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The European Commission is consulting on proposals to concentrate its future special structural funding on five typ...
The European Commission is consulting on proposals to concentrate its future special structural funding on five types of project.

Community initiatives - which include existing projects such as RECHAR - were set up in 1988 to allow the commission to pursue its own projects in areas of community wide interest.

Since they were launched it has set up 16 projects and the commission now wants views on how it should proceed in its next five year plan (1994-99).

It published a green paper in June which suggested it should narrow its targets down to five areas: transnational and inter regional co- operation and networks, rural development, outermost regions, human resources, management of industrial change.

The commission will spend 9% of its total Ecu141 billion (around £108bn) budget on these projects and some of this money can be spent outside objective 1, 2 and 5b areas.

Consultation is due to wind up at the end of this month and the local authority associations are planning a joint response.

The commission also published an English language guide to its new five year spending programme last week.

There are only minor rule changes to the previous programme adopted in 1988.

Structural funds, which account for a third of community spending, are spent in line with four major principles. These are: concentration of effort, partnership, programming, additionality.

Five priority objectives were set up in 1988 to help concentrate funds.

Objectives 1 and 2 - development of those regions lagging behind and those affected by industrial decline - are unchanged. Objectives 3 and 4 - combating long term unemployment and support for young people - have been merged into a new objective 3.

A new objective 4 will meet the task agreed at Maastricht of facilitating workers' adaptation to industrial changes and changes in production systems. Objective 5 aims to promote rural development. It is split into 5a and 5b - the latter is area specific.

Financial support for objective 1, 2 and 5b areas is limited to qualifying regions. Support for the other objectives is intended to be community wide. Objective 1 areas are agreed at community level.

The Highlands and Islands Enterprise Area and Merseyside are included in the new programme. Previously only Northern Ireland had qualified from the UK.

These areas will receive 70% of all structural funds in the next five years. Most of this money will be targeted at Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.

Objective 2 areas are nominated by national governments but have to be confirmed by the commission. It can reject suggestions but cannot add new areas. The UK government announced its plan for assisted areas in July.

The rules have been changed on partnership to allow for its extension to competent authorities and bodies designated by the member state.

The commission had hoped to strengthen the position of partners such as councils and unions but this clause obviously provides an escape route for governments.

On programming, the regional development fund has been extended to include investment in education and health in objective 1 areas.

Community Structural Funds 1994-99 is published by the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, ISBN 92-826-6272-1

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