Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Seventh Report


48 Cohesion policy: Community strategic guidelines 2007-13

(a)

(26710)

10684/05

COM(05) 299

+ ADD 1

(b)

(27702)

11706/06

COM (06) 386

+ ADD 1


Commission Communication: Cohesion policy in support of growth and jobs: Community Strategic Guidelines 2007-13

Commission staff working paper: impact assessment

Draft Council Decision on Community Strategic Guidelines on cohesion

Commission staff working document: impact assessment report

Legal baseArticle 25 of the General Regulation on the Structural and Cohesion Funds; assent; unanimity
Document originated(b) 13 July 2006
Deposited in Parliament(b) 19 July 2006
DepartmentTrade and Industry
Basis of consideration(b) EM of 27 July 2006 and Ministers' letters of 10 August 2006 and 18 September 2006
Previous Committee Report(a) HC 34-xii (2005-06), para 4 (30 November 2005) and HC 34-xxv (2005-06), para 3 (19 April 2006)

(b) None

To be discussed in Council6 October 2006
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decision(Both) Cleared

Legal background

48.1 Article 2 of the Treaty establishing the European Community lists among the Community's tasks the promotion of "economic and social cohesion and solidarity between the Member States". To this end, the Treaty provides for the creation of:

—  the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to help redress regional imbalances;

—  the European Social Fund (ESF) to improve employment opportunities; and

—  the Cohesion Fund to provide financial support for transport and environmental projects.

48.2 In April, we cleared from scrutiny the draft General Regulation on the budgets, objectives and administrative arrangements of the ERDF, ESF and Cohesion Fund between 2007 and 2013.[119] The General Regulation requires the Council to issue Community-wide Strategic Guidelines defining the framework for intervention from the Funds. Each Member State would be required to draw up a "national strategic reference framework", taking account of the Guidelines. The reference framework would describe the Member State's priorities for the use of the Funds in its area. The Council has now approved the General Regulation.

Previous scrutiny of document (a)

48.3 Document (a) invited comments on the Commission's initial proposals for the Community's Strategic Guidelines for 2007-13. In November 2005, the then Minister of State for Industry and the Regions at the Department of Trade and Industry (Alun Michael) told us that the Government supported the proposal to have Guidelines so long as they allowed the regions enough flexibility to set priorities which reflect local conditions.[120]

48.4 We decided to keep the Communication under scrutiny pending our consideration of the revised text of the Guidelines which would be published after agreement was reached on the General Regulation to set up the Funds for 2007-13.

Document (b)

48.5 Document (b) contains the revised draft of the Guidelines and a draft Decision adopting them. The revised draft takes account of the comments by Member States and others on document (a). The draft Decision would require the assent of the European Parliament and unanimous agreement by the Council.

48.6 Recital 17 of the draft Decision says that:

"These strategic guidelines represent a single indicative framework which Member States and regions are invited to use when developing national and regional programmes, in particular with a view to assessing their contribution to the objectives of the Community in terms of cohesion, growth and jobs."

48.7 The Commission proposes three broad Guidelines, each supported by specific "guidelines for action". They are as follows.

48.8 Guideline 1: Make Europe and its regions more attractive places to invest and work by ensuring that the necessary infrastructure is available to businesses through:

  • investing in transport infrastructure, such as roads, railways, public transport, harbours and airports;
  • investing in environmental projects to provide, for example, water, waste management, flood prevention, clean air and environmental protection; and
  • reducing dependence on traditional sources of energy through more efficient use of energy and supporting the development and use of renewable sources.

48.9 Guideline 2: Improve knowledge and innovation to support the achievement of the Lisbon objectives for economic growth and job creation. The Commission proposes that this should be done through:

  • more, and better focussed, investment in research and technology transfer;
  • creating legal, financial and institutional conditions to encourage and support innovation and entrepreneurship; and
  • promoting access to, and use of, information and communication technologies by households and businesses.

48.10 Guideline 3: More and better jobs: using the Structural and Cohesion Funds to promote full employment; higher productivity; equality of opportunity; more satisfying work; the capacity to adapt to changing demands for labour; and a better trained and healthier work force with higher skills.

The Government's view on document (b)

48.11 In his Explanatory Memorandum on document (b), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science and Innovation at the Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) tells us that the Government supports the revised draft of the Guidelines, subject to one point of substance. Article 2 of the draft Decision in document (b) would have required Member States to ensure that their national strategic reference frameworks and operational programmes were consistent with the Guidelines. In his letter of 10 August, the Minister for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs (Mr Ian McCartney) tells us that the Council has now agreed that this requirement should be deleted and that, instead, the Decision should provide that the Guidelines are "an indicative framework for the Member States for the preparation of the national strategic reference frameworks and operational programmes for the period 2007 to 2013". The Government welcomes the amendment. It is also content with some minor amendments the Council has approved.

48.12 In his letter of 18 September, the Minister for Employment Relations and Postal Services at the Department of Trade and Industry (Jim Fitpatrick) tells us that the Council was expected to adopt the Decision on 6 October and that it was likely, therefore, that the Government would need to over-ride our scrutiny reserve before our next meeting. He says that any delay at this point in adopting the Decision would delay the start of the new Structural Funds.

Conclusion

48.13 We welcome the amendments that have been made to the Guidelines in the light of the consultations on document (a) and the subsequent negotiations on document (b). The Guidelines now give Member States the necessary flexibility to set priorities for the use of the Structural and Cohesion Funds which reflect local circumstances. We are grateful to the Minister for warning us of the likelihood that the Government would breach our scrutiny reserve by taking part in the adoption of the Decision. In the circumstances, we consider that it was reasonable for the Government to do so and we are content formally to clear document (b) from scrutiny. We also clear document (a), which has been superseded by the revised text.


119   (27413) 8216/06: See HC 34-xxv (2005-06), para 12 (19 April 2006). Back

120   See headnote. Back


 
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