Commission proposes rules for the next seven-year period of the ESF
On 6 October 2011, the Commission proposed the rules that will determine how the ESF will work in the 2014-2020 period. The proposal is part of an overall legislative package for the Union's future cohesion policy. It will allow the ESF to continue providing concrete support to people who need help to find a job, or to progress in their current job. Every year, on average 10 million persons participate in ESF measures across Europe.
The Commission recognizes the importance of human capital as a main driver for growth. Its proposal allocates a minimum share of cohesion policy Funds to the ESF; that is a minimum of €84 bn. The ESF share will at least be of 25% for less developed regions, 40% for transition regions and 52% for more developed ones.
Member States will have to concentrate the ESF on a limited number of objectives and investment priorities in line with the Europe 2020 strategy in order to increase impact and reach a critical mass.
A greater emphasis is placed on combating youth unemployment, supporting active ageing and on giving opportunities to the most disadvantaged individuals and groups, such as the Roma. The Commission proposes to allocate a minimum share of 20% of the ESF for social inclusion actions, compared to the average of 13% that can be observed currently. Furthermore, the ESF will help Member States modernise their labour markets and social policies and it will provide greater support for innovative actions and transnational cooperation.
The Commission proposes to make great strides forward in simplifying the management of ESF, in particular for small grants. This is done by promoting easier ways to reimburse costs ("simplified cost options"), making them even obligatory for small projects.
All EU regions will continue to receive support within three defined categories:
The second category – covering 51 regions and more than 72 million people – eases the transition of regions which have become more competitive in recent years, but still need targeted support. As of 2014, 20 regions are forecasted to move out of the current "convergence" objective (less developed regions), reflecting the success of the cohesion policy.
Partnership Contracts, agreed between the Commission and Member States, will set out the national commitments required to deliver Europe 2020 objectives. ESF investments will be fully aligned with Europe 2020 objectives and targets on employment, education and poverty reduction.
The Common Strategic Framework containing the EU's top priorities will apply to all funds, including rural development and fisheries. Member States will be allowed to combine ERDF, ESF and Cohesion Fund in "multi-fund" programmes to improve coordination on the ground [and achieve integrated development].
New conditions will be introduced to ensure that EU funding effectively contributes to deliver Europe 2020 objectives. Some "ex-ante" conditions will need to be in place before the funds are disbursed (for instance, the proper functioning of public procurement systems.
These proposals will now be examined by the Council and the European Parliament, with a view to adoption by the end of 2012, to allow for the start of a new generation of cohesion policy programmes in 2014.
Negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework for the whole EU budget will continue in parallel.