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15 Dec 2010


Regional Policy

Members of the European Parliament are stepping up the pressure on Commission and Council to clean up the EU's cohesion policy, voting overwhelmingly in favour of a report demanding better control mechanisms, simpler financial instruments and easier access to funds for small and medium sized businesses.

Structural and cohesion funding is at the core of EU policy to reduce disparities in terms of income, wealth and opportunities between Europe's regions. However, the 2009 Court of Auditors report is only one among many critical studies highlighting problems in the field of cohesion policy, which is due to be completely overhauled after 2013.

ALDE Regi coordinator Ramona Manescu MEP (Romania, PNL), who is leading the attempt to clean up cohesion funding with her own initiative report on good governance of EU regional policy, said:

"Even though all the evaluation reports on the implementation of the European funds during the last programming periods showed that we continue to face weak control systems for cohesion funding, complicated application processes and ineffective policy outcomes, the Commission and Member States are just blaming each other instead of tackling these issues and coming up with concrete solutions.

"In order to achieve an effective and efficient future cohesion policy, we need a simpler architecture for the Funds after 2013, a single audit model at all levels to avoid duplication of audits and over-control, the involvement of all relevant regional and local authorities, as real partners, from the very early stages of negotiations on EU legislation and programmes benefiting from the Structural Funds, and the simplification of financial instruments in order to make the EU funds more easily accessible to SMEs, which are the most flexible contributors to Europe's economy."

ALDE MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis (Germany, FDP), the EU Parliament's rapporteur on discharge of the 2009 budget criticises the continuous errors and fraud in the area of cohesion funding. He added:

"It is an absolute disgrace that an area as important as cohesion policy continues to fail to be properly audited and accounted for. I fully agree that we need to start focusing more on the effectiveness of our regional policies and programmes, namely assessing if the money spent reached its goals.

"According to the EU's Annual Accounts, some €7 719 million of cohesion funds were found to have been spent incorrectly since 1994, but as of 2009, only €709 million have been returned to the EU.

"If a large majority of Member States remains reluctant to produce compulsory national declarations, and continues to fail in setting up and conducting proper audit controls, the Commission should start naming and shaming."


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