Procedure : 2010/2139(INI)
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Document selected : A7-0111/2011

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A7-0111/2011

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CRE 23/06/2011 - 5
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REPORT     
PDF 345kWORD 237k
1 April 2011
PE 454.716v03-00 A7-0111/2011

on the Report 2010 on the implementation of the cohesion policy programmes for 2007-2013

(2010/2139(INI))

Committee on Regional Development

Rapporteur: Miroslav Mikolášik

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
 EXPLANATORY STATEMENT
 OPINION of the Committee on Budgets
 OPINION of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs
 OPINION of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety
 OPINION of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy
 OPINION of the Committee on Transport and Tourism
 RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION

on the Report 2010 on the implementation of the cohesion policy programmes for 2007-2013

(2010/2139(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and in particular Articles 174 to178 thereof,

–   having regard to the Commission’s Communication of 31 March 2010: ‘Cohesion policy: Strategic Report 2010 on the implementation of the programmes 2007-2013’ (COM(2010)0110),

–   having regard to the Commission’s Staff Working Document of 31 March 2010: ‘Accompanying document to the Commission’s Communication of 31 March 2010 –Cohesion policy: Strategic Report 2010 on the implementation of the programmes 2007-2013’ (SEC(2010)0360),

–   having regard to the Commission’s Staff Working Paper of 25 October 2010, ‘Cohesion Policy: Responding to the economic crisis, a review of the implementation of cohesion policy measures adopted in support of the European Economic Recovery Plan’ (SEC(2010)1291),

–   having regard to the Commission's Staff Working Document of 14 November 2008: ‘Regions 2020 - an Assessment of Future Challenges for EU Regions’ (SEC(2008)2868),

–   having regard to the Communication from the Commission ‘Europe 2020 – A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM (2010)2020),

–   having regard to the Commission's Communication of 26 January 2011 ‘Regional Policy Contributing to Sustainable Growth in Europe 2020’ (COM(2011)0017),

–   having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 of 11 July 2006 laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund(1),

–   having regard to Commission Regulation (EC) No 1828/2006 of 8 December 2006 setting out rules for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund and of Regulation (EC) No 1080/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Regional Development Fund, and in particular to Article 7 thereof(2),

–   having regard to Regulation (EC) No 397/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 May 2009 amending Regulation (EC) No 1080/2006 on the European Regional Development Fund as regards the eligibility of energy efficiency and renewable energy investments in housing(3),

–   having regard to Regulation (EU) No 437/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 May 2010 amending Regulation (EC) No 1080/2006 on the European Regional Development Fund as regards the eligibility of housing interventions in favour of marginalised communities(4),

–   having regard to the Council Decision of 6 October 2006 on Community strategic guidelines on cohesion (2006/702/EC)(5),

–   having regard to its resolution of 24 March 2009 on the implementation of the Structural Funds Regulation 2007-2013: the results of the negotiations on the national cohesion strategies and the operational programmes(6),

–   having regard to its resolution of 20 May 2010 on the implementation of the synergies of research and innovation earmarked funds in Regulation (EC) No 1080/2006 concerning the European Fund of Regional Development and the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development in cities and regions as well as in the Member States and the Union(7),

–   having regard to its resolution of 14 December 2010 on achieving real territorial, social and economic cohesion within the EU – a sine qua non for global competitiveness?(8),

–   having regard to the Commission’s Information Paper No 1: Earmarking of 28 February 2007 (COCOF/2007/0012/00),

–   having regard to the Commission’s information note ‘Indicative structure for the national strategic reports 2009’ of 18 May 2009 (COCOF 09/0018/01),

–   having regard to the Council conclusions on the Strategic Report of 2010 by the Commission on the Implementation of the Cohesion Policy Programmes adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council on 14 June 2010,

–   having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions on ‘Cohesion policy: strategic report 2010 on the implementation of the programmes 2007-2013’ of 1-2 December 2010 (CdR 159/2010),

–    having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee of 14 July 2010: ‘How to foster efficient partnership in the management of cohesion policy programmes, based on good practices from the 2007-2013 cycle’ (ECO/258),

–   having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Regional Development and the opinions of the Committee on Budgets, the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, the Committee on Transport and Tourism (A7-0111/2011),

A. whereas, according to Article 174 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, in order to promote its overall harmonious development, the Union shall develop and pursue its actions leading to the strengthening of its economic, social and territorial cohesion, and in particular shall aim at reducing disparities between the levels of development of the various regions and the backwardness of the least favoured regions such as rural areas, areas affected by industrial transition, and regions which suffer from severe and permanent natural or demographic handicap, and whereas the EU 2020 Strategy has to be taken into account to ensure that the EU becomes a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy,

B.  whereas cohesion policy plays a pivotal role on the way towards full achievement of the EU 2020 goals, in particular in the field of employment and social affairs, at all governance levels and in all geographical areas,

C. whereas the strategic dimension of cohesion policy guaranteeing consistency with the European Union’s priorities – making Europe and its regions more attractive places in which to invest and work, improving knowledge and innovation for growth and creating more and better jobs – is provided and highlighted through Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 (hereinafter: the General Regulation), the Community strategic guidelines on cohesion (hereinafter: the Strategic Guidelines), the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) and the Operational Programmes (OP),

D. whereas the strategic reporting exercise represents a new instrument of cohesion policy, introduced in the present programming period through the General Regulation as an instrument for examining the implementation of Strategic Guidelines, aiming at increasing the strategic content and promoting the transparency and accountability of cohesion policy, and whereas lessons should be learnt from the information and experience gained when planning the next programming period;

E.   whereas Lisbon earmarking is the exercise whereby subsets of the agreed 86 priority schemes were identified as specific priorities under the Lisbon Growth and Jobs Agenda and whereas, for the Convergence objective regions, 47 priority themes were identified as earmarked priorities, while in Regional Competitiveness and Employment objective regions only 33 priority themes were identified,

F.  whereas for the 2009 national strategic reports, the Commission and the Member States agreed to exchange data only on the priority themes by objective, with a target date of 30 September 2009 for extraction, a date when Member States were still suffering from the effects of the economic crisis, with some facing initial difficulties at the beginning of the programming period, and whereas it is expected that more informative data can be gleaned from the 2013 Strategic Report,

G. whereas European regions are still facing striking economic, social and environmental disparities, partly as a natural consequence of the last two enlargements and also due to the direct effects of the global financial and economic crisis, even though these disparities have shrunk over the past decade through the active contribution of cohesion policy which is crucial for ensuring competitiveness and economic growth while taking into account regional specificities;

H. whereas cohesion policy has been a key element of the European Economic Recovery Plan (EERP), demonstrating the importance of the Structural Funds as tools of economic stimulus, in particular for small businesses, sustainability and energy efficiency, and whereas the Commission was asked to present a report in 2010 about the uptake of measures adopted as part of Europe’s response to the crisis,

1.  Welcomes the Commission’s strategic report on the implementation of the cohesion policy programmes co-financed by the Structural Funds; congratulates Member States on their efforts to prepare their first national strategic reports, which have proved to be a valuable source of information on implementation;

2.  Points out that, when making comparative analyses, it should be taken into consideration that five Member States extracted their data at a more recent date and one at an earlier date; considers that it is more appropriate to compare the progress made by individual Member States with the EU average;

3.  Considers that transparency in the allocation of funds fosters correct implementation and is a key precondition for achieving the overall objectives of cohesion policy and as such needs to be reinforced at all stages of implementation; believes that disclosure of the list of beneficiaries should be continued, notably online, as it is an efficient tool to improve transparency; takes the view that setting Community guidelines and introducing strategic reporting as a new instrument have contributed to increased accountability in delivering policy objectives; calls in this context for regular political debate in order to improve transparency, accountability and assessment of the effects of cohesion policy;

Implementation

4.   Notes that the reported financial volume of projects selected is EUR 93.4 billion, representing 27.1% of available EU resources in the current period, and that this average rate applies to the three cohesion policy objectives as well as to the Lisbon earmarking categories and to the progress in implementing the Community Strategic Guidelines; underlines, however, that progress varies widely between countries and across themes, with aggregate selection rates above 40% in the case of 9 Member States and below 20% for 4 Member States;

5.   Reiterates its appreciation of the national efforts resulting in average allocation of expenditure for the achievement of the Lisbon agenda of 65% of the available funds in the convergence regions and 82% in the regional competitiveness and employment regions, exceeding the levels originally requested; notes with satisfaction that a total of EUR 63 billion is reported as allocated to Lisbon earmarking projects and that project selection under Lisbon earmarking is at the same level or slightly faster than selection for other actions, and therefore urges the Member States to continue in future to earmark resources for projects supporting the EU 2020 Strategy;

6.   Notes that the progress rate among CSG themes is highest in the Territorial Dimension theme (30%), above average for ‘Improving knowledge and innovation for growth’, but below 27.1% in the case of the other two guidelines and that, moreover, selection rates are above average for Lisbon earmarked projects in both Convergence and Regional Competitiveness and Employment objectives, but amount only to 20.5% in the European Territorial Cooperation objective; regrets that, in the absence of output and result indicators for all Member States, the analysis of policy performance as presented in the strategic report has proved to have serious limitations; calls on the Commission, therefore, to review its administrative reporting requirements and calls on the Member States to be more disciplined about providing data on programme implementation;

7.   Welcomes the progress already made in implementing projects relevant to the ‘More and better jobs’ Guideline, in view of the economic crisis and the growing number of unemployed; strongly recommends, however, that the Commission introduce methods for cooperating with the Member States that will make it easier for all necessary funding to be promptly mobilised and allocated efficiently for the achievement of a resource-efficient and competitive economy, inclusive growth and a high-employment economy delivering social and territorial cohesion and poverty reduction, which are priority targets of the EU 2020 Strategy and its objectives, in particular in the field of employment and social affairs, in order to boost growth and productivity and improve employment performance in Europe;

8.  Welcomes the fact that the ESF has provided relevant support to implement labour market reforms and proved to be an effective instrument contributing to the shift from passive to active and even preventive labour market policies; calls on the Member States to continue with structural reforms that will safeguard labour markets against a potential future crisis;

9.  Calls on the Member States to make progress in the implementation of co-financed measures and activities aiming at regional level to support labour markets by reducing gender segregation as well as inequalities, such as the pay gap and under-representation in decision-making positions, by facilitating the reconciliation of working and family life and by encouraging conversion of precarious work into work with rights, given the significant proportion of women affected by precarious working arrangements;

10. Stresses the importance of improving infrastructure and services for disadvantaged microregions with a high concentration of socially marginalised people (e.g. the Roma), and also making them affordable;

11. Stresses the importance of transport in general in ensuring territorial, economic and social cohesion; is concerned that investment in the rail sector is not progressing according to plan and is below the level of progress in the road sector, thus not contributing sufficiently to the decarbonisation of transport; underlines in this context that disproportionately planned transport investments between the different modes are detrimental to the creation of intermodal European transport system and notes that further delays in implementation could accentuate imbalances;

12. Recalls that about 23.7% (EUR 82 billion) of the Cohesion and Structural Funds allocation for 2007-2013 is intended for transport, but only half of it will be spent on TEN-T projects (EUR 17 billion on the TEN-T priority network and EUR 27.2 billion for the comprehensive part), with the other half being earmarked for investment in national, regional and local projects not indicated on the TEN-T maps; stresses that cohesion and structural funding allocated to transport is distributed between transport modes and networks in a way which takes insufficient account of the objectives of the European Union;

13. In terms of territorial cooperation, draws attention to the tendency to delay the launching of cross-border projects and railway projects in general and stresses the European added value of the TEN-T network, which is particularly evident in cross-border sections of projects and in their interconnection with national road, rail and inland waterways projects; proposes in this context systematising the introduction of common platforms for best practices organised on a socio-economic, geographic, demographic and cultural basis;

14. Welcomes the inclusion of expenditure for investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy in housing construction and housing projects for marginalised communities, which is successfully being implemented in many regions and should be continued in the future;

15.  Calls for more effective implementation of programmes in the environmental sector, especially in cross-cutting areas which provide European added value, such as action to combat, mitigate and adapt to climate change, investment in cleaner and low-carbon technologies, action to combat air and water pollution, action for biodiversity protection, the expansion of railway networks, the promotion of energy efficiency, especially in the building sector, and renewable energy sources endeavouring to achieve the EU 2020 targets and promote the creation of green jobs and a green economy;

16. Calls for the relevant funds to be used for environmental disaster prevention and/or rapid reaction and calls on the Member States to speed up investment in prevention and in the rehabilitation of industrial sites and contaminated land, given the low rate of implementation;

17. Regrets the delays in project selection for strategic areas such as the rail sector, certain energy and environmental investments, the digital economy, social inclusion, governance and capacity building, and calls for a thorough analysis of the causes of these delays, while also inviting the Member States to involve their regions in closer monitoring of areas where efforts need reinforcement; highlights on the other hand the higher absorption rate of environmental projects in European Territorial Cooperation programmes, and points to the clear added value of cooperation in this context; underlines, however, that Member States may have caught up in areas where implementation was lagging behind, and that therefore delays at this particular stage need not be indicative of overall quality in the programming period; points in this context to the acceleration in absorption capacities and budgetary implementation of cohesion policy during 2010 which stems, inter alia, from recent legislative changes and from operational programmes reaching cruising speed, the last Management and Control Systems having finally been approved by the Commission;

18. Believes that corrective measures need to be promptly taken to improve poor performance in some priority areas; recommends carrying out an in-depth analysis of the implementation problems in areas with specific delays in project selection and calls on Member States in this context to step up efforts to improve project selection in the delayed themes, and to accelerate implementation of all selected projects to avoid the risk of not reaching the agreed objectives;

19. Considers that in some cases rapid project selection and implementation and an overall better use of the allocated funds is particularly needed for the activities aimed at improving human capital, promoting health and fostering disease prevention, ensuring equal opportunities, supporting labour markets and enhancing social inclusion, especially in order to overcome the negative impacts of the economic crisis;

20. Highlights the fact that several Member States confirmed that the discipline imposed by the earmarking exercise has improved the quality and focus of programming; notes, moreover, that Member States unanimously considered that maintaining fundamental priorities of their National Strategic Reference Frameworks and Operational Programmes linked to the Lisbon Strategy is the best instrument to tackle the crisis, and reconfirmed the relevance of the medium- and long-term objectives set out in these documents;

Challenges in implementation

21. Underlines the fact that effective selection and implementation of projects in some areas is hampered by missing relevant preconditions such as simpler application procedures at national level, clear national priorities for certain areas of intervention, timely transposition of EU laws and consolidated institutional and administrative capacity, and by excessive national red tape; calls therefore on Member States and regions to facilitate policy implementation by tackling these challenges and in particular by adapting the legal framework in the field of state aid, public procurement and environmental rules and pursue institutional reforms;

22. Recalls with regret that the substantial delay in policy implementation results mainly from the following factors: late conclusion of the negotiations on the multiannual financial framework and the legislative package of the policy, resulting in belated completion of the national strategies and operational programmes, changes in the rules on financial control and evaluation criteria imposed at national level, overlap with the closure of the period 2000-2006 and scarce public resources available for cofinancing in Member States;

23. Deplores the fact that, although the Strategic Report should highlight the contribution of the programmes cofinanced by the Structural Funds towards implementing the objectives of cohesion policy, it does not provide comprehensive data on the situation regarding regional disparities up to 2009;

Response to the economic crisis

24. Welcomes the publication of the Commission Staff Working Paper ‘Cohesion Policy: Responding to the economic crisis’, a review of the implementation of cohesion policy measures adopted in support of the European Economic Recovery Plan; highlights that this review draws primarily on the information provided in national strategic reports; calls for the Commission to take the necessary measures in order to ensure that the information provided by the Member States is accurate;

25. Notes that, in the context of the global financial and economic crisis and the current economic slowdown, the EU cohesion policy decisively contributes to the European Economic Recovery Plan, constituting the largest Community source of investment in the real economy, and has proven to allow a flexible and appropriate response to the rapidly deteriorating socioeconomic environment; underlines that Member States appreciated that the crisis measures could be tailored to their specific needs; calls nonetheless for greater flexibility and reduced complexity in the rules to combat crisis and encourages Member States to use promptly all measures made available by the Commission to ensure an appropriate and timely reaction according to specific needs as well as a successful exit from the crisis to achieve long-term sustainable development by strengthening competitiveness, employment and the attractiveness of European Regions;

26. Stresses the importance of making supplementary efforts to overcome the difficulty of measuring the overall impact of specific cohesion policy-related measures under the EERP, and regrets that the review therefore can only give limited insights into concrete examples at national level; nevertheless welcomes the analysis of good practices and first conclusions presented in the report;

27. Considers that the signs of recovery from the crisis are fragile, and that in the coming years Europe has to tackle its structural weaknesses, including through Cohesion Policy interventions and targeted investments notably in research and development, innovation, education and technologies that are beneficial for all sectors in acquiring competitiveness; stresses therefore the need for a thorough analysis of the impact of measures aimed at counteracting the crisis and the necessity to provide for accessible structural funding, which is a powerful mechanism designed to help the regions in their economic and social restructuring and in promoting economic, social and territorial cohesion and solidarity;

Creating synergies and avoiding the sectoral dispersion of regional policy resources

28. Shares the view of the Council expressed in the Council Conclusions on the Strategic Report 2010 on the real added value generated by one strategic and integrated approach for the structural funds; recalls that each fund needs its own rules for successful interventions on the ground in specific situations; stresses, as well, the need in the post-crisis era to consolidate public budgets and increase synergies and the impact of all available funding sources (EU, national, EIB instruments) through effective coordination;

29. Stresses that synergies between structural funds and other sectoral policy instruments, and between these instruments and national, regional and local resources, are vital and create valuable links allowing mutual reinforcement, sustainable implementation of programmes and achievement of territorial cohesion; acknowledges that, through the earmarking provisions for 2007-2013, cohesion policy is better geared to create synergies with research and innovation policies; underlines that Structural Funds could be used to enhance research infrastructure, ensuring the level of excellence necessary for access to research funds; also highlights the benefits of synergies between ERDF, ESF and EAFRD; notes that experience clearly proves that successful performance of ESF-financed programmes is essential in order to maximise the effectiveness of ERDF funding for economic actions; recalls in this context the potential of cross-financing which is not yet fully exploited; with a view to the next Strategic Report, invites the Commission to introduce a reference to mutual interaction between Structural Funds as well as their interaction with other EU financial instruments;

Monitoring and evaluation

30. Underlines that technical assistance, monitoring and evaluation stimulate policy learning and, together with an efficient financial control will constitute an incentive to improve the quality of performance;

31. Regrets that only 19 Member States reported on core indicators and therefore at this stage it is impossible to have a first clear EU-wide picture of the impact of the policy on the ground; strongly encourages Member States to use core indicators in the next round of the strategic reporting exercise in 2012-2013; calls on the Commission to step in and provide support for Member States and regions to produce timely, coherent and complete data;

32. Underlines the need for the Commission to ensure efficient and constant monitoring and control systems in order to improve governance and effectiveness of the delivery system of the Structural Funds; calls on the Commission to enhance the coherence and quality of monitoring of the progress made by Member States by making obligatory the use of a minimum set of core indicators in national strategic reports in the next programming period to facilitate comparison and result-orientation, by providing more detailed guidance;

Good practices

33. Considers that good practices and mutual learning in policy implementation must be highlighted and their exchange promoted, alongside reinforcement of administrative capacities, in particular of local and regional authorities, in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness and avoid repetition of past mistakes;

34. Encourages good practices related to national reporting such as using core indicators, reporting on results and outputs, reporting on synergies between national policies and EU policies, organising public debates and consultations with stakeholders, submitting the reports to national parliaments for opinions and publishing the reports on governmental websites (with all reports using clear and concise terminology), as these practices improve the quality of the reporting exercise and increase the ownership of stakeholders within Member States; insists on the need to follow best practice in regions characterised by a lower degree of absorption or efficiency in respect of funding programmes;

35. Welcomes the fact that the Commission sets out how national, regional and local authorities can realign operational programmes to EU 2020 sustainable growth objectives, and how practices can be refocused towards smart growth objectives during this programming period; calls on Member States to act without delay, invest more in sustainable development and smart growth, social inclusion and gender equality in the labour market and use funds more effectively; calls furthermore on the Commission to launch a debate to elaborate further on how cohesion policy can, over the current period 2007-2013, contribute to the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy;

Conclusions and recommendations

36. Underlines the role of SMEs as innovative players in the economy and stresses the need to develop this sector inter alia through the implementation of the Small Business Act, facilitate SMEs’ access to financing and operating capital and encourage SMEs to become involved in innovative projects with a view to strengthening their competitiveness and potential for greater employment; stresses that many social and economic benefits are to be gained from cooperation at the local and regional levels between the public authorities, SMEs, business networks, research institutes and clusters, as well as from the effective use of all existing resources, including the financial engineering instruments (Jeremie) as elements of capital reinforcement for SMEs; nevertheless underlines that, regarding loan financing, legal certainty needs to be improved in such a way that financial intermediaries and promotional banks can set up  conditions for innovative financial instruments that will remain valid for the whole programming period;

37. Strongly believes that good governance at European, national, regional and local level and effective cooperation between the various levels of government are fundamental to ensuring the quality of the decision-making process, strategic planning, improved absorption capacity of Structural and Cohesion Funds and therefore the successful and efficient implementation of cohesion policy; encourages the Commission and the Member States to strengthen and mobilise multi-level governance in accordance with the Treaty and the subsidiarity and partnership principles; stresses therefore the importance of a genuine partnership strategy, both vertically and horizontally, and recommends that the quality of partnership involvement be assessed, recalling that partnership may lead to simplification, particularly in the project selection procedure; calls on Member States to involve the sub-national levels from the outset in defining the investment priorities and in the decision-making process itself, as well as to integrate them with civil society actors and community representatives in the implementation of programmes; proposes, in this context, the establishment of a Territorial Pact of Local and Regional Authorities on the Europe 2020 Strategy in every Member State;

38. Believes that simplification of provisions and procedures should contribute to the speedy allocation of funds and payments, and that it should therefore continue and should result in improved rules in the post-2013 period, both at EU and national level without creating major difficulties for the beneficiaries; considers that regional policy should be better adapted to the needs of users and that simplification should reduce unnecessary administrative barriers and costs as well as other obstacles hampering policy goals, should avoid confusion and erroneous interpretation of current administrative practices and should, on the other hand, ensure more flexible project management, synchronised controls, and increased efficiency of the policy; deplores that, due to superfluous bureaucracy, overcomplicated rules subject to frequent changes and a lack of harmonised procedures, many funds remain unused; considers that a balance needs to be struck between simplification and the stability of rules and procedures;

39. Calls for the Member States and regional authorities to enhance capacity-building and reduce the administrative burden, in particular to ensure the cofinancing of projects by national contributions and, when relevant, to introduce financial engineering support, in order to increase the absorption of the funds and to avoid further major delays in investing;

40. Supports the ideas put forward by the Commission aimed at placing greater emphasis on result-based implementation of Structural Funds and considers that strategic reporting, as a valuable tool of monitoring progress in implementation, creates a basis for peer review and strategic debate at EU level; with a view to achieving better quality strategic reporting, based on comparative and reliable data, encourages Member States to adopt a more analytical and strategic approach while elaborating national reports with stronger focus on objectives, results and strategic developments and to submit timely, accurate information on the core indicators and the agreed targets; stresses therefore that the Strategic report 2013 should be result-oriented and focused more on qualitative analysis of the effectiveness of programmes, outputs, outcomes and early impacts rather than on excessive presentation of statistical data;

41. Calls on the Commission and Member States to use the opportunity of the mid-term review of the financial perspective 2007-2013 and of cohesion policy to ensure increased absorption of European funding in the period 2011-2013;

42. Calls on all EU institutions and Member States, with a view to the next round of negotiations on the future cohesion policy, to facilitate speedier conclusion of key documents, such as the multiannual financial framework and regulations, in the next round of negotiations with a view to overcoming the start-up difficulties that might arise at the beginning of the next programming period;

43. Calls on the Commission to ensure that the future cohesion policy will benefit from adequate financial resources; takes the view that it must not be seen as merely an instrument for achieving the objectives of sectoral policies, since it is a Community policy offering substantial added value and has its own raison d’être: economic, social and territorial cohesion; underlines therefore that cohesion policy should remain independent and its current foundations and principles should not be modified by a sectoral dispersion;

44. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the Member States.

(1)

OJ L 210, 31.7.2006, p. 25.

(2)

OJ L 371, 27.12.2006, p. 1.

(3)

OJ L 126, 21.5.2009, p. 3.

(4)

OJ L 132, 29.5.2010, p. 1.

(5)

OJ L 291, 21.10.2006, p. 11.

(6)

Texts adopted, P6_TA(2009)0165.

(7)

Texts adopted, P7_TA(2010)0189.

(8)

Texts adopted, P7_TA-PROV(2010)0473.


EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

Introduction

Implementation reports analyse the transposition of EU legislation into national law and the implementation and enforcement thereof in the Member States. In the case of cohesion policy, the legislative framework consists of directly applicable regulations.

With the publication of the Communication from the Commission ‘Cohesion Policy: Strategic Report 2010 on the implementation of the programmes 2007-2013’ a first real analysis of the implementation process of the Operational Programmes can finally be accomplished by the European Parliament.

Thus, this Report analyses whether legislation has been properly applied by the Member States as well as the way in which the Member States have understood and followed the Community Strategic Guidelines when implementing their National Strategic Reference Frameworks and Operational programs.

The report has been elaborated mainly on the basis of two following documents: Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the Court of auditors entitled Cohesion Policy: Strategic Report 2010 on the implementation of the programmes 2007-2013 (hereinafter Strategic Report) and the Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the Communication.

General background

The strategic reporting exercise represents a new feature of cohesion policy introduced in the present programming period through the General Regulation as an instrument of examining the implementation of Strategic Guidelines. The aim of this exercise, as stated in Recital 36 of Council Regulation 1083/2006 (General Regulation), is to increase the strategic content and promote the transparency of cohesion policy through integration with the Community's priorities.

Articles 29(2), 30(1) and 30(2) of the same Regulation provide a legal basis for the strategic reporting. According to this Regulation, the Member States were required to provide the first national strategic reports at the latest by the end of 2009. The data presented in the Strategic Report is based on these national strategic reports.

Core assessments

Implementation of the Programmes

First of all, it has to be noted that the Commission and the Member States agreed to exchange data for the 2009 national strategic reports with a target date of 30/09/2009 for extraction, but some Member States extracted data on other dates. Thus, the differences of several months must be taken into account while making comparative analysis, because it could influence the volume of allocations made to a particular sector.

The reported financial volume of projects selected is 93.4 billion EUR representing 27.1 % of available EU resources in the current period. This average rate applies to the three cohesion policy objectives as well as to the Lisbon earmarking categories and to the progress in implementing the Community Strategic Guidelines. A total of 63 billion EUR is reported as allocated to Lisbon earmarking projects and that project selection under Lisbon earmarking is at the same level or slightly faster than selection for other actions.

The abovementioned average progress made by the Member States can be considered rather reasonable given the context of serious deterioration in the socio-economic situation in 2008-2009 due to the global crisis, but also the reform made to the policy for the period 2007-2013, as both of these factors have had strong impact upon implementation.

At the same time, the crisis has also proved the relevance of the Structural Funds, in particular, the European Social Fund turned out to be very useful in tackling daunting challenges in many regions. The evidence is provided in a review of the implementation of cohesion policy measures adopted in support of the European Economic Recovery Plan (Commission Staff Working Paper 'Cohesion Policy: Responding to the economic crisis), which draws primarily on the information provided in national strategic reports.

There is still an obvious gap between the less developed and highly developed EU regions in many respects and progress varies significantly between countries and across themes, with aggregate selection rates above 40% in the case of 9 Member States and below 20 % for 4 Member States. The lagging-behind regions need further support in their efforts to overcome their socio-economic difficulties.

According to the Rapporteur, certain strategic areas are facing particular delays in project selection. The areas of special concern, where an in-depth analysis of the reasons should be accomplished, are the following: rail sector, certain energy and environmental investments, digital economy, social inclusion, governance and capacity building.

Therefore, additional efforts are needed to avoid excessive delays, strengthen performance of the implementation and to ensure higher financial discipline. On the other hand, the Rapporteur highlights higher absorption of environmental projects under European Territorial Cooperation programmes as it is a positive development suggesting a clear added value of cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation.

Strategic Reporting Exercise

The strategic reporting exercise provides timely evidence of the progress in implementation throughout the EU-27 offering a basis for high-level debate, peer review, policy learning and an incentive to improve the quality of performance.

Nevertheless, some important limitations have been observed. For instance, only 19 Member States reported on core indicators. Therefore, at this stage it is impossible to have a first clear EU-wide picture of the impact of the policy on the ground. In Rapporteur’s opinion, Member States should use core indicators in the next round of the strategic reporting exercise in 2012-2013 to facilitate comparison at EU level. Furthermore, in order to enhance the coherence and quality of monitoring of the progress, Member States should increase the strategic content of their respective reports and the Commission should provide more detailed guidance to improve the quality of strategic reporting exercise.

Reporting exercise is supposed to increase the accountability to the public on achievements of the policy; therefore presentation of findings needs more publicity. Moreover, exchange of experiences should be promoted so that Member States can benefit from good practices that contributed to the delivery of positive results. Rapporteur highlights following good practices that contribute to enhanced quality of the reporting exercise and increased ownership of stakeholders within Member States:

· using core indicators,

· reporting on outputs and results,

· reporting on synergies between national policies and EU policies,

· organising public debates and consultations with stakeholders,

· submitting the reports to national parliaments for opinion, and publishing the reports on governmental websites.

Reflections and Conclusions of the Rapporteur

Cohesion policy continues to prove its relevance as it considerably contributes to the improvement of the socio-economic environment. The Member States have embraced new requirements in a positive way and they are making progress in delivering cohesion policy objectives, as evidenced by facts and figures provided in national reports - though with certain inherent heterogeneity at the level of states and regions. However, cohesion policy is a long-term mechanism and most of the results are visible later in the programming period. Indeed, the full picture for the 2007 - 2013 programming period will be visible only in 2015, two years after the second Strategic Report, since certain countries have two years after 2013 to use all the committed funding.

The Rapporteur draws attention to the fact that effective selection and implementation of projects in some areas is hampered by many factors, such as late conclusion of the negotiations on multi-annual financial framework and the legislative package of the policy resulting in belated completion of the national strategies and operational programmes, changes in the rules on financial control, scarce public resources available for co-financing in Member States as well as the lack of clear national priorities for certain areas of intervention, and deficient institutional administrative capacity. These factors need to be promptly addressed at both EU and Member States´ level. Member States are also advised to accelerate and facilitate the use of Structural Funds on the ground and especially to take corrective measures in the areas with weak performance to avoid late delivery of agreed results.

Of course, key preconditions for achieving the overall objectives of cohesion policy are sound financial discipline and the transparency in the allocation of funds. The strategic reporting as a new instrument can contribute in this sense to increase the accountability in delivering policy objectives. Another important issue ensuring quality of the decision-making process, strategic planning as well as the successful and efficient implementation of cohesion policy, is the efficiency of public administration. Therefore, good governance at European, national, regional and local level should be further strengthened in accordance with the Treaty and partnership principle. The simplification of the cohesion policy management and implementation remains highly desirable, because it is surely not welcome that due to superfluous bureaucracy, onerous rules and procedures funds remain unused.

In this context, the absorption of the funds can be increased by targeted capacity building and by mobilising all appropriate national resources to obtain the available co-financing from the Structural funds. The instruments of financial engineering can also provide necessary support.

Finally, cohesion policy aims at reducing disparities between levels of development of European regions, facilitates the pursuit of modernisation and sustainable growth and demonstrates European solidarity. As such, it has proved to be essential to the progress of European integration while establishing strong synergies between all European policies. Reality shows that European regions are still facing striking economic, social and environmental disparities. Some of them are consequences of the last two enlargements (accession of economically disadvantaged countries), other have been accentuated by the direct effects of the global financial and economic crisis.

The issue of the architecture of the future cohesion policy for the period 2014-2020 will be in the centre of the political debate in the next years. The risk exists that shortcomings of the Lisbon Strategy could repeat themselves in the implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy. The Rapporteur reiterates, in the context of upcoming negotiations for the future programming period, that the cohesion policy should continue to address all European regions and societal challenges, both helping the poorer ones to catch up, and delivering smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Your Rapporteur also strongly believes that within the context of persisting territorial imbalances and a lingering crisis, strong and well-financed EU regional policy is a condition sine qua non for achieving social, economic and territorial cohesion, therefore the budget allocated for the cohesion policy in the next programming period should definitely not be decreased.


OPINION of the Committee on Budgets (27.1.2011)

for the Committee on Regional Development

on the Report 2010 on the implementation of the Cohesion Policy programmes for 2007-2013

(2010/2139(INI))

Rapporteur: Ivars Godmanis

SUGGESTIONS

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

1.  Underlines that, while 27% of the projects were selected in terms of financial volume, the rate of payments was far lower at the time of the report (some 13%) and still stood at about 22% at the end of 2010, i.e. approximately 60% of the level of the 2000-2006 financial period after four years of implementation;

2.  Recalls that, from a budgetary point of view, less than one sixth of the payments only had been made as at 1 July 2010, the midway point of the 2007-2013 programming period;

3.  Welcomes the acceleration in absorption capacities and budgetary implementation of Cohesion Policy (increases of 79% and 62% in the overall implementation of the 2007-2013 financial envelopes during 2010 for, respectively, the ERDF/ECF and the ESF), which stems, inter alia, from recent legislative changes and from operational programmes finally reaching cruising speed, the last Management and Control Systems having finally been approved by the Commission; stresses that this acceleration was reflected in the 2010 global transfer, which provided Cohesion Policy with an additional EUR 1 billion in payments for 2010;

4.  Stresses, nevertheless, that the implementation rates are far from homogeneous across Member States, fields of intervention and Funds; recalls that in late 2010, the maximum difference in payment rates between Member States was 247% for the ERDF and the ECF considered together and 303% for the ESF;

5.  Stresses that the difficulties observed in utilising the appropriations in part reflect the problem of dovetailing certain Lisbon Strategy criteria, in particular with regard to innovation, with the efforts to respond to them in the regions, especially those which are lagging behind, at a time of economic and financial crisis;

6.  Requests, therefore, that specific attention be granted to the further promotion of mutual learning, exchange of best practices and reinforcement of administrative capacities in certain Member States, and calls for further reflection on how to streamline the various sets of rules and control arrangements applicable.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

26.1.2011

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

23

1

1

Members present for the final vote

Marta Andreasen, Reimer Böge, Lajos Bokros, Giovanni Collino, Göran Färm, José Manuel Fernandes, Eider Gardiazábal Rubial, Salvador Garriga Polledo, Jens Geier, Ivars Godmanis, Lucas Hartong, Jutta Haug, Monika Hohlmeier, Sidonia Elżbieta Jędrzejewska, Sergej Kozlík, Alain Lamassoure, Giovanni La Via, Barbara Matera, Claudio Morganti, Dominique Riquet, Helga Trüpel, Derek Vaughan, Angelika Werthmann, Jacek Włosowicz

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Jan Mulder


OPINION of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (3.12.2010)

for the Committee on Regional Development

on the Report 2010 on the implementation of the Cohesion Policy programmes for 2007-2013

(2010/2139(INI))

Rapporteur: Antigoni Papadopoulou

SUGGESTIONS

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

–   having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the regions ‘Cohesion policy: Strategic Report 2010 on the implementation of the programmes 2007-2013’ (COM (2010) 110,

–   having regard to Council Regulation No 1083/2006 of 11 July 2006 laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund,

–   having regard to the Communication from the Commission ‘Europe 2020 – A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM (2010) 2020),

–   having regard to the Council conclusions on the Strategic Report of 2010 by the Commission on the implementation of the Cohesion Policy Programmes adopted at the 3023rd Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg on 14 June 2010,

–   having regard to Article 174 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union on the development of actions leading to the strengthening of the Union's economic, social and territorial cohesion,

A. whereas the promotion of economic, social and territorial cohesion and solidarity among Member States is one of the main objectives of the EU, as stated in Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union,

B.  whereas cohesion policy needs to be an effective and efficient tool to respond to socio-economic challenges brought about by the financial crisis and to reduce disparities between the levels of development of European regions,

C. whereas cohesion policy plays a pivotal role on the way towards full achievement of the EU 2020 goals, in particular in the field of employment and social affairs, at all governance levels and in all geographical areas,

D. whereas the European Social Fund (ESF) should ensure full employment and job opportunities, promoting, among other objectives, the integration of workers into the labour market and reinforcing social inclusion,

1.  Welcomes the Commission’s strategic report on the implementation of the cohesion policy programmes cofinanced by the Structural Funds (2007-2013) (COM(2010) 110); considers, however, that in the aftermath of the global economic recession, which changed dramatically the economic landscape in the EU, increased unemployment, reduced economic growth and impaired the business environment, the future Commission reports should provide a more thorough updated evaluation of the impact of the projects selected in the framework of cohesion policy on recovery of the European economy, in particular in terms of creating new jobs, reducing socioeconomic disparities, enhancing social inclusion and improving human capital; regrets that gender budgeting is not being satisfactorily implemented by the Member States and that the Commission also neglects gender mainstreaming when evaluating implementation; stresses that gender budgeting can ensure the proper use of resources and thereby make a fundamental contribution to gender equality; considers the introduction of a better monitoring and evaluation system to be crucial for moving towards a more strategic and result-oriented approach to cohesion policy;

2.  Expects that efficient and quantifiable initiatives from the Member States – financed by the ESF – will contribute to the delivery of the poverty goal of the EU 2020 Strategy;

3.  Calls on the Commission to include in future reports a reference to mutual interaction and complementarity of the Structural Funds as well as to their interaction with other EU financial instruments;

4.  Welcomes the progress already made in implementing projects relevant to the ‘More and better jobs’ Guideline, in view of the economic crisis and the growing number of unemployed; strongly recommends however that the Commission introduce methods for cooperating with the Member States that will make it easier for all necessary funding to be promptly mobilised and allocated efficiently for the achievement of a resource-efficient and competitive economy, inclusive growth and a high-employment economy delivering social and territorial cohesion and poverty reduction, which are priority targets of the EU 2020 Strategy and its objectives, in particular in the field of employment and social affairs, in order to boost growth and productivity and improve employment performance in Europe;

5.  Endorses the Commission's recommendation that the fight against poverty must be stepped up; points out in this connection that promoting flanking measures relating to the 'social integration' priority (Article 3(1)(c)(i) of the ESF Regulation) has proved effective in supporting the social integration of particularly disadvantaged people; therefore calls for such flanking measures to remain a key element of the European Social Fund;

6.  Regrets that financial resources from the EFS made available by the Community are not fully used;

7.  Calls on Member States to improve flexibility of the funds, simplify procedures and reduce administrative barriers and excessive administrative costs and other obstacles that hamper policy goals regarding access to employment, combating poverty, ensuring social integration and inclusion and development of skills; supports an evaluation of whether ‘earmarking’ discipline has improved implementation of the programmes; stresses, however, the necessity to target operations specifically on priorities aiming to satisfy particular needs and demands of various regions, especially disadvantaged microregions and settlements, always taking into consideration existing assets and human resources; notes, however, that ‘earmarking’ should not prevent the flexible use of resources, particularly in periods of crisis; welcomes the fact that the Commission will in future base support more on targeting than on earmarking; calls for the role of the relevant authorities to be geared more towards the provision of information and advice, through the development of ‘one-stop’ facilities, if necessary, and by making the relevant legislation accessible to members of the public; calls for particular attention to be paid, in the course of checks carried out by social authorities, to ensuring that the procedures afford both sides a hearing; calls too, given the complexity of labour law, for recourse to dialogue rather than court proceedings in cases where a member of the public is – in good faith – in dispute with the authorities;

8.  Regrets that, at a time when the economic and financial crisis is heightening social inequalities, the allocation of Structural Funds to the Member States is in decline;

9.  Notes that the ESF was created with the aim of reducing differences in living conditions among the Member States and regions of the EU, in order to promote economic and social cohesion, and urges the Commission to put forward an initiative aimed at revising the criteria for cofinancing by the Member States, making it easier to use for those countries that are facing the greatest financial weaknesses;

10. Stresses the importance of improving infrastructure and services for disadvantaged microregions with a high concentration of socially marginalised people (e.g. the Roma), and also making them affordable;

11. Stresses that the role of local development approaches under cohesion policy should be reinforced by supporting active inclusion in the field of employment and education, and by designing long-term, complex and gradually built, step-by-step programmes for the rehabilitation of deprived rural and urban areas which have a high concentration of socially marginalised people (e.g. the Roma), and by introducing a new conditionality of non-discrimination and desegregation;

12. Calls on the Commission to boost the effectiveness and public profile of the ESF, thus making it more accessible, with a view to having more funds allocated to it for expanding access to the job market through the effective implementation of lifelong training to enable people to adapt to labour-demand changes in an era of globalisation and the computerisation of work, and for introducing flexible working time and promoting part-time working and teleworking as means of getting more people into the job market, guaranteeing opportunities for European citizens, with special emphasis on the most disadvantaged people (national, ethnic minorities such as the Roma minority and the disabled), to make themselves more employable and adaptable and generating the conditions for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and economic and social cohesion; recalls that the effectiveness of the ESF depends on its capacity to adapt to local problems and specific territorial requirements; underlines the importance of lifelong vocational training for all ESF employees; therefore calls on the Commission and Member States to secure strong synergies between the Structural Funds and relevant European policies as well as promote projects that meet demands of the labour market;

13. Urges Member States to intensify their focus on education and training of workers with reference to high-quality and future-oriented jobs in the knowledge-oriented society;

14. Bearing in mind that the ESF is a basic tool for combating poverty, gender inequalities, social discrimination (against people with disabilities, migrants, older people, etc.) by getting people into jobs, and for tackling social exclusion and unemployment, calls on the Commission to strengthen the ESF’s potential and its financial autonomy in relation to the pursuit of economic and social cohesion, to make it more flexible so that current and future employment challenges can be addressed, to simplify project management and harmonise and improve procedures and controls, taking account of social sustainability, and to follow up ongoing projects more effectively; points to the positive experiences that project organisers have gained with global grants and welcomes the positive assessment of global grants in the Ecosoc report on efficient partnership (Jan Olsson, ECO/258); calls for the introduction of new conditionality of non-discrimination and desegregation, in order to provide support for those who need it the most, targeting explicitly but not exclusively the Roma communities as well; emphasises the ESF's role in strengthening the social integration dimension; underlines the need for more transparent ESF policies on allocation of funds and detailed evaluation and scrutiny of tangible results achieved, in terms of employment;

15. Recognises the role of the ESF in achieving social objectives and asks the Commission to promote further coherence and links between the ESF and various framework programmes, such as EQUAL and ‘Europe for Citizens’, with a view to establishing better coordination and cooperation among EU policy instruments;

16. Considers that the ESF should promote active participation of citizens in society and the labour market, creating equal opportunities for all; recalls, thus, the importance of implementing gender budgeting, to improve human resources and capital, which are essential prerequisites for a competitive knowledge-based economy;

17. Calls on Member States to make better use of resources and ameliorate the capacities of local and regional authorities, in particular NGOs and SMEs, for economic, social and territorial development;

18. Welcomes the fact that the strategic report (COM (2010) 110) places greater emphasis on results-based implementation of the Structural Funds; supports ideas being put forward by the Commission aimed at placing greater emphasis on results-based implementation of the Structural Funds and creating financial incentives for Member States that meet the targets set, thereby rewarding the successful implementation of programmes; welcomes the fact that this will help ensure that money is properly targeted at those affected;

19. Welcomes the fact that more than 50% of people who were reached by ESF programmes were women; expects the Commission and Member States to pay enhanced attention to the integration of older workers into the labour market, considering demographic developments;

20. Expects closer cooperation between the Commission and the Member States in order to react more quickly and efficiently to changes on the labour market and to implement necessary, result-oriented measures;

21. Welcomes the fact that the ESF has provided relevant support to implement labour-market reforms and proved to be an effective instrument contributing to the shift from passive to active and even preventive labour market policies; calls on the Member States to continue with structural reforms that will safeguard labour markets against a potential future crisis;

22. Calls on the Commission to enhance monitoring of progress by reinforcing extensive use of ex ante setting of clear and measurable targets and of core indicators in national strategic reports, where indicators must be clearly interpretable, statistically validated and regularly collected and published; underlines the need for the Commission to ask Member States to provide relevant data, both qualitative and quantifiable, on the implementation of cohesion policy programmes; emphasises the need for clarification of all national policy achievements in terms of job creation, promotion of equal opportunities and social inclusion for all vulnerable groups;

23. Takes the view that cohesion policy must not be seen as merely an instrument for achieving the objectives of other sectoral policies, since it is a Community policy offering substantial value added which has its own raison d'être: economic and social cohesion;

24. Calls on the Commission to encourage the Member States to use the various cohesion policy instruments in a more integrated and coordinated way, with a view to greater effectiveness, based on stepping up activities geared to realising the priority of social inclusion;

25. Calls for regular political debate in order to improve transparency, accountability and assessment of the effects of cohesion policy.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

2.12.2010

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

40

2

0

Members present for the final vote

Regina Bastos, Jean-Luc Bennahmias, Mara Bizzotto, Milan Cabrnoch, David Casa, Derek Roland Clark, Sergio Gaetano Cofferati, Marije Cornelissen, Frédéric Daerden, Karima Delli, Sari Essayah, Richard Falbr, Ilda Figueiredo, Pascale Gruny, Thomas Händel, Marian Harkin, Roger Helmer, Nadja Hirsch, Vincenzo Iovine, Liisa Jaakonsaari, Danuta Jazłowiecka, Ádám Kósa, Jean Lambert, Veronica Lope Fontagné, Olle Ludvigsson, Elizabeth Lynne, Thomas Mann, Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, Csaba Őry, Elisabeth Schroedter, Joanna Katarzyna Skrzydlewska, Jutta Steinruck, Traian Ungureanu

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Raffaele Baldassarre, Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Edite Estrela, Julie Girling, Sergio Gutiérrez Prieto, Filiz Hakaeva Hyusmenova, Antigoni Papadopoulou, Evelyn Regner, Birgit Sippel, Csaba Sógor


OPINION of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (27.1.2011)

for the Committee on Regional Development

on the Report 2010 on the implementation of the Cohesion Policy programmes for 2007-2013

(2010/2139(INI))

Rapporteur: José Manuel Fernandes

SUGGESTIONS

The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety calls on the Committee on Regional Development, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions in its motion for a resolution:

1.   Stresses that cohesion policy is a fundamental instrument with which to promote economic and social cohesion, with the aim of undertaking measures to reduce regional inequalities, promote real convergence and stimulate growth and employment, as well as helping to attain environmental goals;

2.   Stresses that investment in the environmental sector is not progressing according to plan, as is illustrated by the volume of projects selected, which stands at no more than 21% of the total provided for in the programmes;

3.   Takes note that investments in the area of health infrastructure are progressing well and that a positive link exists between the cohesion policy and structural reforms in the health sector. This positive link needs to be taken into account when defining the next programming period priorities for investment;

4.   Stresses that investment in the rail sector is not progressing according to plan, which at 22.5% of the total provided for in the programmes, is far less than the projects selected in the road sector (34%), and does not contribute sufficiently to the decarbonisation of transport;

5.   Calls for more effective implementation of programmes in the environmental sector, especially in cross-cutting areas which provide European added value, such as action to combat, mitigate and adapt to climate change, investment in cleaner and low-carbon technologies, action to combat air and water pollution, action for biodiversity protection, the expansion of railway networks, the promotion of energy efficiency, especially in the building sector, and renewable energy sources endeavouring to achieve the EU 2020 targets and promote the creation of green jobs and a green economy; stresses furthermore the central role of cohesion policy in attaining the targets; calls for a quick implementation of already selected projects and the acceleration of the selection of quality projects;

6.   Calls for the relevant funds to be used for environmental disaster prevention and/or rapid reaction and calls on the Member States to speed up investment in prevention and in the rehabilitation of industrial sites and contaminated land, given the low rate of implementation;

7.   Stresses that cohesion policy is one of the instruments which should contribute to the creation of a suitable financial framework for the prevention of natural and man-made disasters, backing up and providing a link between this and other instruments such as rural development policy, regional policy, the Solidarity Fund and the Seventh Framework Programme; asks, in this regard, that disaster prevention be taken into account in the post-2013 financial perspective;

8.   Calls for better implementation of programmes in the areas of health promotion and disease prevention in line with the Community Strategic Guidelines, in addition to health infrastructure, as important factors in reducing health inequalities across Europe;

9.   Calls on the Commission to address how the current programmes can tackle growing health inequalities within and between regions, being key bottlenecks for social cohesion and social inclusion in the context of the EU 2020 poverty agenda;

10. Calls on the Commission to promote simplicity and flexibility in the rules governing the implementation of the programmes and to renegotiate the co-financing rates where Member States so request, taking into account the ‘convergence’ regions, especially the least-developed regions of the Cohesion Fund Member States and the regions characterised by permanent geographical or natural disadvantages, such as the most remote regions; calls for information on the approval and implementation of projects supported by cohesion policy funding to be made available in real time, on the basis of a nomenclature of territorial units for statistics (NUTS) that is as detailed as possible (NUTS 3, where available) on a website open to the general public, thereby contributing to greater transparency and close monitoring of the management of cohesion policy funds;

11.  Stresses the need for a results-oriented approach to cohesion policy through the setting of clear and measurable targets and outcome indicators; stresses the need for a timely and complete submission of accurate information on the indicators and on the progress towards the agreed targets by all Member States in their annual reports, to allow a better understanding of programme content and a better monitoring of implementation progress;

12.  Acknowledges the lack of data regarding the projects contracted and projects paid in the 2010 Strategic Report; therefore, urges the Commission to present data which can assess the real implementation of the cohesion policy through reliable indicators such as project final payments, project objectives achievements and their linkage with the corresponding policy of EU 2020 strategy;

13.  Calls on the Commission to provide funding for programmes geared to urban regeneration and improving environmental conditions, including projects for water quality;

14.  Calls on the Commission to step up communication in the regions on the opportunities that Europe offers for innovation in the field of environmental technologies and highlights the need to implement measures to facilitate the involvement of SMEs;

15.  Calls for better coordination and integration of infrastructure cohesion programmes in various areas including ICT and energy through improved planning at national, regional and local level in order to deliver cost reductions and better protection of the environment;

16.  Highlights the need for simplifying and speeding up the allocation of funds and payments to final beneficiaries while at the same time ensuring sound financial management;

17.  Acknowledges the modest impact of cohesion programmes on national economic indicators, including GDP, and points out that delays in implementing cohesion policy are due in part to the excessive rigidity of procedures ; therefore, stresses the need for improving the effectiveness of cohesion policy, including through red tape reduction and streamlining of existing procedures and methods of reimbursement to beneficiaries; highlights the need for achieving a balance between simplifying bureaucratic procedures and combating fraud;

18.  Stresses the need to increase the leverage effect of the EU budget as regards cohesion programmes through new forms of finance for investment, including through innovative ways of combining grants and loans, opening new markets to different forms of public-private partnership, and extensive use of international financial institutions’ expertise;

19.  Stresses that cohesion policy should continue to foster cross-border, transnational and inter-regional forms of cooperation; therefore, highlights the need for a review and a simplification of the current arrangements for cross-border cooperation.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

25.1.2011

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

51

1

1

Members present for the final vote

János Áder, Kriton Arsenis, Paolo Bartolozzi, Sandrine Bélier, Sergio Berlato, Martin Callanan, Nessa Childers, Chris Davies, Bas Eickhout, Edite Estrela, Elisabetta Gardini, Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, Nick Griffin, Satu Hassi, Jolanta Emilia Hibner, Dan Jørgensen, Karin Kadenbach, Christa Klaß, Jo Leinen, Peter Liese, Kartika Tamara Liotard, Linda McAvan, Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė, Gilles Pargneaux, Andres Perello Rodriguez, Sirpa Pietikäinen, Mario Pirillo, Pavel Poc, Vittorio Prodi, Oreste Rossi, Horst Schnellhardt, Richard Seeber, Bogusław Sonik, Catherine Soullie, Salvatore Tatarella, Marina Yannakoudakis

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Margrete Auken, Tadeusz Cymański, José Manuel Fernandes, João Ferreira, Jacqueline Foster, Gaston Franco, Matthias Groote, Jutta Haug, Marisa Matias, Judith A. Merkies, Miroslav Mikolášik, Eleni Theocharous, Michail Tremopoulos, Thomas Ulmer, Marita Ulvskog, Vladimir Urutchev, Adina-Ioana Vălean


OPINION of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (2.12.2010)

for the Committee on Regional Development

on the Report 2010 on the implementation of the Cohesion Policy programmes for 2007-2013

(2010/2139(INI))

Rapporteur: Francisco Sosa Wagner

SUGGESTIONS

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

1.  Underlines that in accordance with provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon, as well as the best practices so far, cohesion policy should remain independent and its current foundations and principles should not be modified by a sectoral dispersion of regional policy resources; stresses that cohesion policy and projects need to be better linked to the priorities established in the EU 2020 Strategy; underlines the need to set clear objectives and to assess whether the goals were achieved, to show flexibility in the process of reviewing the operational programmes and reallocating funding between programmes and to allocate clear competences to each level of governance;

2.  Points out that cohesion funding should serve to foster the sustainable development of the EU as a whole, in particular by ensuring that better use is made of the potential of regions and sub-regions with a GDP below the EU average and by promoting economic and social cohesion with the aim of undertaking measures to reduce regional inequalities and promote real convergence; stresses that cohesion policy is an important instrument with which to attain the 20-20-20 goal by 2020 and establish a coherent strategy for a European economy with, in the long and medium term, maximum energy efficiency and low CO2 emissions and to address energy security issues and the potential for job creation in a single market; is aware that investment in energy efficiency, energy infrastructure and renewable energy projects, as well as the development of the broadband network and the use of ICT in the public and industrial sector, is not moving ahead as expected;

3.  Points out that cohesion policy is not playing a sufficiently effective role in driving investment in climate change adaptation infrastructure, such as flood defences;

4.  Calls for a link between the allocation of subsidies and previous results and for more opportunities for the Court of Auditors and OLAF to initiate proceedings to recover European funds where Member States make inappropriate use thereof, as well as for the elimination of unnecessary administrative burdens, more flexible project management and synchronised controls in order to simplify these controls and avoid the confusion and erroneous interpretations that current administrative practices often create;

5.  Asks the Commission to identify the obstacles that prevent a higher percentage of these funds from being used in the energy sphere and to present additional measures remedying this situation; takes the view, however, that the measures presented cannot change the current foundations of cohesion policy and lead to the creation of any sectoral dispersion of funds;

6.  Calls on the Commission and the national authorities to improve the link between the cohesion funds and the research framework programme, underlines that cohesion funds should be used to enhance research infrastructure to enable research to reach the level of excellence necessary for access to research funds, and calls for an improved information flow between cohesion funds and research programmes where projects with great potential would require access to better facilities for a successful application;

7.  In the light of the review of cohesion policy and the EU financial perspective, asks the Commission to ensure that energy saving is automatically included, when applicable, as a condition when granting structural and cohesion funds, and to earmark an increased proportion of funds for energy efficiency projects (such as increasing the energy efficiency of buildings, of electricity generation or of transmission), and for decentralised renewable energy and cogeneration projects; points out that this must not be discriminatory towards projects that would not in any case be related or linked to energy efficiency issues and must not increase the level of red tape for the beneficiaries of structural and cohesion funds;

8.  Is convinced that the housing sector can contribute to boosting regional development by the consolidation of economic activities based on technological innovation in the field of energy and urban rehabilitation and by strengthening social cohesion in the area concerned; calls on the Commission to launch a European Building Initiative by June 2011 to support and deliver an EU zero-energy built environment by 2050;

9.  Calls on the Commission and Member States to use the opportunity of the mid-term review of the financial perspective 2007-2013 and of cohesion policy to ensure increased absorption of European funding in the period 2011-2013;

10. Recognises that many social and economic benefits are to be gained from the effective use of resources, particularly the creation of jobs which are not vulnerable to relocation, in both rural and urban areas, notably in the case of SMEs;

11. Acknowledges that better use can be made of resources and that social benefits can be achieved by allocating cohesion policy funding in such a way as to foster sustainable development at regional and sub-regional level in the Member States; takes the view that a more even distribution of cohesion funding will unleash local social potential and local resources, thus creating new jobs;

12. In the light of the new financial framework and EU 2020 Strategy, asks the Commission to make EU funding for regional projects more accessible for SMEs, through increased budgets allocated to specific SMEs programmes, support for improving absorption capacity and simplification of administrative procedures; underlines the role of SMEs as innovative players in the economy, and stresses the need to ‘wake up sleeping innovators’, i.e. to encourage SMEs to become involved in innovative projects and raise their awareness of their own potential;

13. Stresses the importance of a competitive forestry sector in regional development, especially in rural areas, where it contributes greatly to economic growth, jobs and prosperity;

14. Underlines the role of local and regional authorities in the implementation of the cohesion policy; believes that cooperation at the local level between SMEs, business networks, research institutes, clusters and regional authorities should be improved for the swifter identification of local problems and needs, regional programmes and project opportunities, supporting rebuilding employment, development of the SME sector and applied research and innovation, and the creation of skilled jobs; calls, therefore, for a deepening of the cooperation with local and regional authorities in the implementation of the cohesion policy and for the opinion of the Committee of Regions on ‘Contribution of Cohesion Policy to the Europe 2020’ to be taken into account in creating cohesion policy in the post-2013 financial perspective;

15. This being the case, welcomes the ongoing initiatives such as JASPERS (project development), JEREMIE (equity, loans or guarantees) and JASMINE (micro-credit facilities), and urges the Commission to further simplify and streamline the process for facilitating SME participation and identifying additional EU financial engineering instruments;

16. Highlights the important role played by education and scientific research in fostering innovation, in particular in the field of ICTs, and encouraging efficient energy use, as well as in connection with cohesion policy and sustainable economic development in the EU;

17. Draws attention to the difficulties Member States are having in implementing EU directives on municipal waste recycling and management, and to the fact that material and energy recycling offers an additional means of acquiring resources and creating new jobs, in particular at regional and sub-regional level;

18. Notes the unequal development of investment in the digital economy; calls on the Commission and the Member States to raise their level of support for ICTs, by encouraging innovation, and to redouble their efforts to stimulate investment in new, open and competitive high-speed networks in order to make internet access universally available and thereby narrow the digital divide among European citizens.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

2.12.2010

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

43

2

1

Members present for the final vote

Jean-Pierre Audy, Zigmantas Balčytis, Ivo Belet, Jan Březina, Reinhard Bütikofer, Maria Da Graça Carvalho, Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, Giles Chichester, Pilar del Castillo Vera, Ioan Enciu, Adam Gierek, Fiona Hall, Jacky Hénin, Edit Herczog, Romana Jordan Cizelj, Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš, Béla Kovács, Judith A. Merkies, Angelika Niebler, Jaroslav Paška, Herbert Reul, Jens Rohde, Amalia Sartori, Francisco Sosa Wagner, Konrad Szymański, Britta Thomsen, Evžen Tošenovský, Ioannis A. Tsoukalas, Claude Turmes, Vladimir Urutchev, Alejo Vidal-Quadras

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Antonio Cancian, Ilda Figueiredo, Françoise Grossetête, Andrzej Grzyb, Jolanta Emilia Hibner, Yannick Jadot, Oriol Junqueras Vies, Ivailo Kalfin, Bernd Lange, Werner Langen, Marian-Jean Marinescu, Vladimír Remek, Silvia-Adriana Ţicău

Substitute(s) under Rule 187(2) present for the final vote

Spyros Danellis, Morten Messerschmidt


OPINION of the Committee on Transport and Tourism (27.1.2011)

for the Committee on Regional Development

on the Report 2010 on the implementation of the Cohesion Policy programmes for 2007-2013

(2010/2139(INI))

Rapporteur: Jaromír Kohlíček

SUGGESTIONS

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

1.  Recalls that enhancing accessibility, strengthening regional and local economies and achieving cohesion is also an objective of the Trans-European Network for Transport (TEN-T) programme and is fully compatible with the need to achieve efficient mobility and meet the climate change challenges and the general internal market goals;

2.  Recalls that about 23.7% (€82 billion) of the Cohesion and Structural Funds allocation for 2007-2013 is intended for transport, but only half of it will be spent on TEN-T projects (€17 billion on the TEN-T priority network and €27.2 billion for the comprehensive part), with the other half being earmarked for investment in national, regional and local projects not indicated on the TEN-T maps;

3.  Is concerned about the low level of payments in relation to the amounts planned, as, midway through the budgetary period 2007-2013, only 19% has actually been spent;

4.  Deplores the imbalance in the planned transport investments between the different modes (€41 billion for road infrastructure, as against €23.6 billion for rail and €0.6 billion for inland waterways), which is detrimental to the creation of a sustainable intermodal European transport system; hopes, therefore, that European funds allocated to rail transport projects will be assigned priority and will be increased wherever road infrastructure is already sufficiently developed;

5.  Deplores the tendency to procrastinate in the launching of cross-border projects and railway projects in general, which risks leaving the TEN-T network as a badly connected agglomeration of 27 national networks, and stresses the importance of developing links between priority TEN-T projects and of intermodality;

6.  Recalls that projects which transcend the EU’s internal borders must be taken into account in constructing the TEN-T network; observes that border crossing points present a challenge to the TEN-T network, because political consensus alone regarding them is not sufficient – practical implementation is also needed in order for the network to function properly even in cross-border regions; observes that, in addition, attention should be devoted to border crossing points at the EU’s external borders;

7.  Regrets, in particular, that when road is compared to railway infrastructure, notably in the cohesion countries, it is apparent that the road/rail imbalance could be accentuated if investments in the rail sector continue to be delayed, as is highlighted in the cohesion implementation report for 2010;

8.  Stresses the importance of transport in general – and rail transport in particular – in ensuring territorial, economic and social cohesion and promoting eco-efficient transport, and calls on the Commission and Member States to encourage the development of high-speed rail infrastructures connecting all Member State capitals;

9.  Is concerned by the lack of detailed information on the ongoing implementation of transport investments and by the delays which have occurred in the majority of the TEN-T projects currently under way; calls in this context for a more accurate evaluation of the implementation of these projects and insists, especially against the background of the economic crisis, on more certainty in respect of the timetable; reminds the Commission of Parliament’s resolution of 22 April 2009 on the TEN-T Green Paper, in paragraph 46 of which Parliament calls ‘on the Commission and the EIB to submit an annual list of specific co-financed projects to the Parliament and Council in the case of regional, cohesion and EIB co-funding of TEN-T projects, as is already the case for TEN-T co-financing’;

10. Draws particular attention to the European added value of the TEN-T network, which is particularly evident in cross-border sections of projects and in their interconnection with national road, rail and inland waterways projects;

11. Stresses that cohesion and structural funding allocated to transport is distributed between transport modes and networks in a way which takes insufficient account of the objectives of the European Union;

12. Calls therefore for European transport policy – particularly TEN-T policy – to be better taken into account when allocating cohesion policy funding, as this would lead to these funds being used in a manner that is more efficient and more in keeping with the EU climate change and sustainable development targets, as well as to more effective implementation of the TEN-T network; calls on the Commission, in connection with cohesion policy, to consider in the future the possibility of adopting distribution and conditionality criteria which take better account of the European interest of transport networks;

13. Stresses that Member States ought to focus more than they have done hitherto on ensuring that the EU’s cohesion funds are used for the right purposes, as the margin for error has been remarkably large in some EU Member States;

14. Stresses that the application of information and communications technology to the road transport sector and its interfaces to other transport modes will make a significant contribution to improving energy efficiency, as well as road transport safety and security, and calls on the Commission and Member States to ensure that intelligent transport systems are implemented in a coordinated and efficient manner throughout the EU and accorded adequate funding;

15. Calls on the Commission and Member States to use the opportunity offered by the mid-term review of the 2007-2013 multiannual financial framework, which enables Member States to reassess their operational programmes, to consider giving greater importance to priority trans-European transport projects.

RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

25.1.2011

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

35

0

3

Members present for the final vote

Inés Ayala Sender, Georges Bach, Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, Antonio Cancian, Michael Cramer, Christine De Veyrac, Saïd El Khadraoui, Ismail Ertug, Carlo Fidanza, Jacqueline Foster, Mathieu Grosch, Jim Higgins, Juozas Imbrasas, Ville Itälä, Dieter-Lebrecht Koch, Georgios Koumoutsakos, Werner Kuhn, Eva Lichtenberger, Marian-Jean Marinescu, Hella Ranner, Vilja Savisaar-Toomast, Olga Sehnalová, Brian Simpson, Dirk Sterckx, Keith Taylor, Silvia-Adriana Ţicău, Giommaria Uggias, Thomas Ulmer, Peter van Dalen, Dominique Vlasto, Artur Zasada, Roberts Zīle

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Philip Bradbourn, Spyros Danellis, Anne E. Jensen, Petra Kammerevert, Dominique Riquet, Janusz Władysław Zemke


RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE

Date adopted

22.3.2011

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

40

1

4

Members present for the final vote

François Alfonsi, Luís Paulo Alves, Charalampos Angourakis, Sophie Auconie, Victor Boştinaru, Zuzana Brzobohatá, Francesco De Angelis, Tamás Deutsch, Rosa Estaràs Ferragut, Danuta Maria Hübner, Juozas Imbrasas, María Irigoyen Pérez, Seán Kelly, Evgeni Kirilov, Constanze Angela Krehl, Petru Constantin Luhan, Ramona Nicole Mănescu, Riikka Manner, Iosif Matula, Erminia Mazzoni, Miroslav Mikolášik, Franz Obermayr, Jan Olbrycht, Markus Pieper, Tomasz Piotr Poręba, Monika Smolková, Georgios Stavrakakis, Csanád Szegedi, Nuno Teixeira, Michail Tremopoulos, Lambert van Nistelrooij, Oldřich Vlasák, Joachim Zeller, Elżbieta Katarzyna Łukacijewska

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Andrea Cozzolino, Karima Delli, Ivars Godmanis, Karin Kadenbach, Marie-Thérèse Sanchez-Schmid, Vilja Savisaar-Toomast, Elisabeth Schroedter, László Surján

Substitute(s) under Rule 187(2) present for the final vote

Vladko Todorov Panayotov, Britta Reimers, Ivo Strejček

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