European Parliament approves 325 billion euros to invest in regions

The European Parliament today approved the 2014-2020 cohesion funds, which should help regions make investments in […]

The European Parliament today approved the 2014-2020 cohesion funds, which should help regions make investments in times of economic crisis. Over the next seven years, Portugal will receive €19,6 billion (at 2011 prices).

MEPs also approved a provision that will allow Portugal to benefit until the end of 2015 from the increase in the maximum rate of EU co-financing from 85% to 95%.

The central regulation of the legislative package establishes the common provisions applicable to the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Fund for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, whose operations are ongoing. within a common framework.

The new cohesion policy rules aim to reduce bureaucracy and support projects in areas such as innovation, research and energy efficiency. MEPs ensured more direct participation of local and regional authorities in decisions and more flexible planning.

In a proposal for a regulation on the provisions applicable to certain Member States affected or threatened by serious financial stability difficulties, MEPs approved a provision that will allow Portugal to benefit until the end of 2015 from the increase in the maximum rate of Community co-financing of 85% to 95%. This rule will also apply to the rural development fund (EAFRD) in the agricultural package and to the fisheries fund.


Macroeconomic conditionality

During the negotiations, MEPs sought to introduce safeguards to ensure a more appropriate and equitable application of the rules that allow cuts in funding to Member States that do not respect the rules of economic governance, for example, running excessive deficits.

The so-called “macroeconomic conditionality” (measures aimed at linking the effectiveness of cohesion funds with sound economic governance) was included in the legislation.

However, any cut must take into account the economic and social situation of the Member State, in particular the unemployment rate, and the impact of the suspension of payments on the economy of the country concerned.

The Commission could ask Member States to modify the programs to support the implementation of economic recommendations or to maximize the impact of funds on growth and competitiveness.

As a last resort, it can propose to the Council to suspend payments if the economic recommendations are repeatedly violated by the country concerned.

The Commission will have to inform the European Parliament about the programs that could be suspended and it will be able to ask it to explain the reasons for its proposal, in the framework of a structured dialogue.


European Social Fund

MEPs argued that the European Social Fund (ESF) must strengthen its support for the fight against poverty and social exclusion, setting aside a minimum amount of 20% of the total ESF resources of each Member State specifically for this purpose.

The ESF will also support efforts to tackle youth unemployment: at least €XNUMX billion from the ESF must be earmarked for the Youth Employment Initiative.

According to the approved rules, at least 23,1% of the cohesion policy budget will be earmarked for ESF investments.


Reactions of Portuguese MEPs who participated in the debate

Agnes Zuber (CEUE/EVN), in relation to the principle of macroeconomic conditionality: “Dishonest and unfair, which doubles penalizes countries with more difficult social and economic situations and also penalizes women in those countries, who are proven to be more unprotected in times of social regression”.

Rui Tavares (Greens/ALE): “Because of the British check that the UK receives, France demanded compensation, these compensations in a Commission proposal were delivered in the form of aid, therefore, additional money to the European Social Fund to combat youth unemployment for France, for Italy and for Spain. It is scandalous that these additional monies did not include Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Cyprus, the countries under the program”.

Nuno Teixeira (PPE): “With this agreement, we are in a position to approve a cohesion policy that will guarantee Madeira funding of 844 million euros, which offsets the costs of the ultraperiphery with 30 euros per inhabitant and ensures the uniformity of co-financing rates in the 85%. Is it a perfect deal? Of course not. Is the deal possible? Of course".

Luis Paulo Alves (S&D): ” I cannot fail to stress our opposition to macro-conditionality. It is, perhaps, the most negative point of the new programming. It is an unacceptable principle to double penalize only certain States or withdraw funds and investment capacity from a region for non-compliance by the respective Member State”.