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EU Structural Funding Reform

The revelant Regulations for the European cohesion policy in 2014-2020 entered into force on 20 December 2013. The European Council and the European Parliament negotiated six Regulations based on the proposals made by the European Commission:

The Regulations strengthen the strategic aspects of cohesion policy with the aim of ensuring that EU investments promote long-term growth and employment in Europe (in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy). The Europe 2020 Strategy’s five key objectives for creating smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth are decisive for defining the funding priorities of the Structural Funds. On the basis of partnership agreements with the Commission, the Member States focus on only a few investment priorities consistent with these objectives. The legislation package also harmonises the rules applicable to the various funds in order to increase the coherence of EU activities.

Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020

The consensus on the financial framework of the European Union was a significant milestone for the future of cohesion policy. For Germany, this consensus on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020 (in German) means that the country now knows how much EU structural funding it will be receiving. In the programming period 2014-2020, Germany will be receiving a total of around €30 billion (in current prices).

The European Commission's proposal for the EU's future Multiannual Financial Framework, including the new legislative package on the EU Structural Funds, is expected to be submitted in spring 2018.

The current Common Strategic Framework for Germany: the 2014 partnership agreement with the European Commission

The European Structural and Investment Funds ERDF, the Cohesion Fund, ESF, EAFRD, and EMFF have been combined in one Common Strategic Framework and been geared more rigorously to strengthening competitiveness and employment. More developed regions must use 80% and transition regions must use 60% of ERDF funding for research and innovation, SMEs, and energy efficiency/renewable energy. One of Germany’s central demands in this context has been the striking of a balance between concentrating strictly on the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy (i.e. supporting competitiveness and growth) and allowing for sufficient flexibility for tailored regional funding strategies. In addition, Germany has successfully advocated a more efficient and results-oriented distribution of the funding.

The partnership agreement for the programming period 2014-2020 outlines the overall strategy for Germany in terms of EU structural funding. In addition to the structural funds ERDF and ESF, the agricultural fund EAFRD and the fishery fund EMFF are also included in it. Part 1 of the partnership agreement can be downloaded here (in German), and you can find part 2 here (in German).

The partnership agreements, which must be drawn up by each Member State and negotiated with the European Commission, define the strategic direction of the Operational Programmes (OPs = funding programmes) and define binding objectives with which the European Structural and Investment Funds are to help the EU reach its political goals. The approach taken in the preceding programming period with the National Strategic Reference Framework is thus being followed and developed further.

On 22 May 2014, the European Commission accepted the partnership agreement to implement the European Structural and Investment Funds in Germany.

2017 progress report on the implementation of the partnership agreement

In view of Germany’s federal structure, the strategy agreed upon is largely implemented at Länder level. This overarching national strategy is fleshed out – taking account of special regional and sectoral features – by the Operational Programmes (OPs) and the Rural Development Programmes (RDPs). The strategy is being implemented in the context of a total of 47 OPs, multi-fund programmes and Rural Development Programmes:

  • 15 ERDF and 15 ESF programmes at Länder level, and one multi-fund programme (ERDF/ESF),
  • the federal ESF programme,
  • 14 Rural Development Programmes, including the federal programme on the networking of the EAFRD activities, and
  • one national programme for the EMFF.

The actual implementation of funding in the context of the ESI Funds is embedded in a reporting system that consists of several elements. According to this reporting system, strategic progress reports were to be drawn up at national level by the Member States in 2017 to serve as basis for conclusions and recommendations on the further use of funding from the ESI Funds.