chapter  10
16 Pages

AT THE CROSSROADS

Cohesion policy as originally conceived compensated for disadvantages suffered in the Single Market. It came under fire in the Sapir Report claiming that this did not help with increasing Europe’s competitiveness and that it was bureaucratic (Sapir et al. 2004). Accepting the principle of solidarity, net-contributors wanted to replace cohesion policy with transfers to national governments. This went at the jugular vein of Commission-led cohesion policy within EU multi-level governance. The compromise was for the Financial Perspectives 2007-2013 to be cut in size, but for cohesion policy and also the controversial Common Agricultural Policy and the UK budget rebate to continue with a commitment to review them in time for the next round. The threat of what has been termed its renationalisation forms the backdrop to all discussions since of cohesion policy, and with it of territorial cohesion. Upon his appointment as Commission President in the mid-2000s, José Manuel Barroso set his sights on reinvigorating the Lisbon Strategy, for which purpose he brought out a Communication ‘Growth and Jobs’ (CEC 2005). DG REGIO scrambled to refocus cohesion policy. In fact it is one of the few instruments available to the Commission. The Lisbon Strategy as such depends on voluntary compliance. All that Member States are committed to is reporting on progress. The idea is that, finding themselves at the bottom of the league table, underperformers will be shamed into improving their performance. In cohesion policy, as against this, the Commission is responsible to make proposals to the Council of Ministers. This the Commission did in the ‘Community Strategic Guidelines on Cohesion 2007-2013’. They were approved in 2006. Even in the absence of the Constitution, the guidelines invoked territorial cohesion, saying the famous words ‘geography matters’. The proponents of European spatial planning/territorial cohesion policy everywhere now sing from the same hymn sheet. With the Lisbon Treaty in the offing, and encouraged by the Territorial Agenda, the Commission decided to publish the Green Paper.