In preparation for the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) the European Commission launched a series of public consultations on January 10th. The European Social Network (ESN) contributed to the consultation on EU funds in the area of cohesion with valuable input provided by members from France, Spain, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Greece and Denmark. See ESN's briefing paper submitted to the Commission here.

Identifying priorities for EU Funds

ESN members consider it highly important that EU funds are used to promote social inclusion and combat poverty. It is particularly important therefore to make good use of available funds to protect and support vulnerable groups including people with disabilities, the long-term unemployed, people in need of long-term care and migrants. Linked to this, the deinstitutionalisation of care and the development of community care services should continue to be promoted by future EU funds. In addition, ESN members also consider that the reduction of unemployment and the promotion of quality jobs and support for labour mobility should be a priority to be addressed by future funding programmes. These issues should be addressed through a life-cycle approach, recognising the need to provide support from childhood to old age.

Challenges faced by ESN members when accessing EU funds and opportunities for improvement

Most ESN members reported that they found the daily management of regulations challenging because of the complexity. In addition, members of ESN have pointed out that the complexity of EU funding processes sometimes result in losing sight of the end goal, such as supporting vulnerable people. For example, members have highlighted that a fear of non-compliance with EU rules has created uncertainty, with worries that funding could be scrapped at audit stages.

According to ESN members, the alignment of rules between EU funds and having fewer, clearer and shorter guidelines are the two main steps that the European Commission should take to further simplify and reduce the administrative burden for beneficiaries. To meet this objective, ESN members also point out the need to establish more effective stakeholder involvement in the programming, implementation and evaluation.

Conclusion

The results of the consultations will be used in 2018 by the Commission to make proposals for the next generation of financial programmes. This means the input from ESN members will contribute to the improvement of the financial instruments for the future programming period, making them more effective and fit for purpose.