Tamás Fellegi, Minister for National Development, Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, and Danuta Hübner, Chairwoman of the European Parliament’s Committee for Regional Development, participated at a high-profile conference on the future of cohesion policy, held in Budapest on 31 March 2011. The two-day meeting supports technical preparations for the informal meeting of ministers, scheduled for May.
It is symbolic to put cohesion policy on the agenda of a conference in Budapest, half way into the Presidency’s term. This area, which is a key priority to the Hungarian Presidency, has been part of common European policies for 25 years, but this is the first time it features among the key themes of a Presidency.
Fellegi “We are on the right track to consensus”
Mr Fellegi said that cohesion policy is important for the Hungarian Presidency, because it is an area which can have direct impact on shaping the European Union’s future. Promoting competitiveness, job creation, and economic growth are goals (also for the Europe 2020 Strategy), that will remain infeasible without pursuing proper, and integrated cohesion policies.
“We have met our objectives set at the beginning of the Presidency, in due course we are on the right track to reach political consensus among Member States on this matter, by the end of our term,” Fellegi said in the evaluation. The Hungarian Presidency is ambitious that Member States come to an agreement on the core cohesion policy principles, and goals before embarking on discussions about the next multi-year fiscal cycle of the EU. Therefore, Poland, which will take over the Presidency for the second half of the year, will only have to address content issues associated with the policy, including mechanisms of selecting development goals, or ensuring the efficiency of fund utilisation.
The minister suggested that the past 25 years have proven the main idea behind Europe's cohesion policy, and the method of implementing it, are both appropriate, which is also justified by the results achieved by Member States. That is especially true about countries such as Hungary, who joined the EU in the most recent enlargement round. “Hungary would not have made it this far by 2011, without the EU’s cohesion policy,” Fellegi stressed. Róbert Homolya, Deputy President of the National Development Agency, also confirmed the minister’s statement. He pointed out that we have managed to reach 40 percent of the population in the areas of waste management and sewage canalisation, and 30 percent with the treatment of potable water by projects supported from the Cohesion Fund.
Cohesion policy shall not discriminate
Danuta Hübner, Chairwoman of the European Parliament’s Committee for Regional Development, former European Commissioner for Regional Development, pointed out that each region of the EU must be evaluated using identical parameters within the system of cohesion policy, which should not become a charity organisation only aiming to help poorer regions. Mr Fellegi agreed and explained that solidarity should be given priority in cohesion policy.
“No Member States can be left out from the cohesion policy without discrimination; its scope must cover the whole territory of the EU,” the Hungarian minister remarked. On the one hand, this entails convergence for less developed regions, and boosting the competitiveness of more developed ones. Cohesion policy offers the single integrated policy instrument, for reaching these objectives, with appropriate strategic ideas; and an appropriation accounting for 35 percent of EU’s total budget.
Speaking on behalf of the Commission, Commissioner Johannes Hahn, thanked the Hungarian Presidency for their efforts to bring cohesion policy to the forefront. He said, cohesion policy did not receive as much attention as it deserved, regardless of being appropriated a third of the EU budget. Ms Hübner called the attitude of the Hungarian Presidency commendable, and expressed her hope that Poland will carry on Hungary's enthusiasm, during the second half of the year and each institution will treat cohesion policy, in line with its significance.
The political participants will discuss the achievements and future of the cohesion policy, while the experts together with academics will discuss key areas (such as thematic concentration, result-oriented approach).
Location: Stefánia Palota
Address: Hungary 1143 Budapest, Stefánia út 33-36.