EU programming periods respect the Multiannual Financial Frameworks which set the annual budgets for 7 year periods. Thus, the 2014-2020 programming period currently follows the closing 2007-2013 period.
The EU Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 aims to reduce disparities between Europe’s regions, strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion and strongly contributing to delivering the Europe 2020 goals: smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. It carries out the goals through five European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF):
The Cohesion Fund and two Structural Funds (ERDF and ESF) are financial tools set up to implement the regional policy of the European Union. They aim to reduce regional disparities in terms of income, wealth and opportunities through the allocation of some €322 billion during 2014-2020.
The level of support available for member states is being calibrated on the basis of a division into three categories of regions: less developed regions, transition regions and more developed regions classified on the basis of GDP per capita (<75% of EU average, between 75% and 90%, and >90% respectively). The new category of transitional regions replaces the statistical phasing-out and phasing-in regions active in 2007-2013.
At the EU level, a regulatory framework, the so-called Common Strategic Framework, sets a comprehensive investment strategy for all the funds. It translates 11 thematic objectives, derived from the Europe 2020 strategy, into key actions for Member States and regions. The thematic objectives are listed below:
Based on the thematic objectives, the European Commission issued position papers to each Member State outlining the main challenges and funding priorities in Member States for the period 2014-2020. Their aim was to establish a framework for dialogue between the European Commission and each Member State in preparation for the Partnership Agreement.
Partnership Agreements are contracts between the European Commission and individual member states which form the basis for delivering ESIF. Partnership Agreements are prepared at the national level with a close involvement of partners. In parallel to preparing the Partnership Agreements, operational programmes are prepared at the national or regional level, setting out the priorities for delivering the ESIF.
The new framework of 2014-2020 has a stronger focus on performance: its key element is the ex-ante conditions attached to EU funding that specifies procedures for monitoring and evaluation. Also, the trend in the management of ESIF is towards greater focus and concentration, which translates into fewer, objective-targeted operational programmes compared to the previous programming period. Due to the possibility of multi-fund operational programmes, in some Member States even just one operational programme is prepared.
For more details about the 2014-2020 programming period, see section 'Tools & guidelines'.