REGIONAL POLICY: EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT BACKS STRUCTURAL FUND PROPOSALS.

 
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In its motion, Parliament reiterates its funding demands, arguing that the Commission proposal to allocate euro 336.1 billion to the revised cohesion policy for 2007-2013 in an "absolute". MEPs do not want cohesion policy to serve as an adjustment variable in ongoing negotiations on the financial perspective. They are opposed to any significant modification of the general architecture of the draft General Structural Fund Regulation.

The resolution is strongly opposed to the re-nationalisation of EU cohesion policy, particularly the regional competitiveness and employment objective which is most at risk from the current negotiations on the financial perspective for 2007-2013. It also calls for regions falling naturally outside Objective 1 (regions lagging behind in development) to be eligible for the convergence objective for the next programming period without this leading to an increase in funds earmarked for these regions. Regions falling foul of the statistical effect (losing convergence objective status as a result of a virtual increase in wealth following the EU's enlargement), should receive funding of up to 85% of resources available to regions naturally eligible for the convergence objective from the start of the funding period, a percentage that should be cut to 60% by 2013.

Given the serious need for finance, the report calls for the possibility of reinvesting funds which have not been used according to the N+2 rules (grants which have not be used within two years of being awarded are lost). It also calls for a political solution and asks for a "special compensation mechanism" to be set up for those member states which have experienced substantial financial losses due to the new rules, and stresses the importance of the N+2 rule and supports the proposal for a Community reserve for performance as a "mechanism for rewarding progress". The notion of a national contingency reserve is not challenged, but MEPs feel it should operate on a voluntary basis and have called for more flexibility in its implementation.

Joining in the debate before the vote, Regional Policy Commissioner Danuta Hubner said she was totally opposed to relaxing the N+2 rule. New member states are also unanimously opposed. Mrs Hubner also feels the "good governance rule" should be applied after 2007 despite the difficulties that it might present for new member...

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