Ministry for Regional Development of the Czech Republic, Prague, 4 June 2008
The Ministry for Regional Development of the Czech Republic held a conference of regional development ministers from the Visegrad Group countries as well as Bulgaria and Romania in Prague during 3 to 4 June 2008. Together with the attending Commissioner Danuta Hübner, the ministers discussed the future of the Cohesion Policy.
The conference was presided over by Czech Minister for Regional Development Jiří Čunek who had convened the meeting in response to an initiative of the European Commission, which began discussing the future of the EU's Cohesion Policy at the beginning of this year to address the fact that participating countries face similar problems and have similar interests relating to the Cohesion Policy, such as supporting economic growth, competitiveness, employment, and territorial cohesion, including the development of urban and rural areas.
The Cohesion Policy is an important instrument motivating economic growth throughout the European Union. Its implementation has consistent economic and social effects on the regional, national, and pan-European levels, helping fulfill the objectives set out in the Europe Agreement and restated under the Lisbon Treaty. New challenges, such as climatic changes, limited resources, energy security and savings, unfavorable demographic trends and migration, and the growing global pressure on restructuring and modernization affect the EU's territories and citizens to varying extent. They lead to the deepening of economic and social differences between Member States and individual regions. In the future, i.e. after the year 2013, these fundamental problems should be addressed through an even stronger Cohesion Policy that will encompass all other policies of the European Union.
The Ministry for Regional Development welcomes the incorporation of the territorial approach into the Cohesion Policy and supports its further development, particularly in relation to polycentric, urban, and rural development, including the optimization of the relevant interrelations. As a result, the ministry has proposed that all six ministers sign a joint communiqué at the end of the conference on 4 June 2008, where the participating countries would agree to mutual cooperation on conceiving and promoting ideas concerning the further development and position of the Cohesion Policy in the framework of other EU policies and the process of incorporating the territorial dimension into programs and Cohesion Policy instruments after the year 2013.
"I want to emphasize that the main interest of the Czech Republic is to ensure that the Cohesion Policy is a reliable and effective instrument bringing even more visible results," said Regional Development Minister Jiří Čunek. "Another important issue in strengthening territorial cohesion is territorial planning, and I have therefore proposed that we should together set out to create a joint document that will focus on the territorial development of the Visegrad Group countries as well as Bulgaria and Romania, where the document could be expanded to include other neighboring Member States in the future," added Jiří Čunek.
During the Czech presidency of the EU Council in the first half of next year, the Ministry for Regional Development will concentrate on deepening the debate about the future of the Cohesion Policy, searching for new solutions, and strengthening the integrated approach to the development of all EU Member States and regions with special emphasis on the development of partnerships between urban and rural areas.