Following the Friends of Cohesion meeting in Bratislava on Friday, attended by an array of European prime ministers, the countries have issued a common declaration as follows:
The Prime Ministers and Representatives of the „Friends of Cohesion“ (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain) met in Bratislava on 5 October 2012 in order to discuss common issues related to the MFF 2014-2020. The Prime Ministers and Representatives welcomed the presence of the President of the European Parliament and the President of the European Commission.
JOINT DECLARATION of Prime Ministers and Representatives of the Friends of Cohesion adopted on 1 June 2012 in Bucharest;
EUROPEAN COUNCIL CONCLUSIONS of 28-29 June 2012 which stated that “within the future MFF, spending should be mobilized to support growth, employment, competitiveness and convergence, in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy” and that “the reformed cohesion policy offers an opportunity to invest out of the crisis as it is a major tool for investment, growth and job creation at EU level and for structural reforms at national level”.
The European Union is facing an unprecedented crisis and needs to mobilize all available instruments to stabilize the economy, while restoring the conditions for sustainable growth and jobs. The European budget, and the Cohesion policy in particular, should play a strong role in this regard.
The Cohesion Policy remains a key investment tool for our countries. Furthermore, it benefits the entire union by strengthening the internal market and increasing economic convergence as well as channelling investments to areas of potential growth and supporting structural reforms in Member States.
Further decrease of the Cohesion policy funding – on top of the current Commission proposal – would not match the ambitions repeated in successive European Council conclusions nor the Treaty and the Europe 2020 Strategy objectives.
We sign up to better quality of spending and welcome measures already taken in the current course of negotiations. This creates the right framework for an effective use of the Cohesion policy as from 2014. At the same time we have to avoid increasing administrative burden.
The overall level of resources allocated to the Cohesion policy should be in line with the Commission proposal in order to achieve our common European goals. There is no room for further reduction following the Commission proposal.
The cohesion funding should remain concentrated on less developed regions and Member States, while recognising the need to help regions exiting convergence and phasing out regions to reach a higher level of development.
The current level of co-financing rates should be maintained or even increased in case a Member State is facing severe economic difficulties. In addition, we should respect – and extend to all Common Strategic Framework’s funds – current provisions related to the eligibility of the non-recoverable VAT. The current pre-financing rates should also be maintained.
As an integral part of the Common Strategic Framework as well as the Europe 2020 Strategy, rural development should remain strong EU policy.
We need to secure that all programmes and instruments are operational from the first day of the new Multiannual Financial Framework being in place. A timely agreement is also important in the light of our ambition of better spending.
Therefore, EU institutions and leaders should use all their efforts to conclude negotiations by the end of 2012 in order to demonstrate their ability to properly address current and future challenges and find solutions to citizen’s benefit.