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European Commission


Brussels, 5 May 2014

Q&A on the "Partnership Agreements" between the European Commission and the EU Member States on European Structural and Investment Fund investments for 2014-2020

On 22 December 2013 a new set of rules and legislation governing the next round of EU investments for 2014-2020 came into force. For the first time, this legislative package set down common rules for the “European Structural and Investment Funds” (ESIF), ensuring a more strategic and complementary use of different sources of EU funding, and 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 are required to draw up and implement strategic plans with investment priorities covering these five ESI Funds. These “Partnership Agreements” (PAs) are 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.

The regulations establish that each Member State shall submit its Partnership Agreement to the Commission within 4 months from the entry into force of the Regulation – i.e. by 22 April 2014.

The Commission shall in turn make observations within 3 months of the date of submission of the PA and shall adopt the Agreement no later than 4 months from its submission, provided that the Member State has adequately taken into account the observations made by the Commission. Until the Partnership Agreement is adopted, the Operational Programmes cannot be approved.

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 is now analysing the official Partnership Agreements and draft Operational Programmes received from 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 from Denmark on May 5 2014. Please see links below for a regularly updated list on Partnership Agreements and Operational Programmes:

The Commission has underlined that a strategic approach to the use of the Funds is critical and quality is more important than speed.

The Commission will continue thoroughly analysing the Partnership Agreements and sending observations to Member States.

5. Who to contact in your country to get more information about funding individual projects?

- Managing Authorities

- Europe Direct

- European Commission Member State Representations

More information:

EU Regional Policy:

European Social Fund:

European Rural Development :

EU Fisheries and Maritime:

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