Corina Creţu, European Commissioner for Regional Policy gives an overview of her key priorities for the coming year…
The European Union is currently facing a major growth and jobs challenge, as a result of the most severe economic crisis in decades. Millions of European citizens have put their hopes in the capacity of our policies to restore economic momentum and foster employment.
But Europe is also at a crossroads where mere crisis management is not sufficient and there is a real need for strategic, forward-looking investments in key areas, such as research and development, information and communication technologies, competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises and the shift to a low-carbon economy.
In this context, Cohesion Policy has undergone a far-reaching reform for the 2014-2020 period. It has been made more effective, through the introduction of ex-ante conditions and a clear focus on results and performance.
It has also been positioned over previous years as a key investment policy to support the delivery of the Union’s strategy for jobs and for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth: the Europe 2020 strategy that was adopted in 2010 to help Europe come out of the crisis by boosting competitiveness, productivity, growth potential, social cohesion and economic convergence.
The €450bn that we are going to invest in the European regions in the next 7 years will also help in reaching the objectives of the €315bn EU Investment Plan, announced by President Juncker at the end of last year, in terms of job creation and sustainable growth.
As sound investments go hand in hand with solid economic governance, my second priority for this term is enhancing institutional capacity and encouraging the structural reforms that are necessary to consolidate the foundations of future growth. It is my conviction that these aspects are at the root of any successful development effort. In this sense, my departments are currently working with Member States’ administrations and managing authorities, in order to ensure they fully exploit the potential for collaboration and synergies across different ministries, which is essential for policy effectiveness and reduction of wasteful efforts.
In addition, we are encouraging all relevant stakeholders involved in the implementation of our funds to build strong partnerships, where they could exchange good practice and learn from each other. The European Commission has earmarked a share of available technical assistance funding to support these and similar activities.
My third priority for this period is policy simplification. Our funds are generally welcomed, but a number of our partners report that existing procedures might be streamlined and simplified. In my opinion, the new policy and regulatory framework for 2014-2020 provides us with a unique opportunity to engage all public and private stakeholders in a dialogue aimed at making their life simpler and letting them focus on what they know best: designing and implementing valuable projects for the benefit of their communities.
My fourth and last priority: ensuring that the funds made available by the European taxpayer are managed according to the most exigent standards. This entails regular auditing in accordance with sound risk assessment but also setting out mechanisms to prevent any possibility of fraud. I will repeat it as many times as it takes – I have zero tolerance for fraud.
At present, the European Commission is finalising negotiation and adoption of the programmes of the new period 2014-2020. All of them should be fully in place in the next 3 or 4 months. Consequently, the time is now for implementation. It is time for managing authorities to start working on identifying and selecting high-quality projects, in order to let the funds flow to the ground as soon as possible.
We should not forget that this Policy will be judged on its ability to deliver growth and to create jobs, in particular in the many regions where it constitutes the primary, if not the only source of public investment.
Commissioner for Regional Policy