Cohesion Policy on focus, EC consults on future challenges

The European Commission has published its 5th Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion, where it presents an extensive assessment of the economic, social and environmental situation and trends in EU regions and sets out a number of different options for adapting the policy post-2013. The conclusions put forward by this report will be the base for a public consultation on Cohesion Policy which will be open until 31 January 2011.

In the Fifth Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion, the European Commission details the progress made in these areas and how the EU, national and regional governments have contributed to it. The main issues covered by the report include the analysis of regional disparities, the contribution of the EU, national and regional governments to cohesion, the impact of  Cohesion Policy, as well as aspects about Cohesion Policy  after 2013.

Detailing priorities and targets to maximise impact of cohesion investments

The economic and financial crisis has underlined the need for a policy that invests in the competitiveness of all regions as well as continuing to support development in those lagging behind. Coinciding with the wider examination of total EU expenditure, the report stresses that future funding should focus on a limited number of priorities, in line with the goals set by Europe 2020 strategy.

Emphasising the benefits of designing funding to suit national and regional development needs, it opens a debate on how the overall architecture of cohesion policy can ensure that each fund contributes effectively to achieving Europe 2020's policy objectives. The report argues that cohesion policy planning and management cycles should be recast to ensure that these objectives are translated into investment priorities.

To do this, the Commission proposes establishing a comprehensive overall strategic framework detailing priorities, objectives, and the reforms needed to maximise the impact of cohesion investment. A contract between Member States and the Commission would flesh out how these would be met, building on the countries’ future National Reform Programmes. This would include the setting of clear and measurable targets and emphasise the importance of national coordination of funding from different EU sources to ensure effective delivery and visible results.

Another idea put forward is to offer incentives to make implementation of the cohesion programmes as efficient and ambitious as possible. A percentage of cohesion funding could be set aside and made available to national and regional authorities based on the quality, and progress, of the programmes they submit. The report also proposes ideas for simplifying the delivery system by reducing red-tape, and improving evaluation, performance and results through more effective target-setting.

Public consulatation on Conclusion of the Fifth Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion

The publication of the Fifth Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion marks the launch of a public consultation process on its conclusions which will run until 31 January, where all stakeholders including Member States, regions, cities, institutions, economic and social partners, civil society organisations, academics and citizens are invited to submit their views on the different questions raised in the conclusions of the Report. The responses received will be taken into account when drafting the legislative proposals to be presented immediately after the adoption of the new Multi Annual Financial Framework in 2011.