New Commission report presents first assessment of roll-out of European cohesion policy

€93 billion or 27 % of EU funding has been allocated to projects for investment in jobs and growth in Europe over the last three years, according to a report adopted today on the EU’s cohesion programmes for the 2007-2013 period.

Presented by Commissioners Johannes Hahn (Regional Policy) and László Andor (Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion), the report assesses, for the first time, the rate of progress of each country on delivering agreed EU objectives. It shows how well Member States aligned their programmes to EU goals of jobs and growth and contributes to an open debate on achievements and challenges of cohesion policy programmes. Furthermore the report calls on Member States to improve the implementation of programmes, to make optimal use of the cohesion money, for instance in the rail sector, key energy and environment projects and the field of social inclusion.

For Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Regional Policy,this report is a new feature for cohesion policy. It puts into practice our ambition to establish a robust system for the delivery of structural fund investments during the programming period. The global economic crisis has obviously had an impact upon implementation. However, the overall picture is positive. It shows cohesion policy is successful in investing in regions. Delivery of the agreed strategies is being put in place at a good pace, with progress in key sectors such as Research & Development and innovation particularly encouraging. Member States now have to move forward and improve the implementation of programmes.

According to László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, the training and up skilling offered by the European Social Fund to people looking for work is progressing and bearing fruit. But more can be done to help those hit hardest by the downturn. Member States need to step up investments, especially in the area of social inclusion and institutional capacity building so that they can run programmes effectively. The crisis has proven the relevance and value of the European Social Fund when we see that the measures most resorted to have been active labour market policies to get people into work.

Millions of Europeans and hundreds of thousands of enterprises benefit from the cohesion policy programmes. Based on national reports from the 27 Member States, the Commission’s report highlights important and timely messages on the potential of the Structural Funds to accelerate the exit from the economic crisis. It serves as a monitoring instrument, identifying the investment areas where action must be taken to speed up the selection and execution of projects co-financed under the programming period 2007-2013.

The bulk of cohesion policy resources (around €230 billion) have been earmarked for investment in the key areas of the growth and jobs agenda. While the report suggests that progress has been positive in important areas such as Research & Development (R&D), innovation, lifelong learning and active labour market policies, it also indicates that more should be done to accelerate project implementation in the rail sector, in key energy and environment investments, in the digital economy, and in support of social inclusion. The Commission calls on the Member States to target these priority areas, if necessary, by putting in place action plans to overcome the delays.

Despite the sharp deterioration in the socio-economic landscape between 2007 and 2009, the report indicates a strong commitment to the implementation of the programme aims established at the outset. On average across the EU, more than 27% of funding for the 2007-2013 period has already been allocated to specific projects - amounting to an investment of more than € 93 billion (see accompanying MEMO/10/115 for rates of project selection by Member State).

The report also contains an indicative selection of 40 project examples (see MEMO/10/115) to show the broad range of investment priorities. It makes a clear link between the implementation of the programmes, and the delivery of the Europe 2020 objectives to improve innovation performance and create a smarter, greener, more socially inclusive economy.

However the global economic crisis has obviously had an impact upon programme implementation. Many of the national reports cite this as a major factor complicating delivery. In response a number of changes were made to make programmes more responsive to the challenges created by the crisis (IP/09/1175). Many Member States have also opted to use the flexibility in their programmes to rebalance priorities where required, addressing new needs amongst businesses and the long-term and recently unemployed. As a result the flow of cohesion policy resources has remained broadly constant as Member States use the stability of EU resources to maintain and plan key investment, even during the economic crisis.

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