The involvement of local and regional authorities in the preparation of the Partnership Agreements and Operational Programmes, in line with the principles of partnership and multilevel governance, is a key prerequisite to ensure a place-based approach in cohesion policy programming.
As the Partnership Agreements and Operational Programmes will define the funding opportunities for the next 7 years, it is crucial that local and regional authorities are effectively involved in their preparation and later in their implementation.
Taking into account the evidence brought forward by the CoR study on the matter (https://cor.europa.eu/en/engage/studies/Documents/Partnership_2021.pdf), the opinion aims at assessing and politically commenting on the involvement of local and regional authorities in the ongoing programming exercise for the 2021-2027 period, and at putting forward recommendations for enhancing their engagement.
The opinion allowed the CoR to express its concerns about the shortcomings in the application of the partership principle in the ongoing programming phase for the 2021-2027 cohesion policy period and to put forward its recommendations to better involve local and regional authorities.This was picked up by the media, for example in an article publised on 6 December 2021 in Euractiv.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- underlines that EU legislation on cohesion policy requires the involvement of local and regional authorities at all stages of the programming period, from planning through implementation and monitoring to evaluation;
- stresses that the involvement of local and regional authorities in the drawing up of partnership agreements and operational programmes is a key condition for these being configured strategically to mirror the real needs of the area in question and believes that effective implementation of partnership and multilevel governance is essential to better identify the investment priorities to be supported by the ESIF. Local and regional authorities should also be involved in selecting indicators and regional allocations, the volume of which should correspond to the area's structural problems;
- is most concerned that it is not possible to apply the partnership principle properly in all Member States. Negotiations on partnership agreements and operational programmes have shown that although in most cases local and regional authorities were consulted, their involvement did not mean full partnership as set out in the European Code of Conduct on Partnership;
- calls on the European Commission to closely monitor application of the partnership principle both in informal negotiations with the Member States and in the assessment of draft partnership agreements and operational programmes, and to provide recommendations to Member States and relevant authorities to improve partnership processes;
- calls for the partnership principles to be fully implemented under new instruments too, such as the Just Transition Mechanism, the Recovery and Resilience Facility and other new instruments financed under NGEU.