Original publication: July 2017
Authors: t33: François LEVARLET, Nicola BRIGNANI, Andrea GRAMILLANO
Tamam Sarl: Armelle LEDAN PRADE
EureConsult: Thomas STUMM
Nordregio: Lisbeth GREVE HARBO
In addition the research team included the following national experts: Konstantinos APOSTOLIDIS, Sebastian BONIS, Pietro CELOTTI, Roxana DIACONU, Andrea FLORIA, Dea HRELJA, Elodie LORGEOUX, Marjan MARJANOVIC and Luca SANTIN.
Shot link to this post: http://bit.ly/2BbZAi3
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Integrated use of ESI funds to address social challenges

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The aim of this study is to analyse how integrated approaches under European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI Funds) have been used to address social inclusion challenges in European Union (EU) Member States. In the framework of this study, specific attention is given to issues related to the integration of migrants and refugees into European communities.

The specific objectives of the study are the following: 1) Overview of challenges linked to social inclusion in EU regions and urban areas and the role of European cohesion policy in tackling such challenges; 2) Analysis of the role the ESI Funds have played and can play in tackling the challenges linked to social inclusion, in particular to migration issues, in EU regions and urban areas; and 3) Analysis of integrated approaches to  territorial development taken by Member States to tackle challenges of social inclusion, including those associated with migration.

The research methodology – presented in Chapter 1 – is based on a thorough literature  review, as well as on data collected through a review of 47 selected ESI Funds programmes. Finally, interviews with stakeholders provide additional insights and validate collected data.

Chapter 2 presents the state of play of social exclusion and migration issues. Statistics show that since the financial crisis of 2007, poverty and social exclusion have reached a high level in the EU with around 20 % of population involved. Poverty and social exclusion concern many diverse groups: people with disabilities and chronic health problems, children and young people, long-term unemployed, older workers, low-skilled workers, marginalised groups, women in the labour market, ethnic minorities (e.g. Roma) and migrants. There are various causes of social exclusion and poverty in EU cities and regions, but most often they can be found in economic reasons (e.g. unemployment), social marginalisation or personal situations (e.g. health issues, old age, remote locations, etc.). However, large differences emerge across Member States.

The main policy challenges related to social inclusion and the integration of migrants include: the multidimensionality of social exclusion (economic, social and cultural), a changing socioeconomic context (the economic crisis), disparities across Member States (with rich and poor areas), citizen acceptance (in relation to migrants and security issues), as well as local stakeholders and authorities’ involvement in addressing these issues.

Chapter 3 illustrates how social inclusion and migration issues have been addressed in European Cohesion policy programmes over the past 10 years. Some examples of coordination, complementarities and synergies between funds are given illustrating to what extent funds have been used in an integrated manner.

Over the period 2007-2013, EUR 42.5 billion were spent by Structural Funds (European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF)) for social inclusion, targeting around 7.2 million people at risk of poverty and social exclusion. In the current programming period 2014-2020, EUR 67 billion will be directly disbursed under TO9 ‘social inclusion’, mainly by ESF, ERDF and European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

In the 2007-13 programming period, social inclusion was mainly addressed through ESF interventions (actions in favour of disadvantaged groups of people), with a smaller role played by ERDF, i.e. social housing and sustainable urban development. EAFRD support had been also activated through the LEADER initiative in some rural areas. In the current programming period, tools for better integration of funds have been defined within the regulatory framework. Cohesion policy promotes the combination of funds at various implementation levels (Partnership Agreements, programmes and priority level), as well as the use of integrated approaches to address social inclusion. As it emerges from the study, the new regulatory framework has contributed to strengthening the complementarity of ESI Funds programmes, especially for EDRF and ESF, but also for EAFRD and European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

For ERDF and ESF programmes, integration mainly builds on the adoption of Thematic Objective (TO) 9 (Promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and discrimination) and partially relates to TOs 8 (Promoting sustainable and quality employment and supporting labour mobility) and 10 (Investing in education, training and lifelong learning). EAFRD programmes consider integrated approaches for social issues mainly under Union Priority 6 and through Measure 7 (Basic services and village renewal in rural areas), which is usually combined with other relevant measures. Complementarity of funds is also promoted by supporting local action groups that contribute to TOs 8, 9, and 10 through community-based initiatives (e.g. LEADER).

The majority of the analysed programmes also show synergy with various EU instruments. Instruments most often mentioned in programme documentation with respect to social inclusion are the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) and Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF).

The integrated tools used in ESIF to address social exclusion and migration issues are analysed in Chapter 4. Integrated tools for the priority of social inclusion that are usually adopted in ESIF programmes are: Community-led local development (CLLD), Integrated territorial investments (ITIs) and Sustainable urban development (SUD). The CLLD tool is mainly applied in EAFRD and EMFF funded programmes, where Local Action Groups (LAGs) are empowered to address social issues of rural and coastal areas (including islands), combating poverty and depopulation, fostering employment and reducing disparities.

When it comes to ERDF and ESF funded programmes, CLLD is usually implemented under a specific priority axis for promoting social inclusion and reducing poverty. Social inclusion related issues are most thoroughly addressed through sustainable urban development actions implemented via ITIs.

In the 2014-2020 programming period, integrated approaches are not specifically designed to directly address integration of migrants and refugees, but often migrants and refugees are considered as part of a wider group of disadvantaged people.

Chapter 5 provides a synthesis of the study, drawing conclusions and illustrating the overall role and contribution of ESI Funds 2014-2020 in addressing social inclusion challenges. The 2014-2020 framework ensures flexibility and responsiveness of ESI Funds to address the multifaceted nature of social inclusion challenges as well as a changing socio-economic context by promoting the involvement of a multi-level governance approach that can be easily applied at various territorial levels. In this regard, integrated approaches introduced in the current programming period enable further integration, coordination and complementarity between EU and national level strategies and actions to tackle social issues by involving local authorities and stakeholders and bringing decisions closer to citizens.

For the current programming period, the study suggests:

  • Assessing the effectiveness of the funds to cover a wide spectrum of policy fields in the area of social affairs and to react to emerging new needs (mid-term evaluation exercises);
  • Providing guidance on coordination rules, and assessing the ease of implementing CLLD, ITI and Joint Action Plan (JAP). Note that JAP has not been used in the Programmes.

Moreover, this study recommends to Member States, Programme Authorities and EU institutions for beyond 2020:

  • Adding explicit priorities related to migrants and refugees in regulations and guidance that might be applicable to specific contexts affected by the migration crisis and when there is a specific need for allocating a dedicated amount of funds to this specific topic;
  • Introducing rules/simplification and harmonization procedures between the different policy instruments in the field of social inclusion;
  • Increasing the involvement of local partners to improve coordination between policy instruments (especially related to migrants and refugees);
  • Adopting a set of common indicators and categories related to social inclusion issues;
  • Increasing the ERDF contribution to sustainable urban development for social inclusion (in relation to the EU Urban Agenda);
  • Ensuring adequate territorial balance of resources for inner cities and rural areas.

Some of the above recommendations related to simplification are already under discussion in the so-called OMNIBUS, i.e. proposal for a regulation of European parliament and of the Council on the financial rules applicable to the general budget of the Union (Procedure 2016/0282/COD).

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/601-968

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