REPORT on Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion and the state for the debate on the future reform of Cohesion policy
20.2.2009 - (2008/2174(INI))
Committee on Regional Development
Rapporteur: Lambert van Nistelrooij
MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
on Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion and the state for the debate on the future reform of Cohesion policy
The European Parliament,
– having regard to the Commission's fifth progress report of 19 June 2008 on economic and social cohesion - Growing regions, growing Europe (COM(2008)0371) (Fifth Progress Report),
– having regard to the Commission Green Paper of 6 October 2008 on Territorial Cohesion-Turning territorial diversity into strength (COM(2008)0616) (Green Paper),
– having regard to the Commission staff working document of 14 November 2008 on Regions 2020 - an assessment of Future Challenges for EU Regions (SEC(2008)2868) (Commission Report on Regions 2020),
- having regard to Articles 158 and 159 and Article 299(2) of the EC Treaty,
- having regard to the Commission's fourth Report of 30 May 2007 on Economic and Social Cohesion (COM(2007)0273)
– having regard to the Territorial Agenda of the EU and the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities, and the implementation of the Action Programme of the Territorial Agenda,
– having regard to its resolutions of 21 February 2008 on the fourth report on economic and social cohesion (resolution on the Fourth Progress Report), of 21 February 2008 on the follow-up of the Territorial Agenda and the Leipzig Charter: Towards a European Action Programme for Spatial Development and Territorial Cohesion, and of 21 October 2008 on governance and partnership,
– having regard to the report by the European Spatial Planning Observatory Network (ESPON) entitled 'Territorial Futures - Spatial scenarios for Europe and that of the European Parliament Regional Disparities and Cohesion: what Strategies for the Future?',
– having regard to the conclusions of the Conference on territorial cohesion and the future of cohesion policy held in Paris on 30 to 31 October 2008,
– having regard to its resolution of 28 September 2005 on the role of territorial cohesion in regional development,
– having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure, having regard to the report of the Committee on Regional Development (A6-0083/2009),
A. whereas the Lisbon Treaty, which enshrines territorial cohesion as among the fundamental objectives of the European Union alongside economic and social cohesion, has not yet been ratified by all EU Member States,
B. whereas the concept of territorial cohesion has been implicit in cohesion policy since its inception and at the core of its development; whereas the Lisbon Treaty and the Green Paper have made the concept more visible and explicit,
C. whereas the EU cohesion policy remains an essential pillar in the process of European integration and one of the most successful EU policies, by facilitating convergence between increasingly diverse regions and stimulating growth and employment; whereas the EU cohesion policy is the most visible, tangible and quantifiable expression of European solidarity and equity, and whereas territorial cohesion, as an integral part of the EU cohesion policy, is based on the same principles,
D. whereas, despite significant progress made in terms of convergence in the European Union, the most recent cohesion reports highlight a trend towards worsening territorial disparities between EU regions, for instance in terms of accessibility, in particular for the structurally disadvantaged EU regions, but also at an intra-regional level and within EU territories, which could lead to phenomena of spatial segregation and widen the differences in the levels of prosperity of the EU regions,
E. whereas the EU cohesion policy has already been successful in creating some important synergies with other Community policies with the aim of increasing their impact on the ground and for the benefit of citizens of the Union and whereas, for example, synergies between cohesion policy and research and innovation or the Lisbon Strategy, and synergies at cross-border level, have delivered tangible positive results that must be confirmed and expanded,
State of the debate about the future of the EU cohesion policy
1. Endorses the main conclusions of the public consultation on the future of EU cohesion policy, as presented in the Fifth Progress Report; is satisfied by the great interest that different stakeholders in the field of regional policy, in particular local and regional authorities, have already attached to that debate;
2. Welcomes the fact that those conclusions correspond to a very large extent to the view expressed in its resolution on the Fourth Progress Report on economic and social cohesion; recalls that that resolution represented the first contribution of the Parliament to the public debate;
3. Observes that the views expressed in its resolution on the Fourth Progress Report include the following recommendations: first, that any attempt for re-nationalisation should be rejected and that there should be a commitment to a single, flexible Community policy, capable of adapting to the most appropriate scale of intervention, which should also be in a position to address common challenges such as globalisation, climate change, demographic change (including ageing, migration and depopulation), poverty, and energy supply; second, a strong belief that the EU cohesion policy should cover all EU regions, including those with special geographical characteristics, and should import added value for everyone; third, that there is a need to set priorities in the spending of EU structural policies and actions and the endorsement, with reservations, of an 'earmarking' exercise; and fourth, that there is a need for synergies and an integrated approach between the different sectoral policies in order to achieve the optimal result for growth and development on the ground;
4. Believes that territorial cohesion is a central pillar for achieving the objectives pursued by the EU cohesion policy, by reinforcing both economic and social cohesion; stresses that territorial cohesion contributes effectively to closing the development gaps between but also within Member States and regions; considers, therefore, that the future reform of EU regional policy should incorporate the conclusions of the debate on the Green Paper;
Assessment of the Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion
5. Welcomes the Commission's adoption of the Green Paper, in response to Parliament's long-standing demand; fully endorses the decision to proceed with the analysis of 'territorial cohesion', which has long been at the forefront of any debate on regional policy, notwithstanding the fact that the Lisbon Treaty has not yet been ratified;
6. Considers, however, that the Green Paper lacks ambition to the extent that it fails to propose either a clear definition of or an objective for territorial cohesion and does not advance significantly the understanding of that new concept, so that it can effectively contribute to the alleviation of disparities between regions; regrets, moreover that the Green Paper does not explain how territorial cohesion will be integrated into the existing framework of cohesion policy or with what methodological tools or resources it will be transformed from a framework of principles into operational mechanisms to be applied on the ground during the next programming period;
7. Welcomes the analysis in the Green Paper which defines three key concepts that should be central to the development of territorial cohesion: concentration, connection and cooperation; considers that those concepts can contribute to the solution on some basic obstacles that hinder the harmonious, balanced and sustainable development of the European Union, such as the negative effects associated with the concentration of economic activity, in particular in certain national and regional capitals, the inequalities in terms of access to markets and services that result from distance or concentration, lack of infrastructure, and the divisions that are imposed by boundaries between Member States but also regions;
8. Considers that the Green Paper does not take due account of the commitments made in the Territorial Agenda and Leipzig Charter, which give territorial cohesion a strategic and operative vision, in particular as regards the polycentrism principle or the new urban-rural partnership; considers that those objectives need to be central to the debate on territorial cohesion;
9. Welcomes the launching of the public consultation on territorial cohesion, as requested in the Green Paper; considers that the success of any public consultation is directly linked with the widest possible participation of the different stakeholders and civil society; calls on the competent national, regional and local authorities to disseminate, without delay, the relevant information, in order to raise awareness about the importance of this new concept;
10. Considers the coordination of all sectoral Community policies that have a strong territorial impact to be central to the development of territorial cohesion and the reinforcement of economic and social cohesion; regrets, therefore, that the relevant analysis in the Green Paper is confined to listing those EU policies without suggesting ways of improving synergies between them or even methods by which, in fact, to measure the territorial impact of those policies;
11. Agrees with the approach of not including any references to possible budgetary and financial implications of territorial cohesion in the Green Paper or in the public debate; considers that such an analysis would be premature until the concept itself is clearly defined and understood by all stakeholders; considers, however, that any discussion on this issue is inseparable from the whole process of negotiating and planning the future EU cohesion policy; requests that the outcome of this debate will serve as the basis for the next financial perspectives;
12. Considers that the existence of a strong and well-financed EU regional policy is a condition for tackling successive enlargements and for achieving social, economic and territorial cohesion in an enlarged European Union;
Analysis of the concept of Territorial Cohesion
13. Endorses the position of the Green Paper that territorial cohesion, based on the principle of equal opportunities, is about ensuring the polycentric development of the European Union as a whole, as well as the balanced and sustainable development of territories with different characteristics and specificities while also preserving their diversity; also endorses the view that territorial cohesion should ensure that citizens are able to exploit to the full and develop the assets and potentials of their regions; places emphasis on the fact that territorial cohesion is a horizontal concept that underpins the development of the European Union ; strongly believes that territorial cohesion should effectively contribute to closing the gaps between and within the regions of the European Union and thus prevent the prospect of asymmetry; asserts that territorial cohesion has both a land and a maritime dimension;
14. Believes that territorial cohesion is a distinct concept that provides tangible added value to economic and social cohesion and a solution to the growing challenges of the EU regions; stresses that the three component parts of cohesion (economic, social and territorial) should be complementary and mutually reinforcing, albeit maintaining their own separate mission in a single integrated concept; considers, therefore, that there must be no hierarchy or trade off between those objectives; stresses that territorial cohesion should be introduced into the existing framework without causing the sectoral fragmentation of the EU cohesion policy;
15. Welcomes the conclusions of the research by ESPON on future development scenarios for the European territory until 2030, which bring tangible data in support of the policy debate on the shape of EU and national policies, in orders to create the right instruments to meet new challenges having a major local or regional impact such as demographic change, urban concentration, migratory movements, and climate change, and to develop optimal conditions for a good quality of life for their citizens;
16. Emphasises that one of the main objectives of territorial cohesion is to ensure that progress and growth generated in one specific territory should provide benefits for the whole region and across the territory of the European Union; considers, in this respect, that excellence centres and clusters of research and innovation may be one way of ensuring economic success, scientific discovery, technological innovation, jobs and regional development, and calls for the strengthening of interaction and knowledge transfer between those centres, universities, business organisations and individual businesses, including the smallest; calls on the Commission to present an impact assessment analysing the effect of clusters and excellence centres on surrounding areas;
17. Emphasises that the concept of territorial cohesion also embraces cohesion within territories and proposes that priority be given to any policies that promote a genuinely polycentric development of territories, in order to lessen the pressures on capital cities and encourage the emergence of secondary poles; notes that this should also be a way to counter the negative effects of concentration for cities (e.g. congestion, pollution, social exclusion, poverty) or subsequent uncontrolled urbanisation that affect the quality of life of their citizens; considers that support for rural areas and the important role played by small and medium-sized towns located in rural areas should not be overlooked in that regard;
18. Emphasises the vital contribution of the internal market to economic, social and territorial cohesion; stresses the importance of public services in relation to sustainable economic and social development as well as the need for socially and regionally equitable access to services of general interest, in particular education and health services; emphasises, in this respect, that guaranteeing 'equitable access' does not simply involve geographical distance but also availability and accessibility of those services and takes the view, in light of the subsidiarity principle and of EU competition law, that responsibility for defining, organising, financing and monitoring services of general interest should rest with the national, regional and local authorities; considers, however, that a reflection on the equitable access for citizens to services should be included in the debate on the territorial cohesion;
19. Notes that the Green Paper acknowledges the great development challenges of three particular types of regions with specific geographical features: mountainous regions, island regions and sparsely populated regions; without diminishing the significant role that territorial cohesion can play in addressing the problems of those regions, expresses the view that territorial cohesion should not be a policy exclusively directed towards regions with geographical handicaps; considers, however, that special consideration should be given on how to offset their handicaps and enable them to convert regional potential into assets and real opportunities and stimulate development, which is vital for the European Union as a whole;
20. Notes also that other regions face specific policy challenges in terms of economic and social development, accessibility and competitiveness; those challenges include the outermost regions established in Article 299(2) of the EC Treaty, border regions, peripheral regions, coastal regions, as well as regions experiencing depopulation; considers, in particular, that the specific feature of remoteness should be recognised as a particular geographical feature that calls for special policy considerations for those regions; notes the specific challenges that the small island Member States, Cyprus and Malta, also face in their development;
21. Believes that territorial cohesion should not be limited to the effects of EU regional policy on the territory of the European Union, but should also focus on the territorial dimension of other sectoral Community policies with a strong territorial impact; stresses, in the context of territorial cohesion, the importance of improving synergies between the different Community policies in order to coordinate and maximise their territorial impact on the ground; notes, however, that all Community policies will always keep their autonomy, and that this process does not imply the subordination of one policy to another;
Recommendations for the future of territorial cohesion
22. Expects that a clear and sufficiently flexible definition of territorial cohesion should result from the public consultation, which will be commonly agreed, shared and understood by all stakeholders in the field and provide clarity and transparency in regard to the concept; notes, in this respect, the proposal for a definition put forward by the French Council Presidency; considers, however, that territorial cohesion must be subject to the subsidiarity principle in all areas; also believes that, in order better to define and understand territorial cohesion, common definitions of concepts such as 'territory', 'rural area' and 'mountain area' should also be established;
23. Considers that a number of elements should be central to the future definition of territorial cohesion, including the notion that territorial cohesion extends beyond economic and social cohesion and that its horizontal nature and integrated approach encourages action across territories and boundaries; believes that territorial cohesion aims at reducing disparities between Member States and regions and should ensure the harmonious and sustainable development of geographical areas with different characteristics and specificities by assessing how EU cohesion and other sectoral policies can be best tailored to their situation; stresses that any future definition should also make clear that territorial cohesion should focus strongly on good governance, also with regard to partnership between public, private and civil society players, providing citizens of the Union with fair opportunities in terms of living conditions and quality of life;
24. Strongly urges the Commission to proceed with the publication of a White Paper on territorial cohesion, following the end of its consultation process; believes that a White Paper would be instrumental in clearly defining and consolidating the notion of territorial cohesion and its added value for cohesion policy, and would propose concrete provisions and policy actions in order to help solve the growing problems that EU regions are facing, which should subsequently be introduced in the post-2013 legislative package on Structural Funds and the related financial framework; believes that an initial statement on possible budgetary and financial implications of territorial cohesion should also be included in such a White Paper;
25. Welcomes the publication of the Commission Report on Regions 2020; calls on the Commission to incorporate the findings and analyses of that working document into its White Paper on Territorial Cohesion, in particular in connection with the description of economic, social and territorial cohesion;
26. Considers that the three concepts of concentration, connection and cooperation, on which the Green Paper's analysis on territorial cohesion was based, need to be further developed and translated into concrete policy options; urges the Commission to explain how those concepts will be integrated into the post-2013 legislative framework;
27. Calls for a significant reinforcement of the European Territorial Cooperation Objective for the next programming period; is convinced of the European added value of that objective, not least because of the direct involvement of regional and local authorities in the planning and implementation of the relevant programmes of cross-border, trans-national and interregional cooperation; considers, however, that this should not be done to the detriment of the other two objectives; to that end, also stresses the importance of the integrated development of sea basins as well as the cross-border dimension and the relevant operational programmes of the European Neighbourhood Policy, which is particularly significant in view of future EU enlargements;
28. Is of the opinion that territorial cohesion should develop as a horizontal principle and should underpin all Community policies and actions; believes that the evolution of the principles of sustainable development and environmental protection should serve as an example for how to integrate territorial cohesion in the future development of all relevant Community policies, as it must appear in all policy areas connected with cohesion; considers, however, that the horizontal dimension of territorial cohesion should not result in its limitation to a generalised, abstract framework of values; calls on the Commission to take all the necessary initiatives to translate territorial cohesion into legislative and policy proposals;
29. Recalls the importance of mainstreaming the gender perspective, equal opportunities and the special needs of persons with disabilities and senior citizens at every stage in the implementation and assessment of cohesion policy;
30. Stresses the need to elaborate, in the context of territorial cohesion, additional qualitative indicators with the purpose of better designing and implementing the corresponding policies on the ground, taking into account the different territorial specificities; calls on the Commission, therefore, to draw up, without delay, the necessary studies and to develop the possibility of defining new, reliable indicators and the way in which they are to be integrated into the system for assessing regional disparities;
31. Notes that GDP has been the only criterion for determining the eligibility of regions under Objective 1 (Convergence), while other indicators can already been employed for regions eligible under the Regional Competitiveness and Employment Objective; stresses its concern at the fact that the undeniable increase in convergence between countries often masks the increasing number of differences between and within regions, and on that ground insists on the need for in-depth consideration of the merit of GDP as the main criterion regarding eligibility from the Structural Funds;
32. Considers that the problem of intra-regional disparities within NUTS II regions can be better observed at the NUTS III level; calls on the Commission, therefore, to examine the extent to which the problem of the internal disparities within NUTS II areas can be countered in the future by also defining assisted areas at the NUTS III level; stresses, in the context of territorial cohesion, the importance for the Member States to determine which territorial unit corresponds to the appropriate level of intervention during the designing and implementation of Structural Funds programmes; recommends, for this purpose, a spatial analysis of the entire EU territory at the beginning of each programming period;
33. Believes that in order better to coordinate the territorial impact of sectoral Community policies, there needs to be a better understanding and measurement of those impacts; urges the Commission, therefore, to proceed with a territorial impact assessment of those policies, and to extend the existing impact assessment mechanisms, such as the Strategic Environmental Assessment, to territorial aspects; calls on the Commission also to present concrete ways of creating synergies between those territorial and sectoral policies and to proceed with an assessment of the contribution of Lisbon and Gothenburg strategies on territorial cohesion;
34. Reiterates its long-standing request for the development of a comprehensive EU strategy for regions with specific geographical features, which will enable them better to address the problems and challenges that they are facing; believes that an EU strategy should emphasise the territorial dimension of cohesion policy and be concerned on how to adapt Community policies to the specific needs and assets of those territories; stresses that the implementation of such a strategy is an essential condition for the economic and social development of those territories; believes that the elaboration of new indicators for the purpose of better describing the situation and problems on the ground is very important for the successful implementation of an EU strategy in this field;
35. Stresses, however, that the elaboration of additional indicators and the conduct of territorial assessments should not lead to more bureaucracy or further delays in the implementation of new policies and actions in support of territorial cohesion; stresses the need for direct results resulting from the incorporation of territorial cohesion in the next set of Structural Funds programmes;
36. Recalls the important role played by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and micro enterprises as well as craft businesses in economic, social and territorial cohesion and points to their importance for enhancing competitiveness and employment in the regions; therefore, invites the Commission to carry out a specific analysis of the impact and effectiveness of the Structural Funds and EU policies aimed at SMEs in the regions, as well as of the administrative and financial difficulties encountered by those SMEs;
37. Calls on the Commission, the Member States and the regions, furthermore, to pursue an active policy that supports innovation and competitiveness of enterprises and allows for mutual cooperation between businesses, the public sector, schools and universities, and to ensure that organisations representing SMEs can participate directly in defining territorial policies;
38. Urges the Members States to intensify their efforts to meet the objectives of the heading 4 of the First Action Programme for the implementation of the Territorial Agenda of the European Union in creating knowledge on territorial cohesion and sustainable spatial planning, building perspectives and analysing impacts and acknowledges the central role played by ESPON in this process;
39. Notes that climate change will have significant repercussions for territorial cohesion; requests that the Commission proceed with an analysis of the negative effects of climate change in different regions, given that the impact is expected to vary across the European Union; considers that territorial cohesion should take due account of climate change objectives and stimulate sustainable development patterns in EU territories; acknowledges, however, that the fight against climate change should also largely be addressed in other Community policies;
40. Notes with great interest that the Fifth Progress Report, for the first time, makes specific reference to 'transition regions', which are situated between 'convergence regions' and 'competitiveness and employment regions'; acknowledges the need to deal separately with those regions that are now scattered as 'phasing in' or 'phasing out' regions between the two Objectives; calls on the Commission, in the context of territorial cohesion, to establish a more comprehensive system of gradual transitional assistance to regions that will soon be above the 75 % GDP threshold, in order to provide them with a clearer status and more security in their development; considers that a transitional system also needs to be established for States dropping out of the Cohesion Fund;
41. Considers that taking an integrated approach will have a greater chance of success if the regional and local authorities, as well as stakeholders, including economic, social and other partners in accordance with Article 11 of 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, who can provide an overall view and understanding of the needs and specificities of a given territory, are involved from the beginning in the designing and implementation of the development strategies of each territory; calls on the Commission to draw up guidelines to help Member States, as well as regional and local authorities to implement the integrated approach in the most efficient way and to establish effective partnerships in the development of future strategies for the territories concerned;
42. Recognises that territorial cohesion should lead to improved governance of cohesion policy; agrees with the view that different territorial scales are needed for different problems and that, therefore, the establishment of real partnerships between all the parties involved in regional and local development at EU, national, regional and local level, is a precondition for the process of designing territorial cohesion and calls on the Commission and the Member States to make all efforts to develop such a multi-level territorial governance; considers that territorial cohesion should focus on identifying the appropriate territorial level for addressing each policy or measure in a way that is as close as possible to the citizen;
43. Emphasises that EU policies, and more particularly cohesion policy, have transformed governance from an often centralised system into an increasingly integrated, multi-level system; calls on stakeholders, public authorities and citizens to establish a formal system of territorial governance, based on a multi-sectoral, territorial and bottom-up integrated approach, in order to respond in a coherent and effective way to a single need of its citizens or users, in an area corresponding to this need; recalls, in this respect, the successful experiences of Community initiatives, such as Urban I and Urban II for urban areas and Leader in rural areas;
44. Recalls that problems in implementing structural policy are due in part to the excessive rigidity and complexity of procedures and that, consequently, consideration should be given to simplifying those procedures and clearly dividing responsibilities and competences between the EU, the Member States and regional and local authorities; considers that territorial governance will depend strongly on the establishment of such clear rules; reiterates its call to the Commission to come forward without delay with a set of concrete proposals to that effect;
45. Recommends that, in light of the increasing importance that territorial cohesion has acquired in the context not only of regional but also of other sectoral Community policies, the informal structures that have long been governing territorial cohesion and spatial planning in the Council should be replaced by formal ministerial meetings, which should convene the Ministers responsible for regional policy in the European Union; believes that such an institutional development in the Council would ensure a better flow of information as well as the rapid development of the territorial cohesion policy;
46. Urges the Member States to start reflecting now on how better to consolidate and implement the notion of territorial cohesion in their national programmes and policies; considers, in this context, that the basic principles of polycentric development and urban-rural partnership, as well as the full implementation of Natura 2000 should already be integrated in their regional planning;
47. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.
-  Texts adopted, P6_TA(2008)0068.
-  Texts adopted, P6_TA(2008)0069.
-  Texts adopted, P6_TA(2008)0492.
-  OJ C 227 E, 21.9.2006, p. 509.
-  OJ L 210, 30.7.2006.
This initiative report responds to the Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion and also includes some general considerations about the state of the debate on the future EU cohesion policy, as presented in the Fifth Progress Report on Economic and Social Cohesion. It provides an analysis of the Green Paper and brings forward some initial ideas in response to this important policy paper. The Committee on Regional Development believes it is important that the European Parliament adopts a clear view not only on the understanding and role of territorial cohesion, but also on the future of EU regional policy.
In its own-initiative report on "The role of territorial cohesion in regional development" (rapporteur: Ambroise Guellec), adopted in plenary on 28 September 2005, the European Parliament urged the European Commission to proceed promptly with the publication of a "White Paper on Territorial Cohesion". At that time, this was a clear indication on the side of the European Parliament, that the concept of "territorial cohesion" would be instrumental to the future development of EU regional policy. For that reason, it needed to be properly defined. The inclusion of "territorial" alongside "economic and social" cohesion in the Lisbon Treaty (Article 3 TEU and Article 174 TEU), further consolidated this concept, which nonetheless remained somewhat unclear in its definition, methods and approach.
However, since the 90s, a general debate on territorial cohesion has already been in progress. In 1999, the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) initiated a process leading up to the 2007 adoption of the "Territorial Agenda of the European Union" by the EU Ministers responsible for spatial planning and urban development. These policy documents placed great emphasis on the role that territorial cohesion would be called to play in ensuring a harmonious, sustainable development across the Union. The European Parliament responded positively to this approach in its report on the "Follow-up of the Territorial Agenda and the Leipzig Charter" (rapporteur: Gisela Kallenbach), reiterating its request for a clear definition of territorial cohesion in the forthcoming Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion.
State of the debate on the future of cohesion policy
The results of the public consultation on the future of EU cohesion policy are presented in the Fifth Progress Report on economic and social cohesion. This progress report consists of two parts. The Parliament can endorse the main conclusions of this consultation process (for which more than 100 contributions were received). They correspond entirely to the positions adopted in the EP's report on Fourth Cohesion Report (rapporteur: Ambroise Guellec). Those include the rejection of any attempt for re-nationalisation and the commitment to a single Community policy, which should also be in a position to address challenges like globalisation, climate and demographic change. The report also expresses the strong belief that this policy should cover all EU regions, by representing an added value for everyone, and not just the poorest convergence regions. It also stresses the need for synergies and an integrated approach between the different sectoral policies in order to achieve the optimal result for growth and development on the ground.
Content of the Commission's Green Paper
The European Commission finally adopted the Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion on 6 October 2008 with the title "Turning Territorial Diversity into strength". The paper does not provide a definition of "territorial cohesion"; instead, it launches a wide consultation with regional, local authorities, associations, NGOs, civil society aimed at furthering the shared understanding of this new concept and its implications for future EU regional policy. To do this, it provides a list of concrete questions that cover different aspects including a definition. This public consultation will be open till the end of February 2009.
According to the Green Paper, territorial cohesion is about ensuring the harmonious development of all EU territories, and about making sure that their citizens are able to make the most of the inherent features of these territories. The Green Paper suggests that diversity should actually be transformed into an asset and competitive advantage that contributes to the sustainable development of the entire EU. The main challenge is thus to help territories make the best use of their assets. For that purpose, the Green Paper acknowledges that effective solutions often require an integrated approach and cooperation between the different authorities and stakeholders involved. It also makes special reference to the need for improved governance of cohesion policy in order to make it more flexible and capable of adapting to the most appropriate scale of intervention needed.
The Green Paper focuses on the need to ensure a balanced urban-rural development and suggests means to avoid depopulation and urban sprawl. It elaborates on three key concepts, on the basis of which specific policy actions need to be developed: concentration, connection and cooperation:
v Concentration brings advantages such as higher productivity and creativity, but also has negative effects especially in terms of environmental costs, congestion, land prices and social exclusion. Thus, territorial cohesion is about building on gains stemming from concentration, but also avoiding excessive concentrations of growth and facilitating the access to the increasing returns of agglomeration in all territories.
v Connection highlights the need to move toward an integrated Europe which offers fast and efficient access to markets, services and people. This includes transport, but also infrastructures underlying the effective functioning of the Single Market - such as those guaranteeing access to health and education, to broadband internet or to energy networks. All these connections remain unevenly distributed across the Union today.
v Cooperation has always been an important pillar for cohesion policy. The Green Paper argues that even more needs to be done in that respect, in order to address issues that are cross-border by nature and range from commuting to environment. This cooperation should occur at many levels and involve new partners.
The Commission also acknowledges the particular development challenges that three types of regions with specific geographical features (mountains, islands, sparsely populated areas) face, and looks at whether special policy measures are required in order to offset these problems. Finally, the Commission highlights a number of sectoral EU policies, which have a strong territorial impact (e.g. transport, energy, first pillar of CAP, employment, environmental), pointing to the importance of creating synergies between them.
General remarks by the rapporteur
A. THE GREEN PAPER
· Adoption of a Green Paper: The rapporteur welcomes the adoption of the Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion, as it responds to a long-standing demand of the European Parliament. Despite the fact that the Lisbon Treaty is not yet ratified and, therefore, “territorial cohesion” does not currently have a formal Treaty basis, this Green Paper provides for a first analysis of this concept that will be a key priority for the Union, alongside economic and social cohesion.
· Definition: This Green Paper, however, lacks ambition to the extent that it does not provide a concrete definition of this new concept, as originally anticipated. In concrete terms, this implies a further delay in making operational the notion of "territorial cohesion". It should be stressed that the European Parliament expected a clear definition of territorial cohesion to result from the public consultation, which will be commonly agreed, shared and understood by all stakeholders in the field of regional policy.
· Public consultation: In that sense, the rapporteur welcomes the launching of a public consultation on territorial cohesion. The success of this process being directly linked with the widest possible participation of the different stakeholders and civil society in this debate, the Members of the European Parliament have also an active role to play in contributing effectively to promoting the Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion to the European Citizens.
· Awaiting the publication of a White Paper: The rapporteur believes that the European Parliament should be firm in demanding the publication of a White Paper on Territorial Cohesion, following the end of the consultation process. The rapporteur also considers that the publication of a White Paper could only pave the way for translating "territorial cohesion" into concrete provisions, which should be introduced in the next legislative package on Structural Funds for the post-2013 programming period.
· Financial aspects: The rapporteur agrees with excluding all references to budgetary and financial implications of territorial cohesion from the current debate. He consideres that the position by the European Parliament should rather confine to the political aspects of this new objective and to reflect at a later stage on whether, how or to what extent this new concept might affect the EU budget for the post-2013 period.
B. THE CONCEPT OF TERRITORIAL COHESION
Analysing the new concept: The rapporteur believes that territorial cohesion is a distinct concept that should provide tangible added value to economic and social cohesion. The three component parts of cohesion (economic, social and territorial) should be complementary and mutually reinforcing, maintaining however their own separate mission in a single integrated concept. Therefore, there should be no hierarchy between these objectives. The current debate should not only attempt to determine the added value of territorial cohesion, and the concrete benefits that European citizens are expected to derive from its implementation on the ground, but also to consider how this concept will be mainstreamed into future EU regional policy.
Rejecting the prospect of an asymmetric Europe: The rapporteur feels that the harmonious development of the Union will effectively contribute to raising the competitive advantage of the EU economy. Therefore, territorial cohesion can only be interpreted as a horizontal concept that underpins the development of the Union as a whole. The challenge is to focus on more efficient instruments that can achieve this goal. The work of the European Spatial Planning Observatory Network (ESPON) is particularly important to that effect, as it attempts to present the implications of different development models on the territorial development of the EU. This work should also lead to the elaboration of additional qualitative indicators to address the territorial specificities and support the design and implementation of the corresponding policies on the ground;
Transfer benefits across the Union: This idea becomes particularly salient with regard to the creation of excellence centres across the Union that are vital to economic success, scientific discovery, technological innovation and jobs. It is important to stimulate more interaction and knowledge transfer between the centres and clusters of research and innovation and their surrounding regions. Such booming centres should provide benefits that are distributed evenly across the EU territory, in order o maximise the effect of the investments made.
Making the most of the potential of each region: There is no "one-size-fits-all development" model for the European Union, which would work equally well for all its regions. The diversity of the Union is actually its strength. It is important to determine the assets of each European region and build on those, in order to increase their competitiveness and guarantee growth and prosperity. The rapporteur considers very important in that respect the contribution of former Finnish Prime Minister Esko Aho in a recent article he published in the Financial Times (published on 16/07/2008). Mr Aho argues that the European Union needs to focus on creating "Silicon Valley" type of clusters across the Union. It is crucial to focus resources to a few existing clusters, rather than only scattering the money far and wide, with limited chances of success. In other words, not every region has the potential or the resources to become a centre of excellence; this is not the objective that we should try to achieve. EU should limit its approach in that respect.
Enhancing the European Territorial Cooperation Objective: The undeniable European added-value of this objective has already been proven beyond any doubt. The direct involvement of regional and local authorities in the planning and implementation of the relevant programmes of cross-border, trans-national and interregional cooperation gives another positive sign to the future development of this policy objective. The importance of the cross-border dimension and the relevant operational programmes of the European Neighbourhood Policy should also be highlighted in that respect. This is a success story for the EU regional policy and it should be significantly boosted for the coming programming period.
Regions with specific geographical features: The Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion acknowledges the particular development challenges especially for three types of region: mountainous regions, island regions and sparsely populated regions. The European Parliament has long called for a comprehensive strategy that would enable these regions to offset their severe and permanent natural and demographic handicaps. Therefore, special consideration should be given to the development of those regions, in order to ensure precisely a harmonious development for the Union and achieve "territorial cohesion". However, the rapporteur stresses that territorial cohesion remains a horizontal concept that concerns all EU regions; it cannot be interpreted as a new policy for regions with specific geographical features.
Territorial impact of sectoral Community Policies: The rapporteur is disappointed that this specific section of the Green Paper is confined in listing the EU policies that have a strong territorial impact, without, however, placing territorial cohesion as a priority objective or a precondition for the development of these policies. The European Parliament has on a number of occasions supported the need for an integrated approach of all EU actions and policies on the ground. In policy terms, it can be argued that this idea corresponds entirely to the need of coordinating the territorial impact of all sectoral community policies on a given territory. At the same time, however, the following observation needs to be made: by putting the accent on the territorial dimension of other sectoral EU policies, the European Parliament does not attempt to diminish the importance and autonomy of EU regional policy. On the contrary, the aim of an integrated approach is to maximise the effect of structural interventions on the ground and for the benefit of European citizens.
Territorial governance: The Green Paper looks at an improved territorial governance as the key for the successful future implementation of cohesion policy. Drawing from the conclusions of the report on "Governance and partnership at national and regional levels and a basis for projects in the field of regional policy" (rapporteur: Jean Marie Beaupuy), adopted by the EP on 18 September 2008, the rapporteur raises the need to promote a system of multi-level governance and to determine the appropriate territorial level to which intervention would be more effective at the different stages of programme planning and implementation. Due account being also made to the importance of creating new territorial partnerships, which must be at the focus of all relevant analyses on the Green Paper.
Transition regions: The rapporteur notes that the Commission made for the first time in the 5th Progress Report a specific reference to "Transition Regions", which are situated between "Convergence Regions" and "Competitiveness and Employment Regions". This appears to be a first attempt to deal separately with these regions that are now scattered as "phasing in" or "phasing out" regions between the two Objectives. The rapporteur fully endorses this approach in the context of territorial cohesion, not only because it gives a clearer status to these regions, but mainly as a recognition to the fact that a more comprehensive system of gradual transitional assistance to regions that will soon be above the 75% GDP threshold needs to be designed and put in place.
The Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion also alludes to a number of other issues that have to be taken into consideration, like access to services of general interest or the creation of additional indicators to better monitor characteristics and trends in territorial cohesion. The report brings forward the rapporteur’s views on all these matters.
The present report formulates a number of considerations on the reference communications by the Commission and addresses suggestions to the Commission, Member States and regional and local authorities with the scope of preparing the ground for a better understanding of what territorial cohesion could be and what would be the implications for all parties involved of the integration of the territorial dimension in cohesion policy.
However, more importantly, the report is expected to consolidate a position of the European Parliament in the Europe-wide debate on territorial cohesion, as this debate will influence greatly a larger debate on the future of regional and cohesion policy after 2013 and the shape of the structural funds in the next programming period.
RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE
Result of final vote
Members present for the final vote
Emmanouil Angelakas, Stavros Arnaoutakis, Elspeth Attwooll, Rolf Berend, Jana Bobošíková, Victor Boştinaru, Wolfgang Bulfon, Giorgio Carollo, Bairbre de Brún, Gerardo Galeote, Iratxe García Pérez, Monica Giuntini, Ambroise Guellec, Pedro Guerreiro, Gábor Harangozó, Filiz Hakaeva Hyusmenova, Mieczysław Edmund Janowski, Gisela Kallenbach, Evgeni Kirilov, Miloš Koterec, Constanze Angela Krehl, Florencio Luque Aguilar, Jamila Madeira, Miguel Angel Martínez Martínez, Iosif Matula, Miroslav Mikolášik, Jan Olbrycht, Maria Petre, Markus Pieper, Giovanni Robusti, Wojciech Roszkowski, Bernard Soulage, Catherine Stihler, Margie Sudre, Oldřich Vlasák
Substitute(s) present for the final vote
Domenico Antonio Basile, Den Dover, Emanuel Jardim Fernandes, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg, Stanisław Jałowiecki, Zita Pleštinská, Samuli Pohjamo, Christa Prets, Miloslav Ransdorf, Flaviu Călin Rus, Richard Seeber, László Surján, Iuliu Winkler
Substitute(s) under Rule 178(2) present for the final vote
Wolf Klinz, Sepp Kusstatscher, Toine Manders