EUROPEAN UNION REGIONAL POLICY NEEDS MORE KNOWLEDGE, LESS RED TAPE, MEPS TELL PAWEL SAMECKI
3 September 2009, US Fed News: Regional policy can play a key role in EU action to counter the economic crisis and prepare a better future for all regions, but it needs more local knowledge and less red tape, Regional Development Committee MEPs told regional policy Commissioner-designate Pawel Samecki in a debate on Wednesday. MEPs questioned Mr Samecki about the future of EU regional policy, climate change, and the impact of the economic crisis at regional level.
Jan Olbrycht (EPP, PL) asked the Commissioner-designate about the future of the EU cohesion policy, and in particular the risk that regional funding might be reduced in the medium term. "Cohesion policy is a great achievement of the EU, a basic value: solidarity", replied Mr Samecki, adding that "the crisis is probably at its climax (...) and now we have to think about the future". The need to define "territorial cohesion" in order to make regional policy more effective was stressed by Constanze Krehl (S&D, DE), who asked whether the Green Paper soon to be published by the Commission "will give us a sense of what territorial cohesion is, at least a broad definition?" "Instead of pursuing a single definition, we should include all common features: the Green Paper will bring a synthesis" of the discussions held so far, replied Mr Samecki. Climate change: a priority for regional policy? "Does the Commission plan to re-think regional policy to tackle climate change more effectively?" asked Francois Alfonsi (Greens/EFA, FR). "Climate change is one of the candidates for core priority in the future (...) if there is agreement among all actors involved", replied Mr Samecki. "Limited knowledge" of regional impact of economic crisis "Has the Commission got a clear sense of those regions that were hit the hardest by the crisis?" asked Ramona Manescu (ALDE, RO). Mr Samecki admitted that "our knowledge is limited" on the impact of the crisis on each EU region. "We need to improve our methodology (...) on how to measure development", he added. The EU's outermost regions "need to exploit their specific features, including natural resources and tourism" in order to cope with the impact of the economic crisis, said Mr Samecki in reply to a question by Elie Hoarau (GUE/NGL, FR). Cutting red tape further In his introductory remarks, Mr Samecki said: "We must strive to reduce further the administrative burden for implementing bodies and beneficiaries (of EU funds) while ensuring effective and proper use of the EU budget" John Bufton (EFD, UK), agreed with the Commissioner-designate and asked what he intends to do to cut red tape. Oldrich Vlasak, (ECR, CZ) asked whether it is also possible to simplify the regional funds' audit and control procedures. "We need to strike a balance: attempts to eliminate red tape should not lead to relaxation in monitoring spending", replied Mr Samecki, concluding that "it is cutting red tape versus raising legality standards".