A new set of rules and legislation governing the 2014-2020 round of EU investments came into force in December 2013. This legislative package sets down common rules for the “European Structural and Investment Funds” (ESIF), ensuring a more strategic and complementary use of different sources of EU funding, to combine and simplify their use for a better impact on growth and jobs.
1. What are the European Structural and Investment Funds?
- The European Regional Development Fund
- The European Social Fund
- The Cohesion Fund
- The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund
- The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development
2. What are “Partnership Agreements”?
Under the new rules, Member States were required to draw up and implement strategic plans with investment priorities covering these five ESI Funds. These “Partnership Agreements” (PAs) were negotiated between the European Commission and national authorities, following their consultation of various levels of governance, representatives from interest groups, civil society and local and regional representatives. The starting point for these Partnership Agreements were position papers produced by the Commission services in 2012 for each Member State setting out how EU investments should support smart, sustainable and inclusive growth by focusing on key advantages and important growth sectors in regions and Member States.
3. What are “Operational Programmes”?
The Commission also works with the Member States as they draw up “Operational Programmes” (OPs) breaking down the investment priorities and objectives of the Partnership Agreements into concrete actions. These OPs can cover entire Member States and/or regions, or be cooperation programmes involving more than one country. The Commission negotiates with the national and regional authorities on the final content of these investment plans. All levels of governance, including civil society should be consulted and involved in the programming and management of the OPs.
According to the new rules, OPs should be submitted by Member States at the latest 3 months following the submission of the Partnership Agreement.
The Commission makes observations within 3 months and adopts the OP no later than 6 months from the date of its submission, provided that the Member State has adequately taken into account the Commission observations.
The OPs are then implemented by the Member States and their regions. This means selecting, implementing, monitoring and evaluating the individual projects according to the priorities and targets agreed for the programmes with the Commission. This work is organised by 'managing authorities' in each country and/or region according to the principle of shared management and subsidiarity. The new rules require a much stronger focus on results and goals to be measured, monitored and published throughout the period.
4. What is the current state of play with Member State PAs and OPs?
The European Commission has now adopted Partnership Agreements with all 28 Member States, outlining their investment plans for European Structural and Investment Funds for the 2014-2020 programming period.
The first Partnership Agreement to be adopted was with Denmark on 5 May 2014. The last one was adopted on 18 November 2014, with Ireland.
Around 535 programmes in total are expected for the ESI Funds, ensuring that the reforms that have been agreed for the 2014-2020 period are implemented on the ground. As of today, the Commission has adopted 39 programmes. Negotiations continue to finalise the remaining programmes as soon as possible to ensure that the programmes make maximum contribution to growth and jobs. The new deadline for submitting the programmes is set on 24 November 2014. The overall aim is to adopt all programmes by the summer of 2015.
Yet the Commission has underlined that a strategic approach to the use of the Funds is critical and quality is more important than speed.
5. Who to contact in your country to get more information about funding individual projects?
EU Regional Policy:
European Social Fund:
European Rural Development:
EU Fisheries and Maritime: