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.

About Vesna Balta :

Vesna Balta is a PhD from the Technische Universitat in Graz, Austria and a licensed architect. She is a Director at Bearing Consultings office in Zagreb and participates in projects across Bearings global practise. The main focus of her work is on project concept development, preparations and planning for structural funds projects in the European Union.

Ms. Balta is also the head of the EU funds section in the Croatian Chamber of Architects. She leads the education for Croatian architects with the theme of the structural funds in Croatia.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Andreas Wild August 27, 2014 at 20:21

Great news that the PO get on the way. Let me remember all interested parties that on the period 2014-2020 it becomes possible to co-fund actions from more than one European mechanism when synergies are available. In particular, the ECSEL Joint Undertaking, a pubic-private partnership implementing H2020 in the area of nanoelectronics, embedded software and system integration, has two ongoing calls also accepting partners or cost items funded by structural or cohesion funds. The project proposals shall address ICT and KET topics. Details are in the Guide for Applicants at http://www.ecsel.eu and on the H2020 Participant Portal.

Vesna Balta Vesna Balta August 27, 2014 at 20:36

Yes, the Horizon2020 has opened the calls. The late summer and the autumn has started to be a very dynamic one. This pleases us at Bearing, because of more happy business challenges.

Magne Haugseng August 28, 2014 at 15:51

Hi
The ‘quadruple helix’ concept may be helpful in ensuring more local buy-in to new initiatives. Far too much money has been spent by projects seen as ‘good ideas’ by external agencies. This is particulaly problematic in low-resouce peripheral regions.

Vesna Balta Vesna Balta August 28, 2014 at 16:24

This what you refer to as local investments is fundamental for getting the results from EU funding. The EU 2020 Strategy has made a shift and emphasises this integrated approach to project planning. We at Bearing look at EU financing as a first initiator of the investment that needs to be followed by the regular market investments. Quad-helix is the essence of setting the investment field right and able to implement and further to grow.

Magne Haugseng August 28, 2014 at 22:40

I fear that since the EU delegated the right to set the regional development programmes already int he early 1990’s we saw the beginning of the end for much of the real impact of EU regional policy. There is some aspects left in the transnational programmes, however, but even there we see a far too strong influx of academic-led initiatives to really create new jobs, or even to properly engage with local bodies. There is simply too much distance between the ideas and the grass roots. The Quad Helix may help, but only if the four corners really have local engagement with local resources. This takes time to develop and nurture and I personally welcome any initatives that can help in this. We work with agencies in some of the peripheral regions in the North Atlantic. For many it really is ‘the steep Atlantic’; to reach and to rremain ont he crest of a wave of development is really tough. It can be done, but I fear much of the resources drawn out of the system by projects with too much theoretical baggage. We need to change this now, before the next generation of programmes get underway.

Vesna Balta Vesna Balta August 29, 2014 at 06:13

We are very aware of this to complex and too academic approach for EU funding. We try to open it up and make it more democratic, and we are doing it both on the local local, regional and the governmental level. That is why we work direct in the locality, with the client, with the businessmen, with the academic sector, with the real people, real problems and try to frame and direct them all into the EU scope. Then we anchor to the governmental sector.This is all part of preparing the client for the application: engaging them, follow up on them, steering them, handing over the knowledge and tools of how to lead the development. This is also where the theme of EU funding meets and correlates tightly with the Place Management discipline. We try to not see only the EU application and the implementation of funding as the goal, but that the sustainable results are those that really count and matter.

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