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Informal Meeting of the Ministers Responsible for Cohesion Policy

An Informal Meeting of the EU Ministers for the Cohesion Policy  was held in Athens on the 24th and 25th of April. The main topic on the agenda has been SME support. Discussion focused on crucial issues, as access to finance and enabling business environment for SMEs with the support of Structural Funds. European Commission’s proposal on the European Urban Agenda and the role of cities have also been discussed. 

Commissioner Hahn also addressed the participants of the meeting. In his speech Commissioner Hahn discussed the current progress with  Partnership Agreements (PAs) and Operational Programmes (OPs). He also concentrated on SME Initiative and need for synergies between European Social Fund (ESF) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).  

Commissioner Hahn’s points on Partnership Agreements and Operational Programmes were as follows:

  • 27 PAs have been submitted to the European Commission. Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia received observations on their Partnership Agreements.  It is envisioned that German and Danish Partnership Agreements would be adopted in the upcoming weeks
  • Despite the fact that many Member States (MSs) did not submit their Partnership Agreements until April, the Commission would do its best to ensure timely adoption of PAs. However, the quality would not be sacrificed for the sake of speed, as the adopted Partnership Agreements would determine the strategies for the upcoming decade
  • 7 Member States (MSs) also submitted all of their Operational Programmes in addition to the PAs. In total, European Commission received 81 OPs. Commission envisions between 2-3 months for feedback on these programmes. In general,  there is still a lot of room for improvement in most OPs. More specific objectives and measurable, realistic targets need to be reached
  • The European Commission would ensure that investments make sense and that they correspond to a targeted development strategy. Resources should not be spread too thinly. Projects would need to follow strategy

Commissioner Hahn, further concentrated on SME Initiative and synergies between the funds: 

  • One of the main obstacles for SMEs is access to finance and Cohesion Policy should strive to ease access to finance for the SMEs. Cohesion policy already offers many good examples where SME access to finance has been greatly facilitated through ERDF funded guarantee schemes. Financial instruments can offer a good form of public support to help deliver finance to SMEs
  • It is crucial to enhance synergies between ERDF and ESF funded policy actions relevant to SMEs and SME support measures under other EU initiatives

Four discussion papers have been provided prior to the meeting:

  1. Towards an EU urban agenda - future steps
  2. SMEs support
  3. EU Urban Agenda
  4. Future Formation of Informal Ministerial Council on Cohesion Policy

 

Full Speech of the Commissioner Hahn is available through European Commission Press Releases Database.

Source: Website of the Greek Presidency