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Fourth Report on Economic and Social Cohesion

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Fourth Report on Economic and Social Cohesion

The fourth report on economic and social cohesion gives an initial overview of the effectiveness and impact of EU cohesion policy in the period 2000-2006 and offers a preliminary assessment of the new 2007-2013 programming period. In this context, the report takes stock of the situation, the economic, social and territorial prospects in the Member States and European regions, and the challenges for cohesion policy over the next few years.

ACT

Communication from the Commission of 30 May 2007 - Fourth Report on Economic and Social Cohesion [COM(2007) 273 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The economic and social cohesion policy of the European Union (EU) is facing a number of challenges and problems. This fourth report takes stock of the situation and the economic, social and territorial prospects in the EU Member States and regions. It analyses the effects of the progress achieved by cohesion policy and its impact on policies and instruments at Member State and Community level.

Effectiveness and impact of cohesion policy

The assessment of the effectiveness and impact of cohesion policy shows that the European regions have been involved in a process of convergence measured in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita over the last ten years.

This report underlines that cohesion policy supports growth and job creation and improves the EU's ability to innovate and adapt to change. For example, cohesion policy has fostered the emergence of approaches for development, improved the quality of public investment and developed the concept of partnership as an element of good governance. The report also stresses the importance of raising the quality of human capital as part of cohesion policy, and also on the lever effect on public and private capital and support for productive investment.

Economic, social and territorial disparities

The report takes GDP, productivity and employment into account to analyse the situation and trends in economic, social and territorial disparities at national and regional level. It provides an initial evaluation of the impact of cohesion policy in the period 2000-2006 and gives a preliminary assessment of the new 2007-2013 programming period.

Economic cohesion

At national level, the new EU Member States after the 2004 enlargement achieved the fastest rate of growth and quickly caught up with the others in the EU-25. At regional level, convergence of the GDP per capita was observed among regions lagging behind in development in the EU-15 (beneficiaries of cohesion policy between 2000 and 2006) over the last ten years. Nevertheless, substantial disparities still exist at national and regional level.

Social cohesion

While the employment rates in European regions converged between 2000 and 2005, some countries saw a drop in employment in most of their regions. Over the same period, the unemployment rate fell from 13.4% to 12.4% in the regions lagging behind in development, while unemployment remained stable in the most developed regions.

Territorial cohesion

With a trend towards suburbanisation, economic activity was mainly concentrated in capital city regions, which are centres of growth. The concentration of poverty and unemployment in certain urban districts remains a problem for many European cities, as does the insufficiency of housing, transport and education services.

Cohesion policy for the period 2007-2013

In the context of cohesion policy for the period 2007-2013, this report gives a preliminary assessment of the reformed cohesion policy. In order to reduce disparities between the Member States and the regions, generate growth and create jobs, financial resources will be channelled primarily into:

  • the least developed regions and those coping with structural adjustment;
  • investments in research, innovation, the information society and business development.

The strategic approach based on the concentration of financial resources involves centring cohesion programmes for the period 2007-2013 around the renewed Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs.

The management rules for cohesion policy have been rationalised and simplified in order to meet the criteria for control and good financial management. This entails, for example, the adoption of a single regulation for programme management, a series of rules on the eligibility of expenditure, simplification of financial management and control systems, and easier access to information for citizens and potential beneficiaries of funding.

Challenges facing cohesion policy

In order to cope with the pressure of globalisation, the regions are confronted with the need to restructure, modernise and facilitate innovation (in terms of products, management, processes and human capital). In order to do this, the adjustment and diversification of the economic structure of the regions in high added-value sectors should be accompanied by a competitive advantage based on lower-cost, lower-wage production methods.

The disproportionate and asymmetrical impact of climate change in certain regions (for example owing to soil erosion and flooding) calls for considerable investment to remedy the problem. The rise in energy prices, the negative impact of an ageing and dwindling population and the rise in social tension and problems likewise pose major challenges for cohesion policy in the period 2007-2013.

RELATED ACTS

Council Decision 2006/702/EC of 6 October 2006 on Community strategic guidelines on cohesion [Official Journal L 291 of 21 October 2006].

The aim of the strategic guidelines for cohesion policy for the period 2007-2013 is to strengthen the strategic dimension and ensure better practical use of cohesion policy.

Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 of 11 July 2006 laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1260/1999 [Official Journal L 210 of 11 July 2006].

This Regulation sets out the common rules, standards and principles applicable to the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Cohesion Fund in the context of the reformed cohesion policy for the period 2007-2013.

Last updated: 23.08.2007

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