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Conclusions from the Meeting of Ministers responsible for regional development of the Visegrad Group countries, Bulgaria and Romania

Prague, 3–4 June, 2008

We, Ministers of the Governments of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Poland, Romania and the Slovak Republic
Welcoming the initiative of the European Commission which opened a broad discussion on the future of Cohesion policy as one of the fundamental instruments for the development and the deepening of the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the Member States and all regions of the European Union, and expressing their gratitude and support to the Presidencies for continuing this effort,

Acknowledging a significant number of the common problems and interests as regards Cohesion policy, such as the effort to support economic growth, competitiveness and employment of countries and regions, strengthening the territorial cohesion—in particular accessibility, territorial cooperation, urban and rural development—existing among the Republic of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Poland, Romania and the Slovak Republic, and

Wishing to strengthen the cooperation of the states involved and to follow common interests in the course of the ongoing development of the debate on the future of Cohesion policy as well as in the process of the implementation of the First Action Programme for the Implementation of the Territorial Agenda of the EU,

have agreed on the following conclusions:

  1. We assess positively the role of Cohesion policy for the EU economic growth as well as for the balanced and sustainable development of all European regions, leading to regional cohesion and to the strengthening of competitiveness. We underline the strategic nature of Cohesion policy and its high added value at all levels. We strongly emphasise that its implementation brings sound effects in the economic and social fields at regional, national and European levels, and thus contributes to achieving the original objectives set in the EU Treaty and reconfirmed in the Lisbon Treaty.

  2. We are convinced that the persisting disparities among the Member States and regions create, in the context of the new challenges, a real need to enhance the role of Cohesion policy among the European Union policies. Therefore, it should remain a central pillar for achieving the EU sustainable development goals, thus constituting an instrument for deepening the European integration and for increasing prosperity and solidarity among all European regions.

  3. We emphasize that challenges such as climate change, the scarcity of resources, energy security and efficiency, unfavourable demographic trends and migration, together with growing global pressure on restructuring and modernization, affect in different degrees the European territories and EU citizens, leading to the deepening of the economic and social discrepancies between Member States and regions. We believe that a stronger cohesion policy within an integrated approach, combining all European Union policies, could better tackle these crucial challenges.

  4. We welcome the recognition of the territorial approach to Cohesion policy and support its further development, in particular the polycentric, urban and rural development, including the optimising their mutual relations.

  5. We agree that the interest of our countries is to promote further development and deepening the European territorial cooperation at cross-border, trans-national and inter-regional levels. In this context we recognize the value of inter-institutional, inter-sectoral and territorial partnerships.

  6. We declare that our countries will cooperate mutually when formulating and advocating opinions about the further development and status of Cohesion policy within the framework of the European Union policies, and in the process of including the territorial dimension into programmes and instruments of Cohesion policy. We are prepared to participate in the First Action Programme for the Implementation of the Territorial Agenda of the EU.

  7. We underline that our primary concern is to have Cohesion Policy with more visible results and greater accountability. It is for this reason that we are strongly committed to a continued development and streamlining of the Cohesion policy's delivery mechanisms in order to allow more efficient and effective implementation of programmes, bringing about quantifiable results and making the policy more visible. This will require a strong commitment at all levels. We will actively search for optimal solutions in a context of open discussions.

  8. We recognize the importance of spatial planning in strengthening territorial cohesion and are committed to elaborate a common document on spatial development of the Visegrad group countries, which also includes Bulgaria and Romania and which may be extended to other neighbouring Member States in the future.

  9. We welcome the fact that during its presidency of the Council of the European Union, the Czech Republic is going to focus on deepening further the debate on the future of Cohesion policy, on identifying new solutions to achieve real synergies between Cohesion policy and other policies, and on strengthening the complex and integrated approach regarding the development of all Member States and regions with special regard to the development of partnerships between the urban and rural areas.

  10. We welcome and invite support of these Conclusions given by other Member States.
Signed in Prague on 4 June, 2008, in six copies in English language.

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