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5.12.

2002

EN

Official Journal of the European Communities

C 301 E/131

that the ultimate aim of providing truly comparable regional statistics is jeopardised. The proposal for a regulation still allows the possibility of introducing levels lower than the current NUTS categories (4 and 5), but they are unlikely to be useful for the purposes of recognising depressed regions. In Spain the province of Teruel, which belongs to the Autonomous Region of Aragon, has two particular characteristics it belongs to the most imbalanced region in Spain and has one of the highest rates of depopulation. The continuing reduction in the population and its gradual ageing mean that although the figures relating to wealth remain the same, the per capita GDP quotient is increasing. These factors mean that the indicator does not reflect the province’s actual level of development, a problem pointed out in paragraph 1 of the EP’s report. Is the Commission aware of the existence of this distortion? In the circumstances, will the Commission propose any reform on the subject aimed at drawing up new criteria for choosing between developed and less developed areas with a view to 2006? Is there any possibility that Teruel might be given special consideration (such as that given to island and outermost regions), because of its low population density, in the run-up to 2006?
(1) COM(2001) 0083, OJ C 180 E, 26.6.2001, p. 108.

(2002/C 301 E/143)

WRITTEN QUESTION E-1396/02 by Laura González Álvarez (GUE/NGL) to the Commission (15 May 2002)

Subject: Structural imbalances in Teruel province (Aragón, Spain) The European Parliament’s Moretti report (A3-0115/93) refers to the vulnerability of thinly-populated areas and considers the need for a study to be made of other criteria such as population distribution or the availability of basic services which should be taken into account when decisions are taken on whether or not to grant a region Objective 1 status. The report cites Teruel province as a textbook case, since it is in a paradoxical situation: its per capita GDP is increasing at the expense of a shrinking population (during the nineteenth century it lost virtually 50 % of its population, which fell from 265 000 to 136 000 inhabitants) and its percentage share of national GDP is also declining. Its essential services (health care, education, energy supply and infrastructure) are inadequate, and this accentuates its disadvantages (underdevelopment and lack of social and economic cohesion) within the EU. Has the Commission carried out any research into EU regions which may be affected by low population density and which are not regarded as Objective 1 regions? What immediate and long-term action is the Commission intending to take, in association with the Spanish Government, in order to help redress the imbalances affecting Teruel province?

Joint answer to Written Questions E-1349/02 and E-1396/02 given by Mr Barnier on behalf of the Commission (3 July 2002) Council Regulation (EC) No 1260/1999 of 21 June 1999 laying down general provisions on the Structural Funds (1) sets eligibility criteria for areas to be covered by Objectives 1 and 2 of these Funds during the 2000-2006 programming period. Objective 1 areas must be regions of level II of the Nomenclature of Territorial Statistical Units (NUTS) and Objective 2 areas must be NUTS level III regions or the most seriously affected zones within such regions.

C 301 E/132

Official Journal of the European Communities

EN

5.12.2002

Teruel is a NUTS III terrritorial unit and so cannot be eligible for Objective 1. In view of its socioeconomic problems the entire province has Objective 2 eligibility for the current programming period, population density being one of the eligibility criteria for this Objective. The province’s particular situation has already been taken into consideration in the single programming document for Aragon. Further, low population density areas are given specific treatment in the regional State aid system guidelines. First, low population density is a sufficient criterion for regional aid to be eligible for exceptional treatment under Article 87(3)(c) of the EC Treaty. Second, the maximum level of investment aid that can be granted in such regions has been set at 30 % net grant equivalent instead of the 20 % that is the normal rule. These provisions cover all of the province of Teruel. To establish a solid and transparent legal basis the Commission in February 2001 adopted a proposal for a Parliament and Council Regulation on establishment of a common classification of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) (2). This has been the subject of a report to Parliament and is at present under discussion in the Council. One of its purposes is to secure application of objective criteria in the definition of Member States’ regions in order to guarantee impartiality and comparability when regional statistics are compiled. For Spain Annex II to the proposal places the Autonomous Communities at NUTS level II. For the purpose of defining cohesion policy for the period after 2006 the Commission with publication of the Second Report on Economic and Social Cohesion (3) launched a wide-ranging debate. In the report the Commission examines as a possible priority for future cohesion policy zones with grave geographical or natural handicaps, including low population density. The debate is in progress and in due time the Commission will in the Third Cohesion Report make proposals to the Council and Parliament on the best way of taking account of these specific factors in regional policy.
(1) OJ L 161, 26.6.1999. (2) OJ C 180 E, 26.6.2001. (3) COM(2001) 24 final.

(2002/C 301 E/144)

WRITTEN QUESTION E-1351/02 by Alexander de Roo (Verts/ALE) and Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL) to the Commission (13 May 2002)

Subject: Alternative routes for the Sofia-Kulata motorway For the construction of the Sofia-Thessaloniki motorway, Bulgaria has opted for a route through the valley of the Struma near the town of Kresna. Originally, five variant routes were prepared, but it seems that the only variant to which consideration has genuinely been given is widening and alteration of the existing motorway which follows the course of the Struma river via the Kresna gorge. The Commission is undoubtedly aware of the existence of the E-79 Highway Sofia-Kulata Motorway Feasibility Study & Design (SPEA Ingegneria Europea, November 2000), which rules out two possible routes for the planned motorway because they would be too expensive. The two alternative routes outside the Kresna valley are not described at all. 1. What does the Commission think of the quality of this study, which is two pages long and was drawn up using EUR 394 000 in funding from PHARE? In answer to written questions by Erik Meijer (E-3147/00 (1)) and Alexander de Roo (E-0220/01 (2)), the Commission referred to an EIA report which was to be drawn up and which was duly published at the end

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