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Promoting the factors determining convergence

Identifying priorities for economic and social cohesion

How should the delivery system for future economic and social cohesion policy be organised ?


The evidence examined in this report shows that over the previous programming periods (1989-93 and 1994-99) Community cohesion policies have had some notable success. This is perhaps most visible in the case of the regions where development is lagging behind, where there has been a general process of catching up in economic and social terms.

At the same time, looking ahead to the next period of Community regional polices, after the end of the current planning period in 2006, the analysis in this report suggests the need to take particular account of:

  • the important increase in social, economic and territorial disparities resulting from enlargement;

  • the far-reaching effects of ongoing social and economic trends such as globalisation, the radical transformation of the European economy towards knowledge-based activities, the changing structure of population and so on.

In addition, a future reform of cohesion policies should take the opportunity to increase the added value and the visibility of Community policy. Ideally, reform should be accompanied by a strengthening of the effort to ensure that the other Community policies contribute to cohesion as much as possible, consistent with the pursuit of the objectives which they are principally designed to achieve.

Drawing on the analysis of the report, the following sections attempt to set out the main issues to be addressed in order to prepare the basis for a debate on the future of cohesion policies. Here, it is important to place the main issues in their correct logical order. Past experience of reforming cohesion policy reveals an increasing tendency for discussion at Member State (Council) level to concentrate on financial aspects. For example, in the negotiations on the financial perspectives for 2000 to 2006 ('Agenda 2000'), discussions on cohesion policy probably focused more on the amount and division of funding between Member States than on the content of the policy. Arguably, a more logical order would be to begin with the content - and, in particular, to identify priorities for future cohesion policies - before going on to address issues relating to the delivery system and financial allocations.


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