The principle of partnership in Structural Funds - whereby regional and local authorities, economic and social partners and other civil society representatives are involved in managing European regional policy - is now spelled out in a code of conduct adopted by the European Commission, on 7 January(1). The principle itself is not new, though it is not always applied/interpreted uniformly, but what is new, on the other hand, is that now it is written into a legally binding document. The code of conduct takes the form of a Commission regulation adopted under the delegated acts procedure.

Ensuring that partners are involved at every stage of cohesion policy - from programme preparation (though the rules may be coming a bit late in this respect) to implementation and assessment - will guarantee the quality of programming, says the Commission. "By involving all these partners in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of projects supported by EU funds, member states will be better able to ensure that money is spent where it is most needed, and in the best way possible," explained Social Affairs Commissioner Laszlo Andor. "Member states will have to ensure that all relevant views are taken into account when deciding on which priorities to support."

Basically, states will be required to ensure transparency in the selection of partners - to be appointed as full members of programme monitoring committees - provide partners with adequate information and effectively involve them in all phases of the process, from preparation to implementation and evaluation. They must also support capacity building for partners (training, workshops, etc) in view of their active involvement. This will include the creation of platforms for mutual learning and exchange of good practices.

Although the partnership principle has been a key element of cohesion policy for recent programming periods, the Commission itself acknowledges that its implementation has been spotty. "It depends largely on whether the institutional and political culture in a member state was already conducive to consultation, participation and dialogue with relevant stakeholders," it admits. The new code of conduct aims to change that.

(1) The document is available at

Cohesion policyNew rules set standards for partnership in Structural FundsBy Isabelle SmetsThe principle of partnership in Structural Funds a" whereby regional and local authorities, economic and social partners and other...

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