“We must strive to base our development on territorial characteristics, which is the building block of long-term competitiveness and sustainability,” said Minister for National Development Tamás Fellegi, in an interview to eu2011.hu, before the informal meeting of Ministers for Regional Development and Cohesion Policy in Gödöllo, on 19-20 May 2011.
During the informal meeting of Ministers for Regional Development in Gödöllo on 19 May, the Presidency hopes to finalise the revision of the Territorial Agenda of 2007, the cornerstone of the current regional development policy. What is the most important lesson of the past four years? In what respect should this policy field renew?
Europe is diverse, its regions have different economic, social, geographic, and cultural characteristics; but this diversity is also its greatest asset. The first Territorial Agenda adopted in 2007 changed our minds about raising the territorial dimension to a political scene.
One main task of the Hungarian Presidency was its evaluation and renewal. This was executed successfully, and the text of the new Territorial Agenda for the period 2010-2020 (TA2020), will be finalised till the end of March.
With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, territorial cohesion became a common competence of the Member States and the EU institutions. Therefore, the role of the new Territorial Agenda has also changed. The TA2020 is target-oriented, a strategy with deadlines which also determines the place of the territorial dimension in the network of the Europe 2020 strategy, cohesion policy and the various sectoral policies; and it also designates the main actors of the measures to strengthening territorial cohesion.
Among the many EU strategies (Europe 2020, Roma strategy, Danube strategy etc.), this new framework document set until 2020, seems a bit vague. Why is this important after all? Is it not just a new set of goals?
This new guideline adds valuable aspects to the framework of development policy and also facilitates the planning and execution of sectoral policies in a territorial aspect; it also contributes to the success of the Europe 2020 strategy as well.
Territorial cohesion is our common cause, which cannot be handled separately from any policy. Steps taken in order to highlight territorial aspects are of great importance for Europe’s balanced and sustainable development.
What tools are there to realise this? What will be considered as a result in 2020?
We must strive to base our development on territorial characteristics, which is the building block of long-term competitiveness and sustainability. Projects tailored to local characteristics will increase their acceptance, and decreases the chances that factors hindering their realisation will occur. This will make their execution more efficient, create a competitive edge, make resource outsourcing more efficient and contribute to the effective utilisation of EU resources. We hope that integrated development will be the keyword in development policy of the future.
On 20 May, the Ministers responsible for the Cohesion Policy meet in Gödöllo as well, and the future of the policy stands at the top of their agenda. The Hungarian Presidency has underlined several times that it does not wish to speak about the budgetary implications of this subject, but wishes only to declare that the EU needs this policy. The aforementioned aim had been achieved during the meeting of the General Affairs Council on 21 February. So what is the subject of this informal meeting now?
The highlighted aim of the Presidency is that the consultations move towards the facts, ensuring an adequate preparation for the new programming period starting from 2014. For this purpose, we are discussing the key issues in details at a political level.
The current meeting will be the last opportunity where we can provide the Commission with our opinions, concerning the preparation of its proposal on the Cohesion Policy after 2013. We have spared, and continue to spare no effort to promote an agreement before the beginning of the EU budgetary debate on the policy between those who are concerned.
The future Cohesion Policy must continue to serve economic growth, job creation and competitiveness, while the European principle of solidarity must also be preserved. The final aim is for the policy to become more successful, its bureaucratic processes more simple, its execution more effective and verifiable; and furthermore, its results should be measurable.
In the Council Conclusions adopted on 21 February, two new ideas appeared. What do the “thematic concentration of resources” and the “results-oriented approach” of the Cohesion Policy mean?
The global economic crisis, which started at the end of 2008 brought to light numerous structural weaknesses of the European economy, which in turn caused strong debates within the European Commission on the financing of the Cohesion Policy. The net payer Member States would direct the disposable resources primarily toward European economic growth, as opposed to the traditional efforts of the Policy, stressing solidarity and cohesion. Moreover, these same countries often question the visibility of its results. This is why the issue of results-orientation and effectiveness came to light.
Hungary considers it essential to strengthen the results-oriented approach of the Cohesion Policy in the planning stages, the programming and the implementation as well. In parallel, a greater role should be ensured on the measuring of the efficiency and the feedback. Of course, for this purpose we must clearly define the concept of efficiency, and we must determine the indicators by which it should be measured against.
As for the thematic concentration, the aim of it is to coordinate the Cohesion Policy with the Europe 2020 Strategy, and to ensure the critical mass necessary to the perceptible effect, during the specific interventions. For this purpose, the Member States and the regions would focus on more or less thematic objectives, depending on the volume of EU support. Member States and regions receiving less, should focus on two or three objectives; while others receiving more could choose more objectives. Certain objectives would be obligatory; however, this subject needs further detailed consultation.
One of the reasons of the creation of the Europe 2020 Strategy was the fact that Member States alone could not overcome challenges that struck all Europe, for example demographic changes. How can the supranational approach be reconciled with territorial aspects?
In this issue a divide runs between the net payers and the main beneficiaries expending on great infrastructural investments.
There is no doubt that the Cohesion Policy can contribute significantly to the efficiency of the competitive aims of the Europe 2020 Strategy. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the Cohesion Policy has its own aims - among those the catching up is the first. The competitiveness and the cohesion cannot be turned against each other, and by the effective cooperation of these two aims, focuses on the economic growth set forth, also by the Europe 2020 Strategy can be fully achieved.
What does the renewal of the Cohesion Policy mean for the tendering system? Is it possible that the withdrawal of the EU resources would be some kind of sanction for those Member States not accomplishing the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy?
During the elaboration of the incentives the participants unanimously refused the introduction of negative incentives, instead they support the positive encouragement. For example, the introduction of a performance reserve on the national level. (Note by the editors: The Commission proposed a performance reserve to be established at EU level. This means a limited share of the cohesion budget would be set aside and be allocated, during a mid-term review, to the Member States and regions whose programmes have contributed most - compared to their starting point - to the 2020 targets and objectives)
There is no doubt that the resources of the Cohesion Policy should be used in a more successful and more cost-efficient manner in the future. However, the impact of policy actions and investments should also be extended. The Hungarian Presidency will do its utmost to enforce these aspects during the distribution, the supervision and the inspection of the resources.