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Commission proposals for the implementation of Agenda 2000 - Preparing the EU for enlargement

The European Commission has adopted a series of legislative proposals designed to implement its Agenda 2000 communication, published in July 1997. The package of proposals are designed to reform key EU policies and establish the financial platform to bring new Member States in...
The European Commission has adopted a series of legislative proposals designed to implement its Agenda 2000 communication, published in July 1997. The package of proposals are designed to reform key EU policies and establish the financial platform to bring new Member States into the EU in the early years of the 21st century.

There are four main elements to the package:

- A series of proposals concerning reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). These would come into effect in 2000, with the major impact being a reduction in market support prices for various types of produce balanced by a move towards higher levels of direct payments to farmers. The reforms are designed to improve the competitiveness of EU agriculture on domestic and world markets, while discouraging over-production;

- Proposals for new Structural Funds Regulations for the period 2000-2006. Under these proposals the Commission aims to concentrate resources, as well as simplify and clarify the Structural Funds. The Funds would focus on three Objectives:

. Objective 1: support for the EU's poorest regions (those whose GDP per capita is lower than 75% of the EU average);
. Objective 2: support for the economic and social conversion of areas with structural difficulties, in particular declining industrial areas and areas with insufficiently diversified economic bases;
. Objective 3: support for the development and modernization of education and training, and employment initiatives and policies.

Around two-thirds of the total Structural Fund support would go to Objective 1 areas, covering around 20% of the EU population. Objective 2 would cover a further 18% of the EU population. Areas currently receiving support under the Structural Funds that would no longer be eligible would have their support phased out over several years.

The Commission has also put forward proposals for three Community Initiatives: promoting cross-border cooperation in regional development, rural development, and the fight against discrimination. Also covered by the package are measures to improve the Funds' management, decentralizing and developing control mechanisms, including financial control. The Cohesion Fund would be continued, with some refocusing to leverage maximum private investment and improve environmental protection.

The budget proposed for the EU's structural policies for the period 2000-2006 would amount to ECU 286,000 million (in 1999 prices). Of this ECU 218,400 million would go to the Structural Funds, ECU 20,800 million to the Cohesion Fund, and ECU 46,800 million tot he applicant countries (including pre-accession aid of ECU 7,280 million).

- Proposals for instruments governing pre-accession aid would manage funding for the applicant countries in Central and Eastern Europe and Cyprus of around ECU 3,000 million per year from 2000-2006. As well as administrative and legal adaptation, and the adoption of Community law, supported by the existing PHARE programme, this aid will address the agricultural sector and structural policies in the applicant countries. Pre-accession aid will be managed in the context of Accession Partnerships drawn up by each country and the Commission.

- The final element in the package is the proposal for the EU's financial perspectives for the years 2000-2006 - the overall budgetary framework within which the annual budget is set. The proposal sets out commitments in the main policy areas, as well as the potential impact of additional Member States in the later years of the period. Broadly, the Commission intends to keep spending on agriculture and on the structural policies at or slightly below current levels, with an increase in spending on internal policies, including research, which will have the strongest impact on employment generation. Also increasing slightly will be expenditure on external policies.

Overall, the Commission's proposal would see the EU's budget remaining below the ceiling of 1.27% of Union GDP each year. This limit was set by heads of state and government in 1992 at Edinburgh, when the previous financial perspectives for 1993-1999 were settled. Total commitments in 2000 would amount to ECU 101,530 million, rising in line with projected economic growth to reach ECU 105,230 million in 2006.

Spending on internal policies, of which research forms the major part, would rise from ECU 6,390 million in 2000 to ECU 7,900 million in 2006. Under the agreement reached in Edinburgh, research spending should account for between half and two-thirds of the total internal policies budget during the current financial perspectives, and in discussions on the Fifth Framework Programme, the Commission has indicated that it wishes this to continue. The budget proposed by the Commission for the Programme falls comfortably within this margin, at ECU 4,000 million in 2000, rising to ECU 4,400 million in 2002.

The package of proposals adopted on 18 March 1998 by the Commission will now be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council, with each instrument adopted on the basis of the EU's legislative procedures. The Commission aims to have the full package adopted by the end of 1999, so that each instrument is in place for 2000.

Source: European Commission, Service du Porte-parole

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