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27.2.

98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 64/5

Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the ‘Views of the regions and local authorities
on arrangements for European Structural Policy after 1999’

(98/C 64/02)

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS,

having regard to its decision of 11 June 1997, pursuant to Article 198c(4) of the Treaty
establishing the European Community, to issue an opinion on the Views of the Regions and
Local Authorities on Arrangements for European Structural Policy after 1999 and to direct
Commission 1 (Regional Development, Economic Development and Local and Regional
Finances) to undertake the preparatory work;

having regard to the draft opinion (CdR 131/97 rev. 2) adopted by Commission 1 on 3 October
1997 (rapporteurs: Mr Behrendt and Mr Fraga Iribarne);

having regard to the proposals on economic and social cohesion set out in the European
Commission’s document entitled ‘Agenda 2000: for a stronger and wider union’
(COM(97) 2000 final);

having regard to Article B of the EU Treaty and Article 2 of the EC Treaty, which make the
promotion of economic and social progress which is balanced and sustainable, the strengthening
of economic and social cohesion and solidarity among the Member States, objectives and
tasks of the European Union and the European Community;

having regard to the Community policy, formulated in Article 130a of the EC Treaty, for the
strengthening of economic and social cohesion and the aim of reducing disparities between
the levels of development of the various regions and the backwardness of the least-favoured
regions, including rural areas;

having regard to the task of the Community, defined in Article 130b of the Treaty, of
supporting the efforts of the Member States to strengthen economic and social cohesion via
the European Structural Funds, the European Investment Bank and the other existing financial
instruments;

having regard to the task of the European Fund for Regional Development, defined in
Article 130c of the Treaty, of helping to redress the main regional imbalances in the
Community, the task of the European Social Fund, defined in Article 123 of the Treaty, of
improving employment opportunities for workers in the internal market, and the task of the
guidance section of the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund of achieving the
objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy;

having regard to the right of the Committee of the Regions, laid down in Articles 130d and
130e of the Treaty, to be consulted on the definition of the tasks, priority objectives,
organization, general rules and implementing provisions of the Structural Funds and on the
reporting on progress on achieving economic and social cohesion,

adopted the following opinion at its 20th plenary session on 19 and 20 November 1997
(meeting of 19 November).

1. The current system of European structural policy is solidarity between the stronger and weaker groups in
society. This is based on the recognition that the free
play of market forces does not automatically result in
1.1. Theoretical basis social justice. The Committee of the Regions considers
that the development of Europe after the second world
1.1.1. The Committee of the Regions subscribes to war is convincing proof of the effectiveness of this
the values of the social market economy as a form of economic system.
economic system which takes as a basis market forces
and freedom to engage in entrepreneurial activity and, 1.1.2. Sharp economic and social disparities between
at the same time, sets out to shoulder social responsibility the regions of the Community, eighteen million people
for members of society. The core of this social structure unsuccessfully searching for jobs, the end of the cold
C 64/6 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 27.2.98

war and the dramatic changes in the international 1.1.6. The Committee of the Regions stresses that
division of labour occasioned by the development of the main responsibility for achieving the objective of
modern information and communications technologies economic and social cohesion lies with the Member
confront people in the Community with new challenges States of the Community. European structural policy is
which are perceived by many as a threat. In view of there to help the Member States and regions to achieve
these changes the Community is more than ever obliged this objective. It does not however absolve the Member
to redefine the concept of solidarity and to demonstrate States of their responsibilities.
its capacity for reform.

1.2. The Structural Funds

1.1.3. European structural policy is part of these


changes. Conceptually, structural policy is based on 1.2.1. The Union’s structural policies, which are the
solidarity between the weaker and the more robust main instruments, although not the only ones, for the
Member States and regions of the Community. European implementation of the objective of economic and social
structural policy seeks to support those Member States cohesion, make use of a number of financial instruments:
and regions whose performance has fallen in relation to the Regional Fund, the Social Fund, the guidance section
the Community average, enabling them to participate of the EAGGF, the financial instrument for fisheries
once again as equal partners in the economic and social guidance, the Cohesion Fund and European Investment
processes of the Community. European structural policy Bank loans.
complements the efforts made by the Member States,
who carry the main responsibility for smoothing out
regional differences. In this way, European structural 1.2.2. It is important to point out that these six
policy helps ensure that competitiveness can be estab- instruments, which are governed by separate regulations
lished or re-established and that there is a lasting as well as the coordination directive, have different
improvement in economic development. origins, both in time (they were adopted at different
stages of the process of European integration) and in
terms of their primary objectives. Their integration into
the framework of structural policy is of more recent
date, as are the multi-fund operational programmes.
1.1.4. European structural policy is thus based on a This empirical approach to integration and coordination
long-term approach to development. Only on the basis does not necessarily produce the best results in terms of
of long-term development plans can the right conditions the practical arrangements for application. Although
be established in problem regions for self-sustaining the Structural Funds operate in a common framework
development which is also justified in terms of competi- based on the principles of concentration, programming,
tiveness. At the same time, this process of change has to cooperation and additionality, it should be borne in
promote new types of work organization and invest- mind that their specific implementing regulations are
ments in human resources. There must be an optimum different, and above all that the bodies responsible
link between long-term employment policy and an active for their management at Community, national and
labour market policy along the lines set out in the sometimes regional level are different.
new employment chapter of the Amsterdam Treaty.
Measures to improve the job situation must involve
action to combat unemployment, within the context of 1.2.3. This does not make the programming and
equal opportunities. implementation procedures any easier where pro-
grammes are concerned involving more than one finan-
cial instrument, which is usually the case. Cohesion
Fund and EIB support is based on a project approach
governed by specific rules. The aim should be to
simplify authorization, implementation and accounting
1.1.5. European structural policy provides aid for procedures with regard to Structural Fund resources.
self-help over a limited period. The use of resources can Moreover, in accordance with the subsidiarity principle,
be said to have succeeded when the beneficiary regions Member States and/or regions should be able to deter-
no longer fulfil the criteria for support. Regions once mine appropriate measures autonomously.
eligible for geographically-based support cannot thus
automatically lay claim to continuing support from the
Structural Funds. Loss of eligibility can be regarded as
1.2.4. The Structural Funds are at present concen-
proof of the successful use of support. The Committee
trated on four regional policy objectives, which together
of the Regions does not however consider that this
account for 85 % of financing:
precludes limited transitional arrangements being agreed
for regions no longer qualifying for support, in order to
prevent serious disruption. In this way progress made — Objective 1 for the development of regions whose
can be safeguarded. The Committee of the Regions development is lagging behind (about 70 % of the
considers that ultimately the aim of the Structural Funds total). The population covered by Objective 1
should be to make themselves superfluous; they should currently amounts to 92,5 million or 26,6 % of the
expire once the objective of support has been achieved. EU population. Overall, EU per capita financing in
27.2.98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 64/7

Objective 1 regions rose by about a third in real and relates to some 400 programmes. Finally, about 1 %
terms in 1994 when a new programming period of structural financing is reserved for technical assistance
began; and innovatory measures, on which the Commission
decides on the basis of public calls for tender.
— Objective 2 for the conversion of regions seriously
affected by industrial decline (11 % of the total).
16,4 % of the EU’s population lives in areas currently
eligible for Objective 2 financing, a little more than 1.2.9. Structural policy is concentrated on three main
the 15 % recommended in the preamble to the areas: infrastructure (30 % of funding goes on investment
regulation. Additional resources assigned to Objec- in transport, telecommunications, energy, water supply
tive 2 during the period 1994-1999 were used to and environmental protection), human resources (30 %
increase the amount of aid paid per capita; of funding is earmarked for education, training and
support for labour-market measures) and productive
investment (40 % of funding goes on the development
— Objective 5b for the structural adjustment of rural of a dynamic environment for firms and support for
areas (4 % of the total). 8,1 % of the EU’s population assistance to industry and particularly SMEs).
lives in areas currently eligible for Objective 5b
financing, compared with 5 % in the previous period;
as a result of the larger population covered aid per
capita remains virtually unchanged;
1.3. The current situation of European structural
— Objective 6 for the structural adjustment of regions policy
with an extremely low population density (0,5 % of
the total). This objective covers extensive areas
which however account for only 0,4 % of the EU’s
total population. Per capita aid is lower than that
for Objective 1. 1.3.1. The first report on economic and social
cohesion in the European Union submitted by the
European Commission in November 1996 shows that
1.2.5. Three objectives are not specifically regional structural policies have had a strong equalising effect.
and apply to the whole of the Union. Together they
account for 15 % of the remaining funding:

— Objective 3 for youth and long-term unemployed; 1.3.2. This effect is estimated at ten times the amount
of structural spending. For the current programming
period (1994-1999) the reduction in per capita regional
— Objective 4 to help workers adapt to industrial income disparities is estimated at approximately 5 % of
change; GDP, with aid amounting to 0,45 % of GDP. This
multiplier effect is particularly high and can be attributed
— Objective 5a for adjustment in the agriculture and to the fact that structural transfers are aimed primarily
fisheries sector. at reinforcing productive capacity in the beneficiary
regions as a result of investment in physical and human
capital.
1.2.6. The volume of structural support has risen
steadily and significantly since the beginning of the
1980s. Leaving loans aside, financing available for
structural support rose from ECU 3,7 billion a year in 1.3.3. The report analyses the economic cohesion of
1983 to ECU 18,3 billion in 1992 and is expected to the Member States and regions on the basis of the
reach ECU 33 billion by 1999. Total Structural Fund development of per capita GDP. Particular attention is
financing for the programming period 1994-1999 paid to the four cohesion countries which, thanks to
amounts to almost ECU 170 billion, about one third of above-average economic growth, were able to increase
the EU budget for this period or 0,4 % of Community their per capita GDP from 66 % to 73 % of the EU
GDP. average. The clearest progress was made by Ireland,
which in 1995 attained about 90 % of the EU average,
compared with 63,6 % in 1983.
1.2.7. Around 90 % of these funds are used for
measures taken on the initiative of the Member States.
More than 300 operative programmes have therefore
been approved jointly by the Member States and the 1.3.4. Progress was also made by the regions in
Commission over the period 1994-1999, half of these approaching the Community average, although this was
being for Objective 1 areas. not as clear-cut as at Member State level. Thus between
1983 and 1993 the Community’s ten poorest regions
raised their per capita GDP from 44 % to 48 % of the
1.2.8. The financing of Community initiatives is at Community average. In relation to the 25 poorest regions
present very diverse (13 initiatives and 7 themes). This the gain was 2 %, from 53 % to 55 %. Overall, the same
represents about 9 % of available structural financing welcome reduction in disparities was not evident at
C 64/8 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 27.2.98

regional level as at Member State level. In some cases 1.3.8. With regard to unemployment, regional dispar-
regional disparities actually increased. ities have intensified and the frequency of unemployment
is much less equally distributed: in ten years the
unemployment rate has fallen from 4,8 % to 4,6 % of
the active population in the 25 least affected regions and
1.3.5. Although the structural policies have made it has risen from 17,2 % to 22,4 % in the 25 worst affected
possible to improve the situation of the least developed regions.
regions, disparities between the richest and poorest
regions have not diminished. The per capita income of
the 25 most prosperous regions increased from 140 %
to 142 % of the Community average, whilst that of the 1.3.9. However, the comparability of data is greatly
25 poorest regions grew from 53 % to 55 % of the same influenced by the diversity of the labour market arrange-
average. ments of the various Member States. This greatly
restricts the usefulness of labour-market statistics, par-
ticularly with regard to EU-wide comparability.
1.3.6. From the point of view of the regions and local
authorities this result needs to be taken very seriously and
leads to the conclusion that Structural Fund interventions
have not always achieved the desired objectives. The 1.3.10. The report also states that regional depen-
Committee of the Regions therefore expresses its concern dence on sectors has a considerable influence on the
that the regional and local authorities are not participa- situation of the labour market. Thus unemployment in
ting sufficiently in European structural policy. The the regions most dependent on the agricultural sector is
Committee is convinced that the participation of regional much higher than the EU average. Rising unemployment
players would have enhanced the positive impact associ- in cities is a growing problem. The existence side-by-side
ated with use of the Structural Funds on the ground. It of prosperous and low-income districts is becoming
was in this connection that the Opinion on the role of increasingly common.
regional and local authorities in the partnership principle
of the Structural Funds (1) pointed to the vital importance
of the involvement of the regional and local authorities
in the framework of the principle of partnership: 1.3.11. The COR position is that efforts to deepen
European integration will succeed only if regional policy
assists weak regions and consequently, if citizens see
and feel improvements to their living standards. All the
‘The partnership principle is important since active indicators used by the Commission in the Cohesion
and efficient partnerships will lead to the creation Report to measure regional disparities point to much
of effective programmes and the effective use of more pronounced disparities at regional than at national
Structural Funds at local and regional level. The level. And this applies independently of the level of
partnerships assemble the important actors, both prosperity of the various Member States. The Committee
regionally and locally, who have a detailed know- of the Regions feels that European integration and the
ledge of their area and can identify the strengths and principle of solidarity require that particular attention
weaknesses in economic terms. Moreover, partner- be paid to these problems in the Community. The
ships embody subsidiarity and give a sense of joint Committee of the Regions is convinced that efforts to
ownership of the programme.’ deepen European integration will succeed only if citizens
can see and feel the improvements in their living
standards.
1.3.7. In relation to the labour market, the report
concludes that despite a record unemployment rate of
11 % of the workforce (18 million unemployed) there
was a net gain of 10 million jobs during the 1980s. 1.3.12. These economic and social disparities reflect
However between 1991 and 1994 4,5 million jobs were in particular the development gap between the central
again lost, reinforcing the tendency to unemployment and peripheral regions of Europe. The tables showing
disparities in the regions. At the same time the active the per capita GDP of the richest and poorest regions
population grew by 1 % annually, further exacerbating and the unemployment rates in the least and most
the labour market situation. Overall, economic growth affected regions show that the imbalance between the
in the EU was not as employment-intensive as in the centre and the periphery has remained remarkably
USA, as it was mainly attributable to productivity gains strong and constant.
which were, moreover, also in part brought about
by structural changes attendant upon the removal of
relatively labour-intensive production processes.
1.3.13. The Committee of the Regions is concerned
at the poverty in the EU revealed by the report. It is a
sobering thought that if social transfers were to cease,
40 % of households would be below the poverty level.
These are the people who should enjoy the Community’s
(1) OJ C 100, 2.4.1996, p. 72. solidarity.
27.2.98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 64/9

1.3.14. The report rightly points out that it is in the 2.1.4. The Committee of the Regions is convinced
cities where social contrasts are the most striking. Here, that in future particular attention must be paid to
the Committee feels, is a major future challenge for measures most likely to bring about a lasting improve-
policy. The Committee also points out that the problems ment in the competitiveness of the regions and thus in
of cities cannot be considered in isolation from the people’s living conditions. Improved productivity and
development problems of the regions. Urban problems consequent improved competitiveness is the essential
are not directly addressed by the Structural Funds, and factor in bringing about a long-term improvement in
the Community initiatives, although useful, do not offer economic prosperity and contributing to a steadily rising
comprehensive policy coverage and resources at EU standard of living and an improved quality of life. The
level. The next set of programmes should include Committee of the Regions endorses the view expressed
measures specific to the needs of urban areas. In cases in the Cohesion Report that research and development
where the interests of cities are not sufficiently integrated and the successful application of innovations are key
into the objectives, it must be ensured that sufficient factors in ensuring steadily increasing economic pros-
account is taken of urban interests in the framework of perity.
partnership.

2.1.5. Agenda 2000 expressly underlines that Europe


must adapt itself to ongoing economic globalization.
The Committee of the Regions firmly believes that the
implications for European structural policy are that it
2. Challenges for future structural policy has to target improvements in supply conditions in the
regions in a variety of ways; the goal of regional
development is served by the development of infrastruc-
ture and opportunities for investment, particularly by
SMEs, support for innovation and the transfer of
knowledge to peripheral regions and the conservation
There are two driving forces behind European unifi- and care of rural areas. By combining this with measures
cation: internal unification (economic, political, mone- to raise workers’ skills via further training, productivity
tary, etc.) and the enlargement of the Community. will be increased overall and the conditions improved
Another driving force is the integration of Europe into for a lasting increase in prosperity. The Member State
the world economy via the process of globalization. bodies responsible under national arrangements, as well
as the regional and local authorities, should continue to
be involved here in shaping structural policies which
affect them.

2.1. Globalization

2.2. Combating unemployment

2.1.1. In its Cohesion Report the European Com-


mission comes to the important conclusion that eco-
nomic globalization has a major impact on the develop- 2.2.1. Unemployment is running at 18 million; this
ment of regional disparities in Europe. A policy more the Committee of the Regions considers to be a critical
focused on economic and social cohesion is needed for challenge and task for the policy of the EU and the
the Member States and regions to take account of this. regions. The inclusion in the Treaty of Amsterdam of a
chapter on employment means that the problem of
unemployment is given the appropriate high priority.
The Committee of the Regions welcomes the inclusion
2.1.2. There is a real danger of polarization of society of this new chapter on employment in the Treaty of
and the regions, leading to the exclusion of populations Amsterdam. Agenda 2000 points out that the employ-
and areas unable to integrate into the globalized econ- ment potential of the EU can only be fully realized if
omy. The objective of cohesion, as pursued by the there is sufficient flexibility on the labour market.
structural policies, is to limit such polarization. Europe’s In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, the
integration into a globalized economy is thus the most Committee of the Regions takes the view that in this
important strategic objective for the future of Europe’s matter the responsible institutions have an obligation to
regions. strike a balance between making the necessary economic
adjustments and taking account of the justified concerns
of the public as regards social security.

2.1.3. This gives rise to an urgent need to improve


vocational skills and qualifications, to promote technical In the coming programme period the employment-
progress and research and to improve continuously the intensiveness of structural policy needs therefore to be
quality of regional business locations and competi- further enhanced, without however abandoning the
tiveness. The structural policies have an essential role strategic approach. European structural policy is long-
to play in these areas. term support for self-help and helps develop economic
C 64/10 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 27.2.98

potential in the regions in a sustainable and employment In pursuing this approach, the EU Commission will also
efficient way. It must be complemented by employment help to bring about the necessary consolidation of
and labour market policy. The creation of long-term, Member States’ budgets and will send out a clear
competitive jobs is promoted by aid to SMEs. Such message that the enlargement of the EU is not to be
efforts must in future receive the closest attention, as it financed at the expense of the weakest regions facing
is SMEs which generate the largest number of new jobs. the greatest number of problems.
The development of this endogenous potential can
help generate self-sustaining economic development in
geographically delimited areas, which is not greatly
vulnerable to changes in the international division of 2.4. Enlargement
labour.
2.4.1. The Committee of the Regions is entirely in
favour of eastward enlargement of the European Union.
2.2.2. The new regional and local employment pacts In this it sees not only a way of enlarging the European
are an innovative approach to tackling the Community’s internal market. Rather, the integration of the Eastern
employment problem. They arose from the correct European countries is an expression of their people’s
realization that using locally available knowledge and choice of a social structure based on freedom and
developing partnerships at local level is the best way of democracy. For the first time in Europe’s recent history
developing existing potential and of exploiting this its peoples have almost unanimously adopted a common
for employment-generating projects. The pacts are system of values and it is undeniable that the whole of
particularly well suited for integrating projects at an Europe will benefit from the pacificatory effect of the
early stage into a regional development strategy. It process of integration. This is the real importance of the
remains to be seen what new conclusions can be drawn integration of the candidate countries into the European
from the implementation of the pacts for the shaping of Union. This point is also expressly underlined in
the Structural Funds. The Committee of the Regions Agenda 2000.
calls on the Commission to keep it informed of the
results of the pacts. 2.4.2. It is to be expected that the new Member States
will be among the regions with a development deficit.
In times of scarce resources this means that the Structural
Fund finance to which the future Member States will be
entitled will have to come from existing resources and
2.3. Financial prospects any increase in the Community budget allowed by
economic growth. There are a number of possible ways
of arranging financial support to the new Member
States. One possibility would be to restructure the
existing instruments or to increase their degree of
2.3.1. In view of the necessary consolidation of public geographical concentration in order to create the neces-
sector budgets in the Member States and the Community, sary scope.
the Committee considers it unrealistic to expect a
significant increase in the European Union’s financial 2.4.3. Only in this way can it be ensured that solidarity
resources. The Committee backs retention of the ceiling within the Community and solidarity with the candidates
of 1,27 % of Community GNP, together with the for accession do not come into conflict. It will only be
Structural Funds’ existing share of 0,46 % of GNP. possible to solve the problems associated with eastward
enlargement if the necessary adjustments with regard
both to the present Community and its cohesion policy
and to the candidate Member States are undertaken step
2.3.2. Major increases in funding as in 1988 and 1993 by step and in line with the progress of the accession
are not, the Committee feels, a realistic prospect for the negotiations due to start at the beginning of 1998. There
Structural Funds in the coming programme period. The must be transitional arrangements both in the framework
Committee urges however that in the coming period the of the pre-accession strategy and during the early years
resources of the Structural Funds should not be allowed of membership to ensure that the new Member States
to fall in real terms below the level reached in 1999. In begin to enjoy the full benefits of Community cohesion
addition to economic growth, concentration of the policy as soon as possible and in keeping with their
instruments in regional terms and in terms of content economic, budgetary and administrative capacity. For
also offers further financial scope. this reason, consideration should be given to whether it
is expedient to place a ceiling of 4 % of national GDP
on EU resources used for cohesion policy, as provided
for in Agenda 2000.
2.3.3. The Committee of the Regions welcomes the
intention set out in Agenda 2000 to continue the efforts
to achieve cohesion in the coming programme period at 2.4.4. The Committee of the Regions considers that
the level reached in 1999 (0,46 % of EU GNP). Despite Agenda 2000 opens up a realistic prospect for the states
all the risks, the financial prospects attendant upon this seeking to join the EU. The COR notes that the position
approach provide the EU regions and the applicant set out in the opinion is largely in accordance with that
states with a realistic outlook. adopted in Agenda 2000.
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2.4.5. The COR expressly welcomes the fact that the responsibility for dealing with structural change. Euro-
first of the applicant states are due to become full pean structural policy must be so designed that at the
members as early as the year 2002. European solidarity level of the regional and local authorities it provides
dictates that these regions should, in accordance with clear European added value with regard to problems
the principle of equal treatment, be fully covered by the and their programmatic solutions, the dissemination of
provisions of the existing cohesion policy. On this point good practice and transnational cooperation,
too, the COR gives its express support to Agenda 2000. additionality and the efficient use of funds.

2.4.6. The COR would, however, point out that, 3.1.2. Structural policy reform must go hand in hand
in the interests of maintaining confidence-inspiring with reform of the CAP. The approach taken on such
prospects for the remaining applicant countries, the matters in Agenda 2000 is based on agreements with the
policy to be pursued as part of the ‘Europe Conference’ World Trade Organization. Agricultural policy reform
needs to be honed still further. may generate significant resources to support structural
policy. This is the only way to ensure a coherent strategy
on economically and socially sustainable development
of rural areas.
2.5. Economic and Monetary Union

3.1.3. The Committee of the Regions stresses that it


2.5.1. The impact of economic and monetary union is the weakest regions, those with the most acute
will no doubt vary from country to country and region problems, which need Community solidarity. The Com-
to region. The Member States which are at present most munity’s main challenge is still to help individuals and
integrated into transnational trade flows will benefit regions which have not been able to keep pace sufficiently
most. The tight financial situation means that public with economic and social developments in the Com-
budgets will have to be consolidated, leading to cuts in munity or which have lost the ability to do so.
public expenditure. Such cuts could also limit the scope
for national co-financing of EU structural fund resources.
In the poorest Member States the objective of cohesion 3.1.4. The Committee of the Regions welcomes the
may therefore be impeded by the requirements of view expressed by the EU Commission in Agenda 2000
economic and monetary union. It is possible that during that political priority must clearly continue to be given
a transitional period regional disparities will increase as to economic and social cohesion. The need to maintain
a result of introduction of the single currency. The this priority is especially highlighted by the accession
Committee of the Regions feels that convergence should to the EU of states having very different levels of
not be confused with cohesion. The effects of economic development. The COR also shares the view that the
and monetary union on the regions are generally need for European solidarity will be greater than ever if
considered to be positive. There is, however, an urgent we are to achieve the principal objective of economic
need for research into the likely impact of EMU on and social cohesion in the face of these challenges.
regional economies.

3.1.5. In view of these new challenges, EU structural


2.5.2. The COR is convinced that the achievement of policy needs a new approach making it possible to
the objectives of European structural policy would be establish more ambitious development strategies based
seriously impeded if the allocation of resources were on partnership and on territorial development projects,
made subject to a procedure similar to that provided by to apply the eligibility criteria more strictly and to
Article 104c. This would be tantamount to turning the introduce greater flexibility to the programming pro-
principle of solidarity between the regions on its head cedure. Because of the many positive effects of the EU
and penalizing the very regions which because of their Structural Funds in general and EU regional policy in
particular problems are most dependent on aid. particular, and given the political need to raise the
profile of European policy, Structural Fund assistance
should continue to be granted in all Member States,
irrespective of economic strength, if the conditions for
3. The programme period after 2000 such assistance are met.

3.1.6. The multiplicity of financial support instru-


3.1. Proposals for arrangements for structural policy ments is a source of complexity, bureaucracy and delay.
in the programme period after 2000 This is a result not only of the many different regulations
and implementing provisions governing the funds but
also of the many bodies responsible for their management
3.1.1. The Community’s structural policy com- at various levels.
plements the work of the Member States. Its areas of
activity are necessarily selective and reflect the specific
priorities of the European Union, which means that it 3.1.7. Simplification is essential. Care has to be taken
cannot be considered as a panacea. The Member States to avoid spurious solutions however. Although it may
will in future have to continue to bear the main at first sight appear to be an attractive option to replace
C 64/12 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 27.2.98

the existing funds by a single fund, such a step is not to 3.2.3. The Committee of the Regions regards the
be recommended, as the various funds are to be regarded observations in Agenda 2000 on future structural support
as an expression of the EU’s political priorities. Careful measures as a good basis for discussion. In general
consideration is required before any changes are made. terms the Committee can endorse the Commission’s
If the funds are integrated, there is a very serious risk recommendations regarding the concentration and struc-
that the above aspect will be lost from sight in the midst ture of the objectives and expects the implementation of
of a financial and political debate. Many concerns can these proposals to bring about a more efficient use of
be met by taking the following steps: harmonization of resources. The COR does, however, emphatically reject
the rules and procedures of the funds; the establishment as impractical the EU Commission’s proposal that a
of an integrated procedure in cases where several funds reserve be established comprising 10 % of the funds
come into play in a programme; and allocation of aid which are to be allocated to the most efficient regions in
from the various funds to the programme concerned. the wake of the mid-term assessment of the programme.

3.1.8. The current programme period ends on 31 De-


3.2.4. The Committee also argues that GDP should
cember 1999. By then the legal basis must be in place for
be retained as an indicator for delimitation of areas, as
the continuation of Europe structural policy in the
next programme period in order to ensure a smooth for reasons of statistical comparability it is the best way
transition. In the interests of planning certainty for the of measuring economic prosperity. A low GDP, being
regions and project managers, and thus of economic the product of employment and productivity, points to
the causes of poor competitiveness and thus a low level
and social cohesion, the Committee of the Regions calls
of prosperity. This indicator should thus not be watered
on the Council and the Parliament to ensure at an early
stage that agreement is reached on the revision of the down by combining it with other economic criteria in
relevant regulations before the beginning of the coming weighted form. At most, other indicators of the economic
programme period. There must be no delay over situation could be used alongside GDP. In this context,
the COR feels it is right and proper to pay particular
programme authorizations at the beginning of the new
attention to unemployment so as to enable assisted
programme period, as occurred in 1994.
regions which are exceptionally badly affected by
unemployment to receive additional structural policy
aid. The COR takes the view that this will provide a
means, in particular, of addressing the level of support.

3.2. Objectives of the Structural Funds: selection cri-


teria and areas for support
3.2.5. Here the Committee would advocate equal
treatment of the regions and strict application of the
geographical delimitation indicators. In order to prevent
disruption of regional development which might
3.2.1. Structural and regional policy must focus on compromise results already achieved, the Committee
the economically weakest regions of the Community. In advocates suitable transitional arrangements for regions
the light of existing and persistent structural and which cease to qualify for support. The decisive criterion
employment problems, the Commission’s planned here must be the development problems of the areas in
reduction of the areas eligible for support will cause question.
hardship. This must above all be judged against the
background of the regional economic situation. The
accent should be not on the establishment of general
ceilings, but rather on the needs of the regions established
3.2.6. Objective 2 measures have in the past served in
according to objective and transparent criteria.
particular to tackle the problems of structural adaptation
experienced by regions affected by industrial decline.
Many positive results have been achieved. The Com-
mittee argues therefore that support should be retained
3.2.2. The Committee of the Regions calls for the in its present form and targeted more specifically on
concentration of resources on regions needing aid and tackling problems of industrial change, the effects of
on specific problem groups. The Committee therefore globalization of the world economy on industrial regions
advocates continuation of Objective 1 support on and the problems of urban population centres. In the
the basis of strict application of the geographical light of the proposal to integrate the promotion of
delimitation indicator (75 % of EU average per capita structural change into a common objective, new area
GDP measured in purchasing power parity terms). delimitation indicators must be developed where appro-
Objective 1 support is designed to eliminate development priate.
problems on a large scale. In the interests of concen-
tration of resources and the desired leverage effects,
Objective 1 areas should continue to be defined mainly
at NUTS II level, with special arrangements to be made
for the outermost regions and for the northern regions 3.2.7. The COR calls upon the Commission to enable
with an extremely low population density. areas in industrial decline to be eligible for regional
27.2.98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 64/13

development subsidies in addition to Structural Funds, Community-wide criteria, in which urban districts and
in order to frame a coherent policy for economic for what purposes European Structural Fund support
development in the regions, with no contradiction can be employed most effectively.
between regional policy and competition law.

3.2.11. On grounds of efficiency, it is recommended


that, as a precautionary measure, regions should also to
a certain extent be involved in structural policy which
already have to contend with or are threatened by
3.2.8. The Committee of the Regions feels that aid negative changes brought on by socio-economic restruc-
for rural areas and that for the conversion of agriculture turing.
and fisheries should be consolidated in line with restruc-
turing requirements. The Cork Declaration on Rural
Development (November 1996) states that ‘sustainable 3.2.12. The Committee of the Regions also suggests
rural development must be put at the top of the agenda that horizontal Objectives 3 and 4 be combined in a
of the European Union and become the fundamental single horizontal objective. This objective should aim to
principle which underpins all rural policy in the immedi- provide effective support for workers’ adaptation to
ate future and after enlargement’. Whilst economic changed work processes and the sustainable reinte-
diversification is the main thrust of strategy, agriculture gration of the unemployed into the labour market.
should not be neglected, as there are many factors for
change in this sector. The Committee of the Regions
also calls for the provisions of Objective 5a to be 3.2.13. The primary aim of this objective should be
extended and for the horizontal implementation of this to promote people’s fitness for employment. However,
objective. Should this objective be (partially) removed responsibility for this at the moment lies mainly with
from the list of objectives of the Structural Funds, steps the national and regional authorities, particularly where
should be taken to ensure that there is an orderly education is concerned. The aim is to set in place
transition to the succeeding instruments. measures providing real access to knowledge, promoting
personal development and providing skills geared to the
needs of the economy. It must be an effective and visible
supporting instrument, involving national, regional and
local authorities and social partners and, where measures
3.2.9. In the interests of transparency, support for for the development of human resources are concerned,
structural change in industrial regions and urban popu- the relevant bodies.
lation centres, as well as rural areas, could be brought
together in a territorial objective, which should prefer-
ably be defined, for example, at NUTS III level or in
terms of specific geographical conditions. The COR 3.3. Community initiatives
would, however, point out that the transitional periods
proposed by the EU Commission for the phasing-out of
the existing aid under the old Objective 2 and 5b
classifications is bound to come into conflict with the 3.3.1. The Committee of the Regions stresses the
principle of concentrating aid unless the proposed special importance of the Community initiatives as
transitional arrangements apply for a clearly limited important instruments in innovative areas.
period of time and are degressive. The new Objective 2
criteria should not disadvantage present Objective 2 and
5b areas. An abrupt end to a development process which 3.3.2. The Community initiatives play a particularly
is under way must of course be avoided. Hence the important role with regard to small-scale measures
transitional arrangements should in principle involve a which are however of an experimental nature with
gradual end over a period of years, albeit with reduced importance for the future, particularly with a view to
financial support. The possibility of integrated harmo- the process of European integration.
nization at regional level in respect of programming and
management in those regions that taken as a whole have
serious structural adjustment problems should not be 3.3.3. The Committee of the Regions urges that in
ruled out. the interests of efficiency initiatives be concentrated, as
in many initiatives there is an overlap with the aims and
content of objective programmes.

3.3.4. A first step could be to reduce drastically the


3.2.10. To judge from the track record of European number of Community initiatives. The Cohesion Report
Structural Fund support, it is difficult to demarcate also points in this direction. In this context the Com-
areas for assistance within cities in any meaningful way mittee of the Regions welcomes the proposals put
because the problems in many districts can only be forward in Agenda 2000 for reducing the number of
combated effectively by measures in other, more Community initiatives and concentrating the subjects
developed districts. Accordingly, it should be left up to involved and likewise welcomes the intention to set a
the local authorities to decide, on the basis of budgetary ceiling for the Community initiatives of 5 %
C 64/14 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 27.2.98

of the budget for the Structural Funds. There will, is to some extent the same thing. Areas are developing
however, need to be scope for assistance with structural an ever greater propensity to acquire their own person-
problems in certain sectors. The possibility should ality and position in relation to the world market, based
be looked at, particularly in Objective 1 regions, of on their potential. Future regulations should be framed
integrating the content of Community initiatives into in such a way as to make it possible to define the themes
objective support, with due attention to opportunities to be concentrated on (those offering the best prospects
for inter-regional cooperation. The same exercise could for achieving the objective of cohesion) at a later stage.
be carried out for areas falling under other objectives.
The Community initiatives would thus remain the main
structural policy instrument outside the objectives. The
new ‘generation’ of Community initiatives should in
particular address structural problems and embrace
cross-border, transnational and inter-regional cooper- 3.5.3. The Committee of the Regions feels that, in
ation. In this context care will have to be taken to gear view of the unacceptable level of unemployment in the
Community measures within the current EU States to Community, in the coming programme period particular
inter-regional cooperation programmes under Phare and attention should be paid to raising the employment
Tacis. The Phare/CBC and Tacis procedures should be impact of support and stepping up the use of resources
adjusted — at least in the case of transnational measures in innovative fields. In this context it is stressed once
in connection with the Structural Funds — to Structural again that European structural policy is above all
Fund procedures. designed to achieve long-term employment effects.
Rather, it must be ensured that its use contributes to the
creation of modern, competitive jobs.

3.4. Pilot projects

3.4.1. Pilot projects based on horizontal and trans- 3.5.4. Similar considerations apply to the promotion
national cooperation, with regional and local authorities of innovative and R&D measures. Experience demon-
working together in innovative areas, are of interest to strates the close correlation between successful inno-
the regions insofar as they lead to cooperation with vation and regional development. Successful innovation
more developed regions and the transfer of development is the driving force behind successful regional develop-
know-how. Such pilot projects are emphatically sup- ment and lasting improvements in the quality of life and
ported. standard of living. But these very innovative activities,
particularly high-value services, are confined to only a
few regions of Europe. It is of particular importance for
3.4.2. However the procedures and detailed arrange- progress in problem regions that R&D results obtained
ments are not transparent and the administrative work- in the development centres can be exploited. This will
load is often not justified by the result. The Committee facilitate the necessary structural change in problem
of the Regions would like to see this instrument radically regions and offer these regions the prospect of participa-
reformed and in particular transparent procedures estab- ting on an equal basis in the advantages of the internal
lished. market. Structural Fund support must in the future
continue to offer sufficient flexibility for the implemen-
tation of measures of this kind in the eligible areas.
Member States and regions have a special role to play
3.5. Content of support in implementation. The principle of partnership is
particularly valuable from this point of view.

3.5.1. The Committee of the Regions feels that the


principle of concentration should also be applied to the
contents of support. In so doing the growth profile of
European structural policy should be reinforced to
enable regions with the most acute problems to develop 3.5.5. The Committee of the Regions urges that,
their potential for productivity and as business locations given the importance of European environment policy,
to the greatest possible extent. At the same time, the concept of partnership should bring together not
projects designed to boost sustainable jobs must be only economic and social partners, but also partners
complemented and backed up by active labour-market from the environmental sector. The development of new
measures. environmental protection technologies will not only
open up new markets and thus create jobs. It will
be even more important to ensure that economic
3.5.2. With regard to concentration on certain the- development is not at the expense of an intact environ-
matic priorities, the regions should be given the oppor- ment. In particular the use of scarce resources must be
tunity to focus their programmes on targeted strategies. regulated in such a way that a balance is struck between
Thus for example, concentration on a problem such as economic and ecological efficiency and a contribution
the maritime economy would have a greater impact on made to sustainable development. The Committee of
the private sector than for example concentration on the Regions sees this as another important task for
infrastructure and employment in general, although this European structural policy.
27.2.98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 64/15

3.5.6. Bearing in mind the principle of territorial localities where the use of the Structural Funds is decided
cohesion, and in order not to promote strategically without consulting those involved, the success of projects
important sectors via the Structural Funds, the pro- is not guaranteed.
grammes must take account of land-use planning
requirements. Where practicable, cooperation and close
consultation between neighbouring regions is desirable. 3.6.3. The Committee of the Regions urges that the
principle of partnership be further strengthened, subject
to subsidiarity. At Member State level it should be
ensured that the instruments of European structural
policy are used on the basis of development plans or
3.5.7. The Committee of the Regions calls for the use action programmes drawn up and negotiated in the
of the Structural Funds to be concentrated in future on regions. This will promote the regional level as the
the following priority areas: regional infrastructure programming basis in each of the Member States in
and productive investment, measures to support and accordance with their internal distribution of responsi-
implement research, development and innovation, the bilities. In this way the early involvement of the regional
environment, access to the capital market and world players in the preparation of use of the Structural Funds
market for SMEs, adaptation of human capital to and the local effectiveness and acceptability of measures
economic change and support for endogenous develop- will be ensured. It would be a good idea to set up
ment potential, urban issues, agriculture and rural areas suitable institutions at regional level, where these do not
and equality of opportunity. already exist, and to bring the economic and social
partners into the process.

3.7. Programming procedures

3.6. Partnership 3.7.1. At the beginning of the current programme


period the possibility was offered of combining the
existing three programming steps on the basis of a single
programming document (SPD). The Committee of the
Regions believes that this can contribute significantly to
the simplification of the programming procedure. And
3.6.1. The Committee of the Regions believes that the practical experience accumulated confirms the Com-
the principle of partnership should already be applied mittee in its view. However experience also shows that
consistently when the programme basis of the use of there has been no noticeable simplification of the
resources is established provided this does not involve programming procedure; the three procedures have
the establishment of any new organizational bodies. merely been brought together in a single document.
This view is also confirmed in Agenda 2000. This is not
guaranteed under the present programming procedure, 3.7.2. Objective 1 resources have continued to be
although negotiations do take place between the Com- used on the basis of the three-stage procedure laid down
mission and the responsible institutions on the detailed in the regulation. The fact that most approvals were
arrangement for the use of the Structural Funds. But the granted only in the second half of 1994 shows that
negotiating period culminates in a legal document drawn simplification is urgently needed and that a way of
up by the Commission alone, which also determines to moving to a real single-stage procedure has to be found.
a considerable extent national and regional financial
contributions and rules. This does not suggest that the
use of Structural Fund support is determined on the 3.7.3. Against this background the Committee of the
basis of equal partnership. The Committee sees this as Regions suggests that the procedure be tightened up in
a clear breach of the principle of partnership. the following way, restricting programming to the
essential steps and leading to a genuine single-stage
procedure:

3.6.2. The responsible individuals at local level con- a) It is recommended that programme contents be laid
firm that partnership, in conjunction with national down in the form of a support contract, thus giving
rules governing responsibility, has led to active and suitable expression to the principle of partnership.
coordinated commitment on the part of those responsible The Committee of the Regions believes that the
in the regions. Community support is rendered more programme documents proposed in Agenda 2000
effective by the fact that regional players are involved can be taken on board in the form of a support
at an early stage in the preparation and implementation contract. A contract of this kind should first be
of measures. In this way the Community’s contribution drafted, effectively bringing together the existing
to regional development can be highlighted. For these regional development plan and the Community
reasons the principle of partnership is for the regional support concept; it would however be limited to
and local authorities a basic feature of European those points which were of real relevance to the
structural policy. Experience shows that in regions and implementation and objectives of support. This draft
C 64/16 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 27.2.98

should be drawn up by the local, regional and introduced by the Commission, the final balance sheet
national authorities and contain the following in respect of the individual funds is bound to remain
elements: unchanged even if single multiannual programmes are
drawn up.
— analysis of the support area in its overall eco-
nomic context; 3.7.5. Flexibility should give programme designers
and managers more room for manoeuvre when they
— definition of the strategic development objec- carry out programme initiatives. This will enable them
tives; to respond more effectively to the economic reality of
each region and will place more emphasis on the setting
— definition of the areas for support; of strategic priorities for the programme.

— definition of the rates of Community partici-


pation;
3.8. Additionality
— provisions on the budgetary arrangements for
use of the Structural Funds subject to subsidiarity;
3.8.1. The principle of additionality is one of the
main principles underlying use of the Structural Funds
— provisions on the impact of expenditure;
and it should be retained in the next programme period.
In some cases however additionality will have to be
— indicative allocation of resources; applied flexibly to take account of specific situations.
The Committee of the Regions stresses once again that
— provisions on the maintenance of Community the Structural Funds must in principle not be used to
policies and checks. balance public-sector budgets. The Committee also
stresses that conditionality of the Structural Funds along
This draft would be the negotiating basis for the use the lines of Article 104c of the EC Treaty, which
of resources. All necessary approvals would be is sometimes called for, would contradict this basic
included in this agreement. principle of support and would impede the progress of
development in the regions. The additional impact of
Community commitment would thus be called into
b) Practical implementation of Structural Fund finan- question.
cing would be on the basis of relevant national
and/or regional provisions. These are the relevant
administrative provisions, on the basis of which 3.8.2. The Committee of the Regions is in favour of
payment is made to eligible parties. The drawing up a radical simplification of the procedure for providing
of operational programmes is thus otiose. evidence of additionality.

c) The Committee of the Regions suggests that more


intensive use be made of the instrument of global 3.9. Multiannual approach
subsidies, particularly in cases where the Com-
munity’s participation does not exceed ECU 50 milli-
on. The detailed arrangements and duties of the Use of the Structural Funds is based on the programme
management body would be separately agreed. period. This gives eligible regions and recipients of
Global subsidies are at present used in only a very subsidies planning and financing certainty. This system
few cases. The Committee of the Regions calls on has proved itself and should be retained. The Committee
the Commission to step up use of this instrument. of the Regions recommends that the programme period
be extended in all cases to six years. The system whereby
measures end two years after the end of the programme
3.7.4. The Committee of the Regions welcomes the period should remain unchanged.
EU Commission’s proposal to make provision for only
one multiannual programme per region in the Objectives
1 and 2 regions during the new programme. This
measure is welcomed as a step in the right direction. 3.10. Forms of support
Attention should, however, be paid to ensuring that this
measure does not merely comprise a formal combination
of existing measures (in the case of Objective 1: the 3.10.1. The regulations provide for a broad, in the
regional development plan, the Community aid plan Committee’s view sufficiently broad, spectrum of forms
and the operational programme) but involves real of support with equal status. The Committee would like
administrative simplification. The Commission docu- to see this feature retained in the next programme
ment fails to make any observations on improved period. In accordance with the principles of partnership
coordination and harmonization by the Commission of and subsidiarity however it should be left up to the
administrative procedures which have hitherto brought eligible region to select the most suitable form of
about considerably increased expenditure when the support. A key question in making this selection must
funds have been integrated at regional and project level. be the form of support or combination of forms which
Until such time as the necessary preconditions are best meets the needs of regional and local operators.
27.2.98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 64/17

3.10.2. The Committee of the Regions would like to approach, particularly with a view to coordinating
see more intensive use made of public-private partnership within a single region measures carried out under
in the coming programme period. It recommends how- different objectives. It is accordingly in favour of
ever that the consequences of this be analysed in detail. promoting widespread use of integrated management of
The Committee points out that the interests of private different general objectives — in those areas in which
and regional operators may well differ and that this they exist — by means of a single multi-annual regional
could stand in the way of the implementation of such programme for the area concerned, in line with a
partnerships. Where there would be advantages for the comprehensive medium and long-term regional develop-
development of the region, those responsible should ment strategy that accommodates the specific needs and
have the opportunity to make use of this form of features of each region. The Committee concurs with
financing. In order to make structural policies more the criticisms of the current procedure and calls on the
efficient and to promote the multiplier effect possible departments of the Commission first of all to coordinate
incentives for the participation of the private sector in the procedures internally and to prepare within the
the financing of projects, particularly infrastructure Commission for the establishment of an effective inte-
projects, should be investigated. grated approach by the beginning of the next programme
period. The necessary revision of internal administrative
procedures should be tackled by the departments in the
3.10.3. The current regulations allow the Community near future.
to contribute up to 75 % of total costs and generally
at least 50 % of public expenditure for measures in
Objective 1 regions. This is in recognition of the fact
that the heaviest co-financing burdens cannot be placed
on the poorest regions of the Community. The Com- 3.12. Prior assessment, monitoring and ex-post evalu-
mittee of the Regions considers it essential that this ation
scope be retained in the coming programme period as a
tangible expression of solidarity. However, for consis-
tency with the principle of additionality and good use
of public funds, grant rates should be the minimum
amount necessary to enable a project to proceed. 3.12.1. It is beyond dispute that the use of the
Structural Funds must be subject to intensive monitoring
and assessment. It is in the interests of Europe’s citizens
that value for money should be created with the help of
the Structural Funds. It is also in citizens’ interests that
3.11. Integration the financial control instruments be strictly applied in
order to counter effectively any abuse of Structural Fund
resources. The Committee of the Regions therefore
recommends that, bearing in mind the cost-benefit
3.11.1. The integration of the funds must be seen in relationship, evaluation and monitoring in future also
conjunction with restructuring of the objectives referred be regarded as an expression of partnership. Experience
to above and the simplification of procedures. has, however, shown that the current evaluation pro-
cedures are exceptionally complex. The reporting
requirements are also constantly increasing. Hence
streamlined monitoring arrangements should be devised.
3.11.2. Fund administrators are virtually unanimous The Committee of the Regions calls for the reports to
that integration of the funds is a good way of carrying our concentrate on the drawing-up of compact information.
complex development measures of the kind conducted Necessary monitoring and evaluation measures should
under objective support and of exploiting existing be conducted in partnership by the Commission and the
synergies between the funds. In this way the efficiency eligible regions.
of the use of the funds can be increased.

3.11.3. However at project level the conditions are 3.12.2. The methodology of prior assessment, which
often not right for applying the integrated approach differs fundamentally in nature and objective from
with maximum efficiency. Rather, programmes need to ex-post evaluation, should be revised and reinforced.
be broken down if support under the specific aims of The aim is not so much to set targets, quantifiable in
the funds is to be at all possible. At the same time advance, as to carry out detailed forecasting with regard
the funds are subject to different and incompatible to the region in question in order to form an impression
implementing provisions, which impede effective inte- of trends, strengths and weaknesses in relation to
gration at project level. The introduction of the multi- globalization of the economy, and anticipating the
fund approach at the beginning of the new programme possible impact of the planned measures and projects.
period has significantly increased the administrative
burden in many eligible regions.
3.12.3. The monitoring committees are a visible
expression of the principle of partnership. The fund
3.11.4. The Committee of the Regions would like to administrators feel that the work of these committees
see Fund support carried out on the basis of an integrated has in principle proved its worth and resulted in intensive
C 64/18 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 27.2.98

programme monitoring. In order to improve this work However, great efforts will also have to be made in
further the monitoring committee should be given future to strengthen economic and social cohesion in
additional responsibilities, including decision-making Europe.
powers, particularly with regard to financial implemen-
tation. The responsibilities of the elected representatives
of the regions must not as a result be curtailed in 4.2. The COR would also stress that while the
contravention of democratic principles. Thus, changes basic approach of European structural policy must be
in the funds’ financial participation should no longer maintained, adjustments must be made to meet the
require the approval of the Commission in addition to challenges posed in particular by growing economic
that of the monitoring committee. Improvement is globalization and the forthcoming enlargement of the
urgently needed here, particularly as Commission Union.
decisions now take a considerable time, impeding the
speedy and smooth implementation of support. 4.3. The COR supports enlargement of the Union,
but would point out that solidarity within the Com-
munity and solidarity with the candidates for accession
3.12.4. In the framework of monitoring based on should not come into conflict in the process.
partnership the regulations provide for a mid-term
review of the progress of support in the regions to pave
the way for proposals for the further development 4.4. The COR calls for the swift implementation
of the programmes. The Committee of the Regions of economic and monetary union and reaffirms that
considers this a necessary measure in adapting support convergence policy should not clash with cohesion
to changed economic and social conditions. However, policy.
the mid-term review should be carried out in line with
the principles of economy and efficacy. 4.5. In the light of these challenges it calls for a new
approach to European structural policy, drawing on the
experience gained in the current programme period and
3.12.5. Ex-post evaluation makes it possible to draw permitting a bolder strategy, stricter application of the
conclusions with regard to use of Structural Fund criteria and greater procedural flexibility.
resources. It should be adapted in line with the proposals
on prior assessment.
4.6. The COR therefore thinks that the following
adjustments should be made to European structural
3.12.6. The usefulness of the information obtained is policy for the period after 1999:
at present limited. The provisions on the use of resources
mean that meaningful data become available only when 4.6.1. Structural policy’s share of the Community
projects have been concluded. But this extends two years budget (Union GNP) and the resources of the individual
into the new programme period, making it impossible funds and objectives should not be allowed to fall in
for the results of ex-post evaluation to be usefully real terms below the level reached in 1999.
included in the preparations for the new programme
period. 4.6.2. Funding should be focused on the most needy
regions and the most serious problems by redefining the
objectives:

3.13. Payments a) establishment of a territorial objective for assisting


regions whose development lags behind, based on
the strict application of the geographical delimitation
indicators used for the current Objectives 1 and 6.
The Committee of the Regions urges the European Priority is to be given to support for these regions;
institutions to move to a regionalized system of pay-
ments, as [under the existing system] in some Member
b) establishment of a territorial objective for supporting
States payments to individual regions are dependent on
structural change in industrial regions, urban popu-
developments in all the other regions of the Member
lation centres and rural areas;
State. The Committee is convinced that this would be
conducive to sound management of the Funds, as there
would be no dependence on developments in other c) establishment of a horizontal objective for sup-
regions. porting the adaptation of workers to economic
change, for increasing employment and for reinteg-
rating the unemployed.

4.6.3. The content of support should be geared to


4. Conclusions regions’ potential for development and their potential
as business locations as well as their specific features.

4.6.4. The partnership principle should be developed


4.1. The Committee of the Regions acknowledges further, leading to the establishment of a truly equal
the benefits of European structural policy to date. partnership. A support contract should be concluded
27.2.98 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 64/19

between the Commission, the Member States and the 4.6.6. The choice of the optimum forms of assistance
recipient regions as the basis for the funding, and should be left to the recipient regions within the
the powers of the monitoring committees should be framework of the funds available. Higher rates of
extended. assistance should be provided in future for regions
whose development is lagging behind.

4.6.5. The programming procedure should be rad- 4.6.7. Payments should be regionalized in all Member
ically simplified and made into a single-stage procedure. States in order to provide incentives for efficient fund
The support contract to be drafted by the Member management at regional level.
States and recipient regions should be confined to the 4.6.8. The new generation of Community initiatives
analyses and definitions required to implement the should be streamlined by concentrating on innovative,
assistance. The practical implementation of the funding cross-border and interregional sectors which help pro-
should be based on national/regional provisions. It is mote structural improvements, and basing the initiatives
also necessary to strengthen the role of the subnational on the programmes for objective areas wherever possible.
level as a basis for programming in the Member States. The administrative procedures for the pilot projects
In those areas in which they co-exist, there should be should also be simplified and made more transparent.
widespread use of integrated management of different
general objectives by means of a single multi-annual 4.6.9. The Committee of the Regions calls on the
regional programme for the area concerned, in line Commission to present drafts for amending the Structur-
with a comprehensive medium and long term regional al Fund regulations by the beginning of 1998 at the
development strategy that accommodates the specific latest, and reserves the right to issue further opinions in
needs and features of each region. the light of the proposals made.

Brussels, 19 November 1997.

The Chairman
of the Committee of the Regions
Pasqual MARAGALL i MIRA