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Issues paper cohesion, Vilnius 26th November 2013

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Reform of the cohesion policy for 2014–2020: Focusing on concentration, quality and coordination of European structural and investment funds for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth Issues. Paper …

Reform of the cohesion policy for 2014–2020: Focusing on concentration, quality and coordination of European structural and investment funds for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth Issues. Paper from the Lithuanian Presidency

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  • 1. REFORM OF THE COHESION POLICY FOR 2014–2020: FOCUSING ON CONCENTRATION, QUALITY AND COORDINATION OF EUROPEAN STRUCTURAL AND INVESTMENT FUNDS FOR SMART, SUSTAINABLE AND INCLUSIVE GROWTH Issues Paper from the Presidency (Synopsis) INFORMAL MEETING OF MINISTERS FOR COHESION POLICY VILNIUS, LITHUANIA 26 NOVEMBER 2013
  • 2. The current social and economic situation requires urgent action to stimulate growth and ensure sustainable development in Europe. Accounting of over a third of the EU budget, the European Structural and Investment Funds (hereinafter – the ESI Funds) have a crucial role in this process. However, the current period has shown that the management of Cohesion Policy needs to be improved. Consequently, the following several new elements are being introduced for the 2014–2020 period: • • • • First, concentration of the ESI Funds on a few priorities such as innovation and research, renewable energy and social inclusion. Second, laying of the Member States under obligation to prepare the “ground” for effective investments from the ESI Funds, putting in place the necessary policy and institutional frameworks (e.g. strategies). Third, setting of concrete and measurable targets for interventions in order to increase visibility and demonstrate value for money. Fourth, better coordination of different EU funding sources that would open wider opportunities and simpler access for beneficiaries. In particular, the Presidency invites the delegations to openly discuss what it takes to integrate these new elements into their national and regional level as the value added generating tools, fully owned and used for any budgetary investment, and not as a set of parallel requirements existing only within the ESI Funds management systems. 1. Innovations in Cohesion Policy for 2014–2020 The economic context for Cohesion Policy in 2014–2020 is dominated by the continuing effects of the crisis, evident in the austerity conditions or slow economic recovery and high levels of unemployment experienced by many Member States. There is an urgent need to stimulate growth and ensure sustainable development, in particular, by meeting the Europe 2020 targets for employment, R&D/innovation, climate change/energy, education and poverty reduction/social inclusion. Considering the fact that European Cohesion policy has a crucial role in helping the Member States to achieve these targets, management of the policy needs to be constantly improved and adapted to meet challenges posed by an increasingly volatile economic environment. With the negotiations on the reform of Cohesion Policy for 2014–2020 moving towards a conclusion, attention is now focused on the implementation of the innovations introduced by the new regulatory framework. Four specific innovations – the alignment with the Europe 2020 Strategy and thematic concentration, ex-ante conditionalities, the results orientation, and integrated approaches and better coordination – are proposed by the Presidency to be the focus of discussions at the Informal Meeting of Ministers. 2
  • 3. • The principle of thematic concentration was developed to focus the majority of policy spending on a limited number of key priorities, thus ensuring a critical mass of support that will make a tangible difference. This principle embodies a response to the problem of excessive fragmentation of the Structural Funds intervention in the previous programming periods. • Ex-ante conditionalities have been introduced in response to the experience of the previous programming periods, when the institutional pre-requisites and conditions for effective use of the Funds were inadequate and unsystematically applied thereby undermining the potential impact of investment. • The increased results orientation of programmes in the 2014–2020 period is in response to the experience that programme priorities have often been poorly justified, with a lack of concrete or verifiable targets, and with proposed achievements that were sometimes unrealistic or over-ambitious. • The underlying need for better coordination between the European Structural and Investment Funds (and between Cohesion Policy and other Union policies) is the experience of different funding instruments managed and implemented in the past in an isolated fashion, without coherent planning, leading to artificial delimitations of intervention areas and fragmentation of EU funding rather than seeking to promote synergies and investments that are mutually reinforcing. 2. Objectives of the Informal Ministerial Meeting Informal Ministerial Meetings organised by the previous Presidencies highlighted the commitment of Ministers to improve the quality of financial assistance through greater concentration of resources, integrated development, the coordination of spending, and increased performance. The main objective for the Informal Ministerial Meeting in Vilnius is to explore whether and how these commitments are being translated into practice through the programming process and to identify possible challenges and constraints. Therefore, Lithuanian Presidency proposes to: (a) reflect on possible tensions between thematic concentration requirements and national development agendas; (b) highlight the policy, regulatory or institutional challenges related to meeting ex-ante conditionalities, (c) outline difficulties in achieving better coordination resulting in an integrated approach to territorial development, (d) present steps taken in order to increase the results-orientation and performance of the 2014–2020 programmes. 3

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