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This, the second report on economic and social cohesion in the European Union, pulls together a large amount of information, which is the product of considerable work carried out by the European Commission services on developments and prospects. With my colleagues, Anna Diamantopoulou and Franz Fischler, I hope that you will find it useful.

The first report on cohesion, published by the Commission in 1996, laid the basis for a thorough reform of EU regional policy. This was then formalised in Agenda 2000 and entered into force last year.

The aim of this second report is no less important. It represents the very first analysis of the situation in the present Member States and regions in relation to economic and social cohesion and how this can be expected to change after enlargement.

It also represents a solid basis for discussing the form which regional policy will take in an enlarged Union. The need for regional policy will not disappear with enlargement. On the contrary, given the resultant widening of social and economic disparities, there will be additional justification for EU intervention, based on the same principles and with the same ambition for both the existing and future Member States.

At this stage, the report does not, of course, attempt to draw any firm conclusions on the shape of cohesion policy after 2006. Instead, its aim is to open a debate and to suggest clear and detailed proposals and options which need to be considered.

The report also sets out the European Commission's priorities to be addressed in this major discussion of solidarity and cohesion in an enlarged Union. In launching it, we have three principles:

  • first, that cohesion policy retains credibility with the appropriate means at its disposal for tackling the unprecedented scale of the challenges which it will face;
  • secondly, that it becomes more visible, that it brings home to citizens in the larger Union the meaning of cohesion while meeting their expectations, directly or indirectly.
  • thirdly, that the policy is pursued with a clearer vision than in the past of the diversity of the different parts of Europe and their different needs.

To assemble 500 million people in a united Europe - but not a uniform Europe - represents a tremendous opportunity. Europe must, however, equip itself with a policy capable of maintaining cohesion in this context and of bringing genuine added value to the resolution of the most serious problems. To achieve this, cohesion policy needs not only a new dimension but also a new direction. This report is intended to provide a practical and objective contribution to launching a wide-ranging debate on this subject.


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