The ESF launch conference, taking place in Brussels on 6-7 February, examines which policies the ESF could and should support under the new investment priorities, as well as new ways to use the ESF.
The event aims to promote an efficient and effective use of the more than €80 billion available to Member States from the ESF in 2014-2020. In this respect, the Commission is helping Member States to simplify their use of the ESF to focus more on results and facilitate access to funding, especially for smaller beneficiaries.
The conference looks at how the ESF can best support the achievement of priorities identified in the Country Specific Recommendations and Commission services' Position Papers, thereby helping Member States to meet the Europe 2020 employment and poverty reduction targets.
The recently adopted European Code of Conduct on Partnership is also discussed. This important innovation will help to further maximise the impact of the ESF by strengthening the role of partners such as regional, local, urban and other public authorities, trade unions, employers or non-governmental organisations during the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of projects.
The ESF plays a fundamental role in strengthening the competitiveness of the European workforce and of the European economy. Every year the ESF helps over 15 million people in improving their skills, facilitating their integration into the labour market, combating social exclusion and poverty and enhancing the efficiency of public administrations. For these reasons, for the first time in the history of cohesion policy, a minimum share for the ESF has been set. In 2014-2020, ESF allocations will amount to at least 23.1% of the cohesion policy budget, effectively putting an end to the gradual decrease of the ESF share in the past 25 years.
This share is a mandatory minimum. The actual share will be set in light of the specific challenges a country needs to address in employment, social inclusion, education, and governance. The definite amounts allocated to the ESF in 2014-2020 will be known once the Partnership Agreements between the Commission and each country have been adopted.
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In addition, the ESF will provide targeted help for young people by topping up the Youth Employment Initiative with at least €3.2 billion for a total of €6.4 billion (in current prices). This initiative will exclusively support young people not in employment, education or training in regions experiencing youth unemployment rates above 25%. The ESF and the YEI will contribute where the challenges are most acute and in particular help Member States to implement their Youth Guarantee Implementation Plans.
In each country, at least 20% of the ESF will be earmarked for social inclusion. This will help people in difficulties and those from disadvantaged groups to get skills and jobs and have the same opportunities as others to integrate into the labour market. This way, the ESF will significantly contribute to the EU's objective for reducing the number of people in poverty.
Concentrating funding for achieving results is a fundamental aspect in the 2014-2020 period. ESF-funded interventions will be focused on a limited number of priorities to ensure a sufficiently high critical mass of funding to make a real impact.
The Partnership Agreements for every EU country are soon to be adopted, setting out the strategy, priorities and arrangements for using the Funds in an effective and efficient way so as to pursue the Union strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. These will be followed by the Operational programmes that will define priorities setting out specific objectives, and determine concrete allocations for the ESF interventions.