On 25 September 2019, the Senate published a report on the chronic under-utilisation of European funds in France, proposing “a more ambitious mobilisation of European funds at the disposal of the territories”. The report highlights the under-realization of projects, which is multifactorial.
Will these proposals be taken up in the new 2021-2027 programming period?
Regional policy and European funds
Established in 1987, the European Union’s cohesion policy aims to reduce disparities between the territories of the Member States. This policy is implemented by the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), which include the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF), established in 1957, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Fund Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). 454 billion euro have been allocated to the FESI for the 2014-2020 programming budget, with France benefiting from an envelope of 27.8 billion euro.
2014-2020: under-utilisation of funds, what are the explanations?
Since 1 January 2014, nearly 200,000 projects have been financed in France however, the Senate report highlights the under-utilisation of European funds. France is in the European Union’s average with a programming at 61% on all FESI funds on 1 December 2018 against 67% in Germany, 62% in Italy and 49% in Spain.
How can this situation be explained? In 2014, the State implements a decentralisation policy and entrusts the management of part of the ESF to the regions (ERDF, EAFRD, 35% of the ESF). In the same year, the late adoption of operational programmes by the European Commission and the territorial reform from 22 to 13 regions also slowed down the implementation of funding programmes. European funds are part of an allocation system which is sometimes complex, requiring support in the setting up and management of projects. Funds that are not used by the end of 2020 will not be lost. Projects may still apply for funding under the FESI until 31 December 2020 for an implementation that may extend until 31 December 2023.
Suggestions for improvement for 2021-2027
The Report describes opportunities for improvment in terms of better access to funds and easier administrative procedures. The proposals include, in particular, the following:
– confirmation of the decentralisation of European funds, clarifying the respective competences of the State and the regions;
– greater participation of all levels of local authorities in the governance of operational programmes to take into account the specific characteristics of territories, by encouraging training and the sharing of expertise between different local authorities;
– simplifying and enhancing the value of regional policy for EU citizens.
Will these measures be taken into account and implemented for a more efficient use of funds over 2021-2027?