Timely policies

The path of cohesion to exit from the crisis

A few days ago, having drawn up the 2010 work programme and the lines of action for the next five-year period, the Barroso Commission delineated documents and proposals regarding a number of areas of intervention, along with the Lisbon Treaty enforcement, regional cohesion policy and global health.Citizens’ initiatives. Firstly, the Executive set the instruments enabling EU citizens to directly suggest new legislation – an innovation contained in the Lisbon Treaty. “The European Citizens Initiative (ECI) will allow at least one million citizens from at least one third of EU Member States to invite the European Commission to bring forward legislative proposals in areas where the Commission has the power to do so”. The proposal sets out how many signatures must be gathered from each country, and suggests that the Commission examine whether the initiative is admissible after 300,000 signatures have been gathered from three Member States. It sets a time limit of one year to collect signatures and gives the Commission four months to examine an initiative and decide how to act on it. Maros Sefcovic, Vice-President for Inter-institutional Relations said: “The Initiative will introduce a whole new form of participatory democracy to the EU. This is a real step forward in the democratic life of the Union. It’s a concrete example of bringing Europe closer to its citizens”. The Commission “hopes that the Council and Parliament will reach final agreement on the ECI before the end of this year”, to allow the first initiatives to be brought forward in 2011.Cohesion and regional development. The College released a report on EU cohesion programmes for the period 2007-2013. Accordingly, more than € 93 billion (amounting to 27% of funding) have already been allocated “to projects for investment in jobs and growth in Europe”. The report assesses the “rate of progress” of each country on delivering agreed EU objectives and “shows how well Member States aligned their programmes to EU goals of jobs and growth”. The document highlights problematic areas and “calls on Member States to improve the implementation of programmes, to make optimal use of the cohesion money, for instance in the rail sector, key energy and environment projects and the field of social inclusion”. Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Regional Policy, said: “This report is a new feature for cohesion policy. It puts into practice our ambition to establish a robust system for the delivery of structural fund investments during the programming period. The global economic crisis has obviously had an impact upon implementation. However, the overall picture is positive. It shows cohesion policy is successful in investing in regions. Delivery of the agreed strategies “is being put in place at a good pace, with progress in key sectors such as Research and Development and innovation particularly encouraging”. The report underlines that “Millions of Europeans and hundreds of thousands of enterprises benefit from the cohesion policy programmes. The bulk of cohesion policy resources have been earmarked for investment in Research & Development (R&D), innovation, lifelong learning and active labour market policies. Through its three funds – the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF), and the Cohesion Fund, the EU will invest €347 billion in 2007-2013 in the 27 Member States.Global health. In the days preceding the Easter holidays the Commission adopted proposals designed to “enhance the EU role in global health to make Europe’s contribution more effective so as to better accompany developing countries in getting back on track towards achieving health-related Millennium Development Goals”. In a joint statement Commissioners Andris Piebalgs, John Dalli and Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: “there are four approaches to improving global health”: establish “a more democratic and coordinated” global governance; push for “a collective effort to promote universal coverage and access to health services to all”; ensure “better coherence” between EU policies relating to health; improve coordination of EU research on global health and “boost access in developing countries to new knowledge and treatments”. The proposals will be discussed in the Foreign Affairs Council on 11 May. A Global Health High Level Meeting gathering EU Ministers of Health and Development will explore further action in June.

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