Everyone is Talking About the ‘CSF’

A new programming period for the EU Structural Funds begins in 2014. The draft regulations, showing in broad terms how the EU Commission sees the way ahead over the next six years, were published in October 2011. However, the regulations are currently going through a process of discussion and negotiation, both in the Council and the European Parliament, from which they may emerge with considerable changes. One aspect of particular interest is the call for strategic focus and greater 'coherence' between the activities of the five funds (the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development [EAFRD], the European Regional Development Fund [ERDF], the European Social Fund [ESF], the Cohesion Fund, and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund [EMFF]). In this issue of Nordregio News, we take a closer look at aspects of this reform as well as the current progress in the Nordic countries towards new programmes for 2014 and onwards.

The Common Strategic Framework (CSF) and Partnership Agreements (PAs) were first outlined in the Fifth Cohesion Report in 2010. Since then, they have been taking shape in the draft Common Provisions Regulation and subsequently in a Commission Staff Working Document 'Elements for a Common Strategic Framework 2014–2020'. The CSF presents a set of common Thematic Objectives and key actions, derived principally from the Europe 2020 strategy, which all five of the EU development funds will pursue. It also specifies mechanisms for co-ordination among the funds (options for programming and administration), and some new fund implementation instruments to ensure coherence and consistency. The following are the Thematic Objectives set out by the Commission.

  1. Strengthening research, technological development and innovation.
  2. Enhancing access to, and use and quality of, information and communication technologies.
  3. Enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs, the agricultural sector, and the fisheries and aquaculture sector.
  4. Supporting the shift towards a low-carbon economy in all sectors.
  5. Promoting climate change adaptation and risk prevention and management.
  6. Protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency.
  7. Promoting sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks in key network infrastructures.
  8. Promoting employment and supporting labour mobility.
  9. Promoting social inclusion and combating poverty.
  10. Investing in education, skills and lifelong learning.
  11. Enhancing institutional capacity and ensuring an efficient public administration.

Based on these Thematic Objectives, the Commission has recently circulated country-specific position papers about the development of the PAs in each member state. These PAs will be agreements between the member states and the Commission that translate CSF objectives and targets into national ones, specify the 'conditionalities' attached to EU funding, and set out the procedures for monitoring and evaluation. Based on these recommendations and national ambitions, the countries are now working to draft the overall structures as well as individual programmes for the coming period. As we will see in this issue of Nordregio News, there are many aspects of the reform to take into consideration. Interestingly enough, there are also some differences in how the Nordic states are handling this.

In the first article of this issue, Which Way Forward for Cohesion Policy Programmes in 2014–2020?, John Bachtler analyses and reflects on various aspects of this reform, looking into the strategic and thematic content, the way performance can be thought of and the overall ambition of an integrated approach to territorial development.

In the second article, Preparations for the Structural Funds Programming Period 2014–2020 in Mainland Finland, Riikka-Maria Turkia gives us an insight into the preparations for the Structural Funds programming period 2014–2020 in Finland.

The final article, Getting Their Act Together – or Just More Alphabet Soup?, by Andrew Copus, Ole Damsgaard and myself, is a further insight into the new mechanisms for handling co-ordination and coherence between the funds within the CSF. We also offer some initial insights into the process of devising these programmes in the Nordic member states.

Gunnar Lindberg

Senior Research Fellow

and the Editorial Board

Back to Nordregio News Issue 1, 2013