Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2006-07-04-Speech-2-027"

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". Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we have come to the end of a journey that began in July 2004 with the presentation of the Commission proposals on the new Structural Funds, which, I should like to point out, Parliament has always supported, has sought to improve and has, at any rate, defended by emphasising certain aspects that we regard as important, relating to quality, spending, sustainable development, environmental protection, equal opportunities, access for the disabled, public security and cross-border cooperation. I should like to thank the European Commission, Commissioner Hübner and the Austrian Presidency. They have acted in the same spirit of cooperation as we have. It is now down to our countries to act; we have the appropriate instruments, we ought to be able to make good use of them. We have worked alongside the Commission and the Council to ensure that this journey is swiftly concluded, but also, I repeat, to improve some sensitive points that we regard as important in the way in which our regions and our local authorities will use the Structural Funds. I should like to quickly point out our contribution on some specific points. Firstly, the consultation procedure: we fought to have the procedure extended and supported and to have it include, alongside institutional and administrative topics, new topics that are of importance on the ground: I am referring to non-governmental organisations and to civil society. We believe that the consultation procedure is a great school for democracy and, above all, a great resource in terms of responsibility: extending the scope of responsibility in the management of the Structural Funds is one of the major political challenges facing the European Union. We have focused on equity, that is to say, on the need to prevent a two-speed Europe, which would pave the way for geographically discriminatory measures. We know that the European cohesion challenge is a difficult one. Enlargement has widened the gap that exists between various geographical areas of Europe, and we felt it important to bridge that gap and to strike an economic and social balance among all of the countries of the European Union, preventing the risk of a two-speed Europe. We have concentrated on a number of priorities, adopting the Commission’s proposal to avoid turning the Structural Funds and the Regional Development Fund, for which I am responsible, into a kind of 'shopping list' that anyone can access on the basis of the most varied of needs. Instead, we have concentrated on the quality of a few objectives and made sure that quality comes before quantity, and we have done so, too, on the basis of the experience that each of us has committed to memory. We have held on to the principle of additionality: the Structural Funds are a form of added value, they must not substitute for the current, normal expenditure of the Member States, of the State. In that sense, we must focus more on quality issues regarding this expenditure, as a form of added value. Finally, Lisbon: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Lisbon does not only represent a competitive Europe, which is capable of getting its own economy off the ground and of pursuing the objective of full and good-quality employment, but it also represents a Europe that is capable at last of investing in knowledge, in intangible infrastructure, in know-how, in processes and technological innovation, and in everything that is today at the heart of the Structural Funds. The European Parliament’s contribution has been a practical one, including on a number of specific points, insofar as it has paid particular attention to environmental issues, to sustainable development, to urban policy, to small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the backbone of the European economy, and to security, too. We are pleased that a statement has been proposed that includes our request for special attention to be paid to security, aimed at making our European expenditure impenetrable to organised crime. We are only partly satisfied, Mr President, because, as you and all of my fellow Members will know, we do not believe that the budgetary resources are sufficient for the challenge we are facing, in spite of the enlargement and in spite of the proposal by the previous Commission, a proposal that is perhaps more generous and more in keeping with the needs of this enlarged Europe of 25. I feel it is worth stressing the European Parliament's sense of responsibility yet again, as other Members have done. It has always tried to cooperate fully and effectively with the other European institutions, has avoided the conciliation procedure and has avoided jeopardising the next programming period."@en1

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