The Commission is opening a public consultation on the future of cohesion policy. In its conclusions of the fifth report on economic, social and territorial cohesion the Commission has outlined the main ideas for reform that will be discussed during the consultation. This is a very important exercise in the policy development phase.
The main topics:
1. A new strategic programming approach for cohesion policy, consisting of:
– common strategic framework (CSF) adopted by the Commission translating the targets and objectives of Europe 2020 into investment priorities, and
– a development and investment partnership contract which, based on the common strategic framework, would set out the investment priorities, the allocation of national and EU resources between priority areas and programmes, the agreed conditionalities, and the targets to be achieved.
2. Increasing thematic concentration – Member States and regions should concentrate EU and national resources on a small number of priorities responding to the specific challenges that they face.
3. Strengthening performance through conditionality and incentives – specific binding conditionality in the areas directly linked to cohesion policy would be agreed with each Member State and/or region.
4. Improving evaluation, performance and results – setting of clear and measurable targets and outcome indicators, using impact evaluations.
5. Supporting use of new financial instruments.
6. Introducing a third dimension: territorial cohesion – whether the regulatory architecture of cohesion policy should allow greater flexibility in organising operational programmes in order to reflect the nature and geography of development processes better.
7. Reinforcing partnership – supporting active inclusion, fostering social innovation, developing innovation strategies or designing schemes for regeneration of deprived areas.
8. Financial management – output- or results-based elements for disbursement of the EU contribution, simplified methods of reimbursement.
9. Reducing the administrative burden – alignment of rules on eligibility of expenditures across policy areas, financial instruments and funds.
10. Financial discipline.
11. Financial control – review the procedure for ex-ante assessment of the management and control systems.
12. The architecture of cohesion policy – including regions currently eligible under the ‘convergence’ objective but whose GDP would be higher than 75% of the Union average according to the latest statistics.