At European level, the Common Strategic Framework (CSF) translates the objectives and targets of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, as set out in the Europe 2020 Strategy, into integrated, key actions for the “CSF Funds” (also referred to as the “European Structural and Investment Funds” (ESI) or “EU Cohesion Policy Funds”) for the Programming Period 2014-2020. The CSF Funds comprise: the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Cohesion Fund (CF), the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), the future European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and the European Social Fund (ESF).
At national level, Partnership Agreements between the Commission and each Member State translate the elements set out in the Common Strategic Framework into the national context, and set out firm commitments of all partners for the achievement of Union objectives. Each Partnership Agreement shall set out an integrated approach for territorial development supported by all the CSF Funds, include objectives, and contain commitments to give yearly accounts of progress.
As proposed in Article 5 of the Common Provisions Regulation proposing common provisions for the ESI Funds, each Member State should organise a partnership for this purpose involving:
- Competent regional, local, urban and other public authorities;
- Economic and social partners; and
- Bodies representing civil society, including environmental partners, nongovernmental organisations, and bodies responsible for promoting gender equality and non-discrimination.
The partners are to be involved by Member States in the preparation of Partnership Agreements and progress reports and in the preparation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programmes. The partners also participate in the monitoring committees for programmes.
As set out in Article 15 of the Common Provisions Regulation, the Partnership Agreement includes:
- The arrangements to ensure alignment with the Union strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth (Europe 2020 objectives), including: an analysis of disparities and development needs; a summary analysis of the ex-ante evaluations of the programmes justifying the selection of thematic objectives and allocation of funds; a summary of the main results expected for each of the CSF Funds, for each thematic objective; the indicative allocation of support by thematic objective; horizontal principles and policy objectives; list of programmes with indicative allocations per Fund per year;
- An integrated approach to territorial development supported by the CSF Funds;
- An integrated approach to address the specific needs of geographical areas most affected by poverty or of target groups at highest risk of discrimination or exclusion;
- Arrangements to ensure effective implementation, including: milestones and targets; assessment of the fulfilment of ex ante conditionalities and of the actions; the information required for ex ante verification of compliance with the rules on additionality; the actions taken to involve the partners and their role in the preparation of the Partnership Contract;
- Arrangements to ensure efficient implementation.
The Partnership Agreements, as well as the partners themselves, will therefore play a crucial role in the contents, governance, and implementation of the Cohesion Policy Funds in 2014-2020. In order for gender equality to be a reality in this Programming Period, it is therefore essential that the gender perspective is integrated into all stages of development and implementation of the Partnership Agreement.