| In the present economic context, improving regional and local competitiveness is a vital objective for the European Union to meet the following challenges: greater socio-economic disparities after enlargement, restructuring provoked by globalisation, the technological revolution, the expansion of an economy and a society based on knowledge, the ageing of Europe's population and increased immigration.
To meet the expectations of its citizens, the Lisbon and Gothenburg
European Councils defined a broad strategy to increase the
competitiveness of the Union and achieve sustainable growth.
Accordingly, during the 2000-2006 programming period, the various
cohesion policy instruments - primarily the Structural Funds -
contribute, directly or indirectly, to the Lisbon strategy. They will
have a major impact on the competitiveness of the regions and help
achieve substantial improvements in the living conditions of their
The financial transfers resulting from cohesion policy will account for
about one third of the growth in GDP in the worst off regions. In
addition to this impact, cofinancing from the Structural Funds has a
penetrating effect on the factors underlying regional competitiveness,
so engendering lasting and sustainable economic development.
Despite the efforts made and the progress achieved, much remains to be done to bolster regional competitiveness and the work will by no means have been concluded when the current generation of Community programmes expires in 2006.
Cohesion policy in all its dimensions must be seen as an integral part
of the Lisbon process. On 2 february 2005, the European Commission
presented a revised strategy for the EU to create more growth and jobs.
The strategy aims to revitalize the Lisbon Agenda - the EUs economic
reform agenda from 2000. In other words, cohesion policy needs to
incorporate the Lisbon and Gothenburg objectives and become a key
vehicle for their realisation via the national and regional development
programmes. The European Commission adopted on 14 february 2004 the
legislative framework for the reform of cohesion policy for the period
2007-2013. The aim of the programmes will be to boost competitiveness
and growth in the enlarged European Union.
The Union needs an ongoing and ambitious regional policy, covering all
our regions and which will continue to act as a lever of growth
throughout the enlarged Union.