the new possibilities and challenges of a dynamic regional development and the wide debate on the future of regional policy and territorial cohesion of Europe,
Recognizing an increasing number of areas and issues of common interest in the field of urban development, regional policy and cohesion policy among the Slovak republic, Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic,
Wishing to give voice, to safeguard and to pursue the common interests of the countries of the Visegrad Group,
Declaring their commitment to work for the needs of the regions of this part of Europe.
Therefore, the ministers have agreed as follows:
- In this period of a key importance in the process of negotiations of the next programming period 2007–2013, the undersigned Ministers acknowledge the need for the smoothest possible progress as well as successful conclusion of this process that would ensure for the equal approach for both old and new EU Member States. It is of crucial importance that the negotiations on the financial perspective and the Cohesion Policy regulations will be concluded as soon as possible, the rules and the financial perspective are clear and the programmes to be co-funded by the Structural and Cohesion Funds can be started in all beneficiary countries in 2007. Ministers reconfirm that the main persisting priorities are VAT eligibility and n+2 rule for Cohesion Fund.
- The main goal of the negotiations is to develop the regulatory framework for the EU Cohesion Policy that will address specificities of both old and new EU Member States. In this context Ministers welcome the European Commission's initiative to strengthen commitment to the integrated urban renewal and to underline the role of the cities in the cohesion policy and the urban contribution to growth and jobs in the regions. The EU should offer substantial potential for addressing in a satisfactory manner the urban question in the Community Strategic Guidelines on Cohesion 2007–2013, expecting thereby that Member States develop their own answers to this problem area. In this context it is important to clarify what status will be given to the Commission Working Paper "Cohesion Policy and cities: the urban contribution to growth and jobs in regions" in the Community Strategic Guidelines on Cohesion and Structural and Cohesion Funds regulations.
- Ministers note the value of the Urban Acquis from Rotterdam (2004) and also recognise that there is a set of broad characteristics of sustainable communities, but their combination into a single approach is unique in each and every situation, reflecting economic, cultural and social specificities and historic development. Therefore Ministers welcome the "Bristol Accord" prepared for Bristol conference (2005) reflecting sustainable communities approach.
- Ministers repeatedly stress the importance of one of the main urban problems of the new Member States—post-war panel housing estates. Unparalleled tenure structure in housing stock with very high owner-occupied segment, extremely high energy consumption, is a challenge for which a new set of instruments has to be prepared.
- In this context Ministers regret that under the current discussions on the new programming period 2007–2013 only a weak reflection was given to their concerns and nearly no flexibility was shown regarding negotiations of housing eligibility under Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund. It is clear that the problems of the urban areas in the V4 countries are in many ways different from that of the EU-15. Therefore Ministers reconfirm their hope that it is still possible to tackle this challenge in a way that would enable eligibility of specific housing expenditure as part of integrated urban renewal programmes.
Signed in Sliač on 2nd December 2005 in four originals in English.
Lászlo Gyurovsky (Slovakia)
Jiří Patočka (Czech Republic)
Istvan Kolber (Hungary)
Gražyna Gesicka (Poland)