The future of Cohesion Policy

Publisert under: Regjeringen Solberg

Utgiver: Kommunal- og moderniseringsdepartementet

Innlegg fredag 25.april – uformelt regionalministermøte i Athen

- We are looking forward to a continuation of our good cooperation with the EU and our neighbours in the field of state aid modernisation and cohesion. In particular, we hope that the Commission will address the urgent need for clarifications of the sector definitions in the regional aid guidelines. In the long term our hope is that state aid regulations in general and regional aid guidelines in particular will be amended in a way that makes regional policies and state aid even more efficient, sa Jan Tore Sanner i sitt innlegg på uformelt regionalministermøte i Athen.

Check against delivery.

Dear Mr. Kostas Hatzidakis, dear Ministers and Commissioner,

First of all, I would like to thank the Greek presidency for inviting Norway to this meeting. It is always useful to be kept informed about developments within our common area of responsibility, also for partner states.

The Greek presidency has put emphasis on promoting competitiveness for small and medium sized enterprises. SMEs are the backbone of employment everywhere. In Norway, seven out of ten employed are working in SMEs.

As a partner country, we do not have access to Structural Funds or other EU funding for regional development.  However, competition rules and the guidelines for regional aid also apply in Norway, through the EEA-agreement.

SME development is important, especially in peripheral areas, and particularly in sparsely populated regions. I am therefore happy that the new guidelines on regional aid recognise the specific challenges for these regions, and also open for operational aid in extremely sparse populated areas. This is of course of vital interest for Norway, where less than 20 percent of the territory is populated.

An important objective of the present Government’s regional policy is to increase productivity and competitiveness.  This objective implies that we need to establish thriving business communities throughout the country. Good conditions for trade and industry are therefore – in our view – the best regional policy instrument of all, including good infrastructure and tax regimes.

Measures to support the development of SMEs are, however, also important. These policies must build on opportunities found in each region, and be tailored to stimulate competitivity for all sorts of regions.

As a minister of both regional development and modernisation, I have an ambition of reducing the administrative costs of both public bodies and private companies. The modernisation of the state aid legislation is therefore very welcome.  Streamlining schemes into the framework of the general block exemptions regulations is an example on this.

A further focus on administrative costs related to state aid in general, and regional aid guidelines in particular, would be welcome. In the short term, there is a need for clarification of the sector definitions, especially regarding the energy and transport sectors. 

Seen from my perspective, regional aid guidelines should be general and cover all kind of businesses in specific regions. We must avoid sector exemptions in horizontal aid schemes. Such exemptions increase administrative costs substantially. The new exemptions increase the compliance costs both for the aid recipients as well as the granting authorities. I am also concerned about the use of sector notions without clear definitions.

To achieve our objectives of economic growth in general and SMEs in particular, a helpful step at the European level would be to streamline state aid legislation. This entails among other things, fewer derogations from the general principles.

We are looking forward to a continuation of our good cooperation with the EU and our neighbours in the field of state aid modernisation and cohesion. In particular, we hope that the Commission will address the urgent need for clarifications of the sector definitions in the regional aid guidelines. In the long term our hope is that state aid regulations in general and regional aid guidelines in particular will be amended in a way that makes regional policies and state aid even more efficient.

Thank you for your attention.