that cohesion policy is still often perceived as a traditional expenditure policy rather than a development and investment policy offering tangible results;

3.  Considers that the key communication on cohesion policy projects should focus on European added value, solidarity and the visibility of success stories, while underlining the importance of exchange of best practices as well as learning from projects that fail to achieve their objectives; insists that communication on the subject of the ESI Funds should be modernised and intensified; stresses the need to identify and implement new tools for communicating the results of cohesion policy; considers it necessary to invest in regional intelligence and data gathering, as part of a continuous effort to create and update databases, taking account of local and regional needs, specificities and priorities, as in the case of the already-existing S3 platform, which would enable the interested public to effectively check the European added value of projects;

4.  Highlights the fact that in order to improve communication on and the visibility of ESI Funds, greater focus must be placed on participation by stakeholders and recipients, and on involving citizens in the design and implementation of cohesion policy in a meaningful way; additionally, urges the Commission, Member States, regions and cities to communicate more on both the achievements of cohesion policy and the lessons to be learned, and to come forward with a coordinated and targeted action plan;

Thematic concentration

5.  Welcomes thematic concentration, as it has proved a helpful tool for creating a focused policy and greater effectiveness for the EU’s priorities and the Europe 2020 strategy, enhancing the process of converting knowledge into innovation, jobs and growth; calls, therefore, on the Member States and regional and local authorities to take clear decisions on investment priorities and to select projects on the basis of priorities set for the ESI Funds, as well as to use streamlined and efficient implementation processes;

6.  Notes that an analysis of thematic concentration should point out how the strategic choices of Member States and allocation of resources across thematic objectives (TOs) meet the specific needs of the territories; regrets that this aspect is less apparent in the Commission's Article 16 report;

7.  Considers that the results and benefits of cohesion policy need to be put across more effectively, not least in order to restore confidence in the European project;

8.  Insists that cohesion policy should continue to have thematic focus, while allowing for the degree of flexibility that is sufficient in order to take on board the specific needs of each region, especially the specific needs of the less developed regions, as laid down in the regulations; calls for continued ESI Fund investment in transition regions in order to preserve what has been achieved by the resources and efforts already deployed;

9.  Underlines, in particular, that consideration should be given to the circumstances of urban or rural regions, the so-called ‘lagging regions’, transition regions and regions with permanent natural or geographical handicaps, and appropriate support policies should be drawn up for the development of these areas, which without cohesion policy might have been unable to catch up with more developed regions; calls on the Commission to pursue and expand strategies to implement the urban agenda, together with local authorities and metropolitan regions conceived as EU growth centres; recalls in this context that it is important to allow sufficient flexibility for Member States and regions to support new policy challenges, such as those relating to immigration (while keeping in mind the original and still relevant goals of cohesion policy and the specific needs of regions), as well as the broadly understood digital dimension of cohesion policy (including ICT and broadband access issues, which are linked to the completion of the Digital Single Market); draws attention to the Energy Union Strategy, the Circular Economy Strategy, and the EU’s commitments under the Paris climate change agreement, as the ESI Funds have an important role to play in delivery;

10.  Considers that more attention should be given to sub-regional areas with a considerable accumulation of challenges, often found in pockets of poverty, segregated communities and deprived neighbourhoods with an overrepresentation of marginalised groups such as Roma;

11.  Supports the gradual shift of focus from one based on major infrastructure-related projects towards one based on stimulating the knowledge economy, innovation and social inclusion, as well as on capacity building and empowering of actors, including from civil society, in cohesion policy, while taking into consideration the specific features of less developed regions that still need support in the field of infrastructural development and for which market-based solutions are not always feasible, also keeping in consideration that there should be flexibility to enable each Member State to make investments according to its priorities as laid down in the PAs in order to promote its economic, social and territorial development;

12.  Is of the opinion that the ESI Funds, including in particular the European Territorial Cooperation Programmes, should be used to create and boost quality jobs, as well as quality lifelong learning and vocational (re)training systems, including school infrastructure, to allow workers to adapt under good conditions to the changing realities of the world of work, and to stimulate sustainable growth, competitiveness and development and shared prosperity aimed at achieving a socially just, sustainable and inclusive Europe, while focusing on the least developed areas and sectors having structural problems and supporting the most vulnerable and exposed groups in society, in particular young people (in conjunction with programmes such as ERASMUS+) and those with fewest skills or qualifications, promoting greater employment through a circular economy, and preventing early school leaving; draws attention to the fact that ESF is an instrument which supports implementation of policies of public interest;

13.  Expresses concern that unemployment - in particular youth and women unemployment, as well as unemployment in rural areas - remains very high in many Member States, despite all efforts, and cohesion policy must provide answers to this too; recommends to the Commission that it pay more attention to the impact of cohesion policy on promoting employment and reducing unemployment; notes in this context that the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) has been integrated into 34 ESF programmes in the 20 eligible Member States, thus allowing unemployed young people to benefit from the YEI with the purpose to find their skills and qualifications; is concerned, however, about the delayed start to the implementation of the YEI and at the way in which the Youth Guarantee is being implemented in certain regions; urges Member States to intensify their efforts in order to achieve substantial and tangible effects rapidly and successfully from the funds invested, particularly with respect to funds made available in the form of advance payments, and that the YEI is implemented correctly and ensure decent working conditions for young workers; calls, in particular, for account to be taken of the real needs of the business community in using ESI Funds to meet training requirements, so as to create real employment opportunities and to achieve long-term employment; considers that the fight against youth unemployment, social inclusion and the future demographic challenges that Europe is facing nowadays and in the mid-term future should be the main areas where cohesion policy should be focused; calls for a continuation of the YEI beyond 2016, so as to sustain efforts to combat youth unemployment, while subjecting it to a thorough operational analysis designed to achieve the corrections necessary to make it more effective;

14.  Expresses serious concern that in the case of the Youth Guarantee scheme, which in 2014-2020 will receive a total of EUR 12.7 billion from the ESF and the special YEI, and which, on the basis of this funding, is already seen as the driving force behind efforts to boost youth employment, the Commission has not carried out a cost-benefit analysis, which is standard procedure for all major Commission initiatives; consequently there is a lack of information on the potential overall cost of implementing the guarantee throughout the EU and, as the European Court of Auditors has stressed, a risk that the total amount of funding may be insufficient;

15.  Stresses the importance of communication, particularly digital communication, through which information on potential assistance in finding training, a traineeship or work cofinanced through EU funds can reach the greatest number of young people; calls for more communication to promote such portals as DROP’PIN and EURES and to increase young people’s opportunities for mobility in the internal market, which is considered the biggest untapped potential in the fight against unemployment in the EU;

16.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that Member States comply with the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities when implementing projects supported by the ESI Funds, including the aim of fostering a shift from institutional to community living for persons with disabilities;

17.  Recalls that completion of the core TEN-T network is a European transport policy priority, and that the ESI Funds are a very important tool in the implementation of this project; emphasises the need to tap the potential of the ESI Funds in order to connect the potential of the core and comprehensive TEN-T networks with regional and local transport infrastructure; recognises the importance of the Cohesion Fund for improving infrastructure and connectivity in Europe, and insists that this fund be maintained in the new post-2020 financial framework;

18.  Emphasises that the multimodality of transport should be a vital factor in the assessment of infrastructure projects financed by the ESI Funds, but that it should not be the only criterion used to assess proposed projects, especially in the case of Member States with major investment needs in the area of transport infrastructure;

19.  Emphasises the need to maintain traditional trades, including the craft tradition and associated skills, and to establish strategies to foster growth for traditional trade entrepreneurship in order to maintain the cultural identity of the traditional trade sectors; draws attention to the importance of supporting work linked to professional training and to the mobility of young craftsmen and women;

Ex ante conditionalities

20.  Underlines that effective monitoring of ex ante conditionalities is necessary to record efforts and achievements; considers that ex ante conditionalities, in particular the one on Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3), have proved their usefulness, and suggests that they be further improved; points out that more attention should be paid to the strengthening of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises;

21.  Draws attention to the fact that a significant proportion of ex ante conditionalities have not yet been fulfilled; calls, therefore, for an analysis of the current situation and the adoption of targeted action to counteract this, while not compromising the optimal takeup of the funds or making cohesion policy less efficient;

Performance-based budgeting

22.  Emphasises that the regulatory framework for the period 2014-2020 and the PAs have led to a strongly results-oriented focus in cohesion programmes, and that this approach can be exemplary for other parts of EU budget expenditure as well; welcomes the introduction of common indicators which would allow measuring and benchmarking results; considers that work on indicators has to continue in order to improve evidence on ESI Funds spending and optimise project selection;

23.  Points out that an important innovation has been the introduction of thematic concentration, whereby investments are focused on specific objectives and priorities corresponding to performance indicators and targets specifically agreed for all the themes;

24.  Recalls that a performance reserve was introduced for each Member State, consisting of 6 % of the resources allocated to the ESI Funds; recalls that, on the basis of the national reports of 2017 and the performance review of 2019, the reserve is to be allocated only to those programmes and priorities which have achieved their milestones; calls for flexibility in the launch of new commitments from the performance reserve when the programmes have attained their targets and milestones in the coming years; asks the Commission to assess whether the performance reserve actually creates added value or whether it has led to more red tape;

The European Semester

25.  Takes note of the fact that, in the course of the programming process, Member States have found more than two thirds of the Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) that were adopted in 2014 relevant to cohesion policy investments, and welcomes the fact that they have taken this into account in their programming priorities; acknowledges that in the near future CSRs might trigger amendments to ESI Funds programmes, ensuring support for structural reforms in Member States; points out that CSRs and National Reform Programmes (NRPs) represent a clear linkage between the ESI Funds and the processes of the European Semester;

26.  Stresses the importance of establishing a balanced link between cohesion policy and the European Semester, as both work towards achieving the same aims under the Europe 2020 strategy, without prejudice to achieving the social, economic and territorial cohesion objectives in order to reduce disparities as established by the treaties; is of the opinion that we should rethink the rationale behind suspension of the ESI Funds in case of a deviation from the objectives of the European Semester, as this could be counterproductive for boosting growth and jobs;

Synergies and Financial Instruments

27.  Notes that the regulatory framework for ESI Funds for the period 2014-2020 supports financial instruments; underlines, however, that the use of grants is still indispensable; observes that there seems to be a focus on a gradual shift from grants to loans and guarantees; emphasises that this trend has been strengthened by the Investment Plan for Europe and the newly established European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI); notes also that the use of the multi-fund approach still appears to be difficult; stresses, given the complexity of these instruments, the vital importance of providing appropriate support to local and regional institutions in the training of the officials responsible for managing them; points out that financial instruments could offer solutions for efficient use of the EU budget, contributing alongside grants to bringing about investment to stimulate economic growth and create sustainable jobs;

28.  Points out that a separate agenda is being pursued with EFSI, which is presented as a success story when it comes to fast implementation and results in the form of existing operations, despite considerable shortcomings such as lack of additionality; against this background, asks the Commission to provide specific data on EFSI’s impact in terms of growth and employment and to come forward after the evaluation with learning points to enable the ESI Funds to be put to use more successfully in the new programming period from 2021 onwards; requests, in addition to the European Court of Auditors’ opinion No 2/2016,(12) an analysis of EFSI’s contributions to the objectives of the ESI Funds and a stocktaking of what EFSI has achieved in terms of its own priorities;

29.  Notes, however, the lack of evidence on the outcomes and results achieved by financial instruments and the loose link between those financial instruments and the overarching objectives and priorities of the EU;

30.  Notes that the Commission's Article 16 Report provides little information on coordination and synergies among different programmes and with instruments of other policy areas, and in particular has not always presented reliable data on the expected results of the ESF and YEI programmes; emphasises that having a common regulation for the five ESI Funds has increased synergy among them, including in the second pillar of the common agricultural policy; is convinced that synergies with other policies and instruments, including EFSI and other financial instruments, should be enhanced in order to maximise the impact of investment; stresses that state aid rules apply to the ESI Funds, but not to EFSI or Horizon 2020, and that this causes problems with regard to increasing the level of synergy among the funds, programmes and instruments; underlines the fact that in order to ensure the necessary complementarity and synergy between EFSI, the financial instruments and the ESI Funds, the question of state aid rules needs to be further examined in order to be clarified, simplified and adapted accordingly; calls on the Commission to deliver comprehensive guidance to managing authorities on combining EFSI with shared and direct management instruments, including the ESI Funds, the Connecting Europe Facility and Horizon 2020;

31.  Argues for continuing a balanced use of financial instruments where they have an added value and are not prejudicial to traditional support from cohesion policy; emphasises, however, that this should only take place after a careful assessment of the contribution of financial instruments to cohesion policy objectives; stresses that all regions must keep a diversified range of sources of financing, while subsidies remain the most suitable instruments in certain sectors for achieving growth and employment targets; asks the Commission to come forward with incentives to ensure that managing authorities are fully informed on the opportunities for using financial instruments and their scope, and to analyse the management costs of grants and of repayable assistance implemented in shared and centrally managed programmes; stresses that clear, consistent and focused rules on financial instruments to help simplify the preparation and implementation process for fund managers and recipients are key to improving their effective implementation; draws attention to the own-initiative report entitled ‘The right funding mix for Europe's regions: balancing financial instruments and grants in EU cohesion policy’;

Simplification

32.  Notes that one of the main goals of the 2014-2020 programming period is further simplification for beneficiaries of the ESI Funds, and acknowledges that simplification is one of the key factors for better access to funding;

33.  Welcomes the fact that the current modernised regulatory framework for the ESI Funds provides new possibilities for simplification in terms of common eligibility rules, simplified cost options and e-governance; regrets, however, that the Commission communication on Article 16(3) CPR does not include any specific information as regards the use of Simplified Cost Options (SCOs); underlines that there is a need for further efforts to develop the full potential of SCOs in terms of alleviating administrative burden; notes that significant simplification measures are still needed for both beneficiaries and managing authorities, focusing on public procurement, project management, and audits during and after the operations;

34.  Calls on the Commission to provide an ongoing assessment of administrative burden, including in particular components such as time, cost and paperwork in EU funding in the form of both grants and financial instruments, based on the evidence of results from the 2007-2013 period and the start of the new period as from 2014;

35.  Recommends for the prospective programming period starting in 2021 that all levels of governance work towards a system of single audit by eliminating duplicate checks among the various tiers of government; urges the Commission to clarify the range and legal status of existing guidance across the ESI Funds, as well as to develop, in close collaboration with managing authorities and all relevant audit authority tiers, a joint interpretation of audit issues; reiterates that there is a need for further steps in the area of simplification, including in particular in programmes targeted on youth, by introducing inter alia greater proportionality in controls; welcomes the preliminary outcome of the work of the High Level Group on Simplification set up by the Commission;

36.  Recommends that standard procedures be established for drawing up operational programmes and for management, especially where the numerous territorial cooperation programmes are concerned;

Administrative capacity

37.  Notes that Member States have different administrative cultures and levels of performance in their policy framework, which the ex ante conditionalities should help to overcome; stresses the need to strengthen administrative capacity as a priority in the context of cohesion policy and the European Semester exercise, particularly in Member States with low absorption of funds; notes the need to provide technical, professional and practical assistance to Member States, regions and localities during applications for funding; appreciates the impact of the Jaspers facility, and reiterates that poor investment planning results in major delays in the completion of projects and in the inefficient use of funding;

38.  Points out that the slow start of some programmes, the lack of management capacity for complex projects, the delays recorded in finalising projects, the administrative burden in the Member States, overregulation and errors in public procurement procedures are the main obstacles to the cohesion policy’s implementation; regards it as essential to identify and simplify the unnecessarily complex processes and procedures in the shared management that create additional burdens for authorities and beneficiaries; points out that administrative capacity has to be constantly improved, monitored and strengthened; is therefore of the opinion that in this regard it is necessary to exploit functional and flexible e-government solutions, as well as improved information and coordination between Member States; additionally, underlines the need for greater focus on training the administration;

39.  Points out that tailor-made regulatory frameworks, conditions and solutions (such as the Taiex Regio Peer 2 Peer exchange mechanism among the various regions) aimed at simplification can address the needs and challenges faced by different regions more effectively when it comes to administrative capacity;

European Territorial Cooperation

40.  Highlights – especially from the point of view of reducing disparities between border regions – the European added value of European Territorial Cooperation (ETC), which should be reflected in an increased level of appropriations for this cohesion policy objective, to be introduced as soon as practicable; calls at the same time on Member States to provide the necessary cofinancing; underlines the need to preserve this instrument as one of the core elements of cohesion policy after 2020;

41.  Stresses the importance of macro-regional strategies, as instruments which have proved useful for the development of territorial cooperation and the economic development of the areas concerned; highlights the decisive role of local and regional authorities for the success of the measures included in those strategies;

42.  Recommends that more intensive use be made of the modified and expanded EGTC legal instrument as the legal basis for territorial cooperation;

43.  Proposes the establishment of a permanent link between RIS3 and interregional cooperation on an EU-wide scale, preferably in the form of a permanent element of the INTERREG programme;

44.  Underlines that the concept of results orientation requires that INTERREG programmes ensure high-quality project-level cooperation and the adaptation of evaluation methods and criteria to take into account the specific nature of each programme; calls on the Commission, the Member States and the managing authorities to work together and exchange information and good practices in order to ensure that results orientation is implemented and targeted as effectively as possible, taking account of ETC specificities;

45.  Stresses the potential of using financial instruments in INTERREG programmes that, through complementing grants, help to support SMEs and develop research and innovation, by increasing investment, creating new jobs, allowing better results to be achieved and boosting the effectiveness of projects;

46.  Deplores the low public awareness and insufficient visibility of ETC programmes, and calls for more effective communication of the achievements of completed projects; calls on the Commission, the Member States and the managing authorities to establish mechanisms and broad institutionalised platforms for cooperation in order to ensure better visibility and awareness-raising; calls on the Commission to map the achievements of the ETC programmes and projects so far;

Partnership principle and multi-level governance

47.  Welcomes the code of conduct agreed during the negotiations on the current funding period, which outlines the minimum standards for a well-functioning partnership; observes that the code has improved the implementation of the partnership principle in most Member States, but regrets the fact that many Member States have centralised large parts of the negotiation and implementation of the PAs and OPs; stresses the need to actively involve regional and local authorities and other stakeholders at all stages, and therefore calls for their real participation to be guaranteed in future in the negotiation and implementation process in respect of countries’ specific structures; believes that overcentralisation and lack of trust have also played a role in the delayed implementation of ESI Funds, with some Member States and managing authorities less keen to place greater responsibility for management of EU funds in the hands of local and regional authorities;

48.  Stresses that clarification is needed from the Commission regarding the performance of Member States and regions on the Article 5 CPR principles, with an emphasis on how government can be encouraged to fully apply the partnership principle; stresses that shared ownership is a precondition for stronger recognition of EU cohesion policy;

49.  Supports the Commission’s new approach of setting up special working groups, that is to say project teams intended to ensure better management of ESI Funds in Member States, and calls for this approach to be developed further;

50.  Stresses that future cohesion policy must incorporate supporting measures to help refugees integrate successfully into the EU’s labour market, thus promoting economic growth and helping ensure general safety in the EU;

Future cohesion policy

51.  Emphasises that the ESI Funds contribute to GDP, jobs and growth in the Member States, which are essential elements to be considered in the 7th Cohesion Report expected for 2017; points out, furthermore, that substantial investments in the less developed regions also contribute to GDP in more developed Member States; is of the opinion that should Article 50 TEU be formally invoked by the UK government, the 7th Cohesion Report should also take account of the possible effects of ‘Brexit’ on structural policy;

52.  Is of the opinion that GDP might not be the only legitimate indicator for ensuring a fair distribution of funds, and that specific territorial needs and the importance of agreed programme priorities for development of the programme areas should be taken into account when deciding on the future allocation; considers it important that consideration be given in future to introducing new dynamic indicators in addition to GDP; notes that many regions in Europe are facing high rates of unemployment and a shrinking population; invites the Commission to give thought to developing and introducing a ‘demographic indicator’;

53.  Recalls that a substantial amount of public investment is made at local and regional level; stresses that the European System of Accounts (ESA) must not limit local and regional authorities’ ability to undertake necessary investments, since this would prevent Member States from putting up cofinancing for projects eligible for structural funding, thus making them unable to use this important source of funding to help find a way out of the economic crisis and kick-start growth and employment; strongly encourages the Commission to reassess the ESA's strictly annual approach, so that public expenditure financed from the ESI Funds is considered as capital investment and not merely as debt or operating expenses;

54.  Stresses that ETC, which serves the broader principle of territorial cohesion as introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, could be improved; therefore encourages all stakeholders involved in negotiations on the future policy to strengthen this dimension of territorial cohesion; calls on the Commission to give ETC the necessary importance in the 7th Cohesion Report;

55.  Considers that thematic concentration must be maintained in the future, as it has proved its viability; expects the Commission to come forward with an overview of achievements brought about by thematic concentration in cohesion policy;

56.  Is convinced that the future performance-oriented cohesion policy must be founded on data and indicators that are appropriate for measuring efforts, outcomes and impacts achieved, as well as experience at regional and local level in the area (performance-based budgeting, ex ante conditionalities and thematic concentration), as this provides clear practical guidelines for local and regional authorities – including those which have not so far attempted to apply this approach – on the implementation of its principles;

57.  Underlines that faster take-up of the available funds and a more balanced progression of expenditure during the programming cycle will be needed in future, also in order to avoid frequently turning to ‘retrospective projects’, which are often aimed at avoiding automatic decommitment at the end of the programming period; takes the view that after adoption of the general regulation and the fund-specific regulations, implementation of the OPs in the next funding period as from 2021 will be able to start more quickly, as Member States will already have experience with a performance-oriented policy after the efforts made for cohesion policy in the period 2014-2020; points out in this regard that Member States should avoid delays in appointing managing authorities for the OPs;

58.  Insists that the legislative process to adopt the next MFF should be concluded by the end of 2018, so that the regulatory framework for future cohesion policy can be adopted swiftly after that and can come into force without delay on 1 January 2021;

59.  Takes the view that cohesion policy should continue to cover all Member States and all of Europe’s regions, and that simplifying arrangements for access to EU funds is an essential prerequisite for the future success of the policy;

60.  Believes that the spirit of innovation and smart specialisation, alongside sustainable development, must remain an important driver of cohesion policy; stresses that smart specialisation should be a leading mechanism for future cohesion policy;

61.  Underlines the high risk of the accumulation of payment claims under Heading 1b in the second half of the current MFF, and calls for a sufficient level of payment appropriations to be made available on a yearly basis up to the end of the current perspective, in order to prevent a new backlog of unpaid bills; stresses, for this purpose, the need for the three EU institutions to develop and agree upon a new joint payment plan for 2016-2020, which should provide for a clear strategy to meet all payment needs up to the end of the current MFF;

62.  Recommends to the Commission that it analyse the real impact of ESI Fund investment during the previous programming period and the extent to which European objectives have been achieved through the funds invested, and that it draw conclusions in relation to positive and negative experiences, as a starting point in order to add value to the investment process;

63.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Committee of the Regions, and the governments and national and regional parliaments of the Member States.

(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. 487.

(5)

OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 259.

(6)

OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 303.

(7)

OJ L 149, 20.05.2014, p. 1.

(8)

OJ L 169, 01.07.2015, p. 1.

(9)

Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0217.

(10)

Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0311.

(11)

Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0419.

(12)

European Court of Auditors Opinion No 2/2016 concerning the proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) No 1316/2013 and 2015/1017 and the accompanying Commission evaluation in accordance with Article 18(2) of Regulation (EU) 2015/1017.


EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

Europe has been going through a difficult phase in both economic and political terms and therefore a decent investment policy close to the citizens is needed more than ever. On 14 December 2015 the Commission presented Communication COM(2015)0629, entitled "Investing in jobs and growth - maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds". This communications responds to the requirement laid down in article 16(3) of the Common Provisions Regulation (CPR).

The European Parliament is now evaluating the Communication of the Commission in this implementation report.

With a budget of 454 billion Euros for the period 2014-2020, the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds) are the European Union's (EU's) main investment policy tool. As a consequence of the financial crisis, public investments have considerably decreased, leading to ESI Funds and co-financing of the Member States being the main tool for public investment in most Member States. For some Member States ESI Funding comprises 60 to 80 percent of total public investment in the Member State. Maximising the impact of this fundamental investment tool therefore becomes essential.

Your rapporteur observes, that the key communication on our projects should not be just about spending and bookkeeping, but also be targeted on European added value and visibility of successes of Europe. He further insists that the communication on the ESI Funds should be modernised and intensified.

Whenever interesting and innovative projects receive European funding to succeed, this should be widely communicated to European citizens. Thus, the communication on the ESI Funds should be modernised and intensified.

An important element in view of future cohesion policy is the balance between objectives of the European Semester and Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) and objectives of cohesion policy (economic, social and territorial cohesion), the complementarity of which is to be further analysed.

One of the novelties that has been introduced in the CPR for the programming period 2014-2020 are the ex-ante conditionalities. The ex-ante conditionalities have been introduced in order to improve investment conditions in the European Union and its regions. In its communication the Commission states that 75 % of the ex-ante conditionalities were fulfilled at the time the programmes were approved, this means that 750 were not. By mid-July this number was brought down to 500.

Your rapporteur expects to receive in 2017 progress reports of Member States, more qualitative details/analysis on the overall progress on achieving Europe 2020 targets, in particular the milestones, as well as the functioning of the ex-ante conditionalities.

In reference to the broader idea of performance-orientation of the policy, an important improvement has been the introduction of thematic concentration, through which investments are focused on specific objectives and priorities that correspond to indicators and targets specifically set for that theme. Thematic concentration clearly contributes to the 10 priorities of the European Commission.

Cohesion policy should therefore continue to have thematic focus, though allowing for some degree of flexibility in order to take on board the specific needs of each region. Your rapporteur underlines in this context, in particular, that consideration should be given to the circumstances of the distinctively urban or rural regions, the so-called lagging regions as well as regions with certain permanent natural or geographical handicaps (northernmost regions with very low population density, cross-border, insular, mountainous or outermost regions). He also reminds, that it is important to remember of the new policy challenges, such as immigration as well as the broadly understood digital dimension of Cohesion Policy (including e.g. ICT and broadband access issues, linked to the achievement of the Digital Single Market). One important point to highlight in this respect is the Energy Union Strategy, as the ESI Funds have an important, multi-angle role in its delivery.

Simplification is an important factor in access to funding. As far as this is concerned, however, it is deplorable that still many obstacles are experienced by beneficiaries and many complicated procedures still exist.

Although the CPR provides more possibilities for the use of Financial Instruments and a multi-fund approach there is a need for further steps in the area of simplification as well as synergy with similarly-oriented EU policy instruments. Regulatory framework for ESI Funds for the programming period 2014-2020 supports the increased use of Financial Instruments. This trend has been strengthened by the Investment Plan for Europe and in particular the newly established European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). There is now a focus on a gradual shift from grants to loans and guarantees, while use of the multi-fund approach still appears to be difficult.

The EFSI, but also the SME instruments were agreed very late in the negotiation process causing that Member States did not sufficiently take these instruments into account in their programs. So far, 64 investment projects have started and 185 SME funding agreements with intermediaries have been signed under the EFSI for which 12 billion Euro has been used, triggering 100 billion Euro of new investments.

In reference to the European Territorial Co-operation (ETC) it has to be pointed out, that it is challenged by at least one important factor of not strictly political, legal or economic nature. Many regions in Europe are facing a situation of demographic change as well as shrinking population numbers in rural areas caused by young people moving away from rural areas to cities due to the many opportunities the cities offer compared to the rural areas.

Member States ought to put in place the tools needed to continuously build administrative capacity, e.g. through enhancing functional and flexible e-government solutions.

Last but not least, is important to draw attention to the fact that the high percentage of errors in the cohesion policy derives partly from the impact of other policies, such as public procurement, state aid, etc.


OPINION of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (*) (17.10.2016)

for the Committee on Regional Development

on investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds: an evaluation of the report under Article 16(3) of the CPR

(2016/2148(INI))

Rapporteur (*): Georgi Pirinski

(*) Associated committee – Rule 54 of the Rules of Procedure

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:

1.  Is surprised and concerned that, instead of the report required by Article 16(3) of the Common Provisions Regulation (CPR), the Commission has presented only a communication regarding the negotiations of partnership agreements (PAs) and operational programmes (OPs), which has no substantial effect, is lacking analysis and does not fulfil Article 16(3) requirements;

2.  Is of the opinion that the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds) must be used to create and boost quality jobs, and promote quality lifelong learning and vocational (re-)training systems to allow workers to adapt under good conditions to the changing realities of the world of work, to stimulate sustainable growth, competitiveness and development and shared prosperity aimed at a socially just, sustainable and inclusive Europe, while focusing on the least developed areas and sectors with structural problems and supporting the most vulnerable and exposed groups in society, in particular young people and those with the fewest qualifications, as well as promoting greater employment through a circular economy and renewable energies; draws attention to the fact that the European Social Fund is not entirely an investment tool, but rather an instrument which supports the implementation of policies of public interest, as well as enhancing institutional capacity of public authorities and stakeholders and efficient public administration;

3.  Takes note of the results envisaged in PAs and OPs, but regrets that in Communication (COM(2015)0639) the Commission has not always presented reliable data on the expected results of the ESF and YEI programmes, nor detailed data on the fulfilment of the requirement for both the minimum share of the ESF (Article 92 (4), CPR) and the minimum allocation for social inclusion; calls on the Member States and regional and local authorities to take the right path with regard to decisions on investment priorities and project selection based only on the clear priorities set for the ESI Funds and to use streamlined and efficient implementation processes in order to achieve cohesion policy objectives as the results have far too often fallen short of expectations; recalls that a bottom-up approach could contribute to this objective; recalls that more effective and efficient policies are needed in order to avoid overlap, redundancies, destructive administrative burden, and incoherencies;

4.  Is seriously concerned and disappointed about the late adoption of the European Social Fund (ESF) OPs and urges both the Member States and the Commission to accelerate the implementation of OPs; is of the opinion that the considerable novelties introduced for the 2014-2020 period lead to administrative difficulties despite efforts for simplification; expects the Commission to have learnt from this with a view to preventing similar delays in the future as well as enhancing the monitoring of the implementation of ESI Funds so as to ensure their effectiveness and transparency;

5.  Underlines the priority nature of the challenges that the ESF is charged with tackling, this being reflected in the sum of EUR 86.4 billion dedicated to ESF measures under the relevant thematic objectives in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy;

6.  Notes that the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) has been integrated into 34 ESF programmes in the 20 eligible Member States thus allowing unemployed young people to benefit from the YEI with the purpose of finding jobs or improving their skills and qualifications; is concerned, however, about the delayed start to the implementation of the YEI and at the way in which the Youth Guarantee is being implemented in certain regions; urges Member States to intensify their efforts in order to achieve substantial and tangible effects rapidly and successfully from the funds invested particularly with respect to funds made available in the form of advance payments and that the YEI is implemented correctly, and ensure decent working conditions for young workers; calls in particular for account to be taken of the real needs of the business community in using ESI Funds to meet training requirements, so as to create real employment opportunities and to achieve long-term employment;

7.  Expresses serious concern that in the case of the Youth Guarantee scheme, which in 2014-2020 will receive a total of EUR 12.7 billion from the European Social Fund and the special Youth Employment Initiative, and which, on the basis of this funding, is already seen as the driving force behind efforts to boost youth employment, the Commission has not carried out a cost-benefit analysis, which is standard procedure for all major Commission initiatives; consequently, there is a lack of information on the potential overall cost of implementing the guarantee throughout the EU and, as the European Court of Auditors has stressed, a risk that the total amount of funding may be insufficient;

8.  Calls on the Commission to simplify procedures for the use of youth employment funds, so that they can take help create new structures and thus benefit as many people as possible;

9.  Stresses the importance of communication, particularly digital communication, through which information on potential assistance in finding training, a traineeship or work co-financed through EU funds can reach the greatest number of young people; calls for more communication to promote such portals as DROP’PIN and EURES and to increase young people’s opportunities for mobility in the internal market, which is considered the biggest untapped potential in the fight against unemployment in the EU;

10.  Calls for a continuation of the YEI beyond 2016, so as to sustain efforts to combat youth unemployment, while subjecting it to a thorough operational analysis designed to achieve the corrections necessary to make it more effective;

11.  Asks the Commission to ensure that the specific objectives of ESF programmes relating to Europe 2020 headline targets and to the earmarked budget of 20 % of the ESF for spending on social inclusion are fully achieved by closely monitoring the correct implementation of the actions programmed;

12.  Underlines the need for greater attention to be given to employment, social, training and public administration issues in country-specific recommendations and urges Member States to better target ESF and other ESI Fund investments in addressing these issues;

13.  Regrets that that progress towards the Europe 2020 employment and anti-poverty goals have not been met; expresses particular concern that the worst results are being obtained from less developed regions or regions in transition;

14.  Underlines that EU funds should not be only used to achieve the targets of Europe 2020 but also for more structural improvements and investments in the real economy; stresses that a quantified evaluation of the effectiveness and efficiency of funds already invested must be implemented, especially assessing the effects in job creation;

15.  Insists that the ESI Funds offer a great opportunity for the EU to fund more R&D projects, an area where we lag far behind and that would have an impact on the creation of quality and sustainable employment; asks the Commission to support the role of ESI Funds in the promotion of research and innovation in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises;

16.  Recommends that the Commission actively commit ESI Funds for job creation in a low carbon economic environment with reduced pollutant emissions;

17.  Calls for continued structural fund investment in transition regions so as not to detract from what has been achieved by the resources and efforts already deployed;

18.  Stresses that the successful achievement of PA and OP objectives is greatly facilitated by the active involvement of the social partners and other relevant civil society actors in both the development process and the implementation of the projects to be carried out; calls for greater involvement of the social partners in the high-level group of independent experts instructed to monitor the simplification of European structural and investment funds for the beneficiaries thereof;

19.  Is satisfied that PAs outline coordination and synergies between ESF and other ESI funds, other EU programmes (EaSI, FEAD, EGF, Erasmus+, Life+ and Horizon 2020) and national instruments; notes that ESF alone cannot solve the complex problems affecting the labour market, the education and social policies and stresses that in spite of the expectation of economic growth, the employment level in Europe is expected to remain lower than in 2008; insists therefore that the Commission and Member States ensure holistic coordination and complementarity between different instruments in order to avoid overlapping and to achieve effective and efficient investments and better results;

20.  Calls on the Commission also to seek to harmonise definitions and rules so as to achieve greater coherence between the various funds and instruments;

21.  Notes that only rarely do ESF-supported measures generate revenue directly, and that grants are therefore the appropriate tool for their implementation, while certain financial instruments, such as loans and guarantees, could be a useful complementary tool for certain ESF interventions with a possible leverage effect;

22.  Underlines the importance of making ESF investments more attractive to beneficiaries through the use of simplified cost options (SCOs), and welcomes the increase in the SCO-covered amounts envisaged for the 2014-2020 period, from 7 % to 35 %; calls on the Commission to continue these efforts to make wider use of simplified options; calls on the Member States to reduce the bureaucratic obstacles in order to achieve more effective implementation of the ESF;

23.  Calls on the Commission to improve simplification for beneficiaries, and for more precise targeting to meet their objectives bearing in mind the specific needs and particularities of Member States; calls moreover on the Member States to also make an effort in this area;

24.  Underlines the need to guarantee sufficient administrative capacity before investments are made, considering the fact that more EU funds do not mean more growth; a point is reached where returns begin to decline and additional funds do not lead to higher growth;

25.  Recommends that the Commission develop and establish a user-friendly portal that provides a brief description of all funding options at EU level and links to the webpage of each individual programme;

26.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that resources dedicated to technical assistance at the initiative of the Commission are focused exclusively on support for overcoming the various obstacles to ESF/YEI implementation and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the use of ESIF investments, including through the improvement of absorption rates as well as on the successful fulfilment of remaining ex ante conditionalities; stresses the importance of tackling the wasteful use of EU funds and looks forward to the results of the reform of the structural and investment funds, in particular of the ex ante conditionality;

27.  Calls on the Commission to analyse carefully the real impact of investing EU funds during the previous programming period and to draw conclusions regarding the positive and negative outcomes of the PAs and OPs; the same should be done for the future programming period; a portal summarising statistics on projects already approved is necessary to avoid fragmented information.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

Date adopted

12.10.2016

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

43

2

7

Members present for the final vote

Laura Agea, Guillaume Balas, Brando Benifei, Mara Bizzotto, Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Enrique Calvet Chambon, David Casa, Ole Christensen, Martina Dlabajová, Lampros Fountoulis, Elena Gentile, Arne Gericke, Marian Harkin, Czesław Hoc, Danuta Jazłowiecka, Agnes Jongerius, Rina Ronja Kari, Jan Keller, Ádám Kósa, Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, Jean Lambert, Jérôme Lavrilleux, Jeroen Lenaers, Verónica Lope Fontagné, Javi López, Morten Løkkegaard, Thomas Mann, Dominique Martin, Anthea McIntyre, Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, Emilian Pavel, João Pimenta Lopes, Georgi Pirinski, Marek Plura, Terry Reintke, Anne Sander, Sven Schulze, Siôn Simon, Jutta Steinruck, Romana Tomc, Yana Toom, Ulrike Trebesius, Marita Ulvskog, Renate Weber, Tatjana Ždanoka, Jana Žitňanská

Substitutes present for the final vote

Deirdre Clune, Tania González Peñas, Dieter-Lebrecht Koch, Neoklis Sylikiotis, Flavio Zanonato

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

Raymond Finch

FINAL VOTE BY ROLL CALL IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

43

+

ALDE

 

EFDD

GUE/NGL

Green/EFA

PPE

 

S&D

Enrique Calvet Chambon, Martina Dlabajová, Marian Harkin, Morten Løkkegaard, Yana Toom, Renate Weber

Laura Agea

Tania González Peñas, Rina Ronja Kari, João Pimenta Lopes, Neoklis Sylikiotis

Jean Lambert, Terry Reintke, Tatjana Zdanoka

David Casa, Deirdre Clune, Danuta Jazłowiecka, Dieter-Lebrecht Koch, Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, Ádám Kósa, Jérôme Lavrilleux, Jeroen Lenaers, Verónica Lope Fontagné, Thomas Mann, Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, Marek Plura, Anne Sander, Sven Schulze, Romana Tomc

Guillaume Balas, Brando Benifei, Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Ole Christensen, Elena Gentile, Agnes Jongerius, Jan Keller, Javi López, Emilian Pavel, Georgi Pirinski, Siôn Simon, Jutta Steinruck, Marita Ulvskog, Flavio Zanonato

2

-

EFDD

NI

Raymond Finch

Lampros Fountoulis

7

0

ECR

ENF

Arne Gericke, Czesław Hoc, Anthea McIntyre, Ulrike Trebesius, Jana Žitňanská, Mara Bizzotto

Dominique Martin

Key to symbols:

+  :  in favour

-  :  against

0  :  abstention


OPINION of the Committee on Budgets (11.10.2016)

for the Committee on Regional Development

on investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of the European Structural and Investment Funds: an evaluation of the report under Article 16(3) of the CPR

(2016/2148(INI))

Rapporteur: Daniele Viotti

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.  Is concerned by the delays in the adoption of operational programmes and the designation of managing, paying and certifying authorities under cohesion policy that led to a slow start-up of the projects and an extremely low level of absorption of cohesion policy in the first three years of the current programming period; considers that the utmost effort needs to be made to ensure that the new programmes start without delay at the beginning of each programming period, and calls in this context for a timely agreement on the next multiannual financial framework (MFF);

2.  Underlines the high risk of the accumulation of payment claims under Heading 1b in the second half of the current MFF and calls for a sufficient level of payment appropriations to be made available on a yearly basis until the end of the current perspective in order to prevent a new backlog of unpaid bills; stresses, for this purpose, the need for the three EU institutions to develop and agree upon a new joint payment plan for 2016-2020, which should provide for a clear strategy to meet all payment needs until the end of the current MFF;

3.  Notes the contribution of the ESI Funds in supporting the implementation of the country-specific recommendations; stresses that Article 23 of the Common Provision Regulation must only be used as a last resort and that Parliament must be fully involved from the early stages; notes in this context the Commission's proposal on the establishment of the Structural Reform Support Programme that will be partly financed through the transfer to the programme of technical assistance funding under cohesion policy;

4.  Underlines the stronger focus on the performance of ESI Funds in the current MFF; believes that the future performance framework in the next perspective should build on the results of a thorough evaluation of the functioning of the current arrangement;

5.  Concludes that significant EU budget performance and efficiency gains can be achieved through simplification of ESI Funds for both beneficiaries and managing authorities, including application (public procurement), implementation (project management) and control (audits during and after the project); calls on the Commission to encourage the High Level Expert Group to work in a spirit of exploration and non-conventional solutions, instead of operating under limitations;

6.  Notes that, in the current MFF, financial instruments play an increased role as a complementary form of funding as compared to subsidies and grants; believes, however, that they should not replace grants as the core tool for ESI Funds; stresses that their implementation must be effective, transparent and always subject to full parliamentary scrutiny, without any prejudice to the unity of the EU budget;

7.  Expects the Commission to present to Parliament at the earliest opportunity a detailed assessment of the complementarity, additionality and synergies achieved so far between the ESI Funds and the EFSI, and calls for steps to be taken to ensure full coherence and synergies between the ESI Funds and other EU instruments;

8.  Welcomes significant progress and results of the existing EFSI operations; considers that the revision of the EFSI Regulation will provide an opportunity to further improve the EFSI’s performance, inter alia by: enabling non-participating regions through on-the-ground technical assistance to induce regionally balanced demand and project operations; comprehensive guidance to managing authorities on combining EFSI with shared and direct management instruments; accelerating the creation of investment platforms in the Member States – a meeting point for public funds and private financing; rebalancing sector investment, especially in view of the largest investment shortfalls; higher risk profile of approved investment projects; and full-scale data and information on the progress of the SME window, including utilisation of financial products by SMEs;

9.  Stresses that an adequate response to migration has become one of the main challenges for Europe; underlines the potential of the contribution of ESI Funds in this context, especially bearing in mind the scarce financial resources in the EU budget in general; encourages the Member States to use cohesion policy funding to promote the integration of asylum seekers and refugees into society; calls on the Commission to enable a swift change of operational programmes for this purpose if needed;

10.  Calls on the Commission to keep the budgetary authority informed about the possible budgetary consequences of Brexit for the ESI Funds in the EU-27 in the current programming period.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

Date adopted

11.10.2016

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

29

5

0

Members present for the final vote

Nedzhmi Ali, Jonathan Arnott, Jean Arthuis, Richard Ashworth, Reimer Böge, Lefteris Christoforou, Jean-Paul Denanot, Gérard Deprez, José Manuel Fernandes, Eider Gardiazabal Rubial, Jens Geier, Esteban González Pons, Ingeborg Gräßle, Iris Hoffmann, Monika Hohlmeier, Bernd Kölmel, Zbigniew Kuźmiuk, Vladimír Maňka, Ernest Maragall, Siegfried Mureşan, Jan Olbrycht, Urmas Paet, Paul Rübig, Petri Sarvamaa, Patricija Šulin, Eleftherios Synadinos, Isabelle Thomas, Inese Vaidere, Daniele Viotti, Auke Zijlstra

Substitutes present for the final vote

Derek Vaughan

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

Daniela Aiuto, Edouard Ferrand, Afzal Khan


OPINION of the Committee on Transport and Tourism (12.10.2016)

for the Committee on Regional Development

on Investing in Jobs and Growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds: an evaluation of the report under Article 16(3) of the CPR

(2016/2148(INI))

Rapporteur: Kosma Złotowski

SUGGESTIONS

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

1.  Notes the significant contribution made by the European Structural and Investment Funds to the construction of an up-to-date, efficient, low-emission and safe European transport network; stresses the need for complementarity and better synergies in implementing EU funds to promote combined funding and to increase the leverage effect of EU financial instruments in the transport sector; notes the need to intensify efforts and establish joint monitoring committees to strengthen the synergies between the ESI Funds, the Connecting Europe Facility, the European Fund for Strategic Investments and the H2020 programme in the transport sector; points out the need for the various needs of the Member States and regions to be taken into account under the various funds and networks;

2.  Emphasises that the European Structural and Investment Funds have become the main – and, in countries hit hard by the crisis, an important – source of investment, and that they are becoming not only a key instrument to eliminate transport infrastructure disparities at regional and national level in order to promote social and territorial cohesion, but also a vital lever when it comes to maintaining business and jobs in the transport and tourism sectors; underlines that the co-funding of transport infrastructure projects should be oriented towards reducing traffic accidents and minimising external costs;

3.  Stresses the importance of citizens’ participation, transparency and the sustainability of national general transport plans, as well as of sustainable urban mobility plans and their coordination at the national and EU levels, especially between neighbouring Member States, in the completion of cross-border transport plans and the missing cross-border sections and the establishment of a coherent vision of the development of individual modes of transport; calls on the Member States to improve coordination between their national transport plans and the TEN-T targets and deadlines; urges the Commission to bring in a specific mechanism to step up the coordination between EU planning and the national plans;

4.  Stresses the need to use European Structural and Investment Funds, in synergy with the Connecting Europe Facility and the European Fund for Strategic Investments, to fill the gaps and remove the bottlenecks that exist between completed infrastructure projects and act as a brake on improving economic and social cohesion, particularly in cross-border regions and the outermost regions set out in Article 349 TFEU, including dismantled and abandoned regional rail connections (missing links); recalls that ESI Funds can be used for investment in smart mobility and intelligent transport systems (ITS), and in particular sustainable public transport in cities and regions;

5.  Points out that there is a particular need to maximise the contribution of the structural funds when it comes to achieving the objectives of the EU Urban Agenda; calls on the Commission to earmark appropriate funds to support Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans and projects for sustainable, accessible, safe and intermodal public transport and transport terminals; emphasises that integrated territorial investment is important in order to build a comprehensive, energy-efficient and passenger-friendly public transport network;

6.   Notes the need to provide technical, professional and practical assistance to Member States, regions and localities during applications for funding, at the planning level and during implementation of the most capital-intensive infrastructure projects, to guarantee optimum quality and costs in order to remedy the lack of expertise in Member States; observes that knowledge of the EU’s funding instruments and of the associated application procedures in the Member States ought to be improved with the Commission’s assistance in order that funding can be distributed on an equal footing and effectively; appreciates the impact of the Jaspers facility and reiterates that poor investment planning results in major delays in the completion of projects and in the inefficient use of funding;

7.  Recalls that completion of the core TEN-T network is a European transport policy priority and that structural and investment funds are a very important tool in the implementation of this project; emphasises the need to tap the potential of the European Structural and Investment Funds to connect the potential of the core and comprehensive TEN-T networks with regional and local transport infrastructure; recognises the importance of the Cohesion Fund for improving infrastructure and connectivity in Europe and insists that this fund be maintained in the new post-2020 financial framework;

8.  Calls on the Commission to take into account the main features of long-term investments in transport infrastructure; emphasises that investments in sustainable transport infrastructure require a substantial public input and might be less attractive for the private sector as they yield too low or uncertain a return on investment;

9.  Recalls that funds allocated to financing the ‘Connecting Europe’ facility (CEF) were heavily depleted in order to recapitalise the European Fund for Strategic Investments; recalls that transport remains a top priority of the European Fund for Strategic Investments and calls for these funds to be used to finance sustainable transport infrastructure projects, with a particular focus on rail infrastructure; strongly requests that the cuts in the CEF to finance the EFSI programme be restored within the framework of the revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework; draws attention to the possibility of combining EFSI financial instruments with ESI Funds on a single project;

10.  Emphasises that the multimodality of transport should be a vital factor in the assessment of infrastructure projects financed by the European Structural and Investment Funds, but that it should not be the only criterion used to assess proposed projects, especially in the case of Member States with major investment needs in the area of transport infrastructure;

11.  Stresses that funding under the cohesion policy, job creation, sustainable development and the implementation of innovative technologies are exceptionally important for the construction and development of transport infrastructure in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and in other countries, particularly in Europe’s less developed regions; calls for the necessary resources to be secured and for the level of financing to be maintained in the next Multiannual Financial Framework, and also for support to be maintained for the interconnection and investment projects in the modernisation of roads, railways and navigable waterways;

12.  Recalls that the European Structural and Investment Funds and the Connecting Europe Facility are central to the development of maritime region transport infrastructure, particularly in the outermost regions, in order to offset the lack of maritime links between the island regions and the internal market; notes therefore the importance of ensuring resources for the development of the motorways of the sea and maritime infrastructure;

13.  Calls for increased efforts to be made with regard to cutting down on wastage and spending European Structural and Investment Funds more effectively when it comes to airport infrastructure;

14.  Notes that there are major disparities in the level of development and use of inland waterway transport in the Member States; emphasises the need for the European Structural and Investment Funds to be used to bridge this gap;

15.  Notes that major administrative barriers to accessing European Structural and Investment Funds exist, particularly for SMEs; underlines that excluding ESI Funds from the state aid rules will significantly facilitate access to ESI Funds for SMEs and local entrepreneurships facing major administrative barriers; stresses that the Structural and Investment Funds are of particularly great importance for the purpose of facilitating small and medium-sized local and regional infrastructure investments which are important for people’s everyday lives; calls for more flexibility in the preparation of guidelines and in the assessment of completed infrastructure projects which have received funding from this source; calls for more flexibility regarding the thematic concentration establishing ESI Funds’ investment priorities, taking into account the fact that such thematic concentration should not limit local authorities to investment in transport infrastructure; stresses that specific measures must be put in place to simplify the administrative formalities;

16.  Stresses the need for support for the digitisation of the transport system, and in this context underlines the importance of ensuring funds for SMEs;

17.  Underlines the fact that the thematic concentration establishing ESI Funds’ investment priorities might limit the capacity of local authorities to invest in transport infrastructure, especially in the more developed regions where at least 80 % of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) resources at national level are to be allocated to two or more of thematic objectives 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the Common Strategic Framework (CSC); calls therefore on the Commission to grant regions greater flexibility in deciding on which priorities they want to focus; stresses that objective 7 of the CSC, ‘Promoting sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks in key network infrastructures’, should be taken into account as a key action of the ERDF;

18.  Takes the view that countries with economic problems find it very hard to co-finance European projects owing to the strict manner in which the Stability and Growth Pact is applied when calculating the government deficit; urges the Commission to be more flexible in assessing national investment for the co-financing of European TEN-T transport project commitments when it comes to calculating the government deficit;

19.  Calls for better information and cooperation with the Member States with a view to strengthening the administrative capacity of the European Structural and Investment Funds so as to ensure that the local and national authorities managing these funds are as efficient as possible;

20.  Calls for the broader inclusion of local and regional authorities, as well as of the social partners in the transport sector, in the processes of designing national general and master transport plans and allocating resources for infrastructure projects, particularly in cross-border regions;

21.  Suggests the inclusion in the European Semester of a chapter to monitor coherence between national investment in transport infrastructure and the TEN-T objectives;

22.  Takes the view that indicators should be found that will guarantee the fair distribution of European funds while also taking account of specific territorial needs; points out that more efficient transport development can be achieved only through European territorial cooperation and the smart distribution of funds.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

Date adopted

11.10.2016

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

40

4

1

Members present for the final vote

Daniela Aiuto, Lucy Anderson, Marie-Christine Arnautu, Inés Ayala Sender, Georges Bach, Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, Deirdre Clune, Michael Cramer, Luis de Grandes Pascual, Andor Deli, Karima Delli, Isabella De Monte, Jacqueline Foster, Dieter-Lebrecht Koch, Merja Kyllönen, Miltiadis Kyrkos, Bogusław Liberadzki, Peter Lundgren, Marian-Jean Marinescu, Georg Mayer, Gesine Meissner, Cláudia Monteiro de Aguiar, Renaud Muselier, Markus Pieper, Salvatore Domenico Pogliese, Tomasz Piotr Poręba, Gabriele Preuß, Christine Revault D’Allonnes Bonnefoy, Dominique Riquet, Massimiliano Salini, David-Maria Sassoli, Claudia Schmidt, Jill Seymour, Claudia Țapardel, Keith Taylor, Pavel Telička, Wim van de Camp, Elissavet Vozemberg-Vrionidi, Roberts Zīle, Kosma Złotowski, Elżbieta Katarzyna Łukacijewska

Substitutes present for the final vote

Knut Fleckenstein, Maria Grapini

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

Olle Ludvigsson


OPINION of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (14.10.2016)

for the Committee on Regional Development

on investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of the European Structural and Investment Funds: an evaluation of the report under Article 16(3) of the CPR

(2016/2148(INI))

Rapporteur: Viorica Dăncilă

SUGGESTIONS

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

1.  Takes note of the Commission communication regarding negotiations of partnership agreements (PAs) and operational programmes (OPs) as required by Article 16(3) of the Common Provisions Regulation (CPR);

2.  Is of the opinion that the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds), which include the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), are crucial investment tools, and are the main financing vehicles for boosting rural development in many Member States; points out that complementarity and additionality among those funds is essential for establishing the conditions for job creation and growth in rural areas; stresses that POSEI is chiefly responsible for creating direct and indirect agricultural sector jobs for the outermost regions, and strongly supports the updating of its budget to respond to the specific characteristics and constraints of these regions, in line with the provisions set out in Article 349 TFEU;

3.  Emphasises how important it is that the development needs of rural areas are adequately taken into account in partnership agreements, and that the provisions of partnership agreements in this area are transposed into the various cohesion policy operating programmes;

4.  Takes the view that rural areas, in particular the least developed areas, can make a significant contribution to increasing employment and reducing poverty by boosting investment in innovation and education and making them more competitive, thereby guaranteeing generational renewal; takes the view, therefore, that in order to guarantee economic growth in rural areas, any cutting or freezing of the funding allocated to those areas must be avoided; rejects any freezing or cutting of aid from the ESI Funds as enforcement action for failing to comply with the deficit targets, without taking into account the socioeconomic impact of those measures;

5.  Stresses that the ESI Funds should contribute to the development of infrastructure in rural areas, and in particular to promoting the expansion of broadband, developing and modernising the agri-food sector, and improving access to funding for SMEs in this sector; takes the view that many of the current CAP instruments should be used to implement targeted investments successfully and efficiently;

6.  Emphasises the role of agriculture in providing jobs and in preserving the countryside;

7.  Underlines that the new EAFRD builds on the previous programming periods by providing flexibility to better address specific territorial needs and broadening the objectives to six EU priorities for rural development divided into 18 focus areas, all of which contribute to the three cross-cutting objectives of innovation and environment/climate change mitigation and adaptation; stresses that fostering technological and social innovation in the coming financial periods is a key to sustainable and competitive European agriculture; also stresses that the ESI Funds should first and foremost target investments that are likely to boost the business cycles;

8.  Recalls the important contribution of the EAFRD to climate protection and the target of spending at least 20 % of the EU budget on climate action;

9.  Points to the importance of the EAFRD for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises;

10.  Regrets that the budget initially allocated for the current programming period under Pillar II was EUR 99.6 billion, which represents a sharp decrease in real terms compared with the previous period; stresses the added value of multi-fund financing and insists on the need to harmonise the rules on the synergy of funds;

11.  Is concerned by the long adoption process of the Rural Development Programmes (RDPs); expects the Commission, the Member States and regions to have drawn lessons from this process with a view to preventing similar delays in the future; points out that the delays in adopting the RDPs and in awarding payments to farmers are contributing to the worsening crisis in the agricultural sector, and calls on the Commission and the Member States to introduce transitional measures to safeguard farmers’ access to financing;

12.  Points out that the late adoption of the RDPs has inevitably delayed the publication of notices concerning specific measures and sub-measures, and that this has caused considerable inconvenience to farmers;

13.  Believes that one of the reasons for the delays lies in the fact that RDPs, because they have to encompass several levels and varying degrees of detail, are drafted in an overly fragmented form and that this adds to the work entailed in the practical management of assistance, thus running counter to the desired aims of simplification and clarity in the rules;

14.  Believes that priority should be given in the RDP to proposed projects that have a direct impact on agricultural development, taking care to ensure that this programme does not include projects that, while they are intended for rural areas, could be included in other European programmes;

15.  Emphasises once again the important role played by young people and women in rural areas; regrets that on average only 28 % of farms in Europe are run by women, while female entrepreneurship represents an important pillar in social, economic and environmental terms for sustainable development in rural areas; notes that, particularly in rural areas, women and young people are among the groups whose situation is the most precarious, with a high rate of unemployment; stresses the importance of RDPs that support agricultural employment, particularly in terms of quality job creation for young people and women; calls on the Commission to support and encourage access for women in rural areas to the labour market as a priority in their future development policies; calls on the Member States to fully reinforce and promote the gender dimension in the implementation of rural development programmes and for particular attention to be paid to projects aimed at integrating young people, thus encouraging them to take up farming as a career and enabling generational turnover;

16.  Recalls that rural areas in the EU are facing a whole range of long-lasting problems –depopulation, ageing of the remaining population, lack of social services and other socio-economic problems – that should be taken as a core priority in European cohesion policies funded with the ESI Funds;

17.  Welcomes the higher allocation by the Member States and regions of funds for environmental measures and for physical investments aimed at boosting competitiveness and sustainable development of rural areas; expects that those measures, together with the services which managers of the countryside provide to the benefit of climate policy and biodiversity strategy, will have a long-lasting impact and high economic leverage fostering efficient additionality between the various funds; highlights the importance of introducing the risk-management instrument as part of the EAFRD, and calls on the Member States to support the setting-up of mutual funds and insurance premiums with a view to removing vulnerabilities in the agricultural sector; notes furthermore that ensuring productivity and therefore competitiveness in the long term depends very much on investing in environmental aspects of farming and sustainable management of soil, water and biodiversity, such as soil erosion prevention, efficient nutrient cycling, optimal pollination, topsoil creation and integrating agroforestry and sustainable forest management to build resilience to climate change and to further develop a strong bioeconomy; notes that farmers are less able to invest in these kinds of measures themselves while their incomes are being squeezed in the current economic situation, which makes EU and Member State funding vital to enable a response to increasing challenges, such as future productivity, prosperity, food security and climate change;

18.  Calls on the Commission to guarantee easier and geographically balanced access to funding, according particular priority to undertakings and cooperatives in rural and structurally disadvantaged areas, and to projects seeking to promote territorial cohesion and the networking of rural areas;

19.  Highlights that the measures of the rural development funding directed at fostering innovation and investment in emerging technologies and precision farming should be substantially reinforced in order to enhance the competitiveness of European enterprises in rural areas;

20.  Maintains that projects financed under RDPs must genuinely meet the need to create growth and employment, and calls on the Commission and managing authorities to draw up ex ante and ex post assessments of the added value and the economic and social impact of the projects and operations financed;

21.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that mechanisms are in place to correlate production and sales prices and thus ensure that the main beneficiaries of CAP financing are agricultural producers;

22.  Considers that the EAFRD was not fully taken advantage of by some Member States and regions owing to the increased complexity and control requirements imposed by the Commission, and therefore calls for a centralised, digital system to be introduced at European level, thus enabling accounting issues to be identified; asks the Commission to ensure that all parties are in due time informed about the renewed EAFRD structure and to actively facilitate the uptake and visibility of these funds;

23.  Stresses the importance of adjustments to the ESI Funds that will enhance their applicability to the outermost regions, boosting the economy and local employment in these areas that are characterised by distance, remoteness, dispersion and small size, and that consequently require particular attention in relation to creating and preserving jobs;

24.  Notes that some Member States or regions, sometimes those most in need of rural development, do not promote participation in schemes, nor in some cases even offer schemes which are needed in their territories;

25.  Calls on the Commission to strengthen its role for the purpose of exchanging and disseminating best practice among Member States and regions regarding the use of the EAFRD;

26.  Calls on the Member States, regions and the Commission to efficiently and fully implement the EAFRD and avoid gold-plating or adding unnecessary procedures; underlines that oriented advisory services and continuous monitoring and assistance are essential in the operational programmes to support farmers, forest holders and rural communities for the purpose of efficient and transparent implementation; asks the Commission to continue the simplification of the CAP while not decreasing the scope of the RDPs, and thus to reduce unnecessary administrative burdens and red tape without compromising policy objectives, and, where feasible and necessary, to adapt the basic legislation to this effect so as to allow for quick and easy access to European funding, especially for small farms, with a view to achieving the CAP objectives; calls on the Commission and the Member States to ensure that sufficient resources are dedicated to successful fulfilment of remaining ex ante conditionalities; is concerned that excessive bureaucracy and complex rules are making CAP-based financing less attractive; hopes that simplification will be achieved without delay;

27.  Welcomes the establishment by the Commission of the High Level Group of Independent Experts on Monitoring Simplification for Beneficiaries of the European Structural and Investment Funds, with the aim of reducing the administrative burden for beneficiaries of these funds, including the EAFRD; hopes that the group’s reports will make it possible to identify practical ways to implement further simplification of European funds and to make them easier to access;

28.  Stresses that, in order to improve the environment for investment in the EU, the necessary structural reforms must be carried out and bureaucracy reduced;

29.  Is concerned that measures to help farmers manage risks and to set up producer groups were not included in many programmes that could support farmers to better react to increased market volatility;

30.  Considers that the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development has the necessary technical knowledge and overview of rural and agricultural issues and is therefore the natural manager of the RDPs, and urges the Commission to ensure that staffing levels are in place to ensure proper implementation and auditing of the CAP;

31.  Stresses that the successful achievement of PA and OP objectives is greatly facilitated by active involvement of the local and regional levels and of the Local Action Groups (LAGs) and other relevant stakeholders on the ground such as cooperatives, trade associations and POs in ensuring that projects are successfully embedded in their local areas and effectively operated; welcomes the success of Community-led local development (CLLD) instruments and the expertise of LAGs in project management at local level; calls on the Commission and RDP managing authorities to consult stakeholders regularly from the planning of RDPs to their implementation;

32.  Calls on the Commission to adopt a set of guidelines in order to show the agri-food industry the funding options available under the ESI Funds, in combination with the new European Fund for Strategic Investments;

33.  Calls on the Commission, furthermore, to seek to harmonise definitions and rules in order to provide greater coherence among the funds and instruments;

34.  Calls for action to improve awareness among the Member States of the need to boost mechanisms for initial and further training in agriculture, by means of European Social Fund resources and programmes such as the Youth Guarantee, for example.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

Date adopted

13.10.2016

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

36

3

0

Members present for the final vote

John Stuart Agnew, Clara Eugenia Aguilera García, Eric Andrieu, Daniel Buda, Nicola Caputo, Viorica Dăncilă, Michel Dantin, Paolo De Castro, Albert Deß, Diane Dodds, Norbert Erdős, Edouard Ferrand, Luke Ming Flanagan, Beata Gosiewska, Martin Häusling, Anja Hazekamp, Esther Herranz García, Jan Huitema, Elisabeth Köstinger, Urszula Krupa, Zbigniew Kuźmiuk, Philippe Loiseau, Giulia Moi, Ulrike Müller, James Nicholson, Maria Noichl, Marijana Petir, Jens Rohde, Bronis Ropė, Jasenko Selimovic, Czesław Adam Siekierski, Marc Tarabella, Marco Zullo

Substitutes present for the final vote

Angélique Delahaye, Karin Kadenbach, Hannu Takkula, Estefanía Torres Martínez, Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso, Miguel Viegas


OPINION of the Committee on Culture and Education (14.10.2016)

for the Committee on Regional Development

on investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds: an evaluation of the report under Article 16(3) of the CPR

(2016/2148(INI))

Rapporteur: Nikolaos Chountis

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 the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) are the EU Cohesion Policy’s main financial instruments for achieving the objective of a more prosperous, balanced and solidary Union, as well as the Europe 2020 strategy headline targets for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, by improving the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the EU; underlines that the aim of the ESIF funds is to support strategic investments in key areas such as infrastructure, education, research and innovation; underlines the potential of the efficient use of the ESIF funds, especially the European Social Fund (ESF), to address structural and long-term unemployment, foster social inclusion and promote better education for all, especially for young people with poor qualifications, NEETs and those from disadvantaged backgrounds; welcomes in this regard the reinforced role of the ESF in 2014-2020, as equal access to quality formal and non-formal education, training and lifelong learning opportunities is one of the key priorities in delivering genuine convergence and reducing disparities and socio-economic inequalities among Member States, regions and territories in the EU; stresses that, to this end, effective, properly resourced, highly accessible public education systems and sustainable, high-quality jobs for young people are essential for reaching out to every stratum of European society;

2.  Regrets that the overall level of the MFF 2014-2020 is lower than that of the MFF 2007-2013; stresses that in a period of austerity policies and extreme fiscal adjustments, pressure on Member States' budgets increases; highlights the fact that such pressure has led to a decrease, in some Member States, in public financing for education and has generated high and persistent unemployment, especially among young people;

3.  Encourages the Member States to make the best use of the enhanced flexibility and results-orientation of the current programming period of the cohesion policy in order to increase its added value; underlines that it is necessary to adopt measures to optimise the use of the ESIF funds through investment in relevant infrastructure in order to promote solidarity, job creation and lasting employment, education, culture and sports, the provision of high-quality public services, environmental justice and a reduction in unemployment and social exclusion; expresses concern that possible suspension of payments by the ESIF funds will negatively affect Member States facing difficulties and substantial cuts in their cultural and education sectors;

4.  Notes that the ESIF targets areas that foster an environment conducive to job creation such as those of education, training and the cultural and creative industries by supplementing national budgets and compensating for decreasing investment levels;

5.  Calls on the Member States to use the ESIF funds to their full potential by enhancing the added value and results-orientation of their projects and by providing sufficient and appropriate information to potential beneficiaries, including those from the education, culture and sport sectors;

6.  Stresses that, according to the 2015 Education and Training Monitor's findings, there is an urgent need to improve the inclusiveness, quality and relevance of education in the EU in order to ensure sustainable growth, boost productivity, address structural and long-term unemployment, promote fair mobility and foster social inclusion; calls on the Member States to promote and support projects targeting education systems, teachers and trainers, and learners of all ages, in particular those from vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, by making efficient use of the resources available under the ESIF funds, especially the ESF, in conjunction with other EU tools such as Erasmus+ and the European Territorial Cooperation programmes;

7.  Recalls that two million companies will be directly supported by the ESI Funds with a view to boosting their competitiveness and increasing their research and innovation capacity; welcomes the fact that almost 15 million households will have access to high-speed broadband thanks to European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) support, while almost 20 million people in rural areas will have new or improved ICT services or infrastructure with the support of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD);

8.  Stresses the importance of the Structural and Investment Funds for improving pre-school, educational and university infrastructure with a view to improving the quality of training and modernising education and training systems so as to offer young people the skills and qualifications that will enable them to find a job and to help workers improve their skills and qualifications;

9.  Emphasises the huge innovation and employment potential of renewable energy sources, given the search for greater resource efficiency and energy efficiencies; calls on the Commission to develop a specific energy and environmental strategy for regional development with a view also to boosting education and employment;

10.  Is of the opinion that a broader investment strategy is needed which should cover the full cycle of education and training, encompassing all sectors of lifelong learning, work-based learning and formal and non-formal learning; as 'Better education' is one of the main priorities of the European Social Fund, encourages Member States to make full use of it by channelling investment into inclusive education that responds to societal challenges with a view to ensuring equal access and opportunities for all;

11.  Recognises the increasing importance of micro-enterprises and SMEs in the cultural and creative sector for investment, growth, innovation and employment, but also in their key role, together with cultural NGOs, networks and platforms, of preserving and promoting cultural and linguistic diversity and a wide range of traditional arts and crafts; recognises that culture and innovation are crucial factors in helping regions to attract investment, support creative talent and foster social cohesion, and thereby contribute to local development, which local and regional authorities are well placed to support;

12.  Calls for more investment in the areas of education, social inclusion, vocational training and life-long learning with a view to improving both the relevance of education and training systems and the transition from education to work and life-long learning; stresses the need for concentrated funding to prevent early school leaving and for equal access to quality education;

13.  Encourages the Member States to make the best use of the enhanced flexibility under the current cohesion policy in order to better respond to local and regional needs and specificities, including in the fields of education, culture and sport;

14.  Highlights the importance of a wider, holistic approach to culture that takes into account its significant contribution to education and training, innovative social and economic development and social inclusion; calls therefore on the Commission and the Member States to increase awareness of culture's potential to foster smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and to encourage cultural projects, including cross-border projects that can contribute to strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion;

15.  Notes the importance of the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), which can address the persisting problem of high levels of youth unemployment, which in several Member States remains at over 40 %; asks the Commission to promote infrastructure that creates new quality jobs and social protection for young people within the framework of the European Structural and Investment Fund; urges the Member States to implement fully the Youth Guarantee on the basis of strong cooperation between employment services and the education system;

16.  Highlights the potential of CCIs as regards youth employment; stresses that further promotion of, and investment in, the cultural and creative sector may contribute substantially to investment, growth, innovation and employment; calls on the Commission, therefore, to consider the special opportunities offered by the whole culture creative sector (CCS), comprising NGOs and small associations, in the framework, for example, of the Youth Employment Initiative;

17.  Notes that there appear to be increased difficulties in filling vacancies because of a skills mismatch in the labour market; stresses that the problems of mismatched skills, limited geographic mobility and precarious work practices need to be addressed through the ESIF, and calls for closer cooperation between higher education institutions, training bodies and SMEs in the field of access to the ESIF;

18.  Calls on the Commission to ensure that Member States comply with the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities when implementing projects supported by the ESIF;

19.  Notes with approval that the objectives of the European Structural and Investment Fund legislative package for 2014-2020 include the aim of fostering a shift from institutional to community living for people with disabilities, and calls on the Commission to ensure that the Member States respect the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities when implementing the ESIF in this regard;

20.  Stresses that the Member States should be committed to providing better access to high-quality broadband internet, especially to public wi-fi networks, which is of vital importance for rural and sparsely populated areas; calls on the Member States and regions to identify their ICT investment priorities; calls on the Commission and the Member States to improve accessibility and transparency, and to accelerate the simplification of procedures with regard to the use of ESIF funds in the ITC sector;

21.  Emphasises the need to maintain the traditional trades, including the craft tradition and associated skills, and to establish strategies to foster growth for traditional trade entrepreneurship in order to maintain the cultural identity of the traditional trade sectors; draws attention to the importance of supporting work linked to professional training and the mobility of young craftsmen and women;

22.  Stresses that the current migration crisis poses many challenges for the educational and training systems of the host Member States; calls on the EU institutions to provide Member States with the necessary flexibility and adequate funding, via ESIF and other Union Funds and programmes, as well as on the Member States to make full use of the opportunities provided and the existing funds for projects that substantially support the integration of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers into education and training systems; believes that access to lifelong learning, including non-formal learning and professional training, has the potential to be an effective tool for active inclusion of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, as well as for their integration into the European labour market and society; in this context underlines the important role of local and regional authorities;

23.  Highlights the fact that cultural infrastructure has a significant impact on economic and social development and cohesion at local, regional and national level; calls on the Commission to revise the EUR 5 million limit for cultural infrastructure on the occasion of the adoption of the ‘Omnibus Regulation’, including the ERDF Regulation, to raise the maximum cost of cultural projects to EUR 10 million for all projects (not only for UNESCO sites) and to consider the eligible cost of projects rather than the total cost;

24.  Underlines the need to enhance coordination and to enable and optimise synergies between ESIF and other Union Funds and programmes in order to achieve greater impact and efficiency and to boost sustainable growth and jobs in the EU; calls for the continuation of investment by the Structural Funds in the transition regions in order to avoid interrupting the positive effects already achieved.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE ASKED FOR OPINION

Date adopted

11.10.2016

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

26

2

1

Members present for the final vote

Isabella Adinolfi, Dominique Bilde, Andrea Bocskor, Nikolaos Chountis, Silvia Costa, Mircea Diaconu, Damian Drăghici, Jill Evans, Giorgos Grammatikakis, Petra Kammerevert, Andrew Lewer, Svetoslav Hristov Malinov, Curzio Maltese, Stefano Maullu, 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

Therese Comodini Cachia, Ilhan Kyuchyuk, Emma McClarkin, Hannu Takkula

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

Marco Affronte


RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE RESPONSIBLE

Date adopted

29.11.2016

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

32

5

2

Members present for the final vote

Pascal Arimont, Franc Bogovič, Steeve Briois, Rosa D’Amato, Michela Giuffrida, Krzysztof Hetman, Ivan Jakovčić, Marc Joulaud, Constanze Krehl, Andrew Lewer, Louis-Joseph Manscour, Martina Michels, Iskra Mihaylova, Younous Omarjee, Konstantinos Papadakis, Mirosław Piotrowski, Stanislav Polčák, Julia Reid, Terry Reintke, Liliana Rodrigues, Fernando Ruas, Maria Spyraki, Olaf Stuger, Ruža Tomašić, Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso, Ángela Vallina, Matthijs van Miltenburg, Lambert van Nistelrooij, Derek Vaughan, Kerstin Westphal

Substitutes present for the final vote

Daniel Buda, James Carver, Elena Gentile, Ivana Maletić, Dan Nica, James Nicholson, Bronis Ropė

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

Vladimir Urutchev, Boris Zala

Last updated: 1 February 2017Legal notice