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2010 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 117 E/65

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Green Paper on territorial cohesion and debate on the future reform of the
cohesion policy

European Parliament resolution of 24 March 2009 on the Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion and
the state of the debate on the future reform of cohesion policy (2008/2174(INI))

(2010/C 117 E/11)

The European Parliament,

— having regard to the Commission's fifth progress report of 19 June 2008 on economic and social
cohesion - Growing regions, growing Europe (COM(2008)0371) (Fifth Progress Report),

— having regard to the Commission Green Paper of 6 October 2008 on Territorial Cohesion – Turning
territorial diversity into strength (COM(2008)0616) (Green Paper),

— having regard to the Commission staff working document of 14 November 2008 on Regions 2020 – an
assessment of Future Challenges for EU Regions (SEC(2008)2868) (Commission Report on Regions

— having regard to Articles 158 and 159 and Article 299(2) of the EC Treaty,

— having regard to the Commission's fourth Report of 30 May 2007 on Economic and Social Cohesion

— having regard to the Territorial Agenda of the EU - Towards a More Competitive and Sustainable Europe
of Diverse Regions (Territorial Agenda) and the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities (Leipzig
Charter), and the First Action Programme for the implementation of the Territorial Agenda,

— having regard to its resolutions of 21 February 2008 on the fourth report on economic and social
cohesion (1) (resolution on the Fourth Progress Report), of 21 February 2008 on the follow-up of the
Territorial Agenda and the Leipzig Charter: Towards a European Action Programme for Spatial Devel­
opment and Territorial Cohesion (2), and of 21 October 2008 on governance and partnership (3),

— having regard to the report by the European Spatial Planning Observatory Network (ESPON) entitled
‘Territorial Futures – Spatial scenarios for Europe’ (the ESPON report) and to the report of Parliament
entitled ‘Regional Disparities and Cohesion: what Strategies for the Future?’,

— having regard to the conclusions of the Conference on territorial cohesion and the future of cohesion
policy held in Paris on 30 to 31 October 2008,

— having regard to its resolution of 28 September 2005 on the role of territorial cohesion in regional
development (4),

— having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

— having regard to the report of the Committee on Regional Development (A6-0083/2009),

(1 ) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2008)0068.

(2 ) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2008)0069.
(3 ) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2008)0492.
(4 ) OJ C 227 E, 21.9.2006, p. 509.
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Tuesday 24 March 2009

A. whereas the Lisbon Treaty, which enshrines territorial cohesion as among the fundamental objectives of
the European Union alongside economic and social cohesion, has not yet been ratified by all Member

B. whereas the concept of territorial cohesion has been implicit in cohesion policy since its inception and at
the core of its development; whereas the Lisbon Treaty and the Green Paper have made that concept
more visible and explicit,

C. whereas the EU cohesion policy remains an essential pillar in the process of European integration and
one of the most successful EU policies, by facilitating convergence between increasingly diverse regions
and stimulating growth and employment; whereas the EU cohesion policy is the most visible, tangible
and quantifiable expression of European solidarity and equity, and whereas territorial cohesion, as an
integral part of the EU cohesion policy, is based on the same principles,

D. whereas, despite significant progress made in terms of convergence in the European Union, the most
recent cohesion reports highlight a trend towards worsening territorial disparities between EU regions,
for instance in terms of accessibility, in particular for the structurally disadvantaged EU regions, but also
at an intra-regional level and within EU territories, which could lead to spatial segregation and widen the
differences in the levels of prosperity of the EU regions,

E. whereas the EU cohesion policy has already been successful in creating some important synergies with
other EU policies with the aim of increasing their impact on the ground and for the benefit of citizens of
the Union and whereas, for example, synergies between cohesion policy and research and innovation or
the Lisbon Strategy, and synergies at cross-border level, have delivered tangible positive results that must
be confirmed and expanded,

State of the debate about the future of the EU cohesion policy

1. Endorses the main conclusions of the public consultation on the future of EU cohesion policy, as
presented in the Fifth Progress Report; is satisfied by the great interest that different stakeholders in the field
of regional policy, in particular local and regional authorities, have already attached to that debate;

2. Welcomes the fact that those conclusions correspond to a very large extent to the view expressed in
its resolution on the Fourth Progress Report; recalls that that resolution represented Parliament' first
contribution to the public debate;

3. Observes that the views expressed in its resolution on the Fourth Progress Report include the
following recommendations: first, that any attempt for re-nationalisation should be rejected and that
there should be a commitment to a single, flexible EU policy, capable of adapting to the most appropriate
scale of intervention, which should also be in a position to address common challenges such as global­
isation, climate change, demographic change (including ageing, migration and depopulation), poverty, and
energy supply; second, a strong belief that the EU cohesion policy should cover all EU regions, including
those with special geographical characteristics, and should import added value for everyone; third, that there
is a need to set priorities in the spending of EU structural policies and actions and the endorsement, with
reservations, of an ‘earmarking’ exercise; and fourth, that there is a need for synergies and an integrated
approach between the different sectoral policies in order to achieve the optimal result for growth and
development on the ground;

4. Believes that territorial cohesion is a central pillar for achieving the objectives pursued by the EU
cohesion policy, by reinforcing both economic and social cohesion; stresses that territorial cohesion
contributes effectively to closing the development gaps between but also within Member States and
regions; considers, therefore, that the future reform of EU regional policy should incorporate the conclusions
of the debate on the Green Paper;
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Tuesday 24 March 2009

Assessment of the Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion

5. Welcomes the Commission's adoption of the Green Paper, in response to Parliament's long-standing
demand; fully endorses the decision to proceed with the analysis of ‘territorial cohesion’, which has long
been at the forefront of any debate on regional policy, notwithstanding the fact that the Lisbon Treaty has
not yet been ratified;

6. Considers, however, that the Green Paper lacks ambition to the extent that it fails to propose either a
clear definition of or an objective for territorial cohesion and does not advance significantly the under­
standing of that new concept, so that it can effectively contribute to the alleviation of disparities between
regions; regrets, moreover that the Green Paper does not explain how territorial cohesion will be integrated
into the existing framework of cohesion policy or with what methodological tools or resources it will be
transformed from a framework of principles into operational mechanisms to be applied on the ground
during the next programming period;

7. Welcomes the analysis in the Green Paper which defines three key concepts that should be central to
the development of territorial cohesion: concentration, connection and cooperation; considers that those
concepts can contribute to the solution on some basic obstacles that hinder the harmonious, balanced and
sustainable development of the European Union, such as the negative effects associated with the concen­
tration of economic activity, in particular in certain national and regional capitals, the inequalities in terms
of access to markets and services that result from distance or concentration, lack of infrastructure, and the
divisions that are imposed by boundaries between Member States but also regions;

8. Considers that the Green Paper does not take due account of the commitments made in the Territorial
Agenda and the Leipzig Charter, which give territorial cohesion a strategic and operative vision, in particular
as regards the polycentrism principle or the new urban-rural partnership; considers that those objectives
need to be central to the debate on territorial cohesion;

9. Welcomes the launching of the public consultation on territorial cohesion, as requested in the Green
Paper; considers that the success of any public consultation is directly linked with the widest possible
participation of the different stakeholders and civil society; calls on the competent national, regional and
local authorities to disseminate, without delay, the relevant information, in order to raise awareness about
the importance of this new concept;

10. Considers the coordination of all sectoral EU policies that have a strong territorial impact to be
central to the development of territorial cohesion and the reinforcement of economic and social cohesion;
regrets, therefore, that the relevant analysis in the Green Paper is confined to listing those EU policies
without suggesting ways of improving synergies between them or even methods by which, in fact, to
measure the territorial impact of those policies;

11. Agrees with the approach of not including any references to possible budgetary and financial
implications of territorial cohesion in the Green Paper or in the public debate; considers that such an
analysis would be premature until the concept itself is clearly defined and understood by all stakeholders;
considers, however, that any discussion on this issue is inseparable from the whole process of negotiating
and planning the future EU cohesion policy; requests that the outcome of that debate will serve as the basis
for the next financial framework;

12. Considers that the existence of a strong and well-financed EU regional policy is an indispensable
condition for tackling successive enlargements and for achieving social, economic and territorial cohesion in
an enlarged European Union;
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Tuesday 24 March 2009

Analysis of the concept of territorial cohesion

13. Endorses the position of the Green Paper that territorial cohesion, based on the principle of equal
opportunities, is about ensuring the polycentric development of the European Union as a whole, as well as
the balanced and sustainable development of territories with different characteristics and specificities while
also preserving their diversity; also endorses the view that territorial cohesion should ensure that citizens are
able to exploit to the full and develop the assets and potentials of their regions; places emphasis on the fact
that territorial cohesion is a horizontal concept that underpins the development of the European Union;
strongly believes that territorial cohesion should effectively contribute to closing the gaps between and
within the regions of the European Union and thus prevent the prospect of asymmetry; asserts that terri­
torial cohesion has both a land and a maritime dimension;

14. Believes that territorial cohesion is a distinct concept, which provides tangible added value to
economic and social cohesion and a solution to the growing challenges of the EU regions; stresses that
the three component parts of cohesion (economic, social and territorial) should be complementary and
mutually reinforcing, while maintaining distinct objectives within a single integrated concept; considers,
therefore, that there must be no hierarchy or trade-off between those component parts; stresses that
territorial cohesion should be introduced into the existing framework without causing the sectoral frag­
mentation of the EU cohesion policy;

15. Welcomes the conclusions of the ESPON report on future development scenarios for the European
territory until 2030, which bring tangible data in support of the policy debate on the shape of EU and
national policies, in orders to create the right instruments to meet new challenges having a major local or
regional impact such as demographic change, urban concentration, migratory movements, and climate
change, and to develop optimal conditions for a good quality of life for their citizens;

16. Emphasises that one of the main objectives of territorial cohesion is to ensure that progress and
growth generated in one specific territory should provide benefits for the whole region and across the
territory of the European Union; considers, in this respect, that excellence centres and clusters of research
and innovation may be one way of ensuring economic success, scientific discovery, technological inno­
vation, jobs and regional development, and calls for the strengthening of interaction and knowledge transfer
between those centres, universities, business organisations and individual businesses, including the smallest;
calls on the Commission to present an impact assessment analysing the effect of clusters and excellence
centres on surrounding areas;

17. Emphasises that the concept of territorial cohesion also embraces cohesion within territories and
proposes that priority be given to any policies that promote a genuinely polycentric development of
territories, in order to lessen the pressures on capital cities and encourage the emergence of secondary
poles; notes that this should also be a way to counter the negative effects of concentration for cities, such as
congestion, pollution, social exclusion and poverty, or the subsequent uncontrolled urbanisation that affect
the quality of life of citizens living there; considers that support for rural areas and the important role
played by small and medium-sized towns located in rural areas should not be overlooked in that regard;

18. Emphasises the vital contribution of the internal market to economic, social and territorial cohesion;
stresses the importance of public services in relation to sustainable economic and social development as well
as the need for socially and regionally equitable access to services of general interest, in particular education
and health services; emphasises, in this respect, that guaranteeing ‘equitable access’ does not simply involve
geographical distance but also availability and accessibility of those services and takes the view, in light of
the principle of subsidiarity and of EC competition law, that responsibility for defining, organising, financing
and monitoring services of general interest should rest with the national, regional and local authorities;
considers, however, that a reflection on the equitable access for citizens to services should be included in the
debate on the territorial cohesion;
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19. Notes that the Green Paper acknowledges the great development challenges of three particular types
of regions with specific geographical features: mountainous regions, island regions and sparsely populated
regions; without diminishing the significant role that territorial cohesion can play in addressing the
problems of those regions, expresses the view that territorial cohesion should not be a policy exclusively
directed towards regions with geographical handicaps; considers, however, that special consideration should
be given on how to offset their handicaps and enable them to convert regional potential into assets and real
opportunities and stimulate development, which is vital for the European Union as a whole;

20. Notes also that other regions face specific policy challenges in terms of economic and social devel­
opment, accessibility and competitiveness; those challenges include the outermost regions established in
Article 299(2) of the EC Treaty, border regions, peripheral regions, coastal regions, as well as regions
experiencing depopulation; considers, in particular, that the specific feature of remoteness should be
recognised as a particular geographical feature that calls for special policy considerations for those
regions; notes the specific challenges that the small island Member States, Cyprus and Malta, also face in
their development;

21. Believes that territorial cohesion should not be limited to the effects of EU regional policy on the
territory of the European Union, but should also focus on the territorial dimension of other sectoral EU
policies with a strong territorial impact; stresses, in the context of territorial cohesion, the importance of
improving synergies between the different EU policies in order to coordinate and maximise their territorial
impact on the ground; notes, however, that all EU policies will always keep their autonomy, and that this
process does not imply the subordination of one policy to another;

Recommendations for the future of territorial cohesion

22. Expects that a clear and sufficiently flexible definition of territorial cohesion should result from the
public consultation, which will be commonly agreed, shared and understood by all stakeholders on the
ground and provide clarity and transparency in regard to the concept; notes, in this respect, the proposal for
a definition put forward by the French Council Presidency; considers, however, that territorial cohesion must
be subject to the principle of subsidiarity in all areas; also believes that, in order better to define and
understand territorial cohesion, common definitions of concepts such as ‘territory’, ‘rural area’ and
‘mountain area’ should also be established;

23. Considers that a number of elements should be central to the future definition of territorial cohesion,
including the notion that territorial cohesion extends beyond economic and social cohesion and that its
horizontal nature and integrated approach encourages action across territories and boundaries; believes that
territorial cohesion aims at reducing disparities between Member States and regions and should ensure the
harmonious and sustainable development of geographical areas with different characteristics and specificities
by assessing how EU cohesion and other sectoral policies can be best tailored to their situation; stresses that
any future definition should also make clear that territorial cohesion should focus strongly on good
governance, also with regard to partnership between public, private and civil society players, providing
citizens of the Union with fair opportunities in terms of living conditions and quality of life;

24. Strongly urges the Commission to proceed with the publication of a White Paper on territorial
cohesion, following the end of its consultation process; believes that a White Paper would be instrumental
in clearly defining and consolidating the notion of territorial cohesion and its added value for cohesion
policy, and would propose concrete provisions and policy actions in order to help solve the growing
problems that EU regions are facing, which should subsequently be introduced in the post-2013 legislative
package on Structural Funds and the related financial framework; believes that an initial statement on
possible budgetary and financial implications of territorial cohesion should also be included in such a
White Paper;

25. Welcomes the publication of the Commission Report on Regions 2020; calls on the Commission to
incorporate the findings and analyses of that working document into its White Paper on Territorial
Cohesion, in particular in connection with the description of economic, social and territorial cohesion;
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Tuesday 24 March 2009

26. Considers that the three concepts of concentration, connection and cooperation, on which the Green
Paper's analysis on territorial cohesion was based, need to be further developed and translated into concrete
policy options; urges the Commission to explain how those concepts will be integrated into the post-2013
legislative framework;

27. Calls for a significant reinforcement of the European Territorial Cooperation Objective for the next
programming period; is convinced of the added value to the European Union of that objective, not least
because of the direct involvement of regional and local authorities in the planning and implementation of
the relevant programmes of cross-border, trans-national and interregional cooperation; considers, however,
that this should not be done to the detriment of the other two objectives; to that end, also stresses the
importance of the integrated development of sea basins as well as the cross-border dimension and the
relevant operational programmes of the European Neighbourhood Policy, which is particularly significant in
view of future EU enlargements;

28. Is of the opinion that territorial cohesion should develop as a horizontal principle and should
underpin all EU policies and actions; believes that the evolution of the principles of sustainable development
and environmental protection should serve as an example for how to integrate territorial cohesion in the
future development of all relevant EU policies, as it must appear in all policy areas connected with cohesion;
considers, however, that the horizontal dimension of territorial cohesion should not result in its limitation
to a generalised, abstract framework of values; calls on the European Union to take all the necessary
initiatives to translate territorial cohesion into legislative and policy proposals;

29. Recalls the importance of mainstreaming the gender perspective, equal opportunities and the special
needs of persons with disabilities and senior citizens at every stage in the implementation and assessment of
the EU cohesion policy;

30. Stresses the need to elaborate, in the context of territorial cohesion, additional qualitative indicators
with the purpose of better designing and implementing the corresponding policies on the ground, taking
into account the different territorial specificities; calls on the Commission, therefore, to draw up, without
delay, the necessary studies and to develop the possibility of defining new, reliable indicators and the way in
which they are to be integrated into the system for assessing regional disparities;

31. Notes that GDP has been the only criterion for determining the eligibility of regions under Objective
1 (Convergence), while other indicators can already be employed for regions eligible under the Regional
Competitiveness and Employment Objective; stresses its concern at the fact that the undeniable increase in
convergence between countries often masks the increasing number of differences between and within
regions, and on that ground insists on the need for in-depth consideration of the merit of GDP as the
main criterion regarding eligibility from the Structural Funds;

32. Considers that the problem of intra-regional disparities within NUTS II regions can be better
observed at the NUTS III level; calls on the Commission, therefore, to examine the extent to which the
problem of the internal disparities within NUTS II areas can be countered in the future by also defining
assisted areas at the NUTS III level; stresses, in the context of territorial cohesion, the importance for the
Member States to determine which territorial unit corresponds to the appropriate level of intervention
during the designing and implementation of Structural Funds programmes; recommends, for this
purpose, a spatial analysis of the entire EU territory at the beginning of each programming period;

33. Believes that in order better to coordinate the territorial impact of sectoral EU policies, there needs to
be a better understanding and measurement of those impacts; urges the Commission, therefore, to proceed
with a territorial impact assessment of those policies, and to extend the existing impact assessment
mechanisms, such as the Strategic Environmental Assessment, to territorial aspects; calls on the Commission
also to present concrete ways of creating synergies between those territorial and sectoral policies and to
proceed with an assessment of the contribution of Lisbon-Gothenburg strategies on territorial cohesion;
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34. Reiterates its long-standing request for the development of a comprehensive EU strategy for regions
with specific geographical features, which will enable them better to address the problems and challenges
that they are facing; believes that an EU strategy should emphasise the territorial dimension of cohesion
policy and be concerned on how to adapt EU policies to the specific needs and assets of those territories;
stresses that the implementation of such a strategy is an essential condition for the economic and social
development of those territories; believes that the elaboration of new indicators for the purpose of better
describing the situation and problems on the ground is very important for the successful implementation of
an EU strategy in this field;

35. Stresses, however, that the elaboration of additional indicators and the conduct of territorial
assessments should not lead to more bureaucracy or further delays in the implementation of new
policies and actions in support of territorial cohesion; stresses the need for direct results resulting from
the incorporation of territorial cohesion in the next set of Structural Funds programmes;

36. Recalls the important role played by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and micro enter­
prises as well as craft businesses in economic, social and territorial cohesion and points to their importance
for enhancing competitiveness and employment in the regions; therefore, invites the Commission to carry
out a specific analysis of the impact and effectiveness of the Structural Funds and EU policies aimed at SMEs
in the regions, as well as of the administrative and financial difficulties encountered by those SMEs;

37. Calls on the Commission, the Member States and the regions, furthermore, to pursue an active policy
that supports innovation and competitiveness of enterprises and allows for mutual cooperation between
businesses, the public sector, schools and universities, and to ensure that organisations representing SMEs
can participate directly in defining territorial policies;

38. Urges the Members States to intensify their efforts to meet the objectives of the heading 4 of the First
Action Programme for the implementation of the Territorial Agenda of the European Union in creating
knowledge on territorial cohesion and sustainable spatial planning, building perspectives and analysing
impacts and acknowledges the central role played by ESPON in this process;

39. Notes that climate change will have significant repercussions for territorial cohesion; requests that the
Commission proceed with an analysis of the negative effects of climate change in different regions, given
that the impact is expected to vary across the European Union; considers that territorial cohesion should
take due account of climate change objectives and stimulate sustainable development patterns in EU terri­
tories; acknowledges, however, that the fight against climate change should also largely be addressed in
other EU policies;

40. Notes with great interest that the Fifth Progress Report, for the first time, makes specific reference to
‘transition regions’, which are situated between ‘convergence regions’ and ‘competitiveness and employment
regions’; acknowledges the need to deal separately with those regions that are now scattered as ‘phasing in’
or ‘phasing out’ regions between the two Objectives; calls on the Commission, in the context of territorial
cohesion, to establish a more comprehensive system of gradual transitional assistance to regions that will
soon be above the 75 % GDP threshold, in order to provide them with a clearer status and more security in
their development; considers that a transitional system also needs to be established for Member States
dropping out of the Cohesion Fund;

41. Considers that taking an integrated approach will have a greater chance of success if the regional and
local authorities, as well as stakeholders, including economic, social and other partners in accordance with
Article 11 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 of 11 July 2006 laying down general provisions on
the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund (1), who can
provide an overall view and understanding of the needs and specificities of a given territory, are involved
from the beginning in the designing and implementation of the development strategies of each territory;
calls on the Commission to draw up guidelines to help Member States, as well as regional and local
authorities to implement the integrated approach in the most efficient way and to establish effective
partnerships in the development of future strategies for the territories concerned;

(1) OJ L 210, 31.7.2006, p. 25.

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Tuesday 24 March 2009

42. Recognises that territorial cohesion should lead to improved governance of cohesion policy; agrees
with the view that different territorial scales are needed for different problems and that, therefore, the
establishment of real partnerships between all the parties involved in regional and local development at EU,
national, regional and local level, is a precondition for the process of designing territorial cohesion and calls
on the Commission and the Member States to make all efforts to develop such a multi-level territorial
governance; considers that territorial cohesion should focus on identifying the appropriate territorial level
for addressing each policy or measure in a way that is as close as possible to the citizen;

43. Emphasises that EU policies, and more particularly the EU cohesion policy, have transformed
governance from an often centralised system into an increasingly integrated, multi-level system; calls on
stakeholders, public authorities and citizens to establish a formal system of territorial governance, based on
a multi-sectoral, territorial and bottom-up integrated approach, in order to respond in a coherent and
effective way to a single need of its citizens or users, in an area corresponding to this need; recalls, in
this respect, the successful experiences of EU initiatives, such as Urban I and Urban II for urban areas and
Leader in rural areas;

44. Recalls that problems in implementing structural policy are due in part to the excessive rigidity and
complexity of procedures and that, consequently, consideration should be given to simplifying those
procedures and clearly dividing responsibilities and competences between the European Union, the
Member States and regional and local authorities; considers that territorial governance will depend
strongly on the establishment of such clear rules; reiterates its call to the Commission to come forward
without delay with a set of concrete proposals to that effect;

45. Recommends that, in light of the increasing importance that territorial cohesion has acquired in the
context not only of regional but also of other sectoral EU policies, the informal structures that have long
been governing territorial cohesion and spatial planning in the Council should be replaced by formal
ministerial meetings, which should convene the Ministers responsible for regional policy in the European
Union; believes that such an institutional development in the Council would ensure a better flow of
information as well as the rapid development of the territorial cohesion policy;

46. Urges the Member States to start reflecting now on how better to consolidate and implement the
notion of territorial cohesion in their national programmes and policies; considers, in this context, that the
basic principles of polycentric development and urban-rural partnership, as well as the full implementation
of Natura 2000 should already be integrated in their regional planning;

* *

47. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.