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2 The contribution of structural policies to economic and social cohesion: results and prospects

2.2 Assessing the effects of Community intervention (1994-99)

Objective 2: strategic progress, but a limited leverage effect from Community support

For Objective 2 regions, quantitative evaluation is more difficult, though it is possible, for specific measures, to identify the leverage effect of Community intervention. It is evident that the authorities in Member States responsible for structural policies regard eligibility for assistance from the Structural Funds as being much more important than simply the additional finance that it provides, since it opens the way for them to give national support to activities in the regions concerned and to obtain loans from the EIB. The volume of State regional aids is, therefore, larger than transfers from the Structural Funds, while the scale of EIB loans is expanding significantly.

The increase in regional partnerships made it possible to redirect Community funds towards productive investment and measures aimed directly at employment creation. Around half of structural assistance was spent directly or indirectly on support of the productive sector, and in particular SMEs (Graph 37).

During the last programming period (1997 to 1999), employment became more visible as an objective both in the formulation of policies and in the quantification of results. However, despite progress made, evaluation of the employment effects carried out in the Member States is still not fully comparable because of differences in coverage and methods of calculation as well as in the nature of the intervention itself. For example, the number of jobs created or maintained per million Euros invested varies approximately from 13 to 57 for the period 1994 to 1996 and from 17 to 68 for 1997 to 1999 (see Table A.42, in annex ).

A number of estimations carried out, particularly in the UK SPDs, indicate that the real effects of programmes on employment are reduced significantly if account is taken of 'deadweight' effects (ie the effects which would have taken place even in the absence of intervention) and 'substitution' effects (when jobs created are at the expense of existing ones). This means, for example, that if these effects amount to 30%, three out of every ten Euros spent have no net effect on employment.

Less assistance went to infrastructure than in the past, while programmes to create alternative activities and to strengthen the productive environment in areas with serious problems of restructuring gave rise to uneven results, even if in some cases a real recovery in their economic potential seems to have occurred.

Technology transfer centres, adapted to the needs of local business, have been set up to disseminate know-how to SMEs, as in some French areas undergoing restructuring, such as Aquitaine, where these centres are likely to have long-term effects on their behaviour and capacity to adjust to change.

The environment is an increasing cause for concern in most regions, which has led to a wide range of protection and improvement measures, including cleaning up industrial wastelands but also, as in the case of the most innovative programmes (in Berlin, South Wales and East Midlands in the UK) changing production methods, the transfer of know-how, training and the adoption of clean technologies.

In addition to strategic advances in programming, Community intervention has had beneficial effects through the delivery system adopted, which, over the decade, progressively improved.1 These include the creation of active and diversified partnership, the adoption of more rigorous means of selecting projects and the establishment of computerised monitoring systems. The effectiveness of programmes, however, was often limited, because, in particular, of the relative dispersion of the funds over small and fragmented areas.

  1. European Policies Research centre (EPRC), Objective 2: Experiences, lessons and policy implications, July 1999.

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