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Mr. László ANDOR
Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
"Shaping the future of the ESF – ESF & Europe 2020"
Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED
Conference on "Future of the ESF" – Charlemagne Building
Brussels, 24 June 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This conference has provided us with two interesting days of discussion and exchange of ideas.
I would like to thank you all for your input.
I regret I could not be present for the whole of the conference. However, the discussions I have listened to and the feedback
I have received confirm that this has been a very useful exercise.
Let me share with you what I believe are the four main messages to take from this conference.
First, we will have an ESF in the future. It may be an obvious thing to say. But, I want this point to be absolutely clear right from the start.
For the last 50 years, the ESF has been the main instrument at EU level to invest in employment, human capital and social inclusion. Various studies prove that these are key factors for boosting growth.
In addition, the ESF has been THE concrete proof of solidarity between European citizens. Over the years, the ESF has been developed and adapted to changing political and socio-economic contexts. This is what has ensured its continued high relevance. It will still need to evolve and adapt.
The future ESF should therefore be fully aligned in all Member States with the Europe 2020 strategy and the integrated guidelines. This will increase the relevance of the fund as a policy instrument.
Many elements of the EUROPE 2020 Strategy qualify for ESF support.
The ESF should contribute to the achievement of several headline targets, notably the employment target, the educational attainment target, and the poverty reduction target.
I believe that the ESF is the best instrument we have to show to people what Europe 2020 means for them. I believe that the ESF should continue to intervene throughout Europe, since these objectives are common to all Member States.
The debate today has shown that the majority of stakeholders want the ESF to have a broad scope. I share this view.
A broad scope will ensure that the Member States, the regions and local stakeholders can design operational programmes that address their needs and specific situations.
However, this has to happen within the policy framework of Europe 2020. A broad scope should not lead to a dispersion of means.. The Commission will work with the Member States to establish concentration on priorities relevant for them and their regions
The ESF is not an island.
Indeed, the ESF is one of the instruments that the EU, the Member States and the Regions use to support their policy objectives.
Support to employment, human capital and social inclusion should be more visible at EU level and should have transparent allocation criteria between Member States. Criteria should be linked to the challenges Member States have to face in terms of education, training, employment and social inclusion and their capacity to tackle them.
The ESF is an essential thematic instrument but it also contributes to the economic, social and territorial cohesion objectives of the Treaty.
Therefore, it would make sense to have some common rules for all the Funds even if there may be a need for specific rules according to the different types of projects. This would make coordination between Funds much easier.
In addition, it is urgent to reinforce the political ownership of the funds. I would like to involve our institutional partners - the European Parliament and the Ministers in charge of employment and social affairs - more closely in the follow-up of the programmes' implementation.
We need to shift our focus to what the ESF actually achieves.
This means that we need to put in place systems to monitor the performance of the actions supported by the ESF. We should also be able to react according to this information.
Admittedly, in the past, performance reserves largely failed to achieve what they were set out to do. Yet we have seen successful examples in the Member States. We could also consider setting up a compliance reserve based, inter alia, on the achievement of Europe 2020 targets.
Furthermore, a set of core indicators common to all operational programmes could facilitate the demonstration of results achieved at EU level.
We need also to think about moving towards a more results-based delivery system for some types of operations.
This could simplify the delivery system through the use of lump sums and flat rates, and the possibility of introducing budget support elements linked to results in a given area.
Finally, it would be worth looking at how to promote the use of financial engineering instruments. This would allow more capital to be invested in the policies supported by the European Social Fund.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The discussions on the future of the ESF – thanks to all of you – are now entering a decisive stage. This is very positive. The messages we got from you are very clear. They are also very useful for the work that lies ahead.
Time is not yet running out but the pressure is growing: our proposals for the new ESF are already expected for mid-2011. For the moment, we are still in the listening mode – and this is why I invite all those who so wish – to send us their ideas. There is still time.
As Madame Bérès said yesterday, the future of all European instruments and programmes will depend on the shape of the next financial framework for the years 2014 – 2020.
These discussions – which will start after the summer – come at a critical time for Europe and its Member States who have recently reaffirmed their determination to ensure fiscal sustainability and strengthen budgetary consolidation.
Pressure on public finances is high and it is clear that this situation will continue in the future.
There is no doubt that, in this difficult and complex context, the negotiations on the next European Budget for seven years will be intense.
At the same time crucial questions will be raised: for instance, whether payments from Brussels should be conditional to fulfilling obligations under the Treaties, in particular the Stability and Growth Pact. In my view, it will be our main duty to avoid measures that would be seen as unfair and counterproductive.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It will be no easy task. But we have a clear mandate to support the Europe 2020 strategy. And the ESF is its financial lever, to translate our policy objectives into a reality on the ground.