Other partners who must also be involved include competent urban and other public authorities as well as economic and social partners (employers and employee associations e.g. Trade Unions).
The European Commission has released best practice standards and guidance for Member States to achieve the high quality partnership that is required by the 2014-2020 Regulations that govern the funds. See the below section on the European Code of Conduct on Partnership for these standards.
The following links provide information on what the European Commission is doing at the EU level to support participation followed by some experiences of bodies representing civil society and NGOs that have evaluated the quality of participation and the implementation of partnership in the 2014-2020 funding period so far –
European Code of Conduct on Partnership
The partnership principle outlined throughout the CPR is reinforced in the European Code of Conduct on Partnership that provides minimum common standards necessary to achieve a high quality partnership in the implementation of the funds, while ensuring flexibility of the Member States’ actions in terms of organising the participation of different partners.
The CPR and the Code of Conduct reiterate the need for wider stakeholder involvement across national, regional and local levels to maximise the impact of the funds. The Fund specific Regulations of the ESF and ERDF similarly emphasis the consultation and involvement of partners, particularly the social partners in the case of ESF funded projects, throughout the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the programming period.
- Article 5; Article 15(1)(a)(v); Article 96(5)(c) Common Provision Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 (CPR) of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 320–469)
- Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 240/2014 of 7 January 2014 on the European code of conduct on partnership in the framework of the European Structural and Investment Funds (OJ L 74, 14.3.2014, p. 1–7)
Key provisions in the European Code of Conduct on Partnership:
Article 2-4: Adequate and appropriate representation of partners mentioned in Article 5 of the CPR that take competence and capacity for active participation into account. Consultation processes with relevant partners are to be conducted in an accessible and timely manner with clarity of information on involvement (Articles 5-9). Membership rules and procedures for monitoring committees are outlined and a call is made for assessment of partner roles in partnership performance and effectiveness during the programming period (Articles 10-16). Strengthening of the institutional capacity of relevant partners is encouraged though capacity building activities that target social partners and civil society organisations involved in programmes (Article 17). Finally, emphasis is placed on the importance of disseminating good practice examples and exchanges of experience in order to promote learning about partnership across the ESIF. The vehicle proposed for this is a transnational thematic network on partnership (Article 18).
Evaluations on implementation of the Partnership principle
Recent reports have found the implementation of the European Code of Conduct particularly mixed across and within the EU Member States. The European Anti Poverty Network (EAPN) found on average, Managing Authorities are committed to implementing the code of conduct however, from the perspective of civil society and NGOs this commitment is not perceived as adequate. The study covers Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Portugal, Poland, Malta Latvia, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Finland, Estonia, Denmark, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Belgium. The full study is available here.
The National Coordinators of the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children Campaign in eight EU Member States reported inadequate involvement in the development of the Partnership Agreements and Operational Programmes. The National Coordinators were asked a series of questions relating among other topics to the quality of Partnership, the composition of their national monitoring committees and access to information and important deadlines. The report covers Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania. The full report is available here.
European Commission Directorate-General Regional and Urban Policy published a study on the Implementation of the partnership principle and multi-level governance during the 2014-2020 ESI Funds (July 2016).
The aim of this study is to review the establishment of the partnership principle and the application of the European Code of Conduct in the Partnership Agreements and programmes financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund (CF), including European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) programmes and multi-fund programmes co-financed by the European Social Fund (ESF). The study analyses data collected by document analysis, web-survey and interviews.
The partnership principle has been satisfactorily respected in a wide range of countries and programmes. However, there are still challenges across a broad range of countries concerning the mobilisation of partners. Generally the modified legal framework was perceived as positive as it increased awareness and visibility of the partnership principle. The level of stakeholder involvement has improved since the 2007-2013 programming period, although there are sometimes differences between the content of the programming documents and the perception of stakeholders. Overall, the partnership principle adds value to the implementation of European public policies. Executive summary of the study is available here.
European Commission Initiatives supporting Partnership
Transnational Cooperation: Transnational cooperation in the ESF helps develop better and more effective employment and social policies and improve the delivery of reforms, essentially by enabling people to learn from experiences and good practice in other countries.
Transnational cooperation is implemented in three different ways:
- on the basis of common themes, whereby Member States benefit from an EU-level platform established and operated by the Commission (the Common Framework);
- without central coordination (the flexible approach);
- through a combined approach of the above.
The Common Framework’s primary focus is to bring together project promoters from different Member States and facilitate cooperation between them within transnational projects. It also serves as a forum for discussing issues relevant to the ESF between stakeholders in the different countries.
Coordinated calls for proposals
These constitute the core of the common framework, and aim to create synergies and effective partnerships among the Member States around the common themes. The
se calls will enable projects in each participating country to apply for ESF support for work that includes a transnational component.
Two coordinated calls for proposals will be launched over the programming period (in 2016 and 2018), each covering most of the common themes. These coordinated calls will comprise individual national and/or regional level calls launched by Managing Authorities (or Intermediate Bodies on behalf of MAs) participating in the common framework during an agreed window, following a timetable and terms of reference agreed at EU level.
There are 9 common themes including; Employment, Inclusion, Youth Employment, Learning and Skills, Social Economy, Governance and Public Administration, Simplification, Partnership and migration. Each theme has several possible sub-themes
Continuing the activities of the Learning Networks established for the 2007-2013 period, Thematic Networks (TN) are being set up by the Commission for each of the 9 themes. Thematic Networks include representatives from bodies managing European Social Fund Operational Programmes, policy experts, stakeholders, academics and social partners.
Member States are encouraged to ensure that the knowledge created within the Thematic Networks is disseminated through new or existing national networks.
- Online Information: A one-stop shop for anyone interested in transnational cooperation in the ESF will support activity within the flexible approach as well as the Common Framework. It will provide news on the work of the Thematic Networks and collaborative fora.
- Partner-search Database: An EU-wide online partner search database will enable project promoters to share project ideas and find partners in other countries for concrete collaboration.
- ESF website: Thematic Networks complete their first round of meetings.
- News and related information documents on transnational cooperation.
- The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) report on the first meeting of the Thematic Network on Partnership.
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ESI Funds Structured Dialogue Group of Experts
On the basis of Article 5(6) of the CPR, the Commission set up an expert group with partners at EU level in the field of the ESI Funds for the programming period 2014-2020. The ‘Structured Dialogue with European Structural and Investment Funds partners group of experts’ was formally established through a Commission Decision. The mission of the Structured Dialogue group of experts is to establish an open, frank and informal dialogue with partners working in the field of the ESI Funds. The Structured Dialogue is a mutual trust building mechanism in order to bring the ESI Funds closer to civil society, assist the Commission in the development of this policy in the different areas of expertise and to discuss the implementation of the ESI Funds. The members of the Structured Dialogue are umbrella organisations at EU level.
Agenda’s, presentations and reports on all meetings of the ESIF Structured Dialogue Group of Experts can be found here.
- Directorate General for Regional Policy Report (2016): Implementation of the partnership principle and multi-level governance during the 2014-2020 ESI Funds.
The aim of this study is to review the establishment of the partnership principle and the application of the CoC in the Partnership Agreements and programmes financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund (CF), including European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) programmes and multi-fund programmes co-financed by the European Social Fund (ESF). The study analyses data collected by document analysis, web-survey and interviews.
The partnership principle has been satisfactorily respected in a wide range of countries and programmes. However, there are still challenges across a broad range of countries concerning the mobilisation of partners. Generally the modified legal framework was perceived as positive as it increased awareness and visibility of the partnership principle. The level of stakeholder involvement has improved since the 2007-2013 programming period, although there are sometimes differences between the content of the programming documents and the perception of stakeholders. Overall, the partnership principle adds value to the implementation of European public policies.
- Leaflet on the European Code of Conduct on Partnership in the Framework of the European Structural and Investment Funds from the Directorate General of Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.
This leaflet includes the text of the European Code of Conduct on Partnership (ECCP) and several good practices in the Member States on the implementation of the ECCP in the European Structural Funds Programmes.
- European Anti Poverty Network ‘Barometer Report: Monitoring the implementation of the (at least) 20% of the European Social Fund that should be devoted to the fight against poverty during the period 2014-2020’ (March 2016)
- Aagje Leven ‘Are European Structural and Investment Funds opening doors for Europe’s institutionalised children in the 2014-2020 programming period?’ (2015) Opening Doors for Europe’s Children.
- European Network on Independent Living ‘December Update – ENIL Advocacy Officer’ (22nd December 2015).
- Commission Decision of 26.6.2014 setting up the European Structural and Investment Funds structured dialogue group of experts C(2014) 4175 final (Brussels, 26.6.2014).
- Rules of Procedure of the ESIF Structured Dialogue Group of Experts.
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