EU regional funds are among the key tools in putting areas worst hit by the economic crisis back on the road to recovery. In a resolution adopted on Tuesday, MEPs stress that more flexible access to these funds would give a decisive push towards sustainable growth and jobs, allowing regions to benefit from greater investment in infrastructure, support for small businesses and modernisation of industrial and rural sectors.
In the resolution, drafted by Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (EPP, EL), MEPs emphasise that in times of economic slowdown "EU regional policy is a key delivery instrument": it contributes to the European Economic Recovery Plan, constitutes the largest EU source of investment in the real economy and provides notable support for public investment, including at regional and local level.
EU funds most needed in regions worst hit by the crisis
The resolution stresses the importance of maintaining and improving EU aid to "Objective 2" regions: areas facing economic difficulties as a result of profound structural economic change (industrial areas with high unemployment, rural areas with population decline, poorer urban areas with high unemployment and crime rates, and fishing regions). In the period 2007-2013, EU support for the economic development of these areas will amount to €54.7 billion and benefit 314 million people in 168 regions.
With EU aid, these regions' productivity and employment rates have improved steadily, catching up on EU averages. But the economic crisis has hit them hard, exacerbating their disadvantages.
Flexibility of funds must continue
MEPs therefore call for greater flexibility in the allocation of EU funds to help regions face the special challenges posed by the crisis, particularly in Objective 2 areas. Recent measures aimed at speeding up the implementation of cohesion policy programmes are a step in the right direction, they say.
On 5 May, Parliament backed faster and simplified procedures and requirements for the European Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund and Cohesion Fund, to boost economic recovery of regions (see press release below).
Support for small businesses
MEPs welcome EU support measures for small and medium-sizd companies under the cohesion policy (approximately €55 billion is allocated for business undertakings between 2007 and 2013). The measures, aimed at fostering innovation, technology transfer and the modernisation of SMEs, "must be targeted at long-term restructuring", not at "fire-fighting interventions for economic survival", the report states.
The resolution was adopted by 609 votes to 46, with 14 abstentions
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