Lambert Van Nistelrooij (EPP, Netherlands) and Constanze Krehl (S&D, Germany) are the Co-Rapporteurs on the future General Regulation on the EU Structural Funds. After an initial exchange of views on 26 April 2012, their report will be debated in the European Parliament Committee on Regional Development (REGI), on 29 May and voted in July and it will probably be approved by the Plenary in the autumn.
Enrico Mayrhofer: You are co-drafting a Report on the future General Regulation on the EU Structural Funds. Your negative positions on “macro-conditionality”, which links the allocation of structural funds to the respect of the stability pact, are well known. Moreover, you also discard the “performance reserve” that aim to place 5% of the fund in a reserve, which would be distributed in 2019 to the programmes and priorities whose performances correspond to pre-defined objectives. Why?
Lambert Van Nistelrooij: I do not like either of these principles and at the moment the European Parliament is strongly against them. More specifically on the performance reserve, in my opinion it is not a good solution in a time of crisis. I might have agreed with a performance reserve 15 years ago, but today it only means extra bureaucracy! Before being a MEP, I was a regional Minister in the Netherlands and I know how difficult it is to bring partners together and to find co-financing for EU funds.
Constanze Krehl: The performance reserve is a very good idea to support good projects in a better way. However, I have some doubts about how this could be realised.
EM: Most of the countries and also some MEPs are in favour of these measures. How do you plan to proceed in order to simply delete them from the current Regulation?
LVN: We shall see what is going to happen. The European Parliament strongly opposes these measures, especially because today citizens have to face such a severe economic and financial crisis. I am confident that this particular moment of Europe will push everybody to be more reasonable.
CK: Everybody says that the Council is against macro-conditionality. This is not true, because only some Member States are against this instrument. Anyway, I am confident that in the European Parliament there will be a significant majority against macro-conditionality because my colleagues and I believe that regions cannot pay for the mistakes made by national governments. Moreover, cohesion is the only development instrument and policy for investments in Europe. If Member States have to face to financial and budgetary difficulties, they need some EU support. In Germany, for instance, Chancellor Merkel is also starting to ask for an investment programme, and the only development instrument that we have in Europe at the moment is Cohesion Policy!
EM: What do you support in the European Commission’s proposal?
LVN: I support the integrated approach, the way the Commission decides to implement the 2020 strategy, thematic concentration, as well as the concept of smart specialisation which allows for tailor-made solutions taking into account the specific needs of regions.
CK: The partnership contract is a very good idea; therefore we want to strengthen this partnership policy taking on board not only regions and local authorities but also social and economic partners as well as NGOs. Moreover, I support the thematic concentration which gives some flexibility to regions and I am also in favour of a Cohesion Policy dedicated to all regions of the EU, such as the most developed regions, the intermediate regions and of course the less developed regions.
EM: You proposed that the common strategic framework should become an annex to the General Regulation and be adopted under co-decision. What is the position of the Council on this?
LVN: The Council goes in our direction and I can tell you that I recently received an informal call from the European Commission confirming this.
CK: For us it is very clear: we say that this General Regulation is an umbrella for all EU funds. This is such a big issue from a legal point of view that it cannot be considered as a delegated act, but we need to see it shaped into a General Regulation. By the way, as far as I know from the Council they also prefer to have this as an annex to the Regulation…
EM: Do you think will it be possible to have an agreement during the Cyprus Presidency?
LVN: I absolutely hope so, but we do not know what is going to happen on the financial markets. Maybe the agreement will arrive during the first semester of 2013, but this has to be the very last moment. In any case, we will prepare everything in order that we will not have to change the categories in case there will be a delay.
CK: It depends on the decision on the multi-annual framework. From the cohesion point of view I think we could have an agreement very soon, but if the agreement on the EU budget is delayed, this will mean that the part related to Cohesion Policy will be on standby.