A new partnership for cohesion
Foreword by Michel Barnier
The purpose of this report, the result of work undertaken over the past three years, is to set out the European Commission's vision for the future of Europe's policy to reduce disparities and to promote greater economic, social and territorial cohesion.
Its preparation has not just been a technical exercise. On the contrary, it has involved extensive consultations at European, national, regional and local level in an effort to ensure that this new vision responds to needs and to the legitimate expectations of Europe's citizens.
In the course of these consultations, I have been asked many searching questions on the impact - the "added value" - of the interventions of the European Union in this field. For example, has cohesion policy succeeded in reducing the economic, social and territorial inequalities in standards of living and levels of opportunity ?
The report provides a detailed response to such important questions. It confirms that Europe's added value has been significant at many levels, in terms of the rapid reduction of the gaps in incomes between rich and poor, the creation of many new opportunities often in innovative activities and the creation of the networks linking regions, businesses and people across the continent.
The report also confirms that an equally important contribution has been made to the way that we in Europe tackle our economic problems. European cohesion policy has been the catalyst for new forms of partnership involving the regional and local authorities, national governments and the Union, working both within and across national borders, planning and implementing common development strategies.
All of this essential work will be far from over when the current generation of programmes comes to an end in 2006. The future holds many challenges as a result of the major increase in the Union's social and economic disparities following enlargement, a likely acceleration in the pace of economic change as a result of greater competition due to globalisation, the effect of the new technologies revolution and the development of the knowledge economy. To these global economic changes are added those of an ageing population and the effects of migration from outside the Union into its cities and towns. In addition, the Heads of State and of Government of the Union, meeting in Lisbon in March 2000, set out an ambitious target of making Europe the most successful and competitive knowledge based economy in the world.
In order to respond to these economic and political challenges, the Commission proposes a new cohesion policy for the period 2007-2013, one that allows all of the Member States and all of the regions to act as partners for growth that is sustainable, and for greater competitiveness. Efforts in the future must be concentrated, as now, on helping the poorest parts of the Union to catch up, especially in the new Member States. But the Commission also proposes that the serious difficulties facing other parts of the Union should be addressed, for example, those that result from economic change, urban decline or permanent natural handicaps.
The new generation of cohesion policies should be implemented through a more simplified and decentralised management system. Only by bringing all on board, and by mobilising the talents and resources of all its regions and citizens can Europe succeed. It is this that is the aim of the proposed New Partnership for Cohesion.