Policy stages: step-by-step
Regional policy involves all levels of scale from EU to local: its legal basis is in the EU Treaty and its priorities are set by the EU, and it is implemented by national and regional actors in partnership with the European Commission.
The regional policy framework is set for a period of 7 years.
The policy takes shape in the following stages:
- The budget of the structural funds and the rules for its use are jointly decided by the Council and the European Parliament on the basis of a proposal from the Commission.
- The principles and priorities of cohesion policy are distilled through a process of consultation between the Commission and the EU countries. The Community strategic guidelines on cohesion are used by the national and regional authorities to align their own programming on the agreed EU-wide priorities.
- Each country produces a national strategic reference framework (NSRF), which it must send to the Commission within five months of the strategic guidelines being adopted. This document outlines the country's strategy and proposes a list of operational programmes. The Commission then has three months to comment on the framework and request additional information.
- The Commission validates the NSRF, as well as each operational programme (OP). The OPs present the priorities of the country and/or regions. Workers, employers and civil society bodies can all participate in the programming and management of the OPs. For 2007-13, 455 operational programmes have been adopted.
- The operational programmes are implemented by the member countries and their regions. This means selecting, monitoring and evaluating thousands of projects. This work is organised by 'management authorities' in each country and/or region.
- The Commission commits the funds (to allow the countries to start spending on their programmes)
- The Commission pays the certified expenditure to each country.
- The Commission monitors each operational programme, alongside the country concerned.
- Both the Commission and the member countries submit strategic reports throughout the 2007-13 programming period.
For more information, see the regulations governing the structural funds.