REPORT on Objective 3: a challenge for territorial cooperation – the future agenda for cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation
11.4.2011 - (2010/2155(INI))
Committee on Regional Development
Rapporteur: Marie-Thérèse Sanchez-Schmid
MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
on Objective 3: a challenge for territorial cooperation - the future agenda for cross-border, transnational and interregional cooperation
The European Parliament,
– having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and in particular Title XVIII thereof,
– 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 and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1260/1999,
– having regard to Regulation (EC) No 1082/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 on a European grouping of territorial cooperation (EGTC),
– having regard to Council Decision 2006/702/EC of 6 October 2006 on Community strategic guidelines on cohesion,
– having regard to its resolution of 7 October 2010 on EU cohesion and regional policy after 2013,
– having regard to its resolution of 6 July 2010 on the European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea and the role of macro-regions in the future cohesion policy,
– 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 on the European Regional Development Fund and the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development in cities and regions as well as in the Member States and the Union,
– having regard to its resolution of 24 March 2009 on the Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion and the state of the debate on the future reform of cohesion policy,
– having regard to its resolution of 19 February 2009 on the review of the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument,
– having regard to its resolution 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,
– having regard to its resolution of 1 December 2005 on the role of ‘Euroregions’ in the development of regional policy,
– having regard to its resolution of 28 September 2005 on the role of territorial cohesion in regional development,
– having regard to the Commission Communication of 8 December 2010 entitled ‘European Union Strategy for Danube Region’ (COM(2010)0715) and the indicative action plan that accompanied the strategy (SEC(2010)1489),
– having regard to the Commission Communication of 9 November 2010 entitled ‘Conclusions of the fifth report on economic, social and territorial cohesion: the future of cohesion policy’ (COM(2010)0642),
– having regard to the Commission Communication of 19 October 2010 entitled ‘The EU Budget Review’ (COM(2010)0700) and the technical annexes thereto (SEC(2010)7000),
– having regard to the Commission Communication of 6 October 2010 entitled ‘Regional Policy contributing to smart growth in Europe 2020’(COM(2010)0553),
- having regard to the Commission Communication of 31 March 2010 entitled ‘Cohesion policy: Strategic Report 2010 on the implementation of the programmes 2007-2013’ (COM(2010)0110),
- having regard to the Commission Communication of 10 June 2009 entitled ‘European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region’(COM(2009)0248 final) and the indicative action plan that accompanied the strategy (SEC(2009)0712/2),
- having regard to its resolution of 9 March 2011 on the European Strategy for the Atlantic Region, which mentioned the publication of a Commission communication scheduled for 2011,
- having regard to the Communication from the Commission of 6 October 2008 entitled ‘Global Europe: Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion: Turning territorial diversity into strength’ (COM(2008)0616),
- having regard to the own-initiative opinion of 27 January 2011 of the Committee of the Regions on ‘New perspectives for the revision of the EGTC Regulation’,
- having regard to the independent report, drawn up at the Commission’s request, entitled ‘INTERREG III Community Initiative (2000-2006): Ex-Post Evaluation’ (No 2008.CE.16.0.AT.016),
– having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,
– having regard to the report of the Committee on Regional Development (A7-0110/2011),
A. whereas the European Union currently comprises 27 Member States and 271 regions,
B. whereas around 37.5% of Europe’s population lives in border regions,
C. whereas informal cooperation arrangements, the Euroregions, the Eurodistricts, the EGTCs, Council of Europe initiatives, the successive Treaties and the EU’s secondary legislation have all contributed to establishing stronger and more sustainable links between territories,
D. whereas, although the foundations for territorial cooperation have been laid, many challenges still remain, the nature of which depends on the history and degree of maturity of cooperation arrangements,
E. whereas, having ‘abolished’ borders in the Treaties, what matters is lessening their impact on our people’s daily lives,
F. whereas regional policy aims to promote the harmonious development of regions by strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion in the European Union,
G. whereas the ‘Territorial Cooperation’ objective, one of the components of cohesion policy, contributes to ‘ever closer union among the peoples of Europe’ by reducing the barriers between territories and regions,
H. whereas, at the EU’s external borders, the territorial cooperation objective is one aspect of the pre-accession process and of the implementation of neighbourhood policy, and whereas, consequently, coordination of the relevant Community arrangements must be improved,
I. whereas territorial cooperation, i.e. cooperation between the inhabitants of different regions, is an ongoing learning process which creates a feeling of community and of having a shared future,
J. whereas citizens must be placed at the centre of the priorities of territorial cooperation, and therefore a place-based approach should be advocated,
K. whereas closer territorial cooperation is dependent on progress made with European integration and coordination in all fields that contributes to European integration and territorial cohesion, and whereas territorial cooperation in itself is a testbed for European integration,
L. whereas only few investments take place in trans-European transport networks (TEN) in border regions, although it is precisely at the cross-border interfaces that modernisation is urgently required, and where it sees an instance of classic European added value in the removal of cross-border infrastructure barriers,
M. whereas the basic regulation governing the Structural Funds and the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty have considerably increased the importance accorded to territorial cooperation,
N. whereas the ex-post evaluation of the INTERREG III programmes for the 2000-2006 programming period offers conclusive proof of the added value of this objective for the European project,
Strengthening the ‘territorial cooperation’ objective
1. Points out that territorial cooperation aims to help territories and regions to work together in tackling their common challenges, to reduce the physical, cultural, administrative and regulatory barriers to such cooperation and to lessen the ‘border effect’;
2. Is convinced of the European added value of territorial cooperation and the key role it plays in deepening the internal market and fostering closer European integration in several sectoral policies, and calls for territorial cooperation to remain one of the pillars of cohesion policy;
3. Stresses that the objective of territorial cooperation, based on the principle of economic, social and territorial cohesion, concerns all the EU's regions in that it helps to promote the harmonious development of the Union as a whole;
4. Believes that territorial cooperation has proved its effectiveness and that its potential as a source of competitiveness has so far been insufficiently tapped as a result of the inadequate resources allocated to it; calls for the budget for the ‘territorial cooperation’ objective to increase from 2.5% in the current programming period to at least 7% of the overall cohesion policy budget for the next programming period;
5. Advocates retaining the current structure of Objective 3, which is divided into three components (cross-border (component A), transnational (component B) and interregional (component C)), and the current emphasis on the cross-border component, which receives at least 70% of the territorial cooperation budget; notes that there should be a fair and equitable distribution of funds under the programme for all regions;
6. Considers that, if a distinction should continue to be made between the cross-border component (component A), which meets the local needs of cross-border population catchment areas, and the transnational component (component B), including the so-called macroregional scale, which facilitates cooperation over wider strategic areas, better coordination between the two components is needed;
7. Calls furthermore – with a view to ensuring the coherence and continuity of territorial cooperation measures and given the strategic nature of the projects in question – for greater flexibility in exploiting the scope offered by Article 21 of the ERDF Regulation with regard to the location of cross-border and transnational cooperation activities, incorporating maritime regions; to that end, calls for a certain flexibility in the application of the geographical limit of 150 km set for cross-border cooperation programmes for coastal and maritime regions;
8. Considers, nonetheless, that the integration of such regions with and their opening up to geographical areas outside the EU is not and cannot be simply a function of their geographical remoteness, as the wealth of historical, linguistic and cultural bonds linking them to various parts of the world gives them a key role to play in the deepening of such relations, to the benefit of the EU's global presence;
9. Underlines the crucial role of territorial cooperation in delivering the EU2020 objectives; calls for forward thinking to ascertain the strategic needs of each border region and area of cooperation in connection with this strategy, and, subsequently, for European territorial cooperation to be integrated in, and tailored to, all levels of strategic planning: European, national, regional and local; urges the Commission to clarify, without delay, its proposals on the thematic concentration of funds, with reference to an EU 2020 ‘thematic menu’;
10. Calls for funds to be allocated for each programme of territorial cooperation on the basis of harmonised criteria so as to provide a strategic, integrated response to the needs and specificities of each territory or area involved; invites in this respect the Commission and the Member States to consider other relevant, strategic and measurable criteria that could reflect the needs of territories without undermining the most important criterion: demography;
11. Stresses once again the importance of interregional cooperation (component C), but deplores the lack of funds allocated to it; suggests, therefore, a reconsideration of the EU cofinancing rate limit of this component, devoting attention also to its capacity to act as an incentive, for participants from the regions covered by the ‘competitiveness and employment’ objective in order to raise the number of projects in this component C, and calls for the thematic areas of cooperation to be widened to encompass governance and management of operational programmes as well as territorial development;
12. Encourages also regions to make better use of the scope for interregional cooperation offered within their operational programmes by the basic regulation; advocates, therefore, that the ‘interregional’ component of Objective 3 should also cover the coordination and running of such projects, the pooling of know-how and the exchange of good practices;
13. Stresses, for the future territorial cooperation operational programmes, the importance of the support of INTERACT and the capacity for successful assistance schemes, which could draw inspiration from the RC LACE project; calls for more effective coordination between INTERACT, URBACT, ESPON and component C, with a view to better implementing Objective 3;
14. Supports ESPON in its activities but suggests that opportunities for active involvement in its research into territorial development matters should be made more accessible to local and regional authorities while easier practical deployment of the resulting findings should be assured;
15. Welcomes the success of the URBACT sustainable urban development programme and calls for its renewal and expansion into a significant and widely accessible initiative to offer opportunities for shared learning and transferability with regard to local urban challenges;
16. Invites the Commission to look into ways of involving local and regional councillors in these Europe-wide networks for the exchange of experiences and good practices, as a first step to implement the Erasmus project for local and regional elected representatives;
17. Reiterates that involving sub-national actors in the achievement of the EU objectives is a precondition to effectively implement territorial cohesion;
Mainstreaming territorial cooperation
18. Believes that the mainstreaming of the ‘territorial cooperation’ objective with the ‘convergence’ and ‘competitiveness and employment’ objectives is needed; calls for the programming to be better coordinated than it has been before; suggests that regional operational programmes should have the option to take an interest and participate in the cross-border, transnational and interregional projects that concern them by defining a territorial approach to the allocation of funding, for the benefit of priority projects, like the connection to the trans-European networks in border regions, identified in advance and in consultation with their partners in the programmes, in accordance with the principles of multi-level governance and partnership, which will allow better exploitation of the potential of territorial cooperation thanks to the relations developed among private and public actors across borders;
19. Encourages the Member States and regions to set up multi-regional operational programmes to address common territorial problems; such as the presence of a mountain range or a river basin which characterises the territory;
20. Encourages the Commission and Member States to promote the coordination of policies in cross-border regions and the labour market, so as to ensure that issues of distortion of competition do not arise within the framework of economic and territorial integration;
21. Considers that cross-border cooperation programmes are also important in order to be effective and achieve results with regard to strategies that concern poverty reduction and integration of disadvantaged groups into European mainstream society; calls for this issue to be considered when designing the regulatory framework and for it to be ensured that in disadvantaged regions appropriate measures are available for participation in European regional development programmes;
Adopting a territorial approach in implementing other EU policies
22. Notes that approaches along the lines of the Baltic Sea Strategy can enhance cross-border cooperation; considers that macro-strategies should take full account of other regional cooperation programmes in order to generate synergies; points out that the concept of macro-regions, a Council initiative, came into being as an experimental, logical way of coordinating common projects covering a very large territory, characterised by common territorial problems, with a view to making use of the advantages of an integrated, multisectoral and territorial approach based on common strategic actions receiving support from existing funds;
23. Points out that such strategies as exist or may exist in the future should provide a basis for more strategic and 'joined up' approaches to be realised via the relevant territorial cooperation instruments but are not generating new funds in the EU budget, and do not provide for the establishment of new institutions or the application of new legislation;
24. Asks the Commission to conduct an in-depth study of the results of the first macro-regional strategies implemented; believes that the process has met with a level of interest that should be built on, with lessons being learnt for the implementation of future new macro-regional strategies;
25. Points out that the Territorial Cooperation Objective can accommodate cooperation on a macroregional scale, especially within its transnational strand;
26. Advocates the use of transnational programmes to support these territorial strategies by coordinating the work of devising, framing and steering macro-regional strategies, albeit without this leading to unnecessary duplication of the EU's budget structures by creating specific budget lines for different macro-regions;
27. Stresses at the same time that the aims of macro-regional strategies complement the aims of micro-regional cross-border cooperation and may encompass them, but cannot replace them; stresses for this reason that the cross-border component of territorial cooperation must be preserved as a distinct and legitimate element in its own right;
28. Is convinced that the transnational component of Objective 3 can help to improve cooperation in the context of macro-regional strategies by involving regional and local authorities and civil society more closely in the implementation of practical initiatives;
29. Believes that any transnational strategy must take due account of the scope of coordination with the trans-European transport network guidelines and the strategies pursued under the integrated maritime policy;
30. Points out that territorial cooperation concerns both the EU’s internal and external borders, including matters relating to current and future macro-regional strategies; stresses the difficulties encountered by third countries in obtaining cofinancing under the arrangements for cooperation provided for in the ERDF Regulation; asks the Commission to consider how to create more effective synergies between initiatives under the ERDF, the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA), the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) and the European Development Fund (EDF), and calls on it to submit a proposal for a new Neighbourhood Policy as soon as possible; calls for a simplification and harmonisation of the rules governing access to the different sources of financing, in order to ensure compatibility and facilitate their use by beneficiaries;
31. Calls on the Commission, in view of the special nature of the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, to transfer responsibility for managing it to the Commission’s DG Regional Development, albeit taking into account external relations aspects; notes that, in its present form, ENPI does not provide an adequate basis for taking account of the specific features of cross-border cooperation; believes that consideration should be given to separating it from the administration of external relations at least in those cases in which third countries participating in external border cooperation also fund the cooperation;
32. Calls for implementation of the Wider Neighbourhood Action Plan for the EU’s outermost regions, announced in Commission Communication COM(2004) 343; stresses, therefore, the need for coherent multisectoral action in areas of EU policy concerning the outermost regions and, in particular, for internal and external components to be coordinated more effectively by means of a catchment area strategy;
33. Recalls that a White Paper on territorial cohesion as a follow-up to the Green Paper would represent a timely instrument to clarify how to implement territorial cohesion through multi-level governance in the future regional policy and provide material for the debate on the next legislative package;
34. States that the conditions for cross-border cooperation in the ENPI are not sufficient for its appropriate development; advocates, therefore, more effective coordination between the various Commission directorates-general concerned; is convinced of the ultimate necessity to reintegrate the ENPI cross-border cooperation programmes into the Territorial Cooperation Objective of cohesion policy;
Facilitating the establishment of European Groupings of Territorial Cooperation (EGTCs)
35. Considers that EGTCs represent a unique, highly valuable territorial governance instrument which meets a need for structured cooperation with reference to financing, the legal status of projects and multi-level governance; recalls that the instrument of EGTC must be promoted as a tool to set up systems of cross-border governance, ensuring the ownership of the different policies at regional and local level; also stresses their key role in contributing to the successful implementation of a multi-level governance model;
36. Highlights the fact that EGTCs can contribute not only to territorial cohesion but also to social cohesion: points out that this instrument has the best capacity to bring the different cultural and linguistic communities closer to each other, promote peaceful coexistence in a diverse Europe and make European added value visible to the citizen;
37. Recommends that a first assessment of the EGTCs in place be carried out, with a view to learning from these initial experiences;
38. Believes, however, that their establishment must be facilitated and calls on the Commission to propose amendments to Regulation (EC) No 1082/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council on EGTCs without delay, taking due account of the problems identified by the local and regional authorities and the groupings already in place and on the basis of work undertaken by the Committee of the Regions, with a view to:
– clarifying the status of EGTC under the legal systems of the Member States in order to achieve an appropriate legal alignment in this respect,
– allowing EGTCs to be established by stakeholders based in a Member State and in a third country,
– redrafting Article 4(3) to ensure stricter compliance with the three-month deadline for the processing of applications to set up an EGTC,
– simplifying the laws governing staffing,
– ensuring that the tax rules for EGTCs are no less favourable than other legal arrangements governing the implementation of cooperation projects or programmes;
39. Calls for the allocation of global grants to EGTCs with projects that reflect the objectives and strategies of the relevant cooperation programmes, on the basis of common cross-border development strategies, in order to enable them to directly manage Structural Fund appropriations, and programmes, as well as for the multinational and multilateral nature of EGTCs to be better reflected in regulations governing the other European funds, with a view to improving their access to other sources of financing;
40. Welcomes the launch by the Committee of the Regions of the European EGTC Platform, which aims to facilitate the exchange of experiences, the pooling of best practices and the provision of technical support for EGTCs;
41. Takes the view that cross-border EGTCs offer an excellent opportunity to build Europe at territorial level with the involvement of EU citizens; calls on cross-border EGTCs to launch and run when appropriate a ‘cross-border civil society forum’ and to support cross-border citizens’ initiatives;
42. Believes that the implementation of territorial cooperation programmes remains overly complicated and considers that Objective 3 needs a separate regulation to reflect the inherently international character of its activities; believes that at present too many different administrative authorities have to be involved in implementing programmes and therefore calls for significant simplification in this respect;
43. Invites the Commission to propose specific measures which simplify rules on auditing and control, with ‘one management authority per programme’ as a guiding principle, authorise more systematic standard-rate costing and the funding of small projects by means of fixed amounts, lay down more detailed EU rules on eligibility for funding, make for greater flexibility in the implementation of automatic decommitments, increase technical assistance with a view to ensuring that the management bodies concentrate more on the launching and strategic support of projects and delivery of results, rather than merely on management and whether applications comply with administrative rules;
44. Calls on the Member States to simplify their national provisions, which very often add administrative burden not required by the Community rules;
45. Calls on the Commission to clarify, as soon as possible, the provisions governing the principle of conditionality intended for territorial cooperation; considers that, if this conditionality is to create the conditions for better and more effective use of funds, it must not further complicate implementation, to the detriment of programme managers and beneficiaries;
46. Stresses, furthermore, that arrangements for involving private stakeholders must be broadened and simplified; recommends setting up financial engineering systems, along the lines of the JEREMIE and JESSICA initiatives, to facilitate cross-border projects which are vectors of economic development, the participation of private stakeholders and the establishment of public-private partnerships;
Raising the profile of territorial cooperation
47. Deplores the low profile of territorial cooperation, in the eyes of both national and local authorities and the general public, and therefore calls for more effective communication on completed projects;
48. Asks the Commission to come up with ways to raise the profile of EGTCs and their activities among territorial cooperation stakeholders and the general public;
49. Considers that the close cultural and linguistic links between border regions in different Member States, a legacy of history, must be exploited in order to boost cross-border cooperation;
50. Considers that, by helping to fulfil the Europe 2020 strategy’s objective of intelligent and inclusive growth, increased cooperation on education and culture would raise the level of participation of citizens and NGOs as well as contribute to the raising of the profile of territorial cooperation and breaking down the ‘mental borders’ that still set citizens apart from one another;
51. Calls for better coordination between managing authorities and already existing cross-border institutions like Euroregions during the implementation of cross-border programmes so as to guarantee for projects a high level of quality, transparency and closeness to the citizen;
52. Asks for more effective coordination of communication between all stakeholders involved in the process of implementing territorial cooperation initiatives, suggests that all programmes in the same component should be recognisable by their use of a single identifiable logo (e.g. reinstatement of the well-recognised 'INTERREG' tag) in tandem with each programme's logo (perhaps of a standardised visual size), and invites the Commission, by the start of the next programming period, to come up with a large-scale media and awareness-raising campaign for border regions on the benefits and achievements of territorial cooperation;
53. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the Member States.
-  OJ L 210, 31.7.2006, p. 25–78.
-  OJ L 210, 31.7.2006, p. 25–78.
-  OJ L 291, 21.10.2006, p. 11–32.
-  Texts adopted, P7_TA(2010)0356.
-  Texts adopted, P7_TA(2010)0254.
-  Texts adopted, P7_TA(2010)0189.
-  OJ C 117E, 6.5.10, p. 65.
-  OJ C 76E, 25.3.10, p. 83.
-  OJ C 184E, 6.3.2009, p. 95.
-  OJ C 285E, 22.11.2006, p. 16.
-  OJ C 227E, 21.9.2006, p. 88.
-  Texts Adopted, P7_TA(2011)0089.
-  Article 37(6)(b)
Over the last five years, changes to the basic regulation governing the Structural Funds and the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty have substantially enhanced the importance of territorial cooperation. The multiannual financial framework for the period 2007-2013 turned the 'territorial cooperation' objective into one of the three pillars of the EU's cohesion policy, replacing the INTERREG Community initiative. Since then, 'territorial cohesion' has become, under Article 174 of the Treaty, one of the three components of cohesion policy, alongside economic and social cohesion. 'Territorial cohesion' is now firmly established as one of the European Union's main priorities.
In your rapporteur's view, the aim of 'territorial cooperation' is to do away with physical, administrative and regulatory obstacles to cohesion and to reduce the 'border effect' between territories and regions in order to enable them to address their shared challenges together, whether those challenges are territorial (services, infrastructure, urban and regional planning), global (globalisation, climate change), economic or societal. 'Territorial cooperation' represents a source of competitiveness which has not yet been properly exploited, one which can help us achieve the objective of 'an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe'.
The INTERREG III ex-post evaluation report for the period 2000-2006 offers convincing evidence of the added value which that objective generates for the European integration process and gives some examples of its successes: 1030 infrastructure projects and more than 18 000 km of roads built or funded, 115 200 job opportunities created, 5800 start-ups and businesses directly or indirectly established or safeguarded, almost 12 000 cooperation networks and structures brought into being, and attendance by more than 544 000 persons (including students) at courses, training programmes, seminars, workshops, meetings or other educational activities.
Strengthening the 'territorial cooperation' objective
An ambitious budget
In keeping with the position adopted by Parliament in its resolution of 7 October 2010 on the European Union's cohesion policy and regional policy after 2013, with the standpoint expressed by the Commission in the conclusions contained in the fifth report on cohesion policy, with the recommendations of the Committee of the Regions, and with the conclusions of the informal Council of Ministers for Regional Policy held in Liege on 22 and 23 November 2010, your rapporteur takes the view that 'Objective 3' must be substantially strengthened.
The current multiannual financial Framework allocates EUR 8.5 billion to that objective (a figure which represents only 2.5% of total EU structural spending). During the negotiations concerning the previous programming period, the Commission had called for Objective 3 to account for at least 5% of the cohesion policy budget. In 2013, that objective will reach maturity. The demand for cooperation is strong and the needs are immense. Your rapporteur takes the view that Parliament must support the ambitions of territorial cooperation stakeholders by urging once again that this objective should account for at least 7% of the overall cohesion policy budget.
A stable architecture
In your rapporteur's view, this objective must continue to be split into three components, each with its own logic and value.
Cross-border cooperation (73% of the budget) provides funding for the implementation of joint strategies for the regions which are situated along the Member States' internal (and sometimes external) borders and not at a distance of more than 150 km from each other. Its implementation is 'territorialised' at NUTS 3 level and meets the local needs of cross-border regions. Your rapporteur takes the view that a debate on a transfer of eligibility to NUTS 2 level, as called for by certain stakeholders, might undermine the local dimension to cross-border cooperation. However, depending on the nature of the projects concerned use of the scope offered by Article 21 of the ERDF Regulation as regards the location of cross-border and transnational cooperation activities offers a degree of flexibility which should be encouraged. In duly substantiated cases, that article provides for the funding of expenditure incurred outside the area eligible under the programme.
Transnational cooperation (20% of the budget), which is carried out on a larger scale, seeks to promote cooperation between neighbouring regions belonging to the same geographical area with the aim of achieving the Union's strategic priorities in areas such as research and development, the information society, the environment, higher education, mobility, sustainable urban development and the management of natural disasters.
Finally, interregional cooperation (4% of the budget) concerns cooperation among all the regions of the 27 Member States, regardless of their geographical location, and focuses on exchanges of information, experience and good practices.
Experience shows that, when calls for proposals in the area of interregional cooperation are issued, demand exceeds supply by a factor of 10. This mismatch can create an excessive administrative workload for the managing authority and leave candidates feeling discouraged and frustrated. With a view to making savings and improving the quality of projects, a reconsideration of the EU co-financing rate limit could be envisaged for participants from 'competitiveness and employment' regions. Your rapporteur also suggests that the regions should make greater use of the possibilities offered by Article 37(6)(b) of the basic regulation, which provides, at the instigation of the Member State concerned, for the inclusion in a 'convergence' or 'regional competitiveness and employment' operational programme of interregional cooperation measures involving a region or local authority in another Member State. The interregional component of the 'territorial cooperation' objective can provide support, coordination, pooling of know-how, exchanges of good practices and strategic back-up for projects implemented in this way. INTERACT would gain in effectiveness if it were involved more closely with the implementation of this component.
URBACT II (which concerns exchanges of information with a view to fostering sustainable urban development) has been fairly successful and should be continued.
In addition, in the context of the debate on the Erasmus programme for local councillors, these exchange networks (INTERACT/interregional cooperation and URBACT) should involve such representatives more closely, with a view to raising the profile of and lending fresh political impetus to these exchanges. This could be a first step to implement the Erasmus project for local and regional elected representatives;
The ESPON programme, which deals with the provision of studies and databases on territorial cooperation and border areas, is an effective instrument. However, efforts are needed to make its results more visible and more accessible to all cooperation stakeholders.
More strategic, mainstreamed territorial cooperation
Although the current distribution of funding between the three components can essentially be maintained, programming must be more strategic and take place at all planning stages. Your rapporteur would like to see cooperation measures coordinated at all levels of governance, in conjunction with a ‘Europe 2020’ strategy geared to the needs of territories and with the other existing territorial strategies (euro districts, Euroregions, macro-regions, etc.).
Territorial cooperation is sometimes hampered by national considerations which reflect the ‘I want my money back’ syndrome: Member States and stakeholders share funding for projects on their territory, but without genuine cooperation or genuine European added value. Your rapporteur is proposing, therefore, that budgets should be allocated for each territorial cooperation programme, with a view to meeting the needs of the area concerned in an integrated manner. Whilst retaining the main criterion (demography), the Commission might consider other strategic, measurable and relevant criteria which would reflect the needs of territories and without undermining the most important criterion: demography. The additional indicators could take account of issues specific to territorial cooperation, such as connectivity and access to infrastructure, also to indicators linked to the Europe 2020 strategy.
In your rapporteur’s view, although the territorial cooperation budget should be substantially increased, it will never be sufficient to fund the major cross-border or transnational infrastructure projects which Europe needs in the transport, energy and new communication technology spheres. If the principle of territorial cohesion is to be implemented properly, and in order to increase the European added value of the funding allocated under the ‘convergence’ and ‘competitiveness and employment’ objectives, greater complementarity between the ‘territorial cooperation’ objective and the mainstream is essential.
The proposal is, therefore, that at the beginning of the programming period ‘territorial’ approach should be used to channel ‘convergence’ and ‘competitiveness and employment’ funding towards a number of priority projects like Trans-European Networks of Transports which have been identified in advance and agreed with the relevant partners, in keeping with the principles of multi-level governance and partnership.
Finally, your rapporteur would like to emphasise the importance of the experiments conducted as part of pluri-regional operational programmes, such as the ‘Loire’ or ‘Massif Central’ programmes in France, which have a shared territorial basis.
Adopting a territorial approach when implementing other Community policies
The response to the macro-regional strategies, for the Baltic and for the Danube, has been a mixture of enthusiasm and reservations. Your rapporteur would like to point out that these strategies are neither a new form of intergovernmental cooperation, managed solely by the central authorities in the Member States concerned, nor a new, autonomous unidentified Community object which has no links with regional policy. The ‘three nos’ rule is fundamental: no new institutions, no new rules and no new budget headings for the macro-regional strategies.
However, the thinking behind the macro-regions, an experimental approach based on coordination around joint projects which affect a very broadly defined territory, the aim being to exploit the advantages offered by an integrated, multi-sectoral approach involving joint strategic measures receiving support from existing funds, warrants special consideration, given the results achieved.
Although there is no suggestion of establishing macro-regions throughout Europe, the transnational governance system could be used to coordinate the work of devising, framing and steering these strategies, by identifying where they would be useful and desirable.
By the same token, transnational governance must take account of the scope for coordination with other major Community strategies, such as the trans-European networks and the integrated maritime policy.
Finally, cooperation at the Union’s external borders is characterised by shortcomings and implementation problems, in particular as a result of the lack of synergy between the regulations governing the various funds (ERDF, ENPI, IAP, EDF) and governance problems. The onus is on the relevant Commission DGs to coordinate their efforts in this area more effectively.
Encouraging the establishment of European Groupings for Territorial Cooperation (EGTCs)
In 2006 a separate regulation established a legal tool to facilitate territorial cooperation, the European Grouping for Territorial Cooperation (EGTC). The EGTC can be used in connection with all three aspects of territorial cooperation and represents a unique instrument for territorial governance. It was introduced at the time of the negotiations on the legislative package for the current multiannual financial framework (2007-2013).
The regulation enables national, regional or local authorities to set up joint groupings with legal personality in order to implement cooperation programmes and projects. It thus makes a significant contribution to the multi-level governance model.
Experience gained or in the process of being gained with EGTCs shows that this instrument works satisfactorily. It has met the need expressed by regional and local authorities for structured cooperation covering financing, the legal status of projects and multi-level governance and it has exceeded even the European legislator’s expectations.
However, it is essential that local and regional authorities in the EU should be better informed about EGTCs. Moreover, EGTCs faced quite a few other challenges, mainly legal, organisational or relating to access to financing, in particular during their start-up phase (such as problems in connection with the country of establishment and very lengthy registration procedures).
Your rapporteur would like to join with the Committee of the Regions in drawing attention to a number of problems: the need to clarify the status of EGTCs under the legal systems of the Member States, problems in securing authorisation to establish EGTCs involving actors situated in a Member State and a country outside the EU, the need to reword Article 4(3) in order to ensure that the three‑month time limit within which Member States must approve or otherwise the establishment of an EGTC is strictly complied with and a simplification of the legal provisions governing the staff of and tax arrangements for EGTCs.
In addition, the rules governing access to other European funds must take better account of the specific nature of EGTCs, not simply as a partner, but as a multilateral and multinational European body.
Finally, the award of global grants to EGTCs, in order to enable them to manage structural funds directly, in keeping with the strategy defined by the programme, would facilitate the implementation of projects and foster the establishment of new EGTCs.
Objective 3 provides for complex, multidimensional cooperation between partners from different Member States. These constraints call for specific regulation which genuinely simplifies implementation.
Your rapporteur is proposing a series of measures requested by actors on the ground, such as a simplification of the audit and control rules, the more systematic use of standard-rate costing, the definition of more detailed rules governing eligibility for Community support, more flexible application of automatic decommitment procedures, and an increase in the technical assistance, so that the managing authorities can place the emphasis on the strategic supervision of projects rather than on the conformity of applications with the administrative rules.
Your rapporteur would like to stress, however, that the form of simplification most urgently required is rule stability.
Finally, one problem frequently encountered in connection with the implementation of territorial cooperation is the reluctance of private actors to become involved, given the complexity of such projects and the risks inherent in them.
Your rapporteur is therefore urging the Commission to involve these actors more closely, in particular by establishing financial engineering systems, along the lines of JEREMIE and JESSICA, in order to facilitate cross-border projects which are vectors of economic development and the establishment of public-private partnerships.
Raising the profile of territorial cooperation
Territorial cooperation suffers from a particularly acute form of the more general problem affecting the Structural Funds: their low profile.
Members of the public in their everyday lives, central, regional or local authorities in the Member States, the European institutions planning long-term policies: all are blissfully unaware of the issues at stake in territorial cooperation. It is necessary to take action at all three levels if territorial cooperation is to become more ‘visible’.
The response to this challenge must take two forms:
- the great European idea of territorial cooperation must become the symbolic embodiment of the EU for all its citizens;
- policy-makers and public servants at all levels must become acquainted with the practical aspects of territorial cooperation which may affect their work.
Your rapporteur is therefore calling on the Commission to consider, in particular, ways of raising the profile of EGTCs with territorial cooperation stakeholders and the public.
Also, while helping to fulfil the Europe 2020 strategy’s objective of intelligent and inclusive growth, to increase cooperation on education and culture would raise the level of participation of citizens and NGOs as well as contribute to the raising of the profile of territorial cooperation and breaking down the ‘mental borders’ that still set citizens apart from one another;
Finally, more effective communication among all the actors involved in implementing territorial cooperation is also essential - a worthwhile first step would be the use of a single logo, for example. The Commission might also envisage a communication campaign, in conjunction with INTERACT, in border regions.
RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE
Result of final vote
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, Jens Geier, 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