The partnership principle serves as a benchmark for empowering the European Commission and national authorities to jointly manage EU funds. Partnership agreements (PAs) and a new forum for partners put the principle into action, ensuring that all spheres of society are involved in the implementation of cohesion funding.
The Commission is in the process of negotiating and adopting partnership agreements with the various EU countries for the period 2021-2027. By September 2022, twenty-two partnership agreements had been adopted.
To support the partnership principle during the current programming period, a new European Community of Practice on Partnership (ECoPP) for 2021-2027 has been created to exchange best practices, discuss the functioning of the European Code of Conduct on partnership (ECCP) and prepare code updates.
It will be a real forum for practitioners at all levels of fund implementation to exchange good practices.
The ECoPP is mainly made up of partners selected through a call for applications launched at the end of 2021. Permanent representations were invited to nominate partners, with the support of the regional managing authorities concerned.
The other members of the ECoPP are representatives of the Member States, such as managing authorities or coordinating authorities.
I firmly believe that successful projects are firmly rooted in local partners and local populations. We have to do even more here in the future! says Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira.
The principle of partnership and PAs are the framework for achieving this.
Partnership agreements are strategic documents that set out national authorities’ plans on how to use funds under shared management with the Commission under the current long-term EU budget. Around 70% of EU programs are managed in this way, including all cohesion policy funds.
The focus is on EU priorities – setting the strategy and investment priorities identified by the countries themselves and paving the way for the implementation of regional investments. A list of national and regional funding programs is presented for field implementation, including the annual amount allocated to each program.
They establish investments that promote economic, social and territorial cohesion and contribute to the implementation of key EU priorities such as green and digital transitions and social inclusion.
Code of conduct
Partners must follow the ECCP, which ensures that investment plans are of good quality and that they mobilize all local knowledge, spread ownership and take into account local conditions.
Lessons have been learned since the entry into force of the code of conduct during the 2014-2020 funding period. Experience has shown that partners are very willing but sometimes lack the capacity to effectively implement funded projects. The new Common Provisions Regulation strengthens support for capacity building.
For the current programming period, managing authorities in partner countries help to identify areas where institutional capacity needs to be strengthened and can then access technical assistance to strengthen this capacity.
Partnerships in action
The Commission will adopt PAs with each Member State. The agreements describe the national funding programs and the types of beneficiaries foreseen to receive EU funding. These beneficiaries include regional, local, urban and other public authorities; economic and social partners; research organizations and universities, where applicable; and relevant bodies representing civil society, including NGOs and environmental bodies.
It is essential to involve the bodies responsible for promoting social inclusion, fundamental rights, the rights of people with disabilities, equality between women and men and non-discrimination.
Only a diversity of European actors and territories can adequately represent the diversity of people’s needs. By involving as many of these different actors as possible, each PA will enable targeted regional development where it is most needed.
All partners are involved in the preparation of the PA. They are also involved in the preparation, implementation and evaluation of cohesion policy programmes.
Synergies with other policies
In the future, the new partnership agreements will allow different instruments to reinforce each other in order to achieve a higher overall impact for Europeans.
Indeed, one of the aims of the new PAs is to highlight areas where the EU budget can be optimized through shared investment in areas of common interest.
By involving a variety of stakeholders and enabling collaboration across policy areas, the partnership principle remains a key element of EU support. Europe can react strongly to economic challenges and capitalize on each country’s investment priorities, so that regional investment pays off on the ground.
Partnership agreements for 2021-2027
The first meeting of the European Community of Practice on Partnership