Less a blog, more an end of term report.
We’re embarking on new ground under the Presidency of Cyprus, having been able to tick off four elements of the Structural and Cohesion Funds regulations – provisions on revenue generation, financial engineering, thematic concentration and the performance framework. This block was agreed at General Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 26 June, with the usual caveat that ‘nothing is agreed till everything is agreed’.
Commissioner Hahn was quite bullish about prospects for progress under the Cyprus Presidency when he briefed Regional Office representatives recently on progress and his prognosis for Structural and Cohesion Funds. He was expecting Cyprus to continue the good work of Denmark. He suggested that a final deal on funding was possible by the end of the year. He anticipated the European Parliament’s Regional Development Committee adoption of their position on 11 July as helpful in moving the debate forward. In the event, it took the committee quite a marathon session to reach consensus but there is now a Regional Development Committee mandate for the EP rapporteurs for negotiations with the Council – welcomed by the Committee of the Regions and presented to an unsuspecting public by Danuta Hubner, Chair of the Committee this afternoon. Read more on line.
DG Regio seem open to suggestions on programming and increased harmonisation of the funds. Interestingly, the Commission also appeared to support the UK plea for greater harmonisation made during GAC and with support from other key member states. We’re keeping the pressure up by briefing MEPs. Mr Neil met George Lyon and we have had a number of conversations with MEP assistants.
Hahn warned that the Commission would strongly resist any dilution of thematic concentration (beyond perhaps opening up to ICT and Sustainable Urban Transport), proposals to relax rules around support for large infrastructure projects, any weakening of performance criteria and would oppose any moves to continue the ‘misuse’ of FEIs – ‘parking of funds’ to achieve n+2 and presumably accrue interest in some cases with no funds transferring to final recipients. He saw transition regions as integral to the Commission’s new approach to cohesion. He was strong on growth and reflected that recent elections might indicate some shift in that direction.
Hahn is also keen to pursue negotiations with member states on partnership agreements in parallel with the Council consideration of the Regulations and the MFF. The Commission should be issuing their Country position papers before the summer break. Regions should ensure that they are engaged and contribute to OP development – so get your pencils sharpened.
More to come on a new set of negotiating blocks in the Structural Actions Working Group and a proposed read-through of much of the draft Regulation on Territorial Cooperation. Helpful recognition, I think, that ETC is different. The advent of a separate regulation is welcome and ensuring that it is relevant and caters appropriately for this type of programme makes sense.
On a separate but related matter, Aileen McLeod MSP presented the EER Committee findings on HORIZON 2020 in Brussels yesterday. Not quite my domain but she made a number of relevant points. We’re good at turning (often Structural Funds) money into research but do less well at turning research into money. Bit of a challenge then for our new programmes. Greater SME involvement, asking more of the business sector and contributing to EU2020 objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
More soon – but must dash. So many beers, and so little time.
What are your views on the push for harmonisation across the funds?
What is your organisation doing to lobby at a European level?
Is there anything we can do to help?