2013 is a key year as it is when the European Commission and the Member States are setting the spending priorities of the Structural Funds (ESF, ERDF and EAFRD) for the coming 7 years.
The decisions made this year will be reflected in a number of key documents
- The budget of Structural Funds 2014-2020: in early 2013, the Council reached a tentative agreement on the budget for this period, which is still to be ratified by the Parliament, being subject to co-decision process. In late June, an agreement was reached which is expected to be ratified in October.
- The Structural Fund regulations proposed by the European Commission: the regulations, also subject to co-decision procedure, have been under discussion since 2011. Approval is expected in October 2013.
- The Partnership Agreements between Member States and the European Commission in which the priorities, scope and content of structural funds allocated to each country are specified.
- The Operational Programmes of each fund (ESF, ERDF and EAFRD), which can be regional or multiregional: They define the forecasts of the Partnership Agreements in a more operational way.
Let us remind what are the thematic objectives of the Structural Funds
- Research and innovation
- Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)
- Competition for small and medium enterprises (SMEs)
- Low-carbon economy
- Climate change, adaptation, risk prevention and management
- Environmental protection and energy efficiency
- Sustainable transport, infrastructure networks and decongestion
- Employment and labour mobility support
- Social inclusion and fight against poverty
- Education, strategies and lifelong learning
- Institutional capacity and efficiency of public administration
Out of these objectives, the European Social Fund will cover objectives 8-11.
Among the recommendations that the European Commission has made for Spain, there is a specific reference to social inclusion and vulnerable groups
The European Commission insists on the need to invest in improving education, training and social integration policies, with special attention to be given to young people and vulnerable groups. The European Commission places particular emphasis on youth unemployment and the need to promote inclusion and access to employment for disadvantaged people.
On this point it has to be remembered that the European Social Fund Regulation 2014-2020 states that 20% of the funds must be used for actions to combat poverty and social exclusion.