Scrutiny Information

Scrutiny date: 16/11/2018

Subsidiarity Concern:

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Information on parliamentary scrutiny

​Committee on EU Affairs discussed the proposal at its 16th meeting of 16 November 2018 and adopted the following Position:

Slovenia welcomes the Commission's Proposal in which cohesion policy remains a key Union’s development policy and a key policy to tackle global challenges. It expresses its support for cohesion policy, which should be even more focused on structural transformation and industrial transition, i.e. even more strongly linked to innovation, research, competitiveness, quality job creation and sustainable development, while taking into account the provision of knowledge, competences and various skills helping individuals face global challenges.

Slovenia welcomes the proposal that cohesion policy is to be implemented throughout the EU while respecting the principle of solidarity, i.e. with GDP maintaining its leading role in the allocation of resources and recognising the importance of encouraging the areas that lag behind in development. At the same time, Slovenia finds the new categorisation of regions positive, particularly the expansion of the group of transition regions.

On the other hand, Slovenia constantly emphasises that structural transformation is a long-term process that needs to be further accelerated and intensified and, above all, ensured sustainability. This is particularly relevant for regions caught in the middle income trap and facing the challenges of industrial transition. Slovenia therefore insists on the position that a solution must be found to prevent sudden collapses of cohesion envelopes also at regional level. Cases where individual areas on transition between multiannual financial frameworks suddenly lose the bulk of development funding are not only politically unacceptable, but above all harmful to the transition of these areas to the most developed ones, which is negative for the EU as a whole.

In principle, Slovenia accepts the connection between cohesion policy and the European Semester, which must be based on pre-agreed rules, taking into account territorial specifics and the competences of individual Member States. It must also be carried out in a timely and institutionally efficient manner. At the moment, Slovenia does not have enough information to take a clear view on the proposed connection.

In principle, Slovenia agrees with the proposal of five thematic objectives of cohesion policy, which are also related to the implementation of the principle of concentration as suggested by the European Commission, which should aim at a smarter and greener, low-carbon Europe. At the same time, Slovenia believes that the proposed implementation of such concentration is not optimal. Slovenia is in fact in favour of concentration on thematic objective 1 and combination of thematic objectives 1 and 2, while allowing Member States, in the light of their needs, greater flexibility in the allocation of resources between the individual policy objectives. This, in Slovenia's view, provides greater scope for adaptation to territorial specifics within the Union. Greater flexibility in terms of territorial specifics within the Union should also be ensured in relation to concentration within the specific objectives supported by the European Social Fund.

In defining the five thematic objectives, the question of their correlation with funding from different funds is raised. Slovenia has always advocated an integrated approach, i.e. an approach that not only allows but also promotes the synergic effect of different policies and funds. We are however particularly concerned about the possible artificial restriction of funding by individual objectives, in particular the ESF+ considering the ERDF. Slovenia believes that it is necessary to allow all funds to finance all the thematic objectives, provided that this is justified in terms of strategy and programmes and coordinated through a partnership process. Slovenia welcomes the Commission’s decision to apply common provisions in the field of territorial development to both the ERDF, the ESF+, the EMFF as well as the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, irrespective of the exclusion of rural development from the Proposal for a Regulation laying down common provisions for other funds, as it considers that greater territorial coherence and promotion of closer cooperation between various levels of governance should be treated uniformly, regardless of the fund. Slovenia also believes that more attention should be paid to providing appropriate mechanisms for ensuring complementarity between the various EU programmes.

As regards specific territorial characteristics, Slovenia agrees with the proposal to establish a European Cities Initiative, comprising measures to promote the sustainable development of cities. In this context, Slovenia draws attention to the need for shared management of the proposed initiative.

Slovenia supports the proposal of enabling conditions, especially the part that refers to monitoring their implementation throughout the programming period. In addition, Slovenia points out that when determining enabling conditions, the principle of determining key enabling conditions and ensuring a direct connection of a particular condition with the specific objective and measures within a specific objective should be maintained. Monitoring should preserve the principle of simplifying the implementation of cohesion policy and not creating additional administrative burdens by duplicating requirements and rules.

Slovenia believes that in order to achieve greater connectivity, integrity and synergies between funds, it is necessary to emphasise more clearly the direct connection between enabling conditions and individual measures necessary for their fulfilment with certain specific objectives, define a more appropriate designation and content of specific objectives, and define more broadly the scope of support and the set of possible indicators and intervention codes.

Slovenia welcomes the Commission's approach recognising the development interdependence of regions within individual countries. In this sense, a number of solutions have been proposed (for example, defining concentration at the national level), which Slovenia supports, but also believes that this principle should be further strengthened.

For Slovenia, it is crucial that the normative framework defines a sufficiently flexible dynamics in the use of funds, which will enable a quality investment cycle, i.e. the implementation of more innovative measures with a generally longer duration. Given the above, Slovenia is not in favour of amending the n+3 rule, especially considering that advance payments are also significantly reduced. This means that the speed of implementation of programmes will take precedence over the quality of their implementation, which Slovenia considers as inappropriate.

Ever since the beginning, Slovenia has been supporting the use of financial instruments within the framework of cohesion policy, as well as the integration of various financial instruments implemented at a centralised level within the framework of the InvestEU programme. It needs to be stressed that the InvestEU programme should not replace the financial instruments implemented by the Member States under cohesion policy or the national budget, but should be coordinated through their national financial institutions. We also believe that the decision to contribute to the InvestEU programme should remain a completely independent decision of a Member State based on the needs thereof. We welcome the possibility of combining different grants for the same item of expenditure, as well as the possibility of using returns from financial instruments in other forms of support, and other simplifications in this area.

Slovenia welcomes the Commission's proposal to provide greater flexibility for cohesion policy to respond to sudden changes, but considers that the proposed rule concerning the 5+2 programming period should be further defined. At the moment, Slovenia does not have enough information to take a clear position thereon.

Slovenia welcomes the Commission's proposal for a flat-rate financing of technical assistance. Taking into account the purpose of technical assistance, which should enable high-quality implementation of programmes and, consequently, efficient use of funds, Slovenia considers it necessary to provide financing of technical assistance in the form of increased advance payments.

As regards ETC, Slovenia welcomes the Commission’s proposals to provide greater attention to the development of specific indicators for the implementation of ETC programmes. Slovenia also supports the Commission's proposal on a clear hierarchy of eligibility rules, namely at the EU, programme and Member State levels.

As regards ETC, Slovenia is reluctant to propose that the functions of the Managing Authority are to a greater extent attributed to the structures of the European grouping of territorial cooperation (EGTC) and that the implementation of the Small Projects Fund is directly linked to the EGTC. Slovenia advocates shared management of ETC programmes and opposes the Commission’s proposals that imply additional administrative burdens and a slowdown in the implementation of programmes.

Slovenia finds the Commission's proposal to introduce component 5 in the ETC positive, but asks for further clarification as to how the cooperation between the more and the less developed regions will take place and how the programme will be managed. At the moment, Slovenia does not have enough information to take a clear position thereon.

Regarding the Commission's proposal for a mechanism for resolving legal and administrative barriers in a cross-border framework, Slovenia would appreciate additional clarifications on the criteria to determine whether Member States are obliged to use the proposed mechanism for eliminating legal barriers in cross-border cooperation.
 
Slovenia welcomes the Commission's proposal to simplify the implementation, management and control of cohesion policy, rely on national management systems, and the possibility of maintaining existing systems of implementation. It recalls, however, the need for a uniform definition of articles in the legislative proposal that provide this possibility. It also welcomes the uniform and clear rules for all funds and their shared management, while stressing that, in order to achieve the success of cohesion policy, uniform and simpler rules should apply to both shared and central management, in particular the so-called horizontal rules (e.g. state aid). In the spirit of simplification, Slovenia has reservations concerning the Commission’s proposal, which imposes additional tasks concerning the frequency of reporting by Member States and limits the forwarding of claims for reimbursement.

Slovenia believes that the proposal of the legislative package should also contain clearer and more specific provisions regarding the Commission’s obligations throughout the period of the implementation of the programmes, including audit, which, in Slovenia's view, would significantly contribute to a clearer, more efficient and faster implementation of cohesion policy.

Slovenia is in favour of proportionality and simplification in terms of the implementation of the funds included in the common strategic framework, especially as regards operational programmes with a smaller budget.



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