Member States are failing to fully involve regions and cities in the preparation of national reform plans which are a central pillar of the EU’s jobs and growth strategy, a survey conducted by the Committee of the Regions shows.
The National Reform Programmes (NRPs), as they are known, outline objectives for the next three years in macroeconomic and microeconomic policy areas, as well as in the field of employment.
The CoR survey, conducted between 8 September and 10 October 2005, aimed to:
* Assess the level of involvement of regions and cities in preparing NRPs
* Establish what their NRP priorities are for achieving more jobs and growth
Questionnaires were sent to regions and cities in all 25 EU member countries, as well as associations representing them, and NRP national coordinators. A total of 119 responses were analysed – 103 of them from the local and regional level and 16 from national representatives.
The survey found that only 17% of regions and cities were satisfied with their involvement in the preparation of NRPs. A significant number of respondents stated that the absence of any call for consultation was the main reason for their non-participation in the process. And even where consultation did take place, their proposals were not recognised as a ‘main contribution’ by national coordinators in 80% of cases.
With regard to the content of the NRP proposals, regions and cities underlined the importance of adapting education and training systems to meet new challenges, and the need to create a more attractive, supportive business environment for SMEs.
Regarding the potential added value of the NRPs for local and regional development, the results showed that 31% of regions and cities and 94% of national coordinators believe the NRPs set clear priorities. However, only 13% of all respondents stated that the NRPs provide adequate financial resources, and just 7% of regions and cities say they offer clear timetable for reforms compared to 31% of national coordinators.
The survey also illustrated that only a few regions and cities perceive a cohesive territorial approach in the draft NRPs for regions lagging behind for natural reasons (14%) or those lagging behind for economic and social reasons (25%). Consequently, they call for a greater level of coherence between the NRPs and EU cohesion policy to ensure a more balanced approach in achieving the targets for jobs and growth.
Reacting to the survey findings, CoR President Peter Straub warned that the EU’s efforts to increase its global competitiveness would be undermined unless all levels of government – European, national, regional and local – worked together in partnership.
“The Lisbon Strategy can only be successfully delivered if all stakeholders are fully involved in decision-making, implementation and monitoring processes,” he said. “If we don’t get everyone on board, then we won’t achieve what we want to achieve. If we want to succeed in translating the Lisbon objectives into reality, the content of the NRPs must reflect a genuine partnership approach.”
The CoR is currently analysing the published NRPs in order to make a comparison with the survey results. This analysis will form part of the CoR’s contribution to the Spring European Council on 23-24 March.
The detailed findings of the CoR survey are attached. The study of the NRPs will be published later this month on the CoR website and can also be obtained by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to read the survey in ful