President of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), Mercedes Bresso (IT/PES), has welcomed the outcome of the vote by the EP REGI committee on the draft report on General Structural Funds Regulation. The report, which was presented by Constanze Krehl (DE/S&D) and Lambert Van Nistelrooij (NL/EPP), widely reflects the CoR's position on cohesion policy. Following its adoption, Bresso reiterated the willingness of Europe's local and regional authorities to support the EP team involved in the negotiations with the European Council.
"All CoR political groups are pleased to see that the EP REGI committee confirm that cohesion policy is the engine of the European growth agenda" said Bresso. "A special mention should go to the rapporteurs, who despite being elected 'net contributors' in two Member States, have succeeded in securing the general European interest and putting the European Parliament on a strong footing to launch the next phase of the legislative process, which for the first time will follow the co-decision procedure, thanks to the Lisbon Treaty" concluded the CoR President.
Like the CoR, the REGI committee favours greater flexibility in the thematic balance of the Structural Funds vis-à-vis the Europe 2020 Strategy, leaving local and regional authorities with more room to manoeuvre so that they can genuinely adapt the operational programmes to their regions' needs.
MEPs also recognised the role of local authorities in the implementation of cohesion policy since the partnership principle would be strengthened, mainly via a European code of conduct for developing partnership contracts at the level of each Member State.
The CoR also welcomes the creation of a category of "transition" regions, i.e. regions with a GDP of 75 to 90 per cent of the EU average. The CoR succeeded in convincing the members of the REGI committee that this category would help to support regions whose growth had stagnated in relative terms (i.e. regions at the "lower end" of the most "competitive" category of regions) without penalising regions which had just been phased out of the "convergence" objective but had experienced an unconsolidated growth spurt.
With regard to macroeconomic conditionality, the members of the REGI committee have confirmed the position they established when they voted on the Commission's 5th cohesion report last autumn by categorically rejecting this instrument, as CoR members had done before them, so that regions would not have to suffer the consequences of poor public accounts management at the national level. The REGI committee also took up the CoR's recommendation to reject the establishment of a performance reserve for the most dynamic regions, not only because it was contrary to the very philosophy of cohesion policy but also because its effectiveness would quite certainly be marginal.
Other points where the CoR and the REGI committee agree include the recognition of the demographic challenges facing a considerable number of European regions, the increased possibility of developing multi-fund programmes and the need for the common strategic framework to be appended to the general regulation, subject to the approval of the European Parliament and the Council, rather than a delegated act.
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