Opinion of the committee of the Regions on the proposal for a Council Regulation (EC) laying down general rules for the granting of Community aid in the field of trans- European networks
OJ C 217, 6.8.1994, p. 36–38 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT)
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Opinion on the proposal for a Council Regulation (EC) laying down general rules for the granting of Community aid in the field of trans-European networks (1)
On 28 March 1994 the Council decided to consult the Committee of the Regions, under the third paragraph of Article 129d of the European Union Treaty on the abovementioned proposal.
THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
Whereas Article 3(n) of the Treaty establishing the European Community considers that, in order to achieve the objectives referred to in Article 2, the activities of the Community should include encouragement for the establishment of trans-European networks,
Whereas Title XII of the Treaty establishing the European Community provides that the Community shall contribute to the establishment and development of trans-European networks in the areas of transport, telecommunications and energy,
Whereas the Copenhagen European Council of June 1993 included trans-European networks among the measures to be taken in the short term to promote competitiveness, growth and employment,
Whereas the European Commission submitted for approval a White Paper on the medium-term strategies for growth, competitiveness and employment, one of the principal elements of which is the development of trans-European networks,
Whereas the Brussels European Council of December 1993 approved the White Paper proposed by the Commission, thereby giving fresh impetus to the implementation of Title XII of the Treaty establishing the European Community, and also designated a number of priority projects,
Whereas the Commission has, in recent years, carried out various initiatives in the form of projects, guidelines, communications and plans related to trans-European transport, telecommunications and energy networks,
Whereas the budgetary resources available have already been entered for trans-European networks in the financial perspectives for 1994-98,
Whereas the transport Regulation expires at the end of this year,
Whereas the use of the appropriations entered in the budget for this purpose (totalling ECU 214 million for 1994 and ECU 2,395 million for the 1994-1999 period) depend on the adoption of the present Regulation,
Whereas in accordance with the provisions of Articles 129d and 198c of the Treaty establishing the European Community, the Council has decided to consult the Committee of the Regions on the draft Regulation laying down general rules for the granting of Community financial aid in the field of trans-European networks (2),
by a unanimous vote, at its third Plenary Session, held on 17 and 18 May, the following Opinion prepared by its Rapporteur-General, Mr Joan Lerma.
1. General comments
1.1. Regulation laying down general rules for the granting of Community financial aid in the field of trans-European networks
In accordance with Articles 129d and 198c of the Treaty establishing the European Community, the Committee wishes, with this Opinion, to comment upon the Regulation presented by the Commission to the Council on 2 March 1994 (3). In so doing, it would highlight the importance of the construction, interconnection, extension and modernization of trans-European transport, telecommunications and energy networks (TEN) for the achievement of the objectives of economic growth, competitiveness and the creation of employment.
1.2. Subsidiarity and cooperation
In order to reflect the principle of subsidiarity, as defined in the Union Treaty, and the experience acquired in applying the Structural Funds, and given that one of the basic principles of Structural Fund reform is that of cooperation, as defined in Article 4 of Council Regulation (EEC) 2081/93 of 20 July 1993, the Committee of the Regions believes that the appropriate regional and local authorities should be closely associated with the decisions to be made by the Commission under the Regulation in question. This applies equally to the establishment of priorities, project approval, evaluation and follow-up, and participation in the follow-up Committees to be set up.
1.3. Coordination between development instruments and Community financial aid
Promoting economic and social cohesion requires concerted action by the different Community instruments, in particular the Structural Funds, the Cohesion Fund and the European Investment Bank. The COR therefore feels that in approving projects to be financed under the Regulation, the Commission should take account of their compatibility with regional planning objectives and with measures planned in the action programmes adopted under the Community Support Framework for each region, so as to ensure maximum synergy between development instruments and Community aid.
1.4. Balance between the environment and trans-European networks
It is of great importance, in the COR's view, that the projects to be subsidized under the Regulation should take account of assessments by local and/or regional authorities regarding environmental protection and compatibility with any locally - and/or regionally-driven economic or environmental programmes.
2. Specific comments
2.1. Project eligibility
The Committee of the Regions considers that Article 2(2) should specify that projects funded by regional and local authorities are eligible.
2.2. Forms of aid
The COR proposes that when the exceptional form of aid under Article 3(d) is adopted, the Member States, regional and local authorities and those responsible for the Structural and Cohesion Funds should be consulted before decisions are taken.
2.3. Resources and financial participation
The COR would recall that point 6 of the Explanatory Memorandum urges that access to Community financial instruments be facilitated and private capital mobilized: private capital should therefore be mentioned in Article 5(3).
Article 5 should include a provision to the effect that cumulative Community financial aid for an investment project may not exceed 75 % of the total investment outlay.
2.4. Selection criteria
The conditions set out in Article 6(2)(e) should be amplified, with explicit reference to the internal integration of Member State territories, integration of transfrontier areas, and integration of maritime and most remote regions.
Similarly, point 4.1 of the Financial Statement should consider the implications of Member State action for transfrontier regions.
These factors are of particular significance for the selection criteria set out in Article 7. The specific selection criteria set out for transport infrastructure in Article 7 should stress the importance of the interlinking of strategic land-use planning and transport planning. Member States and regional and local authorities must ensure that full account is taken of environmental sustainability criteria when deciding on transport infrastructure.
Turning to the selection criteria specifically applicable to telecommunications, contained in Article 8(a), prominence should be given to interconnection of physical networks between non-transfrontier regions - now facilitated by satellite links - in the same way as for transfrontier interconnections.
With regard to the selection criteria specifically applicable to energy, set out in Article 9(a), explicit reference should be made to the diverse nature of electrical energy transmission and distribution networks in the Member States, in terms of both ownership and geographical spread.
2.5. Participation of regional and local authorities
In the COR's view it is of the utmost importance that the opinion of the regional and local authorities affected by the projects in question be sought when applications are assessed.
By the same token, Article 11 should specifically provide that applications may be made directly by the authorities of one or more regions with joint projects: in some Member States, applications to set up networks are the direct responsibility of regional governments which have, or may have, projects falling within the ambit of this Regulation.
Similarly, it is proposed that the part of Article 12 which specifies the information to be sent with applications should include any suggestions which regions and local authorities may make on the projects, since their real impact is more easily assessed by bodies at this level.
Article 15(3) on financial control provides that part or all of the financial aid may be suspended. In addition to consultation of the Member State in such cases, the Committee believes that explicit mention should be made to consultation of the regional and local authorities concerned with the project, clearly distinguishing them both from the other bodies concerned.
The second indent of point 4.1 of the Regulation's Financial Statement should stipulate that approval by Member States of master plans and projects of common interest concerning their own territory must take account of the interests of the regions and local areas affected, with particular attention to the transfrontier implications of initiatives.
Article 13 empowers the Commission to decide on granting financial aid in accordance with the procedure set out in Article 19(2). Article 19(1) states that the Commission shall be assisted by the Infrastructure, Energy and Telecommunications Committees (1). The COR considers that both Article 13 and Article 19 should provide for regional and local representation on these Committees. In the event of disagreement between one of the committees referred to in Article 19 and the Commission, application of the measure should take place within two months.
The COR considers that the second paragraph of Article 16 (on coordination) should state that no clash should occur, and that a synergy should be sought, between actions financed by the Regional Development and Cohesion Funds and the objectives of financial aid under the present Regulation.
In Point 9.3 of the Financial Statement on monitoring and evaluation, the indicators referred to for measuring the achievement of the objectives must be consistent, and must be compatible with (i) those for action by other funds on the same territory, and (ii) those for the objectives which the regional and local authorities concerned may have formulated for their own action.
2.8. Information and publicity
Article 18(1) provides that the Commission shall submit a report to Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions every two years. It is felt that the report should be annual, as provided in the Regulation establishing the Cohesion Fund, particularly in view of point 4 of the Explanatory Memorandum of the present Regulation, which mentions that the proposal is based largely on the legislation relating to the Cohesion Fund. Equally, the European Parliament should be called upon to debate the report, as provided in the Cohesion Fund Regulation.
The COR recommends that the list of information which the report must comprise also contain an item on the regional and interregional impact of projects.
Done at Brussels, 18 May 1994.
of the Committee of the Regions
(1) OJ No C 89, 26. 3. 1994, p. 8.
(2) Set out in: OJ No L 54, 25. 2. 1978, p. 16; COM(93) 685 final, 19. 1. 1994; COM(93) 347 final, OJ No C 259, 23. 9. 1993, p. 4.