Council conclusions on the Fifth Report on economic, social and territorial cohesion

3068th GENERAL AFFAIRS Council meeting

Brussels, 21 February 2011

The Council adopted the following conclusions:

“The Council of the European Union,

1. RECALLING that the promotion of economic, social and territorial cohesion, and solidarity

among Member States are fundamental objectives of the European Union,

2. RECALLING the provisions of Article 175 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the

European Union according to which the European Commission (hereinafter referred to as

‘the Commission’) has to submit to the Council every three years a report examining the

progress made towards achieving economic, social and territorial cohesion, if necessary

accompanied by appropriate proposals,

3. RECALLING its conclusions of 14 June 2010 on the Strategic Report 2010 by the

Commission on the implementation of cohesion policy programmes,

4. WELCOMES the Fifth Report on economic, social and territorial cohesion (hereinafter

referred to as ‘Report’) issued by the Commission and ACKNOWLEDGES that cohesion

policy is the European Union’s main instrument for promoting overall harmonious

development across the Union, in particular by reducing disparities between the levels of

development of the various regions and already helped to improve the conditions of smart,

sustainable and inclusive growth within the European Union and TAKES NOTE of the

conclusions and proposals thereof, that provide a good basis for further discussions on the

future design and implementation principles of cohesion policy,

Achievements of cohesion policy

5. NOTES the Report’s findings that cohesion policy has proven its European added value as it

has made a marked contribution to the reduction of disparities among the regions, has

contributed to raising the level of GDP in the European Union as a whole and assisted the

enhancing of employment prospects,

6. UNDERLINES in this respect the contribution cohesion policy has made to the achievement

of the goals of the competitiveness and growth agenda of the European Union through

innovation and modernising the economy providing help to exploit the underutilised

potential of all regions and individual citizens, with a long term socio-economic

development perspective,

7. NOTES that at present cohesion policy intervenes in all regions covering the whole territory

of the European Union, concentrates the majority of its resources to the least developed

Member States and regions, and applies certain transitional regimes, ACKNOWLEDGES

that this has positive impact that benefits the whole of the European Union,

8. STRESSES the need for cohesion policy and all its funds to continue pursuing the objectives

of reducing the disparities between the levels of development of the various regions and the

backwardness of the least developed regions, as well as promoting overall harmonious

development and economic, social and territorial cohesion of the European Union and

NOTES that this can only be achieved in a sustainable way, taking into account the

challenges, needs and potentials i.e. starting points of each of the addressed regions and

Member States, and the available means of the European Union,

Cohesion policy and the Europe 2020 Strategy

9. UNDERLINES that the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy can only be achieved in a

sustainable manner if disparities between the levels of development in the European Union

continue to be reduced,

10. STRESSES that while pursuing the above objectives cohesion policy shall take due account

of the main drivers of growth as set out in the Europe 2020 Strategy, its headline targets and

its flagship initiatives in order to ensure that policy actions generate sustainable and

meaningful results over the long term, and RECALLS that cohesion policy through its

unique multi-level governance structure is in a position to provide positive incentives and

assistance to ensure the ownership of Europe 2020 objectives at local and regional levels,

11. EMPHASIZES that all common policies including cohesion policy have to contribute to the

achievement of the Europe 2020 Strategy in a complementary and mutually supportive

manner which will ensure synergies between the policy’s own aims as laid down in the

Treaty and those of the overarching Europe 2020 Strategy and UNDERLINES to this regard

the importance of co-ordination between cohesion policy and other relevant European Union


Strategic and integrated approach

12 WELCOMES therefore the reinforcement of strategic programming proposed by the

Commission with a view to strengthening synergies among European Union, national,

regional and local policies and NOTES that this shall take place within a reinforced

partnership and close dialogue between the Commission, Member States, regions and local

authorities, as appropriate,

13. BELIEVES that a common strategic framework has the potential to ensure greater

complementarity, coordination, coherence and synergies among the different Funds of

cohesion, rural development and fisheries policies,

14. INSISTS that, while taking into consideration the different nature of their measures, the

European Social Fund, the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund

have to work together in a more integrated and flexible manner in order to increase their

effectiveness in pursuing the goals of economic, social and territorial cohesion,

15. CALLS UPON the Commission to consider all options in that respect, including making

available the possibility of multi-fund programmes for Member States and regions that wish

to use them, when proposing the most effective arrangements for the next programming



16. STRESSES that there is a need to concentrate our efforts on a limited number of priorities in

order to achieve a critical mass and maximise the impact and the visibility of cohesion

policy investments as well as help to reinforce European added value,

17. NOTES however that this thematic concentration should be sufficiently flexible to take due

account of specific national, regional and local needs and potentials in order to allow for the

greatest effectiveness and ownership, thus have to be a result of negotiations between

Member States at the appropriate level and the Commission in compliance with the

principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, so that Member States and regions are given

enough flexibility to select priorities and draw up appropriate policy mixes, including, as

underlined in the conclusions of the European Council of 25-26 March 2010, the possibility

to finance infrastructure and capacity building, where relevant,

18. STRESSES therefore that the distribution of cohesion policy resources among priorities and

thus the appropriate funding volume of the different Funds has to be decided by the

appropriate authorities in Member States in partnership with the Commission,


19. ACKNOWLEDGES that in order to further enhance the effectiveness of the policy,

a. a common understanding of performance, including a methodology of its assessment

established in advance is necessary,

b. this requires strong and dedicated focus on the actual outcomes and results of the

policy underpinned by the improvement of current evaluation, monitoring and

indicator systems, concentrating on a limited number of well-defined, easily

measurable targets and a limited set of core indicators, without increasing the overall

burden of reporting,

c. programme-design and efficient institutional frameworks are very important in this

respect, while making sure that administrative burden remains as limited as possible,


20. UNDERLINES that further improvement of the implementation mechanisms, including

future legislative provisions, of the policy needs to be made on the basis of experiences

already accumulated and on an appropriate balance among the following principles:

a. resources of cohesion policy must continue to be utilised in the most efficient and

cost-effective manner; at the same time the impact of policy actions and investments

need to be enhanced,

b. the results and impacts of cohesion policy need to be better displayed and thus be

more visible for European citizens,

c. legal certainty of implementation needs to be increased and maintained throughout

the implementation period,

d. clear, unambiguous and stable regulatory provisions, including in audit and control,

are prerequisites for the proper application thereof and thus contribute to the trend of

reducing the error rate in implementation,

e. the rules of implementation including audit and control arrangements need to be

simplified, with harmonisation among different funds and take account of

proportionality as appropriate, thus reducing administrative burden and costs to

beneficiaries and to the public administration, without putting at risk sound financial


f. a high degree of continuity in management and control system and capacity is necessary

in order to build upon acquired management experience and knowledge,

21. NOTES the Commission’s proposal to promote the use of financial engineering instruments,

and, without prejudice to any ongoing debates concerning such instruments in particular to

the recast of the Financial Regulation STRESSES that the use of such instruments should

not be made obligatory and it should be up to Member States at the appropriate level to

decide whether to use grants, loans or a combination of both, as well as the thematic scope

of application of such instruments, UNDERLINES furthermore that regulatory

simplification, legal certainty, especially concerning financial accountability and control, is

necessary in this field,

22. WELCOMES the Commission’s initiative to take more account of the objective of territorial

cohesion in future programmes and address issues, including but not limited to, functional

geographies, areas facing specific challenges as also recognised by articles 174 and 349 of

the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, NOTES however that territorial

cohesion should be taken into account in programming and implementation, as a

comprehensive and integrated concept, leaving it to the Member States at the appropriate

level, to define the most suitable level of intervention, that takes due account of differences

among territories with a view to promoting the harmonious and balanced development of the

European Union,

23. RECALLS that the European Territorial Cooperation objective has a significant European

added value and therefore supports its continuation, and INSISTS that regulatory provisions

governing the implementation thereof need to be strategically embedded, and need to take

account of the specificities of such programmes and at the same time significantly


24. RECOGNIZES the potential of the innovative and integrated macro-regional approach for

functional territories as a tool for helping to address territorial cohesion and NOTES that

macro-regional strategies based on clear functional areas can address common challenges

and assist in fully utilizing existing financial resources, while looking forward to the

evaluation of those currently under implementation,

25. NOTES that functional urban areas have an important role as engines of growth, hubs of

creativity and innovation and centres of social and cultural wellbeing, at the same time can

have major challenges, and CONSIDERS therefore that, where relevant, due attention

should continue to be given to the development of functional urban areas, inter alia capital

cities, towns and urban-rural linkages through the process of national and regional


Further steps to be taken

26. While RECOGNIZING that certain proposals put forth by the Commission are intended to

bring benefits and added value, ACKNOWLEDGES that further discussions are necessary

on certain proposals put forth by the Commission, notably about:

a. the Development and Investment Partnership Contract,

b. the list of priorities forming a basis for thematic concentration,

c. conditionalities as well as appropriate incentive mechanisms directly linked to

cohesion policy,

27. ACKNOWLEDGING the current architecture of cohesion policy, further discussion IS

NEEDED concerning the provisions of transitional mechanisms, in particular reflections on

a new intermediate category,

28. INVITES the Commission to provide the Council with further details and clarifications on

its proposals concerning the future of cohesion policy in due time before the legislative

package is presented, and NOTES that the possibility of a high-level political debate on

certain strategic issues may be beneficial to accelerate the negotiation process and adoption

of new regulations,

29. CALLS on the Commission to present its legislative proposals governing cohesion policy

and its funds for the post 2013 implementation period at the latest before the end of June

2011 to ensure that negotiations can start as soon as possible allowing for the effective

launch of the new programmes as from 1 January 2014 and STATES that the present

conclusions are without prejudice to the negotiations and decisions on the future multiannual

financial framework.”


Sursa: Comisia Europeana

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