Member-state governments are re-focusing the EU’s cohesion policy to boost workers’ qualifications, education and employability, the Commission said at the conclusion of negotiations on funds allocated for the 2007-2013 period.
In a Communication published at the close of negotiations, the Commission concluded that “discussions with member states, regions, partners and local actors demonstrated that the policy had acted as a catalyst for change”. “The added value of the negotiation process goes well beyond the financial resources,” the EU executive added.
Addressing journalists in Brussels yesterday (14 May), Regional Policy Commissioner Danuta Hübner said EU countries had taken a completely different approach to cohesion policy by putting competitveness and cohesion objectives on the same track. The statement echoes earlier ones by Hübner in Parliament last February, where she called for a re-orientation of cohesion policy to bring it in line with the EU’s so-called Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs.
Hübner said that 65% of cohesion funds were now being used to directly foster the Lisbon objectives. In more developed regions where basic needs such as transport infrastructure are covered, as much as 82% of funds are allocated to Lisbon-related objectives, she said. Cohesion policy contributes directly to the Lisbon objective of 3% of EU GDP to be spent on Research and Development by 2010 by directly allocating €86 billion to those kind of activities, she added.
Almost as much, namely €76 billion, is allocated to the European Social Fund (ESF), which aims to create jobs and make the European workforce and companies better equipped to face new challenges – also part of the Lisbon targets.
The Communication states that “as a result of the negotiation process, the quality of the programmes has improved substantially, and their content has become more closely aligned with major Community priorities”.
It also says that the extensive negotiating period had “provided a platform for designing effective regional or sectoral strategies to enhance growth, generate more and better jobs and improve financial and delivery mechanisms achieving a long-term impact and a more effective use of public funds”.