Whenever the European Union has admitted new members, it has adjusted its cohesion policy and in particular the Structural Funds. This time, however, the prospective enlargement of the EU with the inclusion of up to 12 new members has an added sense of urgency. Given the tight budgetary context, reform of the rules under which funds are disbursed to current and future Member States has been unavoidable.
There is also increased concern about the operation of the Structural Funds and whether EU Member States derive the maximum benefit from the funds they receive. To maximise such benefits, a Member State has to ensure effective implementation and efficient use both of EU and national resources. For prospective members the task of effective implementation is daunting. In most cases they have to establish new regional administrations and management systems from scratch.
The purpose of this book is to review the objectives, instruments and procedures of EU cohesion policy and its principal instruments �" embodied in the Structural Funds �" taking into account the latest changes as a result of the Agenda 2000 reforms. By using different case studies, this book analyses the implementation of Structural Funds in the Member States and provides examples of what may be termed "best practice".
In the concluding chapter, the authors aim to identify how prospective Member States may strengthen their capacities to effectively implement EU Structural Fund programmes and to highlight the issues that are likely to prove significant in the on-going negotiations for their accession to the EU.
The book should prove to be a standard source of reference for officials from both existing and new Member States.