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
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
INFORMAL MEETING OF MINISTERS FOR COHESION
26 NOVEMBER 2013
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
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.
• 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
• 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
(b) highlight the policy, regulatory or institutional challenges related to meeting ex-ante
(c) outline difficulties in achieving better coordination resulting in an integrated approach to
(d) present steps taken in order to increase the results-orientation and performance of the