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Procedure : 2009/2231(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0280/2010

Texts tabled :

A7-0280/2010

Debates :

PV 13/12/2010 - 20
CRE 13/12/2010 - 20

Votes :

PV 14/12/2010 - 9.16
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2010)0468

Texts adopted
PDF 122kWORD 57k
Tuesday, 14 December 2010 - Strasbourg Final edition
Good governance and EU regional policy
P7_TA(2010)0468A7-0280/2010

European Parliament resolution of 14 December 2010 on good governance with regards to the EU regional policy: procedures of assistance and control by the European Commission (2009/2231(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 proposal for the revision of the Financial Regulation applicable to the general budget of the European Union of 28 May 2010 (COM(2010)0260),

–  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 its resolution of 21 October 2008 on governance and partnership at national and regional levels and a basis for projects in the sphere of regional policy(2) ,

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 June 2010 on transparency in regional policy and its funding(3) ,

–  having regard to the Committee of the Regions' White Paper on Multi-level governance of 17-18 June 2009 and the Consultation Report,

–  having regard to the conclusions of the informal Ministerial meeting which took place on 16-17 March 2010 in Málaga,

–  having regard to the Commission Communication of 6 September 2004 , entitled ‘The respective responsibilities of the Member States and the Commission in the shared management of the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund - Current situation and outlook for the new programming period after 2006’ (COM(2004)0580),

–  having regard to the Commission Communication of 14 May 2008 on the results of the negotiations concerning cohesion policy strategies and programmes for the programming period 2007-2013 (COM(2008)0301),

–  having regard to the Annual Report of the Court of Auditors on the implementation of the budget concerning the financial years 2006 and 2008,

–  having regard to the Commission Communication of 19 February 2008, entitled ‘An action plan to strengthen the Commission's supervisory role under shared management of structural actions’ (COM(2008)0097),

–  having regard to the Commission Communication of 3 February 2009, entitled ‘Report on the implementation of the action plan to strengthen the Commission's supervisory role under shared management of structural actions’ (COM(2009)0042),

–  having regard to the Communication of 28 October 2009 from Commissioners Samecki and Špidla to the Commission giving an interim report on the follow-up to the action plan to strengthen the Commission's supervisory role under shared management of structural actions (SEC(2009)1463),

–  having regard to the Commission Communication of 18 February 2010 on the impact of the action plan to strengthen the Commission's supervisory role under shared management of structural actions (COM(2010)0052),

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

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Regional Development (A7-0280/2010),

A.  whereas implementation of the cohesion policy is predominantly decentralised and based on sub-national authorities assuming responsibility,

B.  whereas cohesion policy plays a forerunner role in the application of multi-level governance, as an instrument to improve the quality of decision-making processes through the active involvement of sub-national authorities from the pre-legislative phase of the debates,

C.  whereas ‘multi-level governance’ means coordinated action by the Union, Member States and local and regional authorities, as well as socio-economic partners and NGOs, based on the principles of partnership and co-financing and aimed at drawing up and implementing European Union policies, a definition which implies responsibility being shared between the different tiers of government,

D.  whereas the 2006 report of the European Court of Auditors showed that the control systems in place for the cohesion policy were not effective enough, with a 12% error rate in the expenditure reimbursed, and the 2008 report confirmed these data with 11% of funds unduly reimbursed,

E.  whereas the Commission needs to strengthen its supervisory role to reduce the level of error, improve the control system and increase assistance to sub-national authorities and beneficiaries, all of which will lead in the long term to a more result-oriented, user-friendly policy,

F.  whereas funding application procedures that are too complicated, and an excessive number of checks, are likely to discourage potential beneficiaries of cohesion policy,

G.  whereas the practical solutions which our fellow citizens expect to see as regards public services (such as public transport, drinking water, public health, social housing and public education) can be achieved only by means of good governance, involving two complementary systems: firstly, the institutional system, which provides for the allocation of powers and budgets between the State and regional and local authorities and, secondly, the partnership system, which brings together public and private parties with an interest in a given topic in a given territory,

H.  whereas partnership should take account of all relevant communities and groups, can bring benefit and added value to the implementation of cohesion policy through enhanced legitimacy, guaranteed transparency and better absorption of funds, and should also be assessed in terms of the social and civic value it represents,

I.  whereas an integrated approach should pay attention to the regions' special characteristics (geographical and natural disadvantages, depopulation, outermost region, etc.) if it is to meet local and regional challenges,

Applying multi-level governance

1.  Welcomes the CoR White Paper on multi-level governance and the recognition of sub-national subsidiarity in the Lisbon Treaty; stresses that the multi-level approach should be applied not only vertically but also horizontally, among actors of the same level, in all shared-competence Union policies including the cohesion policy;

2.  Welcomes the conclusions of the Málaga informal ministerial meeting of March 2010 and considers that multi-level governance is a precondition for achieving territorial cohesion in Europe; calls for this principle to be made compulsory for Member States in policy areas with a strong territorial impact in order to ensure balanced territorial development in line with the subsidiarity principle; points out that such a provision should in no way lead to more burdensome procedures;

3.  Considers that satisfactory multi-level governance should be based on a bottom-up approach, taking account of the diversity of administrative arrangements existing in the different Member State; calls on the Member States to identify the most efficient means of implementing governance at the various levels and to improve their cooperation with the regional and local authorities as well as with the Community's administration by, for example, inviting officials from all tiers of government to the periodic meetings organised with the Commission or by establishing European Territorial Pacts that link on a voluntary basis the different tiers of government concerned;

4.  Recommends that the territorial impact analysis should become standard practice through the involvement, upstream of the policy decision, of the various parties concerned in order to understand the economic, social and environmental repercussions on the regions of Community legislative and non-legislative proposals;

5.  Stresses that multi-level governance allows better exploitation of the potential of territorial cooperation thanks to the relations developed among private and public actors across borders; urges those Member States which have not yet done so to adopt as soon as possible the necessary provisions allowing the setting up of European Groupings of Territorial Cooperation; recommends that the Commission promote exchange of information between the EGTCs already created and those in the process of being set up in the framework of existing programmes; congratulates the Committee of the Regions on the quality of its work on EGTCs and calls for its available instruments, in particular its Lisbon Monitoring Platform and its Subsidiarity Monitoring Network, to be used to promote the exchange of best practices between regions and Member States with a view to the joint identification and determination of objectives, subsequent planning actions, and, finally, a comparative evaluation of the outcomes of cohesion policy;

6.  Calls on national, regional and local authorities to intensify their use of the integrated approach during the current programming period; proposes that this approach be made compulsory in the context of the future cohesion policy; considers that a flexible and integrated approach should not only take into account the economic, social and environmental aspects of territorial development but also enable coordination of the interests of the various partners, in the light of territorial characteristics, in order to respond to challenges at local and regional level;

7.  Urges the Commission to develop a guide for public and private actors on how to implement in practice the principles of multi-level governance and the integrated approach; recommends that actions aimed at promoting these two approaches be financed under ERDF technical assistance;

8.  Recommends that the Committee of the Regions use the 2011 Open Days, and as far as still possible at this stage, the 2010 Open Days as an occasion to promote and deepen the debate on identifying the most suitable means of promoting multi-governance; suggests that a European multi-level governance label be launched and put in place in all regions across the EU as from 2011;

9.  Notes that decentralised delivery mechanisms are a key factor for multi-level governance; given the necessity for simplification, urges Member States and regions to sub-delegate the implementation of a part of an operational programme, where appropriate and in particular to better exploit the use of global grants; calls on them to take the decentralisation measures required, at both legislative and budgetary levels, so that the system of multi-level governance can work effectively and in keeping with the principles of partnership and subsidiarity; stresses that regional and local authorities, especially those having legislative powers, should be more closely involved, as they are the best informed on their regions' potentialities and needs and could therefore contribute to an improved implementation of cohesion policy;

10.  Urges the Member States to involve relevant regional and local authorities and civil society actors from the very early stages of negotiations on Union legislation and on programmes benefiting from the Structural Funds so as to allow a timely dialogue between the different layers of government; calls for these authorities to participate in the responsible decision-making bodies on an equal footing with the national representatives;

11.  Emphasises that for the efficient absorption of funds and maximisation of their impact there must be sufficient administrative capacity both at EU and at regional and local level; calls therefore on the Commission to improve its administrative capacity in order to increase the added value of the cohesion policy and ensure the sustainability of the actions and on the Member States to ensure adequate administrative structures and human capital in terms of recruitment, remuneration, training, resources, procedures, transparency and accessibility;

12.  Calls on the Member States also to strengthen, where appropriate, the role of regional and local authorities in programme preparation, management and implementation as well as boosting the resources at their disposal; recommends the adoption in the cohesion policy of the local development methodology based on local partnerships, in particular for projects related to urban, rural and cross-border issues; calls on the Commission to encourage partnership between regions having a similar specific development potential and to ensure that there is an appropriate framework at EU level put in place for the coordination of macroregional cooperation;

13.  Considers that the principles of partnership and co-financing foster the assumption of responsibility by sub-national authorities in the implementation of cohesion policy; reiterates its commitment to these principles of good management and calls for their continued application despite the restrictions on public spending arising from the economic crisis;

14.  Recommends enhancing partnership practice and urges the Commission to come up with an agreed definition of the concept of partnership as a condition for building up real partnerships with regional and local authorities and civil society actors; asks the Commission to seriously verify the implementation of this principle by developing specific evaluation tools and to spread best practices in this area through ICT tools; emphasises that partnership can contribute to effectiveness, efficiency, legitimacy and transparency in all the phases of Structural Fund programming and implementation and can increase commitment to and ownership of programme outputs; underlines the important role of the voluntary sector in the partnership process;

15.  Draws attention to the requirement to consult the general public through organisations representing civil society and NGOs in order to reflect their proposals, and stresses that the participation of civil society helps to legitimise the decision-making process; notes that the efforts to involve the public in the preparations for the operational programmes for the period 2007-2013 were not as successful as hoped for; calls on the Commission to identify good practices and to facilitate their application with a view to improving public involvement ahead of the next programming period;

16.  Calls for the multi-level governance principle to be integrated into all phases of design and implementation of the EU2020 Strategy to ensure real ownership of the results by the regional and local authorities, which have to implement it; highlights in this connection the proposal for a ‘Territorial Pact of Local and Regional Authorities for Europe 2020’ to encourage regions and cities to contribute to the successful achievement of the objectives of the 2020 Strategy;

17.  Recommends that the Commission re-analyse the possibilities of implementing the pilot project initiated by the European Parliament entitled ‘Erasmus for elected local and regional representatives’ and, with a view to raising the standard of proposed projects and meet the objective of efficiency, calls on the Commission to implement, under the ERDF operational technical assistance budget line, a training and mobility scheme for local and regional actors involved in running cohesion policy programmes together  with the partners specialised in implementing the concepts of integrated approach and multilevel governance; asks the Commission, therefore, to allocate funding for these initiatives effectively and to reinforce networking with regional and local authorities, including through the Committee of the Regions;

18.  Takes the view that the European networks of regions should broaden their work in the area of good practices in governance and partnership, should put more emphasis on political and strategic lessons learnt from previous programme cycles and should ensure public access to key information on best practices in all European Union languages and thus help to ensure that good practices are in fact implemented;

Strengthening the Commission's role in supporting regional and local authorities

19.  Is of the opinion that a stronger role for the regional and local level must correspond to a strengthened supervisory role for the Commission focusing on checking audit systems rather than single projects; calls in this connection for an EU certification system for national audit bodies; urges the Commission to complete the approval of the compliance assessment reports so as to avoid delays in payments and loss of funds due to decommittment, and to come up with a proposal on the tolerable risk of error before 2012;

20.  Welcomes the findings of the Commission report on the February 2010 Action Plan and the corrective and preventive actions begun so far; calls on DG REGIO to continue with this exercise during the whole period of implementation to keep up the momentum generated by the Action Plan;

21.  Stresses that European initiatives in the field of cohesion and structural policy need to be better coordinated so as not to jeopardise the coherence of regional policy; calls therefore for strengthened coordination in the Commission between DG REGIO, which is responsible for cohesion and structural policy, and the DGs responsible for the relevant sector-specific initiatives; calls, in view of the Lisbon Treaty's strengthening of the rights of regional and local authorities, for these authorities to be more closely involved in the development of policy at Commission level, in order to enhance project responsibility among project promoters; also calls, however, for more control of results by the Commission on the spot, so as to improve evaluation both of the efficiency of project structures and of the effectiveness of measures in terms of the objective they seek to achieve;

22.  Invites the Commission to reinforce the ‘Train the trainers’ initiative for managing and certifying authorities; stresses that there should be constant monitoring to ensure that training contents are actually transferred to the lower levels in a balanced way, not neglecting the local actors;

23.  Urges the Commission to quickly launch the new portal in the SFC 2007 database allowing direct access to relevant information for all actors dealing with Structural Funds; recommends that Member States promote and circulate information on this instrument among regional and local authorities as well as final beneficiaries;

24.  Invites the Commission to put in place additional technical assistance mechanisms to promote knowledge at regional and local level on implementation-related problems, especially in Member States where, according to the Commission's ex-post evaluation of Cohesion Policy programmes 2000-2006, there are very persistent problems regarding their administrative capacity when it comes to the implementation of these programmes;

25.  Asks for a standardised application of the single information, single audit (SISA)- model at all audit levels to avoid duplication of audits and over-control; urges the Commission to issue a single audit manual including all the guidance notes produced so far;

26.  Invites Member States to further exploit the financial engineering instruments as a means to increase the quality of the projects and the participation of private actors, especially SMEs, in European projects; calls on the Commission to simplify the functioning rules of these instruments, whose current complexity limits their use;

27.  Is convinced that compliance with the procedures cannot be at the expense of the quality of interventions; asks the Commission for a more result-oriented policy in the future, focused on quality performance and strategic project development rather than on controls; to this end, urges the Commission to develop objective and measurable indicators which are comparable across the Union for better monitoring and evaluating systems and to give further consideration to the need for flexible rules in the event of economic crises;

28.  Emphasises that transparent and clear procedures are factors in good governance; therefore welcomes the ongoing simplification of the Financial Regulation and of the Structural Funds rules and calls on the Member States to fully comply with the requirements of the revised Financial Regulation and to disclose information on final beneficiaries of Structural Funds; urges the Commission to propose understandable rules, which will not require frequent modifications; calls for a simpler architecture for the Funds after 2013, not as a consequence of the economic crisis but as a general principle of the future cohesion policy, in order to facilitate absorption of the funds, and recommends greater transparency and flexibility in the use of the EU Funds in order to avoid an additional administrative burden which may discourage potential partners from taking part in projects;

29.  Welcomes the Commission's Strategic Report on the implementation of the Cohesion Policy Programmes 2010 as it can feed important information back to the policy-making process; considers that its findings also have to be seriously taken into account when formulating proposals for improving the effective implementation of Cohesion Policy programmes;

30.  Reiterates its commitment to a strong and properly funded cohesion policy that ensures that all European Union regions develop harmoniously; calls for the budget for the policy to be maintained after 2013 and for any attempt to renationalise it to be rejected;

31.  Calls on the Commission to take on board the principles of differentiation and proportionality in future regulations and to adapt requirements according to the size of programmes and nature of partners, especially when small public authorities are involved; asks for wider use of lump-sums and flat rates for all Funds, in particular for overheads and technical assistance; proposes that provision be made for more flexible evaluation criteria with a view to encouraging innovative projects and softer control requirements for pilot projects; encourages the Commission to develop the principle of a ‘bond of trust’ with Member States which undertake to, and succeed in, making good use of the Funds;

32.  With a view to building up a more user-friendly policy in the future, calls for deeper harmonisation and integration of the Structural Funds rules, avoiding the breakdown of a project into different parts to apply to different funds; recommends that the focus be put not just on the regularity of expenditure but on quality of interventions and that resources be concentrated in potentiating assistance on the management side;

33.  Calls on the Commission to present as soon as possible proposals for the next programming period regulations, to adopt the implementing regulation, elaborate the necessary guidance and provide training on them in due time, and to facilitate the process of negotiations and approval of the operational programmes in order to avoid any delay in the cohesion policy implementation and absorption of funds after 2013;

o
o   o

34.  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 C 15 E, 21.1.2010, p. 10.
(3) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2010)0201.

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