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GP: Handbook on SEA for Cohesion Policy 2007-2013 - Greening Regional Development Programmes Network - Romania PDF Print E-mail

Introduction

Objectives and purpose of the Handbook

EU Cohesion Policy provides around one-third of the European Community budget to increase economic and social cohesion throughout the EU. The primary objective for the upcoming funding period will be to promote growth and jobs, in accordance with the Lisbon Strategy and as defined in the Community Strategic Guidelines 2007-2013.

A key feature of Cohesion Policy is its reliance on an effective programming system, which determines how the funds will be spent for a period of seven years. In all EU Member States – some more than others – the use of Cohesion Policy funds will affect national or regional development directions, so that the programming process is an important development planning mechanism. It is therefore critical to integrate environmental protection and innovation within these plans and programmes from the start, both to take advantage of the benefits which environmentally - driven growth can bring to a society and to stimulate further sustainable development in the EU.

For the 2007-2013 period, the programming system will be simplified to include a national framework document at the political level and national and regional programmes at the operational level. For the first time in Cohesion Policy history, the requirements of Directive 2001/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 June 2001 on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment (hereinafter SEA Directive) will apply to plans and programmes prepared for Cohesion Policy funding.

The overall objective of the Handbook is to promote and enable the use of Strategic Environmental Assessment(SEA) for the integration of environmental concerns and considerations into plans and programmes prepared for Cohesion Policy 2007-2013. Within this objective, the Handbook aims to:
* recommend a practical procedure and methodology for undertaking SEA within the programming process for Cohesion Policy;
clarify the purpose and process of SEA and explain its role within the Cohesion Policy programming process;
* enable authorities to understand SEA as a tool to strengthen the programming process and not as a
burden or a complication;
* promote the use of public consultations to strengthen the evaluation and the programming process overall.

The Handbook is meant for use by different stakeholders in the programming process in the EU Member States: planning or development authorities in charge of the Cohesion Policy programming process; competent environmental authorities; and the SEA expert teams which carry out the assessments of plans and programmes.

Nature of the Handbook

This Handbook is purely advisory and does not serve as interpretative guidance for the transposition or implementation of the SEA Directive in EU Member States.

The focus of the Handbook is strictly on the preparation of the programming documents required for Cohesion Policy funding and is not meant to serve as guidance for SEA of other types of plans and programmes.

The recommended approach provided in the Handbook is fully compliant with the requirements of the SEA Directive. The authors have attempted to make the approach general and flexible enough to be relevant across the 25 EU Member States. Users of the Handbook will need to amend the actual process to meet the requirements of their relevant national legislation and the specifics of the programming process in their countries.

Because the approach is a recommended one, it proposes some actions which go beyond the requirements of or are not specifically mentioned in the SEA Directive. In these cases the Handbook will note that the approach extends beyond the strict requirements of the SEA Directive and will provide the rationale behind the proposed steps.

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