State of play of negotiations on the EU structural funds

We got an update on the state of play of the negotiations between the EU institutions on the regulation setting the common rules for structural funds (Common Provision Regulation – CPR) and the regulation on the European Social Fund (ESF).

On the Common Provision Regulation:

  • The Common strategic framework (CSF) sets out the political vision for all the funds and translates the overall EU 2020 strategy into cohesion policy according to the 3 pillars: smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The Commission proposed to adopt it as a delegated act to have more flexibility to modify the document. On the contrary, the European Parliament and member states wanted to have it as an annex to the legal document. The final outcome of the negotiations is that most of the CSF will be part of the legal framework and the rest will be part of an annex.
  • An agreement on the partnership principle was found at the end of last year. Member states are now working on Operational Programs and on partnership agreements. Initially the Council opposed the idea of having a code of conduct on the partnership principle. Finally it agreed on a principle of code of conduct, but insisted that it should not be retroactive. Therefore the code of conduct will hopefully be adopted as a delegated act after the adoption of the regulation.
  • Macro-economic conditionalities are one of the most controversial issues, there is still no agreement.
  • On ex-ante conditionalities, an expert group is now working on a common understanding. The Council rejected three general ex-ante conditionalities: anti-discrimination, gender equality, disabilities.
  • Trilogues on the Regulation should be finished by the end of June in order to allow the Parliament’s REGI Committee to approve it in July and plenary to approve it in October.

On the European Social Fund:

  • There has been progress on some key provisions, such as art. 2, 3, 12, 13, 14 and 15.
  • Earmarking 25% of cohesion policy to the ESF is another very controversial issue, on which there is no agreement. According to the Council, ring-fencing should be for the theme or policy but not for a specific fund. The Commission proposed some alternative proposals on minimum shares to reflect on. The red line on ring-fencing for the Commission is not to have less funding for the ESF compared to the current period. It seems that the Council agrees with this.

Governance issues between the ESF, the Social Investment Package (SIP) and Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs):

  • Member states will be required to carefully reflect the CSRs in the preparation of the Operational Programs
  • The Commission is drafting guidelines on how the ESF can contribute to the implementation of the SIP: these operational guidelines will link investment priorities of the ESF to SIP policies and will provide recommendations on implementation.