Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2005-07-05-Speech-2-159"

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". Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I too thank the Commissioner and the other rapporteurs. I believe that we have devised a path of work that benefits everyone, including in view of the quality of the reports that we are submitting to the vote in Parliament. We are satisfied with the results achieved. We have strengthened the role of the partnership, which we consider a great school for teaching civilisation and democratic practice. We have succeeded in ensuring that special attention is also paid to the fight against organised crime and mafia-related crime, laying down the possibility of also using the Structural Funds to create the necessary know-how for tackling the pervasiveness of mafia-related crime. We have also succeeded in ensuring that the principal of non-discrimination applies across the board. On this subject, the rapporteur has tabled only two amendments, the purpose of which is to enhance the unity and consistency of the entire text. I will conclude by pointing out, like Mr Hatzidakis, that the quality of our spending is, however, dependent on the existence of sufficient resources. That is why I believe that this Parliament has to ensure that resources are not withdrawn from solidarity, or rather from the ability to create a Europe that all moves at the same speed. It is not solely a question of a principle laid down in the Treaties, but it is the principle to which we have to entrust the future of the political and economic integration process in Europe. I am dealing with the European Regional Development Fund, which is without doubt the most important of the Structural Funds in terms of quantity of resources. It was set up 30 years ago and has the crucial task of correcting the regional imbalances present throughout Europe. It is a task laid down by an article of the Treaty, pointing out to us the requirement for, and the necessity of, a Europe founded on solidarity and on the ability to create equal opportunities and fair conditions, particularly now that we find ourselves faced with the challenge of enlargement. The ten new Member States represent a large resource in terms of the quality of policies, a significant step forward in the history of Europe. We must also remember, however, that regional imbalances are becoming worse. Right now, a third of all of Europe’s resources belong to a geographical area covering only a tenth of the European Union, and we have recorded a doubling in the number of regions eligible to come under Objective 1, that is, regions with a high level of structural imbalances and economic difficulties. That is therefore the fundamental task of a policy of engagement and solidarity. If the Union were just a free trade area, we could confine ourselves to redistributing the income among the wealthiest regions and the poorest regions. In contrast – and for this I am grateful to the Commissioner – we have the choice of a political, social and economic project entrusted to the Structural Funds, or rather the choice of a development model that, in its entirety, benefits the process of European integration. It is a development model that makes a number of significant choices. It favours the choice of subject matter made in Gothenburg and Lisbon and therefore chooses the path of the knowledge-based economy, knowledge, innovation, scientific research and training, intended as a permanent opportunity throughout people’s entire lives, as well as risk prevention and sustainable development. It is an extremely ambitious project that naturally has one objective that cuts across the others, that is, the quality of spending. Mr President, Commissioner, we have not always spent everything, and, even when we have done, we have not always spent it well. There are regions – including in my country – that have received considerable resources but where there remain the unwavering signs of hardship that they experienced 10, 15 or 20 years ago with regard to employment levels, the quality and interlinking of infrastructures, scientific research and the processes of innovation. It is therefore clear that we have to achieve a great improvement in quality in terms of the adequacy of spending, and, in order for this to occur, we have to select objectives by setting a small number of priorities. It is for that reason that our group is against the wish – which is understandable but unnecessary – of indiscriminately enlarging the fields in which this structural fund may be used. We propose a vote against a number of the amendments that would seek to introduce too many objectives and too many priorities. We propose voting against the understandable desire of a number of Members to include VAT among reimbursable expenses. We do not wish to reopen a debate that has been thoroughly aired in committee, but we believe that value-added tax, as was pointed out by the Council, the Commission and the Court of Accounts, gave rise in the past to significant misuse when a proportion of VAT was reimbursed. We believe in particular that including this would create intolerable inequality among countries with VAT rates varying between 1% and 25%. This also relates to the construction of new housing. We approved an amendment, which we hope will be adopted by the Commission, relating to the construction of social housing. However, to consider that Structural Funds could be generally invested in the construction of housing would mean fundamentally withdrawing resources from such funds."@en1

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