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Procedure : 2016/3008(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B8-0149/2017

Texts tabled :

B8-0149/2017

Debates :

PV 15/02/2017 - 17
CRE 15/02/2017 - 17

Votes :

PV 16/02/2017 - 6.13
CRE 16/02/2017 - 6.13

Texts adopted :

P8_TA(2017)0055

Texts adopted
PDF 258kWORD 49k
Thursday, 16 February 2017 - Strasbourg Final edition
Delayed implementation of ESI Funds operational programmes – impact on cohesion policy and the way forward
P8_TA(2017)0055B8-0149/2017

European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2017 on delayed implementation of ESI Funds operational programmes – impact on cohesion policy and the way forward (2016/3008(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 May 2016 on acceleration of implementation of cohesion policy(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 27 November 2014 on delays in the start-up of cohesion policy for 2014-2020(2),

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

–  having regard to its resolution of 26 October 2016 on the mid-term revision of the MFF 2014-2020(4),

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 February 2017 on investing in jobs and growth – maximising the contribution of European Structural and Investment Funds: an evaluation of the report under Article 16(3) of the CPR(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 delayed implementation of European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds operational programmes – impact on cohesion policy and the way forward (O-000005/2017 – B8-0202/2017),

–  having regard to Protocol No 2 on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality,

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

A.  whereas the late conclusion of the 2014-2020 MFF negotiations and the late adoption of the ESI Funds regulations resulted in delays in the process of adoption and implementation of partnership agreements and operational programmes, designation of managing, certifying and auditing authorities, the process of defining and fulfilling ex-ante conditionalities, and project implementation at local, regional and national level; whereas, although factual information and analysis are missing on the reasons for these delays, they are impacting in the first part of the programming period on the potential of the ESI Funds to increase competitiveness and enhance social, economic and territorial cohesion;

B.  whereas 564 ESI Funds operational programmes have now been adopted and the Commission has received notifications of designation of authorities for 374 operational programmes; whereas interim payments cannot take place without the designation of managing authorities; whereas, according to the data available as of 30 November 2016, EUR 14,750 billion of interim payments have been executed, implying lower payment needs than originally foreseen;

C.  whereas at the same stage during the last programming period, despite similar delays and technical obstacles related to the requirement concerning management and control systems, an uptake of interim payments was already registered in July 2009 and, according to the payment appropriations foreseen in the 2010 budget, the implementation of cohesion policy programmes was expected to reach full cruising speed that year;

D.  whereas the current level of interim payments represents a comparatively low share of the overall programme allocation in the context of the programming period advancement; whereas Parliament is worried that according to the autumn 2016 Member States’ forecasts, this would continue to proceed at the same pace;

E.  whereas delayed implementation and consequently lower payment needs already led to a EUR 7,2 billion reduction in payments under Heading 1b in 2016, through Draft Amending Budget No 4/2016; whereas at the same stage in the 2007-2013 programming period a similar draft amending budget was not necessary; whereas for 2017 there is a nearly 24 % decrease in payments appropriations compared to 2016;

F.  whereas closer cooperation between Member States and the European institutions is strongly recommended to ensure that payment appropriations for cohesion policy in the 2018 EU budget will stabilise at a satisfactory level and the overall payment plan for 2014-2020 will be respected or, where appropriate, adapted according to the actual situation;

G.  whereas administrative capacity both at national and at regional and local level is a key precondition for the successful implementation of cohesion policy;

1.  Reiterates the contribution made by ESI Funds investments to reducing economic, social and territorial disparities within and between the European regions, as well as to generating smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and job creation; expresses concerns, therefore, that further delays in the implementation of cohesion policy operational programmes will impact negatively on the achievement of these goals, contributing moreover to a widening of the differences in regional development;

2.  Acknowledges that the introduction of several new requirements, such as thematic concentration, ex-ante conditionalities and financial management, despite ensuring increased performance of the programmes, contributed in the context of the late adoption of the legislative framework to the delays in implementation; draws attention to the fact that the current pace of implementation risks leading to large amounts of decommitments in the following years, and emphasises that necessary measures should be taken to avoid this; calls on the Commission to indicate the actions it foresees in this regard;

3.  Stresses that, due to these implementation delays, the use of financial instruments under the ESI Funds operational programmes might increase the already existing risk of low disbursement rates, excessive capital endowments, an inability to attract satisfactory levels of private capital, a low leverage effect and problematic revolving; notes that further clarifications and actions are needed to achieve an equal level of capacity to work with financial instruments as leverage tools in the Member States, and calls on Member States to make a balanced use of these instruments put in place by the Commission and the EIB; recalls also the possibility of combining funding from the ESI Funds and the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) in order to address the fall-off in investment, in particular in sectors best placed to boost growth and employment;

4.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to make full use of the flexibility available under the Stability and Growth Pact, given that in many Member States the economic crisis has brought liquidity problems and resulted in governments having less money available for public investment and that cohesion policy funding is becoming the principal source of public investment;

5.  Calls, therefore, on the Commission, in close cooperation with Member States and on the basis of an objective analysis of the factors contributing to current delays, to present a ‘Cohesion acceleration plan’ in the first quarter of 2017 in order to facilitate an accelerated implementation of ESI Funds operational programmes; underlines nevertheless in this context the need to ensure low error rates, the fight against fraud, and the strengthening of administrative capacity at national, regional, as well as local level as a pre-condition to achieve timely and successful results; believes that tailor-made measures should follow the analysis of the Summary Report of the programme annual implementation reports covering implementation in 2014-2015, made available by the Commission at the end of 2016, and calls on the Member States to continuously monitor the progress made in the implementation of projects; stresses in this regard the need and added value of concentrating efforts on the thematic objectives priority sectors; moreover, calls on the Commission to continue providing support through the Task Force for Better Implementation and to make available an action plan of its activities to Parliament;

6.  Is concerned by the delays in the designation of managing, certifying and auditing authorities, which result in delays in the submission of payment applications; calls, therefore, on Member States to complete the designation process, and on the Commission to deploy the technical assistance and advisory services needed to managing, certifying and auditing authorities, with a view to facilitating and speeding up the implementation of operational programmes on the ground, including for the preparation of project pipelines, the simplification and acceleration of the financial management and control system, as well as for contracting and monitoring procedures;

7.  Acknowledges that a quicker and more effective implementation of ESI Funds operational programmes is directly linked to increased simplification; takes note in this regard of the priorities laid down in the framework of the Omnibus proposal; notes, however, that further efforts should be made, especially in addressing project management costs, heterogeneity and frequent changes of rules, the complex approval procedures for major projects, public procurement, unsolved property relations, long-lasting permit and decision obtainment procedures, the issue of retroactive application of audit and control rules, late payments to beneficiaries, difficulties in combining ESIF funding with other funding sources, state aid rules and slow dispute resolution; calls on the Commission to ensure appropriate coordination and make the state aid rules much simpler and to ensure that they are consistent with cohesion policy; reminds that efforts are needed also to improve communication of the results of the ESI Funds investments;

8.  Calls on the Commission to consider and develop solutions, including additional forms of flexibility such as flexibility among priorities and among operational programmes at the request of the relevant managing authorities, in keeping with the Europe 2020 strategy objectives while ensuring the required stability and predictability, and the already proposed reflow of decommitments, including from heading 1b, as a result of total or partial non-implementation, into the EU budget, also with a view to the future programming period;

9.  Calls for efforts to be increased with a view to ensuring and facilitating synergies between the EU funding opportunities, such as ESI Funds, Horizon 2020 and EFSI, through joint funding, close cooperation among the competent authorities, support for actions in smart specialisation, and through closer coordination with national bodies underwriting preferential loans for projects in line with the objectives of operational programmes;

10.  Calls for better communication between Commission structures (the respective Directorates-General), between the Commission and the Member States, and with the national and regional authorities, as this is a crucial prerequisite in order to increase the absorption rate and the quality of the actions under the cohesion policy;

11.  Reiterates the added value of the adoption of a performance-oriented approach and welcomes the Commission’s efforts to ensure the policy performance in practice; notes the conclusions of the Summary Report of the programme annual implementation reports covering implementation in 2014-2015 and awaits the upcoming Strategic Report by the Commission planned for the end of 2017 that will provide more information on implementation of the priorities by reference to the financial data, common and programme-specific indicators and quantified target values and progress towards the milestones, as well as the situation regarding the completion of the action plans linked to outstanding ex-ante conditionalities(7);

12.  Points to the existing payment plan 2014-2020; taking into consideration the decommitment rules, calls on the Commission to establish an adequate payment plan up to 2023, proposing increased payment ceilings under Heading 1b, if necessary, until the end of the current programming period; encourages the Commission and the Member States to make e-Cohesion fully operational and easy to use in order to adjust the payment plan according to concrete developments, as well as to prepare the ‘Cohesion acceleration plan’; requests therefore that Member States enter data on project pipelines, procurement plans with planned and actual dates for tendering, contracting and implementation, as well as all financial and accounting data related to invoices, co-financing, eligibility of expenditures, etc.;

13.  Expects the Commission to continue discussions on these issues in the Cohesion Forum and to come forward with solutions in the 7th Cohesion Report, with a view to ensuring full implementation of cohesion policy and to meeting the EU’s investment needs; calls also for the necessary steps to be taken for a timely start to the post-2020 programming period;

14.  Asks the Commission to draw lessons based on the information contained in the annual reports, with a view to the debate on the post-2020 Cohesion Policy;

15.  Urges the Commission to submit the legislative package concerning the next programming period by the beginning of 2018 at the latest, and to facilitate a smooth and timely negotiation of the post-2020 MFF, including a regulatory and procedural cushion, in order to avoid system shocks to cohesion policy investments and implementation; believes that the UK referendum result and the upcoming Brexit arrangements should be duly taken into consideration;

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

(1) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0217.
(2) OJ C 289, 9.8.2016, p. 50.
(3) OJ C 482, 23.12.2016, p. 56.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0412.
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0053.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0419.
(7) Necessary update after the publication of the Summary Report on the programme annual implementation reports covering implementation in 2014-2015.

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