First EU Operational programs adopted by European Commission

by Vesna Balta on August 20, 2014

EU map

We have written before on this blog, about the reformed European Union cohesion policy, which will make available up to EUR 351,8 billion to invest in Europe’s regions, cities and the real economy during the seven years between 2014 and 2020. It will be the EU’s principle investment tool for delivering the Europe 2020 Strategy goals of creating growth and more jobs, tackling climate change and energy dependence, and reducing poverty and social exclusion.

The cohesion policy will be further helped through targeting the European Regional Development Fund at key priorities such as support for small and medium-sized enterprises where the objective is to double support from EUR 70 to 140 billion over the 7 years. There will be stronger result-orientation and a new performance reserve in all European Structural and Investment Funds that incentivises good projects. Finally, efficiency in cohesion policy, rural development and the fisheries fund will also be linked to clear requirements on governance to encourage compliance of Member States with the EU’s recommendations.

In recent months, it has become evident from the media within the European Union that the EU member states are competing amongst themselves in how successful they are in following the European Unions 2020 directives and regulations.

We in Bearing welcome such a competitive environment as for us it represents a sign that the necessary focus and willingness to achieve goals stated by Europe 2020 Strategy have been established and accepted by Europe´s nations, regions, cities and towns, which will make it more streamlined to establish concrete results through projects.

Quad Helix HQIt is important to produce focused efforts of the participants in order to implement each idea, policy or project. This can often be perceived as competitiveness, but at the core of this turning point in fact lies reaching the state of the acceptance, engagement of stakeholders, encouraging enthusiasm and energy flow, which drives successful collaboration in the Quad Helix context.

Why is this the adoption of partnership agreements (PAs) and operational programs (OPs) so important for EU member states? Well, signed PAs and OPs are required for the national governments to access the money allocated for each EU member state country in the EU budget.

The PAs define the package of the allocated finances for each member state, while OPs define the official beneficiaries- governmental bodies and the detailed disposition of the same funding. The PA is prepared as one legal document per member state and the number of OPs is to be defined by each country, depending on how the country prepared the PA implementation.

Denmark is the first EU country to conclude the adoption of their first Operational program (OP) with the European Commission (EC) according to news released on  12 August 2014.

Partnership agreements (PA) have started to be adopted from May 2014 by the European Commission. The list of the currently adopted PA is in the link and it underlines as well that Denmark has first concluded the consultations with the EC for adoption of the mentioned PA.

The programming process referring to actions prescribed by the EU, outlines the major legal tools for communication between EU and its member states, as described in a previous article. It is of fundamental value for the programming process  to understand what are the fixed conditions and what are the flexible conditions.

Fixed conditions are 11 Thematic Objectives (TOs) and Investment Priorities within the TOs and they are defined in the EU 2020 Strategy. The flexible conditions are the Priority Axis and Specific Objectives that are negotiated and defined in each member state Partnership agreement and Operational Program. The PA and OPs of each country show us what is their policy, i.e. the goal of the development in the 7 years period.

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 02.21.19This key to terms is the standard terminology explanation in the EU legal documents and is used all over the EU legal texts under the Europe 2020 Strategy for the 2014-2020 period. The Operational programs of each member state are prepared with the basic concept presented on the following illustration. The key to terms used and as well shown in the illustration includes:

  • TO: abbreviation for the Thematic Objectives
  • IP: abbreviation for the Investment Priority
  • PA: abbreviation for the Priority Axis
  • SO: abbreviation for the Specific Objectives

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 15.12.15

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 15.43.45Lets observe in more detail what Denmark has stated within their first adopted OP. The country is to focus on:

  • Increasing the number of innovative SMEs
  • Increasing the number of growth SMEs
  • Enhancing energy and resource efficiency in SMEs
  • Reducing energy consumption in cities with more than 30,000 inhabitants

Denmark’s thematic objectives used in this OP are:

  • TA – Technical Assistance
  • TO1 – Research and innovation
  • TO3 – SMEs competitiveness
  • TO4 – Low-carbon economy

The total budget of the Denmark OP agreement is around 400 million euros. According to the PA, Denmark has been allocated around € 553,3 million in total Cohesion Policy, including also national funding.

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 15.42.46

Observing the draft of the OP prepared by the Croatian government for their two OPs- OPCC and OP HER , we can extract the following priorities.

Focus areas of the OPCC for Croatia are:

  • Strengthening the Economy through Application of Research and Innovation
  • Use of Information and Communication Technologies
  • Business Competitiveness
  • Promoting Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Sources
  • Climate Change and Risk Management
  • Environment Protection and Sustainability of Resources
  • Connectivity and Mobility
  • Social Inclusion and Health
  • Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning

The Croatian thematic objectives used for establishing the 9 Priority axis under the draft of the OPCC are:

  • TO1   – Research and innovation
  • TO2   – ICT
  • TO3   – SMEs competitiveness
  • TO4   – Low-carbon economy
  • TO5   – Adaptation and risk management
  • TO6   – Environment and resource efficiency
  • TO7   – Sustainable transport and network bottlenecks
  • TO9   – Social inclusion and poverty
  • TO10 – Education

Focus areas of the OP HER for Croatia are:

  • High employment and labour mobility
  • Social inclusion
  • Education and lifelong learning
  • Smart administration

There are 4 priority axes from the draft OP HER:

  • TO8  – Employment and labour mobility
  • TO9  – Social inclusion and poverty
  • TO10- Education
  • TO11- Institutional capacity

The total budget of the Croatian OP named Operational Program Competitiveness and Cohesion 2014 – 2020 (OPCC) is worth 8.4 billion euros and the Operational Program Efficient Human Resources 2014-2020 (OP EHR) is 1.5 billion euros worth. According to the PA, Croatia has been allocated around 10.4 billion euros.

Considering the allocation of the funding to Croatia, or for instance Poland, it is evident that the Europe 2020 Strategy is aiming to boost economic development of Eastern European regions through substantial project financing, aimed at boosting economic growth.

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