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Verbatim report of proceedings
Thursday, 10 May 2007 - Brussels OJ edition

5. Housing and regional policy – Structural policies and EU cohesion – Future regional policy and innovation (debate)

  President. The next item is the joint debate on

– the report (A6-0090/2007) by Alfonso Andria, on behalf of the Committee on Regional Development, on housing and regional policy (2006/2108(INI)) and

– the report (A6-0096/2007) by Mieczysław Edmund Janowski, on behalf of the Committee on Regional Development, on the contribution of the future regional policy to the innovative capacity of the European Union (2006/2104(INI).


  Alfonso Andria (ALDE), rapporteur. (IT) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, today we have come to the end of the journey of Parliament’s own-initiative report on housing and regional policy, for which I am the rapporteur. The report’s journey really started back with the work done by the Urban Housing Intergroup, chaired by my colleague Mr Beaupuy, of which I am the vice-chairman. This work has taken a significant step forward with the European Housing Charter, put forward and drafted by my fellow Member, Mr Hutchinson, and adopted by the intergroup.

First of all I would like to express my sincere thanks to my colleagues, and particularly to the shadow rapporteurs, for their significant and important contributions. I am grateful to the coordinators and to the officials who have actively worked together to draft the report, providing important points and useful corrections to the document. It is only thanks to the understanding shown by all and a sound cooperative attitude that it has been possible to end up with a text, today, that I believe is balanced but at the same time innovative and on which I hope there will be a broad consensus.

The work done with the representatives of the European Commission, the German Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the European Investment Bank has really been very profitable. We established a very effective relationship with the sectoral associations and non-governmental organisations that approached my office.

Next, my sincere thanks go to the draftsmen of the opinions of the Committee of the Regions, Flo Clucas, and of the Economic and Social Committee, Angelo Grasso, for the great commitment they have shown and the excellent texts they have produced. I also thank those who have done significant work with me on the drafting of the report: Anu Ahopelto, the Group official, Agneszka Kunat, the official from the Committee on Regional Development, and my assistant, Valentino Izzo.

Before moving on to the text, I feel it is necessary to clarify the methods we used. The remit I had been set when I started work on this own-initiative report was to take the debate on housing policy up to the level of a European issue, while being aware of the existing problems. In fact the Treaty, as is well known, does not attribute any specific powers to the European Union in this area. Article 7 of the ERDF regulation for the 2007-2013 programming period does, however, envisage, in a limited number of cases and only in the new Member States, the possibility of using Community funds to support housing development projects. Similarly, it should also be said that a large number of European policies, such as energy/environment, transport, security, culture and social policies, have a significant, though indirect, effect on the quality of housing.

The issue of housing, then, cannot be considered as a separate issue. The approach that I wanted to take with the own-initiative report is therefore a comprehensive approach, considering housing choices within a wider sustainable urban development policy, with strong links to the sectoral and horizontal policies to which I just referred.

The report has therefore been structured around two main dimensions: the social dimension, relating to the interconnection between housing conditions, urban degeneration and social exclusion, and the environmental dimension, relating to issues ranging from energy waste to lack of building safety, from the quality of public areas to protection from hydro-geological and seismic risks. Alongside these two, there is a third dimension – although that might not be the best word to use – and that is, the need to coordinate at three levels: the horizontal level, through the various European sectoral policies; the vertical level, through the various levels of government, and also a link between the public and private entities operating in the housing sector.

I would like to mention a few fundamental issues, from among the most important ones.

The right to housing: should Parliament, as I hope, give the go-ahead to this own-initiative report, this would mean recognition for the first time of the right to decent affordable housing as a fundamental right.

Housing quality: the text adopted by the Committee on Regional Policy on 20 March talks about improving housing quality, defines quality standards and also the right to good quality housing. This is the subject of one of the principal amendments being voted on today.

Adequate resources: budget restrictions have reduced the level of public resources available for urban investment and, at the same time, administrative decentralisation and regionalisation in many countries have increased the powers of the cities.

It is thus necessary to give the local authorities adequate financial instruments and to ensure that the right to housing can be effectively and fully enjoyed and that appropriate housing policies and, more generally, urban development policies, can derive from it. So, Parliament is asking for a reinforcement of the right to housing aid and, in particular, calls for concessions for young people.


  Mieczysław Edmund Janowski (UEN), rapporteur. (PL) Madam President, I have the honour of presenting the Committee on Regional Development's own initiative report on the contribution of the future regional policy to the European Union's innovative capacity.

Our Community has two basic objectives in terms of regional policy: to strengthen cohesion in all dimensions and to support and organise activities that foster innovation. Let the conclusion that, in principle, everything that takes place in the European Union takes place in a region, a town or a village, not seem a truism. Thus, it is not here or, to be more precise, not only in Brussels or Strasbourg, that our future is being shaped. Around two thirds of Community legislation is currently implemented at a regional and local level.

The report, which was the subject of a very fruitful discussion in the Committee on Regional Development, is addressed to Member States, the European Commission and, above all, the regional and local authorities. It is also aimed at other bodies, especially academic institutions, research centres and small and medium sized enterprises, which could also be very effective and flexible vehicles for innovation. Regional policy cannot only be used for authorising projects and managing structural funds in a more or less satisfactory manner. It also has to contribute to improving the European Union's innovative capacity. This capacity should be viewed as complementary action in fields such as research and technology, law and finance, the economy and trade, management and administration, energy and the environment, education, social issues, health and culture. In other words, action should be taken right across the board. There are infinite opportunities for us to do something new, something better. I would like to emphatically stress that all of these features have a regional dimension. The action taken should contribute to achieving real cohesion within the Union, and should be proof of harmonised, sustainable growth and solidarity within the Community, which are things that are often mentioned here. The aim is to also decrease the existing and marked imbalance between growth rates in certain regions in the European Union.

We should also remember that a well implemented regional policy fosters innovation. In turn, innovation encourages further growth. A very profitable symbiosis is therefore achieved.

I do not want to repeat here what is included in my report. However, I would like to thank all those who contributed to the creation of this document. I would like to thank my colleagues here in Brussels, in Strasbourg and in Poland. I would like to thank all the members of the Committee, and the coordinator in particular, for the fruitful debate and the amendments tabled. I would like to thank the representatives of the European Commission, the Committee of the Regions and the Presidency. As in the case of Mr Andria’s report, all contributions have been very constructive.

Let us be aware that, out of all the regions in the EU, only 21 (in other words less than 10%), spend more than 3% of GDP on research and development. Therefore, if we want to implement the Lisbon Strategy, we need more investment in its implementation at a regional level.

Another point to which I would like to draw your attention is the matter of universal and equal access to education at all levels, including at postgraduate level. This is the key to further growth in the Community.

Yesterday, the Nobel Prize winner Timothy Hunt spoke in this House. He expressed his concern regarding the fact that, out of the top 20 universities in the world, 15 are American, one is Japanese, three are British and one is Swiss. This is a signal for the European Union, in terms of what we need to achieve. Cheap access to the Internet also plays a very important role here, as do financial instruments, rural areas and regional innovation criteria.

Meanwhile, others are wide awake. While we are debating the issue, 25 000 new citizens are born in China and 31 000 are born in India every day. Meanwhile, the number of Europeans is shrinking. For us, innovation must also include the issue of families. Let us not waste time, money or energy. Let us find solutions. They are not easy, but no one ever said that we should only solve easy problems.


  Danuta Hübner, Member of the Commission. Madam President, I will try to be brief, but the issues are extremely important and I would like to respond to both reports.

I should like to start by saying that I appreciate very much this possibility of continuing our interinstitutional dialogue on your own-initiative reports. They will play an important role in our thinking as regards the future shape of the policy.

With regard to Mr Andria’s report, I agree with his assessment that many urban centres in Europe face severe housing problems. We are currently negotiating cohesion programmes with all the Member States, and we see that, in all the national strategies and the operational programmes of the new Member States, interventions are foreseen aiming at the rehabilitation of panel housing estates and multi-family houses which were built in those countries in the 1970s and 1980s. So far we have received 340 out of 444 operational programmes and within those programmes our assessment is that around EUR 900 million is foreseen for housing infrastructure.

I also agree with Mr Andria that we have to do much more for deprived urban areas and neighbourhoods. In fact, in the negotiations with Member States we are strongly encouraging them and the regions to pay particular attention to this issue in all the Member States of the Union. It seems that most of them have accepted this idea.

We already have the preliminary estimates of how much funding will be invested in projects: for urban and rural regeneration it will be more than EUR 8 billion in the years to come; for the promotion of clear urban transport, it will be more than EUR 4 billion; and for the rehabilitation of industrial sites and contaminated land, it will be more than EUR 3 billion in 2007-2013.

There are also two elements in those programmes to which we attach great importance, and we will examine them carefully in the negotiations because we believe that they are essential for the success of those programmes. First of all, again in line with your suggestion, there is the need to pay attention to the question of partnership. Clearly our evaluations – and I hope you would agree with me – show that programmes perform much better when they reach out to the local community, as regards both design and, subsequently, implementation.

Secondly, we also pay much attention to the need to adopt an integrated approach, which I think has been a great success of past urban initiatives. In the negotiations we want to see that the problems affecting those stressed urban areas are really addressed in an integrated way, not only through covering different policies and different sectors, but also requiring participation at all levels of governance, from citizens to political stakeholders.

I also support your suggestion to promote the exchange of best practice on housing and on sustainable urban development in general. I am convinced that regions and cities can learn a lot from each other on how to ensure a balance between housing needs, demographic trends and urban development trends. That is why, in this new initiative on the regions for economic change, we have provided for the possibility of setting up a network related to developing sustainable and energy-efficient housing stock, and we hope that before the end of this year this network will be operational.

I should like to say a few words about ‘Jessica’, because we have moved substantially in the last weeks and this increases enormously the scope of efficient financing for housing across Europe. This is carried out with the involvement of the European Investment Bank and the Council of Europe Development Bank. The EIB has already set up a team with, for the time being, seven experts. There will soon be eight to ten professional staff members from the EIB. We have also started, with all the interested Member States, the launch of Jessica evaluation, the first meetings with Greece and Poland have already taken place, and others are scheduled in the weeks to come.

As a result, we want to have as many evaluation studies of the needs as possible throughout this year, but also through those meetings and reports we want to identify the best projects to be financed by Jessica as well as the proposed interventions: the actions needed in some Member States. New legislation will be needed, as we see it, as well as a lot of structures.

Regarding Mr Janowski’s report on innovation, the cohesion policy is one of those rare policies in Europe which integrates different sectoral approaches in the overriding context of development strategy and it can, on the one hand, deliver tailor-made solutions for each European region or territory, but at the same time it is critically dependent on coordination and on synergies with all other European as well as national policies. That is why, for the period 2007-2013, we have reinforced the coordination mechanism within the Commission. This policy has, in fact, become a kind of meeting point for many different EU priorities, and research and development and innovation is perhaps the best example of this new approach.

We have institutionalised the new synergies between cohesion policy, the seventh framework programme and the competitiveness and innovation programmes. The last two programmes take into account the specificities of lagging regions, which we have not had before, while the cohesion policy will significantly increase its contribution to research and development, but primarily to innovation activities.

We are also working with two other Commissioners on a communication that would provide exactly the information as well as providing advice on how to combine all those resources of different programmes to increase the efficiency of those programmes as well. That will be adopted in July.

As you know, the Commission has also invested in better coordination between our policies and national policies with regard to innovation, and generally, the Lisbon priorities through the annual reporting and the mechanism of coordinating internally between the two policies in every Member State.

We have also introduced the categorisation of types of investment that would allow us to see how much will be devoted to innovation and then would allow us also to monitor how this investment is progressing across the whole period.

I could not agree with you more on the central point of the report that innovation should be increasingly at the heart of the European cohesion policy, because we cannot today achieve cohesion without investing in innovation capacities in Europe across all sectors and types of territories. We are doing it both through human capital investment and regional competitiveness investment. The good news is that Member States are reacting extremely positively to those requests and we already know how much will be invested in innovation in the years to come.

We are also preparing for the autumn communication from the Commission showing in detail to what extent innovation has been retained in the operational programmes.

Let me express my hope that in the very near future we will have regional innovation strategies in every European region. I think we are very close to achieving this goal.

Lastly, you made very clear the need for facilitating the access to finance, mainly for the micro-companies and small and medium-sized companies; I fully agree on this need. As you know, we have developed ‘Jeremy’ to help with this but we are also in the process of developing an action plan for micro-credit with other services in the Commission. Here we aim not only to increase provision of capital but also to develop mentoring services and reform the national, institutional and legal frameworks to support this kind of access to credit for small companies in a more effective way.


  Lambert van Nistelrooij, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (NL) Madam President, globalisation and more competition at global level call for new answers. Innovation and regional policy can go hand in hand in this. The knowledge economy needs European investment that goes beyond infrastructure such as asphalt and concrete; it is in need of new instruments, and that is where the Lisbon and Gothenburg agendas come in.

This is also the subject of the Janowski report, the topic of today’s debate. This report indicates very clearly how this can be achieved: regional clustering of activities, specialisation, research and development aimed at sustainability and employment. In short, globalisation calls for cohesion policy in a higher gear, for regional excellence in all areas. Focus is the key word. As Commissioner Hübner quite rightly stated a moment ago, this is how an essential contribution can be made to this economic growth and competition. This places innovation at the heart of regional policy, and I also share her view that one of the requirements for subsidies should be that regions develop an innovation strategy of this kind.

The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats wishes to seize the fourth cohesion report as an opportunity to hold the debate on the basis of what Mr Janowski has said. This is about an integrated and better, even more specific use of the structural funds and cohesion policy. More than EUR 300 billion will be made available in the next few years, which we can use to demonstrate what this European added value amounts to, not least with a view to the future.

I should like to finish off by saying that regional policy can become more visible as a result, not least in the debate on the midterm review and on the Commission’s financial assessment of the Lisbon agenda at the end of this year. These are occasions when we, together with the Commission, would like to tackle the specific focus on the future and increased competitiveness. On behalf of the PPE-DE Group, Mr Březina will be discussing the other important report, that of Mr Andria, in a moment.


  Alain Hutchinson, on behalf of the PSE Group.(FR) Madam President, I hope that the fact that two reports have, surprisingly, been combined does not indicate a desire to reduce the importance of a subject that is dear to my heart and to which I feel most committed, namely that of housing. If I remember correctly, this is the first time that Parliament will vote on a report devoted to housing in the European Union. I should like straightaway to thank our fellow Member, Mr Andria, for his constructive and useful work.

To the surprise of some people, millions of our fellow citizens currently live in insecure conditions due to the difficulty, not to say impossibility, of finding somewhere to live – a state of affairs that is unacceptable, given the democratic model on which we so often pride ourselves. This is, therefore, an important moment.

Guaranteed access to decent affordable housing for everyone is an objective to be pursued if we want to make a success of, for example, the Lisbon Strategy. The fact is that having somewhere to live is an obvious prerequisite for completing one’s education and obtaining a job. Although housing is not, strictly speaking, one of the EU’s competences, the fact remains that it is a crucial factor of which account needs to be taken in pursuing our objective of social, economic and environmental cohesion.

In this connection, I am very happy to emphasise that, in anticipation of the 2009 review of the cohesion policy regulations, the report in question asks that the debate be reopened on broadening access to the Structural Funds to all Member States for the purpose of renovating local authority housing – access already possessed, since the last reform of these Funds, by those Member States that joined the EU after 1 May 2004.

Finally, I would emphasise the need for MEPs to remain alert to the concerns of Europeans, a not inconsiderable proportion of whom consider, rightly or wrongly, that the European institutions are at too far of a remove from themselves. With the Andria report on housing, we are, as it were, entering millions of European homes. If, moreover, we fall in with the report’s proposal that this House take the initiative and draft a European housing charter or declaration spelling out the importance of this fundamental right to decent affordable housing for everyone, we shall, I am convinced, succeed in sending the public a strong signal in favour of a closer relationship between Europeans and an EU that has their day-to-day concerns at heart.



  Jean Marie Beaupuy, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should first of all like to leave no one in any doubt about the fact that my group will, as a matter of course, strongly support the Andria and Janowski reports.

Commissioner, I was quite clear to start with that you had taken full account of our fellow Member’s, Mr Janowski’s, requests concerning innovation. I did not have the same feeling when listening to you. Allow me to speak my mind, given that we enjoy close relations and tell each other what we think. You replied on the subject of cities, but you did not really talk about housing.

Housing – and our fellow Member, Mr Hutchinson, has just been talking in these terms – is, in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the second most important need of any human being. The need for food is immediately followed by the need for shelter. Housing is fundamental to the protection of every human being. Housing is therefore an issue in every country whenever there are local or national elections although, admittedly, it presents itself in very different forms. We have seen this in France with its homeless people, and we see it in every other country in which the many and varied factors include problems involving building, urban sprawl, financing and so on.

Among the various factors to be taken into account, there is one that I should like to take a few seconds to highlight. It appears in the Andria report but has not, in my opinion, been sufficiently underlined, and that is the issue of financing. We see how the price of land has risen throughout the world, leading city dwellers to seek ever further afield for somewhere to live. In other words, they waste time every day travelling between home and work and devote a larger portion of their budget to travel costs. This means that, every day, they cause more atmospheric pollution and that, every day, the number of social problems is increased. What I am trying to say is that this issue of housing costs is of relevance to us.

In view of this situation, Mr Andria’s report contains a request for a study to be carried out. Most members of our intergroup and of the Committee on Regional Development are not asking the European Commission or European Union to accept responsibilities for housing that are not properly theirs. What we are asking right away, Commissioner, is that, with the help of your services, we might have a clearer view of the responsibilities involved. What are the responsibilities of, respectively, regions, districts and Europe as a whole? Where do the housing organisations’ responsibilities lie? What are the responsibilities of the financial bodies and of all the other players involved? The study referred to is absolutely fundamental to our knowing who is to do what. Thanks to the studies you are carrying out and the work you are doing, we await some clarification in the course of the next few months, bearing in mind too that a variety of Commission services – environment, transport etc – have a parallel interest in these housing issues.

Finally, and by way of drawing things to a close, you can be sure that, proud as we are today of having obtained the Andria report, I and my fellow Members of the intergroup and of the Committee on Regional Development have no intention of stopping there but, rather, are determined, with yourselves, to make much further progress with this issue of housing at European level.



  Zbigniew Krzysztof Kuźmiuk, on behalf of the UEN Group. (PL) Madam President, I would like to take the floor in this debate in order to highlight two issues.

First of all, the European Housing Charter defines housing as a primary good and a basic social right, which is a fundamental part of the European Social Model. It is, therefore, a good thing that the European Regional Development Fund will, between 2007 and 2013, provide opportunities for supporting the housing sector in Member States where housing needs, especially of the younger generation, are great. The difficult situation on the housing market in these countries is made worse by the fact that there has been a sudden increase in house prices, amounting to several dozen percent per year, as a result of the objective process of levelling out of house prices in old and new Member States.

Secondly, the influence of regional policy on innovation in the European Union is limited due to the small amount of funding made available by both the Union and the Member States. The Union’s whole budget is barely 1% of its GDP, of which less than 10% is earmarked for research and development. Moreover, average spending in this field in the Member States amounts to barely 2%, while the most developed countries in the world spend many times this amount. As a result, the gap in this field is widening instead of narrowing. In order to significantly increase spending in this field, the European Union needs to make additional efforts. We also need additional funds from national budgets, as well as funding for innovation from regional and local budgets and contributions from the private sector.


  Gisela Kallenbach, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Madam President, I will now speak to Mr Andria’s report, while my colleague will speak later on to Mr Janowski’s; both rapporteurs and all their comrades in the Urban Development and Housing Intergroup deserve warm thanks for their courage in making the leap from the subsidiarity principle to a longer European view of things.

Cooperation has been exemplary and across party lines, and has borne fruit in the shape of a suggestion for a process that highlights what is crucial about urban and regional development, namely the right to proper and decent living space, the provision of which living space to the members of the public who need it as part of social accommodation support remains a responsibility for the Member States, for their municipalities and districts.

What reasons are there, though, not to respond to similar problems and concerns across Europe with European minimum social and housing standards that ultimately affect people’s quality of life? This own-initiative report tries to find out, and, in the process, calls for action on the part of the Commission and the Council.

I have noted the hearteningly positive echoes – despite their initial resentments – from the Committee of the Regions and from cooperatives and tenants’ associations, which are welcoming the European added value, pushing for a joint declaration on housing, to include a strong emphasis on national responsibility and promoting the application of Europe-wide standards with the aid of European support instruments.

By way of conclusion, then, I ask you, Commissioner, to really make it your concern that this is reflected in the operational programmes, for I find it lamentable that yesterday’s press communiqué about the signing of the German National Framework Plan included no reference to sustainable urban development or to the partnership principle.


  Pedro Guerreiro, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (PT) I should like to commend Mr Andria on his report, which contains points that deserve our support.

Housing policy is a national policy and as such it falls to the Member States to do all they can to guarantee the right to decent housing for their citizens. According to Article 65 of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic, every citizen and their family has the right to accommodation that is adequate in size, that is hygienic and comfortable, and that offers personal space and family privacy. This right is a crucial factor in integration and social inclusion and a vital prerequisite for ensuring that this basic need for human development is fulfilled for all citizens.

The issue of housing in Community regional policy has acquired a new context in the EU-27. We must not forget that, in spite of the increasing contribution of the Structural Funds to urban renewal, achieved by means of a Community own-initiative, the Structural Funds are designed to ensure regular investment, and to take advantage of positive external factors boosting economic development, such as investment in basic infrastructure and the strengthening of the qualifications of the work force. That being said, we feel that the Structural Funds can play a relevant role in supporting integrated projects to foster social, public or cooperative housing, either for acquisition or for rent at affordable rates, with subsidised social facilities aimed at urban renewal, social cohesion and the promotion of sustainable urban development. For this reason, there is once again a need to increase funding from the Community budget for cohesion policy, and to mobilise other financial instruments such as the European Investment Bank.


  Hélène Goudin, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (SV) Madam President, the EU’s structural and cohesion policy reveals some major shortcomings. Its existence should therefore be brought seriously into question, and mainly for three reasons. Firstly, the efforts it represents amount to artificial respiration, which does not by any means lead to long-term sustainable development. We have to accept that the surrounding world is changing as a result of globalisation. Whoever is competitive today may be out of the game tomorrow.

The second reason concerns financing. Money is diverted from the poor in rich countries to the rich in poor countries. That is unacceptable, too.

Thirdly and lastly, the rules governing where the Structural Funds may be directed are far too rigid and restrictive, so that the Member States, regions and local authorities have problems using the money where it is really needed. Conditions differ widely from one EU Member State to another, so that current policy is unsustainable. I therefore believe that structural policy should be re-nationalised.


  Carl Lang, on behalf of the ITS Group.(FR) Madam President, what Mr Andria says in his report is quite right. Housing is a major economic and social problem.

In France, more than 5.5 million people are poorly housed. What is more, rents and mortgage repayments put a big strain on the budgets of French families. However, the solution clearly does not lie with the European Structural Funds. For one thing, they would involve spreading taxpayers’ money pathetically thinly. For another, French regions such as Nord-Pas-de-Calais would scarcely benefit at all from such aid, despite being hit by unemployment, social precarity and a fall in purchasing power. The fact is that, for seven years now, the districts of French Hainault have already no longer been receiving the sums paid under Objective 1, and the Brussels EU keeps on reducing the funds earmarked for our regions.

If all French people are to have decent places in which to live, a housing policy based on two principles needs to be implemented in France. The first principle is that of liberty, to which home ownership is key. At present, only 57% of households are home owners. In order to increase this figure, house purchase savings plans and accounts need to be given a boost, zero-rate loans granted to families and land tax reduced. The second principle is that whereby countries discriminate in favour of their own nationals and that, in France, would enable priority to be given to French people when it came to allocating local authority housing, including emergency housing. Moreover, it is obvious that policies aimed at social recovery and at stimulating our economy require an end to immigration from outside Europe, the exponential growth in which ruins any effective policy on housing or policy designed to combat unemployment.

There is another essential precondition. The Brussels EU must stop exposing our industries to unfair international competition involving large-scale social dumping. The fact is, there is no time to be lost in constructing another Europe – a Europe of the nations, based on voluntary cooperation between Member States and on Community preference, with due respect shown for the sovereignty and identity of nations.


  Jana Bobošíková (NI).(CS) Ladies and gentlemen, alongside its undoubted successes in helping the less developed regions of the EU, structural policy has also had some shortcomings. Experience has shown that the taxpayers’ money is not always put to good use, national development strategies do not always have a synergetic effect, individual countries’ operational plans are not always thought through and resources do not always lead to improved competitiveness, higher employment and sustainable development.

The instruments aimed at improving this state of affairs include the so-called Open Days in Brussels, in other words the European Week of Regions and Cities, organised every year by the Commission and the Committee of the Regions. This October will mark the fifth anniversary of these mega-events. Once again thousands of regional representatives and officials will meet in Brussels, along with hundreds of speakers and journalists, while dozens of seminars and countless cocktail parties and receptions will take place. In parallel with the workshops and events in Brussels, the organisers say there will be a series of events right across the EU connected with the Open Days and geared towards the general public, in order to pass on the message from this week to the regions and cities.

I have serious doubts about the whole enterprise and about whether it is an effective way to use taxpayers’ money for improving regional policies. Studies clearly show that previous Open Days have met the expectations of barely half of the participants. Moreover, it has never been made public how much this week-long mega party costs. I did not expect Mrs Hübner to tell us directly how many regional meetings our taxpayers attend. Until we can say clearly how much the structural policy’s marketing and public relations costs, and until we can compare the quality of the results against the cost of the whole enterprise, we shall face justified criticism from the public that the Brussels Open Days are nothing more than a fancy excursion to the capital city of the Union.


  Jan Březina (PPE-DE).(CS) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the report before us on housing is the result of much hard work on the part of the rapporteur, whom I wish to thank, along with the whole of the Committee on Regional Development, which has dealt with the issue in great depth. Given that the text of the report may yet undergo significant changes due to the proposed amendments, it is perhaps better to wait for the result of the vote before giving a definitive assessment. I am happy to offer a basic assessment now, however.

It has been clear from the outset that this is a sensitive policy area, and a potentially explosive issue, at the core of which is the question of whether or not housing should be addressed at a European level. Personally, I would say that when it comes to the issue of housing the Union should, in keeping with the subsidiarity principle, voice its opinion as little as possible, and then only when the Union’s action can provide added value compared with that of the Member States. Specifically, this means supporting the refurbishment of tower blocks or the construction of housing for socially vulnerable groups such as the disabled and young families with children. Thus far, I consider the report to be a useful document that could bring a new and much-needed impulse.

Under no circumstances should measures at Union level replace Member State regulations. I fear, however, that this is precisely what the report is aiming at, for example when it calls for the adoption of a system of housing quality indicators at an EU level. The EU, and by extension the European Parliament, should not assume more rights than those that are conferred by the founding Treaties. The Member States are the guarantors of rights to housing and that is how it should remain, in spite of the fact that the issue of housing was originally understood in the context of regional development, rather than in relation to social responsibility. In this context, I should like to mention the call to strengthen the right to housing within the framework of the social dimension of the Lisbon Strategy, which in my view does not belong in this report. The Lisbon Strategy makes no mention of housing and we should leave it at that. As shadow rapporteur for the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, I welcome the fact that the key amendments were negotiated across the groups, and that there was a willingness to rectify views that were strongly defended at the outset. If the resulting wording of the report reflects a spirit of consensus between the main groups, I shall consider it an acceptable outcome.


  Bernadette Bourzai (PSE).(FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to begin by speaking about Mr Andria’s own-initiative report on housing and regional policy. I should like first of all to congratulate him on his excellent work and to congratulate the Housing Intergroup on its assessment of the contribution of the Structural Funds to housing policy within the Member States.

For my part, as an elected representative of a rural, mountain-based constituency that people are in the process of abandoning, I am more interested in the problem of housing in rural areas. That is why I tabled two amendments on the subject, which have been adopted in part; hence my satisfaction today, because I feared that housing was regarded only as an urban problem. For me, it was a question of highlighting the combination of handicaps in rural areas – low personal incomes, scattered and often dilapidated housing, insufficient local authority or private rental accommodation – and the challenges in terms of revitalising rural territories through the arrival of new populations. Next, it was important to highlight the crucial nature of measures encouraging the acquisition, restoration and renovation of old buildings, to support public and private bodies offering huge amounts of advice and personalised support to help individuals or professionals to settle, and to improve the supply of new or renovated social, public and private housing.

The own-initiative report is timely in highlighting the specific nature of the housing problem in small towns that link together to form regional networks and that play a major role in the development of rural areas.

In relation to the Janowski report, I am speaking on behalf of my colleague, Mrs Douay, who cannot be here this morning. She would like to point out that she is fully satisfied with the report adopted within the Committee on Regional Development on the contribution of the forthcoming policy to the European Union’s capacity for innovation. She particularly welcomes the adoption of the amendments on SMEs and their role in the innovation taking place at regional level, as well as the amendments on the characteristics specific to mountain regions and rural areas. However, she feels that it is harmful to go back over the wording of paragraph 14, which is the result of a compromise that was fairly widely accepted by the various political groups and that should not be amended.


  Marian Harkin (ALDE). – Madam President, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on the Janowski report.

First of all I would like to congratulate Mr Janowski for his good work and his sound cooperation. This is an important report in that it looks at how regional policy can contribute to the innovative capacity of the EU. It is often suggested that innovation, research and development should be concentrated in urban areas, technological clusters and areas where critical mass guarantees investment, whereas, in this report, it is clear that innovation and research and development in fact reinforce regional policy objectives and contribute to cohesion, both between and within regions. I am a firm believer that strong regions contribute to strong national growth. It is like the pieces of a jigsaw fitting together and the final picture being greater than the sum of its parts. If some of the pieces are missing and we do not have regional development and regional innovation, then the overall picture is incomplete.

The report stresses the fact that SMEs play a vital role in innovation capacity-building within the EU and underlines the use that can be made of the financial instruments Jaspers, Jeremie and Jessica. The report also encourages all Member States to increase the percentage of GDP spent on R&D. Some Member States spend in excess of 3% of their GDP on research and development, but others – like my own country, Ireland – lag well behind at less than 1.5%. As Mr Janowski said, given some of the comments we heard yesterday from Nobel Peace Prize winner Tim Hunt, it is very clear that greater investment in education, universities and research and development and innovation is crucial if the EU is to compete in the global market.

Finally, I was very pleased to hear the Commissioner say earlier that the Commission will provide information on how to combine resources from different programmes to create synergies. That is crucial in order to promote regional development. I was also pleased to hear that the Commission will monitor how investment in innovation is progressing. Hopefully, based on that monitoring, we will see appropriate action being taken.


  Seán Ó Neachtain (UEN). – A Uachtaráin, tá sé rí-thábhachtach go bhfaigheadh grúpaí atá curtha fútha i gceantair imeallacha, in Éirinn agus ar fud na hEorpa, sciar den airgead atá ar fáil faoin gClár Taighde, Teicneolaíochta agus Gnóthaí Forbartha.

Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leis an Uasal Janowski as ucht a chuid oibre ar an tuarascáil seo.

Níor chóir go mbeadh aon cheantar imeallach ar fud na hEorpa fágtha gan áiseanna Theicneolaíocht an Eolais rud, faraoir, atá fíor i gcás an bhanda leathain mar shampla.

Caithfear an banda leathan a chur ar fáil do chuile cheantar, go háirithe do na ceantair imeallacha. Caithfear a chinntiú go mbeidh áis an bhanda leathain ar fáil do na ceantair seo chun go mbeadh siad in ann infheistíocht a tharraingt chucu féin mar aon le fostaíocht a chruthú ins na ceantair seo. Mura mbeidh an infheistíocht seo ag teacht isteach do na ceantair mar seo, gheobhaidh siad bás.

Mar sin, caithfidh Coimisiún na hEorpa tarraingt le Rialtaisí na mBallstát, lena chinntiú go bhfuil an banda leathan ar fáil do chuile pharóiste, is cuma beag nó mór iad, ar phraghas réasúnta.


  Elisabeth Schroedter (Verts/ALE).(DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, Commissioner, I do not believe that the Janowski report, as regards the light in which it depicts the role of innovation, focuses sufficiently on the really central problems, although it does note that too high a value cannot be put on the role innovation plays in cohesion policy, for the programmes – even the new ones – are still dominated by wholly antiquated concepts.

Among them is the erroneous view that the formation of large clusters in economic centres can also bring cohesion to the disadvantaged regions around them, whereas the opposite is in fact the case, because the magnetic attraction of major clusters exacerbates inequality in development. Innovation must also be feasible in small regions and in small or medium-sized towns; we must not aim at a critical mass in terms of size. Real innovation means as much of it as possible everywhere, and that includes regions that are rural in character.

Help with innovation must not take only young and successful businessmen for its model; entrepreneurial women need support in exactly the same way, although the support they are given must be quite different in nature, and this is where there is an urgent need for a rethink on the part not only of the Member States, but also of the Commission. Much more attention needs to be given to equality of opportunity in innovation, or else valuable potential is going to go to waste.

I would like to take this opportunity to give the Commission a firm reminder that it needs, if it wants to accomplish this, to examine the programmes in a more critical way and not simply give its blessing to antiquated concepts.




  Graham Booth (IND/DEM). – Mr President, I think that ‘Mind your own business!’ is the best reaction I can give to this resolution. Housing and regional policy within the Member States is a matter for democratically elected national governments, and it is not for the European Commission to poke its nose into. As well as using much pseudo-intellectual mumbo jumbo, the text also manages to be incredibly patronising when it makes statements of the blindingly obvious such as ‘stresses the importance of safety issues’. This is like a doctor lecturing his patient on the importance of continuing to breathe.

The British Government says we must build half a million houses, mostly for first-time buyers and lower-paid purchasers. I may not agree with this entirely, but I would sooner accept this idea as closer to our needs than the wishy-washy ideas that this EU report has come up with. Despite its frequent use of the wonder word ‘subsidiarity’, this resolution is a recipe for housing policy micromanagement from Brussels and more gross interference in the way the Member States are governed. We in Britain do not need Brussels to tell us what sort of houses we need, or when and where to build them.


  Andreas Mölzer (ITS).(DE) Mr President, the spectre of depopulation is stalking Europe. If we do not manage to create sustainable jobs in rural areas, purchasing power will sink still further, bringing about in its turn the closing down of local food suppliers, post offices, doctors’ surgeries, schools and guardrooms, so that rural areas will lose the last of the things that make them attractive.

It is not only our agricultural policy that has encouraged this negative development, although it is common knowledge that the number of agricultural firms and workers is constantly decreasing, but other EU aid programmes, too, have rebounded on themselves; the result of the desire to help businesses create jobs has been that a number of big companies have managed to drive our small and medium-sized businesses from a position of strength into the wall, and, having done enough damage, they simply move to a neighbouring country and collect even more grants.

Breaking out of this diabolically vicious circle is, of course, difficult. The EU now wants to help the development of villages, revive local centres and strengthen rural areas, but, if INTERACT II is to be a programme for managing regional programmes and establishing training centres for its own bureaucrats, then that really is the height of absurdity and the Commission should be so kind as to think back to the original problems and objectives.


  Rolf Berend (PPE-DE).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, whenever we debate matters relating to housing policy we should be faithful to our principles of subsidiarity and proximity to the citizen; as we all know, the powers accorded to the EU under the Treaty are very limited, and we should not try to interfere with that through the back door, but, as regards eligibility for grants for accommodation under the ERDF Regulation in the 2007-2013 planning period, I would like to argue in favour of their being given for the reconstruction of the high-rise estates to be found in Eastern Europe and in the eastern parts of Germany.

Many Europeans live on estates made up of blocks of largely industrially-constructed housing that were put up between the 1960s and the 1980s. The eastward enlargement of the EU gave particular importance to a European strategy for the sustainable development of this type of housing; whilst, in western European countries, the future of large-scale estates lies mainly in the performance of social functions, the main task in eastern European states is the repair and modernisation of the stock of prefabricated buildings in order to make the flats in them fit to be rented out, while, at the same time, the structural change of the housing sector from state-regulated institutions allocating accommodation to private-sector or community-based enterprises operating on the market is only just beginning.

In this respect, the ongoing development of large-scale urban housing in the countries of Eastern Europe is primarily a task for the technical experts and housing professionals; in Germany, however, the problem is a new and different one, and one that – Europe-wide democratic change being what it is – will reach other countries sooner or later, in that, as there are fewer people available to live in them, properties are standing empty, and this is happening not only with old properties but also new ones, not only with housing stock in the inner cities but also that on the urban fringes, and that is one reason why a programme has been developed for the provinces of eastern Germany, the object of which is to promote not only the demolition of accommodation for which there has for some time been no demand, but also the restoration of the remaining housing stock in order to adapt urban structures and housing stock to the decrease in demand.

It is for this reason – for this reason! – that the future of mass housing must become more important as an area for European policy-making.


  Jamila Madeira (PSE).(PT) I should like to begin by congratulating Mr Andria on this report. The EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, on which we would all like to confer constitutional, binding status, states in its very first article that human dignity is an inalienable right. This article encompasses, a fortiori, the right to decent housing.

Although the EU, as previous speakers have said, does not have direct powers in this area, it does have an essential role to play. In close collaboration with the national, regional and local authorities, Europe must undertake to eradicate ghettos in urban housing projects and the scourge of homelessness which abounds not only in our great capital cities, but also in small and medium-sized ones. The time has therefore come to foster the revitalisation of city centres, in order to ensure the preservation of historical buildings, the recovery of the local economy and a kick-start for urban centres, where there are now dozens of derelict buildings. This vision has developed to the extent that we now believe that the European financial instruments available to the Member States should help create public-private partnerships and that there should be structured investment in the construction of intelligent homes in which energy efficiency and environmentally friendly construction are key criteria.

There is much still to be done, but I believe that this own-initiative report and the European Housing Charter adopted by Parliament’s Urban Housing intergroup are two key elements in addressing the issue of housing in the EU, which gave rise to this report and this Charter.


  Jorgo Chatzimarkakis (ALDE).(DE) Mr President, I am much obliged to the Commissioner for her being present, and would like to start with warm congratulations to Mr Janowski on the report he has presented, which shows that there are some highly creative ways of addressing this old battle of principles, which centres on whether we need more EU funding for regional structure and agricultural subsidies, or whether we have to do more along the lines of innovation, research and technology.

I do believe that it is this dispute that has often enough crippled our budget and our Union, and, by your own-initiative report, Mr Janowski, you, with our assistance, are showing the new tendency that we are talking about, the need to, so to speak, ‘Lisbonise’ the Budget, to change the content of the barrel while leaving it labelled ‘Regional Aid’. This has been accomplished very much under pressure from this House, but also – and here I am addressing Commissioner Hübner – from the Commission.

That is why this programme includes such features as ‘Jaspers’, ‘Jeremy’, and ‘Jessica’ – things that are new and important when it comes to supporting innovation, which itself is about applying knowledge in the shape of products. We will, in future, be availing ourselves more and more of the resources that we have – the European Investment Bank, the European Investment Fund – in order to get risk capital to the people, and of that I am all in favour.

We also take a very positive view of the demand for innovation clusters, of which there are groundbreaking and very good examples. Innovation is not something that happens centrally; it happens in the regions, where the example with which I am very familiar is the Saxon city of Dresden, which has been enabled, through aid from the EU and the regions, to attract large amounts of direct foreign investment, thus resulting in the creation of an innovation cluster.

Mention of that leads me to add that I take a very positive view of the reference in this report to the EIT, the European Institute for Technology. I am glad to see that the Commissioner is so much in favour of Poland’s offer of EUR 1 billion to host the EIT; that is the way for us to go in future, and warm congratulations to everyone concerned.


  Andrzej Tomasz Zapałowski (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, to begin with, I would like to congratulate Mr Janowski on his excellent report. The problems raised in the document are incredibly important for the future of the European Union and in terms of its role in the global economy.

We have to ask ourselves the basic question of whether, in view of the current investment in research in the Member States and the current GDP growth in the countries of the European Union, we will be able to compete with developing countries across the world. We have to ask ourselves whether, in the European Union, ideology has triumphed over healthy economic processes.

It is clear that the restrictions constantly imposed by this honourable House do not contribute to the creation of suitable conditions for the dynamic growth of our economies. Innovation cannot be programmed but we can create the right conditions for communities to actively foster it. If we do not take appropriate action and do not relieve the European Union of excessive red tape, we will not be able to implement the goals of the Lisbon Strategy, which state that, by 2010, the Union’s economy should become the most competitive in the world.


  Kathy Sinnott (IND/DEM). – Mr President, I accept that in this initiative on housing we mean well. After all, having a house is critical to a family and to our communities. However, housing is not our competence, and the dilemma for our citizens is that at national level funds are always accepted, whereas guidelines and strategies are accepted or rejected as it suits. In Ireland especially there is a problem. Despite our urban strategies, families eligible for social housing wait eight years on average for a house, as an insufficient supply of social housing is being built.

This report contains many good recommendations. However, while the EU’s existing strategies recommend things like green spaces, local authorities have been taking these back and squeezing in houses, thus destroying those green spaces for children to play in, and creating concrete patches for graffiti and drugs.

Sometimes the EU recommendations are out of synch with local reality. In rural areas in Ireland it has now become very difficult for a young family to get permission to build a house. Our town planners – and they are town planners, not rural planners – insist that all new rural housing be herded into estates. This discourages young people from living in those areas.

As in all things, we need to respect subsidiarity and do comparable research to understand best practice, which we in Europe can offer as a guide. However, we also have to play our part in asking the nations serious questions about the outcome in terms of people.


  Konstantinos Hatzidakis (PPE-DE).(EL) Mr President, I have taken the floor in order to comment on the report by my good friend Mr Andria, especially on the specific issue of improving the energy efficiency of buildings, which is an obligation that derives from the provisions of Directive 2002/91.

This directive results in considerable expense to owners for the certificate they need when they sell or rent their house, because they must first improve the energy efficiency of the building. When we discussed this matter, the truth is that this specific issue was not widely known, but now it is a matter of considerable concern to owners throughout Europe. I therefore believe that we should debate it, by broadening current forecasts for the new Member States, so that the review in 2009 also encompasses the old Member States.

We have experience from upgrading the façades of buildings in the city of Athens where, in cooperation with the European Union and with partial funding from it, we applied this programme with good results, with technical assistance at central level and with partial coverage of the cost. I think that we need to take the same approach and look at pan-European level at the question of improving the energy efficiency of buildings. This is a very serious issue which affects a great many people. We are not talking about covering the entire cost, but I believe that we need to debate it seriously and see how we can extend the eligible costs, so that this serious issue can be addressed.


  Stavros Arnaoutakis (PSE).(EL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, in the new programming period, regional policy is being called upon not only to reduce inequalities, but also to develop the Union’s capacity for innovation. Given that all action in the field of innovation must be centred on man and improving the quality of life of all citizens, our ability to meet this challenge will depend to a large degree on whether we achieve equal opportunities to access all levels of education.

What needs to be emphasised in particular is that innovation is not just for scientists; it is of fundamental importance to all citizens. A great deal depends on whether we will manage to promote the introduction of innovation in small and medium-sized enterprises and, more importantly, in micro enterprises at local and regional level and on whether innovation policy will include in its objectives the production and processing of agricultural products and living conditions in rural areas. The targets we have set are ambitious and we all need to work together if we are to achieve them.


  Hannu Takkula (ALDE). – (FI) Mr President, first of all I want to thank the rapporteur, Mr Janowski, for an excellent report. I would say that regional policy is one of the core policies for us in Europe, and housing policy, as part of regional policy, is also obviously very important, as has been mentioned here. As with innovation, it helps to keep regions strong and vital.

It is important, of course, to consider regional policy not just the business of the European Union and nation states, but above all as something connected with the welfare and happiness of people and citizens. People must always lie at the heart of European policy.

In my opinion we have to try and see these issues as a whole, and our objective must be to guarantee equal opportunities based on sustainable development in housing and innovation all over Europe. This means we need in particular to look after our areas of sparse population, including peripheral areas, so that they too can be involved in development and receive their own share of innovations, and so that the people in them can also live a good, balanced and happy life.


  Roberta Angelilli (UEN).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to thank Mr Janowski and Mr Andria for the excellent work they have done. I particularly value their commitment to a more appropriate housing policy. In fact, it is worth remembering that housing is an outright emergency, above all in the large European cities, where the cost of housing is extremely high and forces families to spend over 50% of their earnings on a mortgage or on rent. This is despite the fact that housing should be a primary need and therefore a basic social right.

I hope that we are setting out along the path of upgrading public housing, which in many cases is actually crumbling to pieces, and, more generally, embarking on a strategy of regenerating the underprivileged urban areas in the large European cities.


  Oldřich Vlasák (PPE-DE).(CS) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, we are discussing an issue that affects every one of us. Affordable, decent housing is becoming an increasingly important issue, with a bearing on everyone’s individual needs, opportunities and opinions. The report by Mr Andria on housing in the context of regional policy will certainly therefore make a positive contribution.

Before we decide on the Community’s next actions in this area, we should remember that neither the EU nor its institutions have direct competence in the area of housing policy. Nevertheless the strengthening of social and economic cohesion, which was formulated as one of the main goals of the Maastricht Treaty and which is to be achieved through the Union’s regional policy, is closely bound up with how we respond to the need for sufficient affordable housing, with solving the homelessness problem and with the renewal of urban areas and brownfield sites.

One of the most important issues facing us is therefore that of where the outer limits of the EU’s competences and responsibilities lie in the area of housing policy, and in this context we are talking about subsidiarity. We must therefore think about where to focus our efforts. I feel we have two options. The first option is that of promoting the rights of Europe’s citizens to housing, which in view of the varying situations in the individual Member States, regions and communities, together with our limited powers, will always be very difficult to define. Accordingly, we run the risk of arousing expectations among the citizens that we cannot fulfil and thereby losing our credibility. The second option is to follow the path of helping communities, cities and regions to resolve their housing problems by making support for housing and the refurbishment of housing estates one of our main priorities, and by providing local authorities with appropriate conditions and resources within the framework of the structural funds, whilst not overly restricting their ability to decide how to resolve the housing problems in their own areas. The public will then feel that the EU is making a direct contribution to people’s lives. I, for one, am quite sure that we ought to follow the second of these two paths.


  Catherine Stihler (PSE). – Mr President, across the European Union, housing affordability is creeping up the political agenda. More and more people are being priced out of the housing market and face exclusion, with first-time buyers being particularly marginalised.

That is why paragraph 6, hoping that national and local decision-makers will adopt measures to help young people get their first home, is such an important point. So, too, is the mention of rural housing. In Scotland, many people born and brought up in idyllic small towns and villages are priced out of their communities due to lack of affordable social housing. Housing today needs to meet the needs of tomorrow. It will not only have to be accessible, but also to be environmentally friendly.

I thank the rapporteur and hope that we can see more discussion at a European level over how we can learn from one another how to make housing decent, affordable and accessible to all.


  Margie Sudre (PPE-DE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to begin by congratulating our two rapporteurs, Mr Andria and Mr Janowski.

The European Union’s regional policy must help to improve the innovation capacities of our regions so as to reduce the disparities in development and to support a form of sustainable and balanced economic growth, with respect shown for the principles of subsidiarity and of solidarity.

By way of example, the buildings, networks and housing in the outermost regions are for the most part damaged and are insufficiently adapted to the natural risks and specific climatic conditions. Thanks to European, national and regional incentives, together with the help of private investment, an effort in these areas is possible in the outermost regions, on the basis of real public/private partnerships.

An effort of this kind would help to speed up the research into low-cost, earthquake-proof, anticyclonic and high-insulating building materials, so that work can begin on building cheaper housing that can withstand any unforeseen happenings. Such a project would also have the virtue of promoting a more rational use of energy by favouring clean energy sources, exploiting local conditions and increasing the share of renewable energy sources.

The outermost regions are destined to become a centre of excellence in terms of innovation, as much on a scientific and technological level as on an architectural one, with the dual objective being to guarantee the overseas populations safe and comfortable housing and to facilitate the sustainable development of these regions. I should like the Commission and the Member States to encourage centres of excellence, as they act as real bridges between research and teaching establishments, SMEs and local authorities.

The purpose of regional policy is neither to focus yet more of its action on a small number of spectacular projects nor to spread its aid too thinly. It can also be useful and effective if it supports small-scale, innovative actions in the most underdeveloped regions with the aim of guaranteeing the harmonious and polycentric development of EU territory.


  Gábor Harangozó (PSE). (HU) The main purpose of cohesion policy is to create a uniform level of prosperity throughout the regions of Europe. In order to achieve this, a good cohesion policy must focus on two directions. We need to ensure growth and to remain competitive in global terms, through financing developments that can meet the challenges of the 21st century. Promoting innovation has a key role to play in this regard. But in the meantime we must not forget the essence of cohesion policy.

There is an enormous gulf between the various regions of Europe. With numerous problems of structure and infrastructure that await solutions. We can take significant steps to remedy these by means of a housing policy. We must give people who live in the poorest, most hopeless circumstances the chance to believe that their living conditions can improve. Since in the Central and Eastern European Member States extreme poverty and ghettoisation are often typical of villages, it is important not to limit support for housing only to the cities. Rather, we need to create equal opportunities in the area of agricultural growth as well, ensuring that rural populations also have access to higher education, and we need to find a way for innovative developments to reach people in underprivileged regions as well. Thus we will be able to pursue a policy that can guarantee our citizens that their opportunities will not be determined by the place of their birth.


  Sérgio Marques (PPE-DE).(PT) I should first like to congratulate Mr Janowski on his outstanding report. The EU’s regional development policy could play a crucial role in promoting innovative capacity in the regions, and in particular the least favoured regions.

In every region, there is a potential for innovation that needs to be harnessed, and I agree with the rapporteur that innovation should be understood in its broadest sense; that is, not only innovation arising from the activities of research centres, universities and companies but also innovation that, in the context of dynamic societies, can be the result of ongoing processes of perfecting and improving, in which the contributions of each individual, each worker, each official and each company can prove decisive. Only in this way can an economy’s productivity levels increase, and these are the best indicator of a region’s innovative capacity.

Accordingly, in order for regional development to have a significant impact on innovation, it must above all help create a climate and a culture in the regions that is conducive to innovation and that values initiative, entrepreneurship, healthy competition and a spirit of adventure. We must recognise that in some regions these values are not always fostered by actions arising from the Structural Funds. Far from it in fact, and the risk of creating a culture of dependence on support is a very real one – something that must be avoided at all costs if we are genuinely to foster innovation in the regions.


  Miloš Koterec (PSE).(SK) I would like to thank the rapporteur for a comprehensive report on housing in the new and old Member States.

I think the problem of providing adequate housing, especially for young people, is particularly pressing in the new Member States. The cohesion policy adopted on the renovation of social housing, which aims to save energy and protect the environment, is an important but incomplete contribution from the European Union towards dealing with this situation. The objective of providing social housing should not lead to the creation of enclaves where many of the features of civilised life are lacking and which can become a source of problems for cities and regions.

I think that an EU policy based on studies drawn up by individual towns, communities, regions and states should help towards producing an inventory of the best practices in use across the EU Member States and will thus lead to better solutions to the problem of social housing, based on the experience of many of the towns and regions in the Member States of the old EU.

I hope that the structural funds and the possibility of using EU money will contribute to better dissemination of best practices, as it is essential that these are recognised across the EU, and will assist the new Member States in solving their problems, particularly regarding the provision of housing for the low-income groups in the population.


  James Nicholson (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I wish to commend the rapporteur on his forward-looking approach to the future of European Union funding. Innovation is clearly one of the key ingredients of economic progress, and unless the European Union embraces it fully we will find ourselves unable to compete at world level.

In particular I welcome any initiative that recognises the role that small- and medium-sized enterprises have to play in economic progress. Often we associate innovation with large multinational companies with enormous research facilities. However, the backbone of the European economy has always been our small, often family-orientated, businesses. I welcome proposals that enable the SMEs to work with large-scale industry and with universities. With the current programming period for the Structural Funds coinciding with the seventh Framework Programme, it is logical to look at means by which one can complement the other.

As regards my own constituency of Northern Ireland, I have often pushed in the past for heavy emphasis on economic regeneration to be applied to our Structural Fund spending. I would very much welcome any opportunity to permit our now vibrant economy to tap into innovation-focused structural funding. Queen’s University in Northern Ireland is recognised for its excellence in research and I am keen to ensure that such universities can take full advantage of EU funding, while also receiving proper national government support.

While it is sensible to promote the development of regional, academic and scientific research centres, it is most important to note that we all have centres of excellence within our own countries which should be the first to receive support. Building a reputation for research and development takes time and I would like to feel assured that what we are aiming at is supporting our well-established universities first and foremost.

It is important that in an area such as this, where the opportunities for cross-border cooperation are endless, we do not make the mistake of being over-prescriptive. The worst thing Brussels could do for innovation in the European Union is to tell national and regional governments how, when and where they are to promote innovation. It is our function to provide the means, not the method.


  Andrzej Jan Szejna (PSE).(PL) Mr President, we should welcome the proposal to make housing part of the European Union's regional policy. The problem of housing affects many Member States and the time has come to take appropriate action at European level. This problem infringes one of the citizens’ fundamental rights, namely the right to a dignified life in their own home. It also smothers social and economic potential. Therefore, we cannot seriously speak about solidarity and the Lisbon Strategy without also putting forward an appropriate package of solutions.

We should bear in mind that the division of residential areas into those inhabited by richer or poorer sections of society, as well as the problem of homelessness, will worsen in the future. A growing influx of immigrants is unavoidable in Europe in view of our ageing population and the increasing production capacity of our economy, and it is these immigrants who will mainly contribute to social stratification. Dealing with the issue of housing would allow us, to a significant extent, to prevent this negative phenomenon, which is shameful for Europe.

We have talked about innovation in the European Union for many years. We have mentioned different aspects of the issue and discussed it at various levels within the institutions. What should we do to ensure that this time the discussions do not, yet again, produce only empty words and promises? Implementing innovative strategies at the regional level will give each citizen the opportunity to feel that innovation can improve their living conditions and quality of life. It is a difficult path to tread. However, it may be the only one that can finally ensure that the right ideas are put into practice and brought to life.


  Zita Pleštinská (PPE-DE). – (SK) I would like to thank my fellow MEP, Mr Janowski, for focusing on disadvantaged regions that are not very attractive to investors due to their inadequate technical infrastructure.

The existence of research and development infrastructure is an important incentive for scientists and researchers to stay in remote regions. Therefore, Member States and regional authorities must promote innovative projects that foster partnerships between the public and private sectors, involving companies, particularly SMEs, and universities and schools of technology, as well as civil society. At the same time, I recommend applying the experience of the Euroregions, with their existing cross-border structures and particularly their ability to successfully implement projects using structural funds, which are important instruments for the EU’s innovation capacity.

I consider transparent access to information a key factor for innovative activity. The business community and regional authorities in the new Member States are not properly informed about the new initiatives of the Commission, such as ‘Jaspers’, ‘Jeremie’ and ‘Jessica’. Without relevant and timely information, innovative activity will not be focused on people and on improving their standards of living, and the goal of the innovation strategy for the EU, that is, a competitive European Union with prosperous SMEs and wealthy European regions, will not be met.

Commissioner, I thank you for your presence here, which adds weight to this debate.


  Adam Gierek (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, a policy that fosters innovation depends on a universally accessible education system that favours innovation, advanced scientific research, a properly functioning single market, the synergy produced by enlargement, the Community patent and licensing strategy, the establishment of a European Centre for Innovation and a European Institute of Technology, as well as the creative implementation of European Union legislation on chemical substances, energy, the environment, etc. However, the regional dimension of implementing pro-innovation measures, especially when it relies on regional development funds, is chiefly based on the creation of regional, specialised areas of knowledge. First of all, this step will effectively deepen inter-regional cooperation in terms of exchanging innovative ideas and experiences related to the implementation of the Lisbon Strategy. Secondly, it will secure the cooperation of specialists from outside of these regions. Finally, it will also allow local innovative potential to be exploited in fields such as the very important one mentioned today, namely the modernisation of heating systems in buildings made of prefabricated concrete, as well as in other fields, including tourism.

I would like to congratulate Mr Janowski on his report.


  Jan Olbrycht (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, today's debate is proof of the fact that the European Parliament feels that it shares the responsibility for implementing cohesion policy as one of the Community policies. The European Parliament not only plays a part in drafting legislation, but it is also involved at the implementation stage. It pays particular attention, and in this role it supports the Commission, in highlighting the importance of an integrated approach. The European Parliament stresses that cohesion policy is not simply a system of subsidies. It also involves targeted support for not just investments in infrastructure, but also various types of innovative activities. In addition to this, and on the basis of adopted regulations, we should support the construction of new housing which, as we all know, is the fly wheel in the machinery of economic growth, as well as a way of improving the standard of living and protecting our cultural heritage.

Today’s debate proves that regional and cohesion policy, which is currently being modified, should always be treated as a key European Union policy.


  Wolfgang Bulfon (PSE).(DE) Mr President, affordable living accommodation for all classes of society has always been an important issue for me; in his report, the rapporteur stresses the necessity of a right to aid with accommodation and calls for the reinforcement of other social rights in order to guarantee true worker mobility. He also expresses the aspiration that national decision-makers might take steps to help young people acquire their first property, and I am fully supportive of both these concerns.

I would, however, like to take this opportunity to highlight the risk that ghettos may be created, as can happen when the concept of ‘social housing’ is too narrowly defined and aid given solely on the basis of criteria of social need. I see it as very important that housing projects should be socially mixed, since that helps to prevent the creation of the sources of conflict that are inevitable when ghettoisation occurs.

There are, in Austria, concerns that excessively broad harmonisation in the housing sectors might eventually undermine the system that we have, and which currently works very well, in that we have a very high standard where the right to rent is concerned, and it is one that must be upheld come what may.


  Maria Badia i Cutchet (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like firstly to welcome this report, which highlights one of the problems which is currently of most concern to European citizens: the difficulty in accessing housing, a problem that restricts many workers’ opportunities for social integration and mobility, which is a source of huge social inequalities and which makes it difficult for young people to exercise healthy independence and set up their own homes, a problem that goes beyond the social field and falls within the broader context of urban planning.

In this regard, the Member States must use the ERDF funds in the field of housing, as well as the Jessica and Jeremie financial instruments, in order to make progress on resolving these problems, in close cooperation with local and regional authorities, socio-economic operators and civil society, all of this combined with promoting the exchange of good practices.

Finally, I would like to stress the importance of training in the field of urban planning within the framework of the European Social Fund, to promote the dissemination of new technologies and of more effective building products that make it possible to improve energy efficiency in the housing sector.


  Alfonso Andria (ALDE), rapporteur. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I would just like to comment on the very rich content of everything that has been said, including by colleagues who have not always expressed full and complete agreement with the work we have done, if only through a difficulty in approach to the issue, unaware of where we are in introducing a clarification regarding the powers of the European Union in this area. The report under consideration today definitely represents a step forward, and that is why I very much value all the contributions and the very rich debate, which has naturally also been on the report by my colleague, Mr Janowski, whom I would like to personally congratulate, as well as on my report.

I would therefore like to express my appreciation for the openness displayed by Commissioner Hübner, with whom we are now accustomed to working. I must say, particularly in view of the original starting point and the difficulty to which I have referred on several occasions, that signs of progress by the Commission can be seen along these lines, signs that, among other things, are well matched with the financial instruments which were referred to, introduced by the Commission together with the European Investment Bank, and that focus on making use of best practices, the problem of rural areas, and the revitalisation and reversal of urban degeneration in historic city centres, and thus have a particular focus on existing housing stock.

I would like Parliament to reflect on these issues, and on the energy issue, dealt with at some length by Mr Hatzidakis, on issues of social exclusion, ghettoisation and spatial segregation. This is an issue that is very much interconnected to other issues, as I said in my introduction: housing problems, spatial segregation and ghettoisation are absolutely crucial factors with regard to social exclusion. Just now Mrs Badia i Cutchet rightly referred to training issues, too, and I would add those of transport, services, health and a whole range of issues relating to the topics of culture and to structures for culture and for social services. It is for this reason that we must look at this matter with greater openness, as Parliament is attempting to do.

We need to start by noting that we are not proposing to infringe the decision-making sphere or the autonomy of action of national States or regional or local bodies. With great respect for the principle of subsidiarity, we are asking Europe to take a slightly more decisive step forward on this path. Ladies and gentlemen, this means that today Parliament has a great opportunity, which is the opportunity to show European citizens that we understand their needs, since housing is a primary need. This should be done without excessive interference, without restricting the decision-making autonomy of the national States or local or regional bodies but in collaboration with them, as Mr Vlasák and Mrs Sudre also said. They rightly stated that Europe needs to intervene and to support, through regional policies, the other Member States, too, and not just, as stipulated in Article 7 of the ERDF regulation, the States from the last enlargement.


  Mieczysław Edmund Janowski (UEN) , rapporteur. (PL) Mr President, I would like to thank you all for this interesting debate. You have clearly shown that innovation should not be an end in itself.

In my report I also mentioned innovation in the field of housing. I would therefore like to thank Mr Andria for highlighting this point. Regional innovation strategies, which was something that the Commissioner mentioned, will become very important. We should pay particular attention to the criteria we intend to use to measure innovation. As you pointed out, public-private partnerships are proof of the fact that the work which we have undertaken together has not been wasted. This was something that was also stressed by Mr van Nistelrooij, when he spoke about poles or points which connect the whole. My colleagues on this side of the Chamber, who took the social aspects into consideration, also mentioned this point. Once again, I would like to thank you for this fruitful debate.


  Danuta Hübner, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I would like to begin by reminding everyone that we are, of course, working within the regulations. Within the framework of the regulations, the Commission is trying to be as innovative as possible as regards generation of new instruments that could help us better address all the challenges. We are also trying to be as flexible as the regulations will allow. We are also working within the budget, which is large for some and too small for others, but which certainly made us reach out to other sources of financing, again in order to have increased capacities to address the challenges.

However, the period in which we live requires us to do both things. On the one hand we must substantially improve our citizens’ quality of life. On the other hand we have to create the basic foundations for long-term sustainable development, for which, of course, innovation is crucial and the most important factor.

Concerning housing, the regulations are more generous with regard to poorer states, but there are still many areas in the EU-15 where we can support housing-related activities. This is especially true of the rehabilitation of public spaces in deprived inner-city areas, including security measures, and of the connection of multi-occupancy family houses to water supplies and sewage, energy and telecommunications networks. The EIB and the Council of Europe Development Bank have been important sources for financing investment in the housing sector, independently of Jessica. Within the Jessica framework we are now analysing how we can do the maximum to boost investment in housing through cheap loans and credit.

One day of the Leipzig ministerial meeting in May will be devoted to issues relating to urban areas. There will also be a Leipzig Charter on sustainable European cities. One of the paragraphs concerns the challenges that must be dealt with in relation to housing, especially in the context of energy. The Commission will submit to this meeting an analysis of future programmes, especially concerning the housing issue. I would just like to remind you that the Commission’s inter-service group working on urban issues has recently prepared an inventory of the urban dimension of Community policies. It identifies all the policies which have an impact on housing in the context of public health, energy, social policy and urban transport. That inter-service group can certainly give more prominence to housing questions in its work programme. I am still considering how we can do this, but we will commission the study that you ask for in your report. I am sure these will be very useful studies, and we are, of course, constantly trying to be more innovative. We must be more innovative in terms of financial engineering and combining different sources. We will not succeed without making such efforts.

Concerning innovation, and as regards Mr Janowski’s report, many of you stress something which I find absolutely essential, namely the broader interpretation of innovation as not merely being limited to multinationals and state-of-the-art 21st- or 22nd-century technology, but also taking small- and medium-sized companies on board. I fully share your view on this twin challenge. We need local motors and poles to take us forward quickly. However, the real challenge is to spread innovation capacities across Europe. I share your views on this very strongly. We need both poles and networks. That is why the Regions for Economic Change, the first network of its kind, which will be launched this year, concerns the linking-up of clusters all over Europe. We will have the regions working together on the question of how to bring innovation to the market as quickly as possible. As we know, Europe’s basic disease is its slowness in this area.

Once again, Mr President, thank you very much for this debate on the reports, which is a continuation of our interinstitutional discussions in this area. Both reports are extremely useful, not least with regard to future policy reflections.


  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will take place in a few minutes’ time.

Written statements (Rule 142 of the Rules of Procedure)


  Gyula Hegyi (PSE), in writing. I welcome this report as an important follow-up to my report on the thematic strategy for the urban environment. I propose again that EU funding should be allocated and used by Member States in order to retrofit buildings and neighbourhoods. Member States should promote projects co-financed by the EU related to the development and modernisation of district heating. In this respect I should highlight that in an energy crisis, a switch to a different energy source is easier to achieve with district heating. Many unnecessary energy consumption can be prevented with the increasing of the environmental performance of buildings with energy-efficient house design: insulation, renewable energy use, green roofs, passive/active solar design, low energy houses, etc.

I recommend the development of a database for an EU-wide sharing of best practices in improving energy and water efficiency in buildings. In our Member States ten million of our citizens live in pre-fabricated buildings. It is our joint responsibility to improve their living conditions and to co-finance the rehabilitation of their dwelling sites.


  Katalin Lévai (PSE), in writing.(HU) As the spokesperson for Roma affairs for the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, I would like to draw your attention to another aspect of the report, namely the difficulties with regard to housing faced by Europe’s largest minority.

It is especially true in the case of the Roma that the problems of access to and quality of housing for the most part lead to problems of social segregation. The main reason for this is that the most disadvantaged sections of the population are stuck in problematic areas.

I emphasise that social exclusion is contrary to the European social model. We need to guarantee greater social cohesion, paying particular attention to helping the Roma minority.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that a significant portion of Roma live in sub-regions of the Member States which are disadvantaged in terms of the economy, infrastructure and employment. Over the past decade the segregation of Roma and non-Roma has grown dramatically, and the majority of families live in extremely poor housing conditions. This is why I am initiating an examination of this type of problem among the Roma population in addition to among immigrants.

We cannot postpone the complex development of the most disadvantaged regions, which are densely populated by Roma. Improving housing conditions goes hand in hand with a large-scale reduction of regional and housing segregation – not only with regard to housing but also in education and employment. An important instrument of job creation may lie in transforming the socio-political system of housing support in such a way as to promote mobility.

In this regard, I can report, by way of a good example, that a few days ago I had the opportunity to announce, jointly with the Hungarian Minister of Social Affairs and Labour, Mr Péter Kiss, the ‘Decade of Roma Inclusion’ Programme, which makes significant efforts precisely in putting an end to these sorts of disadvantages.



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