When I first saw the pictures of the Melilla golf course in El Pais, two months ago, I was ashamed, as an European citizen, that taxpayer's money could be used to fund such a luxurious facility near that border fence that hundreds of poor migrants are trying to cross every day in search of a better life.
How ironic that a project built with the stated aim of reducing economic inequalities ends up highlighting in such a vivid manner the very problem it was trying to solve.
It was with projects such as this in mind, that I told the MEPs during my hearing or to the members of the Committee of the Regions that I will put an end to luxury investment from Regional Policy funds. After I learned about this case, I immediately asked my services to investigate it.
This golf course was built during the 2000-2006 budgetary period, which is now completely closed. Under the shared management principle that governs the use of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), once the Partnership Agreements and Operational Programmes are adopted by the Commission and the national authorities, the responsibility for the selection, management and implementation of projects lies exclusively with Member States. In short, there wasn't a lot that I could do about it at this stage.
Nevertheless I still felt uncomfortable with the idea that EU money could be invested in such projects which are, to me, absolutely unnecessary. And I want to assure you that this is not going to happen again, for two reasons.
The first reason is that the 2014-2020 ERDF Operational Programmes that are now being finalised are based on a sound intervention logic and strategic framework. They are concentrated on priorities likely to have a major impact in terms of sustainable growth and jobs and they will be evaluated according to their regularity, but also to their performance.
The second reason is that I have made a public commitment not to support luxury investments and I intend to talk the talk and walk the walk.
I have already instructed my services to tell the Spanish authorities to stop any further payments to this project earmarked during the 2007-13 period.
Not only we cannot afford these kind of investments, but we cannot afford to use EU money, money that belongs to European citizens, to support such projects, when so many Europeans are still struggling to make ends meet.
I want this new budgetary period to address the biggest necessities, and the fact that there are millions of unemployed people. We must think about research, innovation, supporting SMEs. We must have a substantial and manifest impact on the daily lives of people throughout the regions of Europe. This is the guideline I will follow throughout the coming years.