Maltese rapporteur’s Cohesion Policy report approved
A document by Maltese rapporteur Stefano Mallia on the Cohesion Policy framework for the next seven years was approved during the EESC December plenary session.
The report was approved with 154 votes in favour, three against and three abstentions and is now the formal ‘opinion’ of the EESC on what is known as the Common Strategic Framework.
During the debate on the report, Mr Mallia criticised the EU Budget discussions which had just ended in a stalemate.
“It defies belief that in an effort to satisfy the demands for more funding for agriculture and for Cohesion Policy, EU President Herman Van Rompuy proposed obtaining the required funds by reducing them from key areas such as competitiveness, research and innovation and from the Connecting Europe Facility,” Mr Mallia said.
“This amounts to robbing Peter to pay Paul and if we really want the EU to achieve the goals set out in the Strategy 2020 and to start achieving growth again, then the EU must be given the required resources. Otherwise we can just pack up and leave.”
Mr Mallia’s report praised the approach being proposed by the Commission where it is calling for a close coordination of all the EU funds in an effort to achieve better results. The Commission is emphasising partnership, under which it is making it mandatory for governments to engage with social partners and civil society in the drawing up of the priorities for investment for 2014 to 2020.
Mr Mallia said partnership was important. While public consultation in the drawing up of the operational programmes has taken place, the Commission was giving it more importance in an effort to ensure that there is a bottom-up approach and that the real needs of the country are addressed.
The report also seeks to deliver a strong political message to the Commission and the European Council. While acknowledging the logic of linking Cohesion Policy to the EU growth strategy known as Strategy 2020, it was vital that the goal of Cohesion Policy which is that of achieving economic, social and territorial convergence, was not lost or diluted. The report emphasised that this goal must remain as the top priority for Cohesion Policy and that any dilution of such a goal “was unacceptable”.
Other aspects which were also addressed by the report were the continued need for simplification and reduced administrative burden when it came to managing and using the funds, the flexibility to propose country specific solutions and the need for a greater acknowledgement of the territorial dimension.
Addressing the plenary, Mr Mallia urged member states to reach an early agreement on the band to approve all the Cohesion Policy-related legislation to ensure that all is in place for the start of the new programming period in 2014.
Mr Mallia stressed it was vital that member states “hit the ground running in 2014 to be able to deliver projects as early as possible”.