MEPs approve new cohesion policy: €325bn to invest in Europe's regions 

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One third of the EU budget for 2014-2020 will be invested in member states, to boost regional development, with a strong focus on employment, energy efficiency, innovation and research. © European Union  

Key rules and regulations for implementing EU cohesion policy in 2014-2020 were endorsed by Parliament on Wednesday. In a compromise deal struck with the Council after more than a year of tough negotiations, MEPs secured substantial funding for EU regions to invest in their development projects, on terms fairer to them. They also pruned back the bureaucracy needed to apply for this funding, which is sorely needed in this time of economic crisis.

"Member states and regions will be able to focus more closely on the impact of programmes and projects and worry less about administrative technicalities", said Regional Development Committee chair and Parliament’s lead negotiator on cohesion policy Danuta Hübner (EPP, PL). "Cohesion policy will continue to be the main European source of public funding in the context of the multiannual financial framework 2014-2020, and its new framework is putting all the emphasis on the need to invest wisely. The alignment of the new cohesion policy with the EU2020 Strategy is fundamental, but investment in smart, sustainable and inclusive growth must take us towards economic, social and territorial cohesion”, she added.

"The five funds covered by the general regulation form the central investment framework of the EU budget. Cohesion funds will be changing from a compensation or transfer-based approach into a targeted investment instrument based on knowledge, sustainability and jobs", said co-rapporteur on the key Common Provisions regulation Lambert van Nistelrooij (EPP, NL).

"There will be a better partnership principle, which steps up the involvement of towns and municipalities in the whole policy process”, said Constanze Krehl (S&D, DE), co-rapporteur on the key Common Provisions regulation.

Common rules, less red tape, fairer conditions

A new "common strategic framework", will provide a single source of guidance for the five principal EU development funds, so as to better integrate EU policies and simplify procedures. Also, the new rules will concentrate investment on a small number of themes linked to the "Europe 2020" (EU's overarching growth strategy) targets. This should build critical mass, for better results.

MEPs also ensured that measures linking the delivery of funding to sound economic governance will be applied more fairly. These measures could lead to the suspension of funds in the event of a national macroeconomic imbalance or excessive budget deficit.

Parliament however will henceforth be able to exercise its right of scrutiny over all decision-making procedures affecting the suspension of funds in a structured dialogue with the European Commission. In addition, any suspension of funds will now be adjusted in line with social and economic circumstances in the member state concerned.

European Social Fund - an EU tool to improve employability

"The European Social Fund is the EU tool for employability, enabling EU citizens - especially young people -, to start work, return to work, and stay in work", said Parliament’s rapporteur on the European Social Fund, Elisabeth Morin-Chartier (EPP, FR).

MEPs stepped up efforts to combat poverty through labour market integration by allocating at least 20% of ESF resources in each member state for this purpose. The European Social Fund will also support efforts to tackle youth unemployment, as at least €3 billion in ESF funding is earmarked for the Youth Employment Initiative. The minimum ESF’s share of cohesion policy funding is 23.1%.

The Common Provisions regulation on EU funds was approved by 479 votes to 126, with 85 abstentions.

The ERDF regulation was approved by 605 votes to 34, with 54 abstentions.

The Cohesion Fund regulation was approved by 617 votes to 39, with 31 abstentions

The ETC regulation was approved by 629 to 25, with 35 abstentions.

The EGTC regulation was approved by 630 votes to 28, with 33 abstentions.

The regulation on the European Social Fund was approved by 579 votes to 33, with 72 abstentions.

For further details, please turn to the background note (link to the right).

Procedure: Co-decision (Ordinary Legislative Procedure), 1st reading agreement