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Procedure : 2016/2550(RSP)
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Document selected : B8-0562/2016

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Debates :

PV 09/05/2016 - 15
CRE 09/05/2016 - 15

Votes :

PV 11/05/2016 - 7.4
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Texts adopted
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Wednesday, 11 May 2016 - Strasbourg
Acceleration of implementation of cohesion policy

European Parliament resolution of 11 May 2016 on acceleration of implementation of cohesion policy (2016/2550(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 4, Article 162, Articles 174-178 and Article 349 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006(1) (hereinafter the ‘Common Provisions Regulation’ (CPR)),

–  having regard to Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013 of 2 December 2013 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020(2),

–  having regard to the Commission’s sixth report on economic, social and territorial cohesion entitled ‘Investment for jobs and growth: Promoting development and good governance in EU regions and cities’ of 23 July 2014,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 14 December 2015 entitled ‘Investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds’ (COM(2015)0639),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 January 2014 on EU Member States preparedness to an effective and timely start of the new Cohesion Policy programming period(3),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 22 February 2016 entitled ‘Investment Plan for Europe: new guidelines on combining European Structural and Investment Funds with the EFSI’,

–  having regard to its resolution of 27 November 2014 on delays in the start-up of cohesion policy for 2014-2020(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 28 October 2015 on cohesion policy and the review of the Europe 2020 strategy(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 26 November 2015 on ‘Towards simplification and performance orientation in cohesion policy 2014-2020’(6),

–  having regard to the question to the Commission on acceleration of implementation of cohesion policy (O-000070/2016 – B8‑0364/2016),

–  having regard to Rules 128(5) and 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas cohesion policy, with a budget of over EUR 350 billion until 2020, is the instrument that helps to bring the EU closer to citizens and represents the EU’s main investment and development policy covering all EU regions; whereas in some Member States it forms the principal source of public investment;

B.  whereas Europe 2020 objectives can be achieved through coherent interaction between growth and development policies and, where necessary, structural reforms, as well as through the active involvement of regions and cities in their implementation; whereas cohesion policy is playing a crucial role in this regard;

C.  whereas the 2014-2020 regulations introduced several key reforms in cohesion policy, such as thematic concentration allowing the flexibility required to take better account of local needs, a stronger results orientation, better coordination with economic and social policy, improved links between EU priorities and regional needs, and more closely coordinated use of ESI Funds through the common strategic framework;

D.  whereas cohesion policy investments should be coordinated and harmonised with other EU policies, such as the digital single market, the Energy Union, social policy, macro-regional strategies, the Urban Agenda, research and innovation, and transport policy, in order to better contribute to the achievement of the Europe 2020 strategy’s goals;

E.  whereas, under Article 136(1) of the CPR, the Commission is required to decommit any part of the amount in an operational programme that has not been used for payment of the initial and annual pre-financing and interim payments by 31 December of the third financial year following the year of budget commitment under the operational programme;

F.  whereas two years have passed since the start of the new programming period, and there have been delays in the implementation of cohesion policy; whereas operational programmes were mostly approved at the end of 2014 and in 2015, and a significant number of ex-ante conditionalities have not been fulfilled yet;

G.  whereas, under Article 53 of the CPR, the Commission is required to transmit each year from 2016 to Parliament a summary report in relation to ESI Funds programmes based on annual implementation reports of the Member States submitted under Article 50, and in 2017 and 2019 the Commission is required to prepare a strategic report summarising the progress reports of the Member States;

1.  Calls on the Commission to assess the state of play in the implementation of ESI Funds in the period 2014-2020 and prepare a detailed analysis on the risks of decommitment, with indicated amounts per Member State, and an analysis of payment forecasts submitted by Member States as soon as possible after the 31 January and 31 July deadlines set in the CPR; calls also on the Commission to indicate what measures are planned to avoid decommitment of the ESI Funds to the greatest possible extent;

2.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to use the ESI Funds to their full potential and in line with the Europe 2020 strategy, in order to enhance social and economic cohesion and reduce territorial disparities by enabling all regions to become more competitive and to facilitate investment, including from private sources;

3.  Notes, looking back to the 2007-2013 programming period, that the major obstacles and problems that hampered cohesion policy implementation in several Member States and regions were insufficient information for potential beneficiaries, which led to a lack of eligible projects, slow and lengthy approval of major projects combined with a lack of administrative structures to manage investment for major projects, complex and time-consuming procurement procedures, complex state aid rules, complicated permitting procedures, unsolved property relations, the excessive length of the authorisation procedure and difficult access to financing; acknowledges, furthermore, the difficulty faced sometimes by Member States and local authorities in complying with requirements relating to the internal and external implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact; calls on the Commission, for the 2014-2020 programming period, to provide, on the one hand, information on the obstacles that Member States are facing in implementing cohesion policy and, on the other, an assessment of the impact of carrying out the ex-ante conditionalities exercise on the effective implementation of the policy;

4.  Welcomes the establishment of the Task Force for Better Implementation of the 2007‑2013 programmes in eight Member States and calls on the Commission to inform Parliament of the results achieved; asks the Commission to continue with this Task Force to support and accelerate the implementation of the 2014-2020 programmes in all Member States and to present to Parliament an action plan for the Task Force’s activities; calls on the Commission to fully include ESI Funds in the EU’s ‘Better Regulation’ strategy;

5.  Underlines the fact that administrative capacity both at national and at regional and local level is a key precondition for timely and successful performance of cohesion policy; points out in this context that a lack of eligible projects is often associated with the lack of resources which local and regional authorities need for the preparation of project documentation; asks the Commission, therefore, to support the strengthening of administrative capacity for the policy implementation and evaluation stages, and to report to Parliament on actions that are planned in this regard; also encourages Managing Authorities to make full and effective use of the provisions of Thematic Objective 11, ‘Enhancing institutional capacity of public authorities and stakeholders’, and the available Commission guidance;

6.  Stresses, bearing in mind that good governance can help to enhance absorption capacity, the need to encourage relevant structural reforms, in line with territorial cohesion and sustainable growth and employment objectives, as well as investment-friendly policies and the fight against fraud; looks forward to the conclusions of the Commission’s ‘Lagging regions’ report and further details of how these conclusions might be employed to address long-standing challenges affecting the timely implementation and absorption of ESI Funds; invites the Commission also to clarify the concept of performance-based budgeting with a view to increasing the efficiency of spending;

7.  Welcomes the setting-up of a High-Level Group of Independent Experts on Monitoring Simplification for Beneficiaries of ESI Funds by the Commission; stresses that simplification is among the preconditions for acceleration of implementation; urges the Commission, therefore, to speed up activities related to introducing simplified procedures even during the current programming period and to maintain a high level of transparency in cohesion policy; believes, in this context, that the recommendations made by the High-Level Group must considered without delay;

8.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States, bearing in mind that in many Member States the economic crisis has caused liquidity shortages and a lack of public funds available for public investments, and that cohesion policy resources are becoming the main source of public investment, to fully apply and use the existing flexibility under the Stability and Growth Pact; asks the Commission, moreover, to conduct a permanent dialogue with the Member States which asked for the application of the current investment clause, with a view to maximising the flexibility relating to growth and jobs investments; calls on the Commission, furthermore, to encourage involvement of the EIB in the form of increased technical and financial support in the preparation and implementation of projects for any Member State that requires it; considers that financial instruments, if implemented effectively on the basis of proper ex ante assessment and combined strategically with grants, can significantly increase the impact of financing, thus helping to overcome the negative effects of shrinking public budgets and to develop revenue-generating projects; stresses that clear, consistent and focused rules on Financial Instruments to help simplify the preparation and implementation process for fund managers and recipients, which recognise the different development levels of financial markets across the Member States, can help realise this ambition; believes that condensing all relevant regulation on Financial Instruments into a single, easily accessible and comprehensible document, and avoiding unnecessary re-revision of related guidance part-way through funding periods, unless legally required, would also assist in this process;

9.  Recognises the complementary nature of EFSI investments for cohesion policy and notes the Commission communication of 22 February 2016 entitled ‘Investment Plan for Europe: new guidelines on combining European Structural and Investment Funds with the EFSI’; calls on the Commission and local and regional authorities to take appropriate account of the opportunities for combining ESI and EFSI funding, given that, although the two instruments are different in nature, they may complement one another, increasing the leverage effect of investments;

10.  Is concerned about the delays experienced by Member States in the designation of the programme and certifying authorities, which in turn delay the submission of payment applications by Member States, thus preventing the smooth implementation of programmes;

11.  Believes that over-centralisation and lack of trust can also play a role in delaying the implementation of ESI Funds, with some Member States and Managing Authorities less keen to place greater responsibility for management of EU funds in the hands of local and regional authorities, including through new development tools such as Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI) and Community-Led Local Development (CLLD); while acknowledging the part played by the EU regulatory framework in fostering this attitude, calls on the Commission to help further facilitate exchanges of best practice between Member States and regions on successful examples of subdelegation;

12.  Highlights the importance of timely payments to the proper and effective implementation and credibility of cohesion policy; calls on the Commission, therefore, to inform Parliament of measures envisaged to ensure full implementation of the Payment Plan in the context of the budget 2016 and also for the coming years;

13.  Underlines the fact that assessing (the acceleration of) the implementation of cohesion policy now could provide some important learning points for the Commission with a view to the discussion of future cohesion policy post-2020; asks the Commission to formulate key learning points and to engage with Parliament, the Member States and other relevant stakeholders on the future of ESI Funds post-2020 as early as possible, with a view to increasing their targeted use and timely implementation;

14.  Points to the importance of Member States fulfilling the actions on ex-ante conditionalities by the end of 2016 in order to ensure the smooth implementation of programmes and avoid possible suspension of interim payments; urges the Commission to issue comprehensive guidelines on public procurement and on preventive measures to avoid errors and irregularities in procurement, and to publish standard procurement procedures for beneficiaries in order to avoid financial corrections and the possible cancellation of EU contributions;

15.  Calls on the Commission, the Member States and all stakeholders to better coordinate and launch effective communication policy initiatives in order to raise public awareness of cohesion policy implementation and give it a higher profile, and thus enable the general public to gain a better understanding of the results and impact of cohesion policy;

16.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Council, the Committee of the Regions, and the Member States and their national and regional parliaments.

(1) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 320.
(2) OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 884.
(3) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0015.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2014)0068.
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0384.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0419.

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