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Cohesion policy and the environment

On 22 November the Commission adopted a communication presenting what it sees as the main options for achieving greater synergy between the Community's cohesion policy and its policy on the environment.

Environmental protection and socio-economic development have, in the past, often been seen as mutually clashing objectives. More and more, we are coming to understand that we need to reconcile the two, hence the importance now given to sustainable development.

Between 1989 and 1993, about ECU 2.8 billion from the Structural Funds was spent on direct schemes to benefit the environment in areas qualifying for Community regional assistance. The programming documents for these areas in 1994-99 include more than ECU 9.4 billion towards environmental schemes. And this is without taking into account the many projects which have an indirect effect on the environment and play an important role in preventing environmental problems.

To reinforce this trend, the Commission is proposing the following options. Under the Cohesion Fund, the goal is to arrive at an even distribution (50-50) between assistance for transport projects and support for projects connected with the environment. With regard to the Structural Funds, the Commission would like to improve the monitoring and assessment of the environmental impact of regional programmes. It would also like to tighten up the criteria on which projects are selected to ensure that they have a marked impact in economic, social and environmental terms. The Commission proposes launching new pilot projects in the environmental field. Finally, it supports establishing a dialogue between all the parties involved, including the non-governmental organizations.

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