Plan to redirect regional funds to create jobs could undermine trust, MEPs warn

15 Feb 2012 11:42 AM
A Commission plan to channel up to €82 billion in uncommitted EU structural funds into schemes to create jobs for young people and support small firms could undermine trust in regional policy, because this is precisely what regional policy already aims to do, MEPs warned in a debate on Monday. The plan would use funds not yet allocated to specific regional policy projects.

“Growth and jobs are the overarching mission of the cohesion policy” but the way Commission presented its proposal was “worrying”, said Regional Development Committee Chair Danuta Hübner (EPP, PL), in a debate on an oral question to the Commission.

MEPs argued that the proposal created a false impression that cohesion policy was performing poorly – an impression that they heatedly rejected, noting that more than two thirds of regional policy funding had already been paid or legally committed.

Regions must have their say in reprogramming

While supporting initiatives to increase the take-up of funds, help small firms and fight youth unemployment, MEPs wondered how the Commission's approach could be implemented effectively since, as Commissioner Hahn admitted, “it is up to the Member States to say whether they want to adapt their programmes”.

MEPs also stressed that regions and other stakeholders must be fully involved, as they had legitimate hopes of receiving the remaining funding, which, under the Commission plan, could be diverted to other projects.

Ms Hübner will hold a press conference on this topic on Tuesday at 17.30h.

Background

Up to €22 billion in European Social Fund money (a third of its budget for 2007-2013) and up to €60 billion from regional and cohesion funds (a fifth of their 2007-2013 budget) have not yet been committed to specific projects, according to the Commission.

The Commission suggested that these funds could be redirected to support youth employment and small business support schemes if the Member States so wished.

This means that two years before the end of the programming period, 70% of ESF and 78% of ERDF and Cohesion Fund have either been paid or legally committed.

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