Cohesion Policy 
and Good Governance

"Low quality of government hinders economic development and reduces the impact of public investment, including that co-financed by cohesion policy."
- The 7th Cohesion Report

1.What is good governance?

Cohesion Policy targets all regions and cities in the European Union in order to support job creation, business competitiveness, economic growth, sustainable development, and improve citizens’ quality of life.
In order to reach these goals and address the diverse development needs in all EU regions, € 355.1 billion – almost a third of the total EU budget – has been set aside for Cohesion Policy for 2014-2020.
More and more studies confirm that the quality of institutions is an essential element in order for EU investment, and public investment in general, to be as efficient and effective as possible. The 7th Cohesion Report underlined that low quality of government hinders economic development and reduces the impact of public investment, including that co-financed by cohesion policy. Consequently, improving institutions would amplify the impact of cohesion policy and investment in general.
The challenges for institutions involved in Cohesion Policy investments relate to institutional structures, staffing issues, administrative systems and coordination and communication.
"Having in place quality institutions and well-functioning administrations is a prerequisite for successful public investment and good services for citizens and businesses. I encourage the Member States and regions to make good use of the results of this work and ensure that the new programmes are well equipped and up and running on day one."

- Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms

2. How does Cohesion Policy support quality institutions?

The main support to quality institutions and administration in 2014-2020 is channeled through the so-called "Thematic Objective 11". The overall goal is to create institutions which are stable and predictable, but also flexible enough to react to the many societal challenges, open for dialogue with the public, able to introduce new policy solutions and deliver better services. The investment in the structures, human capital and systems and tools of the public sector is oriented towards more efficient organisational processes, modern management, motivated and skilled civil servants. 
The chart across show that the ESF provides around two thirds of the EU financing with the balance from the ERDF.  

Key actions

The European Social Fund (ESF) supports:
  • reforms to ensure better legislation, synergies between policies and effective management of public policies, and transparency, integrity and accountability in public administration and spending of public funds;
  • development and implementation of human resources strategies and policies;
  • enhancing efficiency of administrative services;
  • capacity building for stakeholders delivering employment, education, health and social policies, and sectoral and territorial pacts to mobilise for reform at national, regional and local level:
  • enhancing the capacity of stakeholders, such as social partners and non-governmental organisations, to help them delivering more effectively their contribution in employment, education and social policies;
  • the development of sectoral and territorial pacts in the employment, social inclusion, health and education domains at all territorial levels.
  • Strengthening institutional capacity and the efficiency of public administrations and public services related to the implementation of ERDF and in support of actions in institutional capacity and in the efficient public administration supported by the ESF, including where necessary the provision of equipment and infrastructure to support the modernisation of public services in areas such as employment, education, health, social policies and customs.
  • Administrative capacity related to European Territorial Cooperation.

How is this support allocated by Member State? 

The investment in institutional capacity building and sound administrations is not equally spread across Member States. It ranges from over EUR 1.2 billion planned in Italy to the relatively smaller envelopes in France, Latvia, Cyprus and Malta. 

How are Member States performing?

There are strong variations in the total volume of investment planned by EU country (not all countries chose to invest) and in the rate of progress in deciding on the projects and the spending by those projects. The chart below presents an animation year by year of the financial implementation. Check out this guide to reading the scatterplot Flying Flags chart.

3. Technical Assistance

Technical assistance - or TA - is another important source of financing capacity building, closely linked to the implementation of the Funds. It covers costs co-financed by EU funds in National, Regional and Cross Border cohesion policy programmes that are required in order to fund the effective running of EU investment programmes and their good management. 
Technical Assistance interventions focus on the delivery of ESI Funds only (for example, by reinforcing the human resources necessary to manage the funds, hiring consultants for studies, project preparation or monitoring/evaluation activities, training, networking, communication actions etc.) and is therefore limited to the programme period.
Technical assistance also supports actions designed to reduce the administrative burden for beneficiaries, actions to reinforce the capacity of beneficiaries to use the ESI Funds as well as actions to reinforce the capacity of relevant partners.
There are limits established in EU regulations on the percentage of TA that may be supported with EU funds.  For most national and regional programmes the limit is 4% of the total investment planned.  

Overview of Technical Assistance categories

Use of Technical Assistance in the Member States

The picture varies significantly and depends very much on the relative allocation of funding to given Member State. Another important specificity is the existence in certain countries of a stand-alone programme (as in the case of Poland or Romania), entirely co-financed by TA, as opposed to TA priorities included in "normal" investment programmes. 

4. Support from the Commission

The Commission can also use part of the TA allocated under the Funds on its own initiative. Indeed, it has launched several initiatives in order to support the implementation of the funds, including

In profile: Peer 2 peer

TAIEX-REGIO PEER 2 PEER propose three types of exchange where practitioners from one administration meet their peers in another country to transfer knowledge, learn different practices and work together on common challenges. As a complement to this, the REGIO Communities of Practitioners allow for longer-term exchange between administrations. The communities gather practitioners from the entire EU and develop long-term discussions around specific topics. A facilitator helps the practitioners to organise their meetings, while a blog, a newsletter and social media help sharing information and ideas.

Find information on TAIEX-REGIO PEER 2 PEER exchanges, agendas and presentations in the TAIEX Library on this webpage.

5. Empowering citizens for Cohesion Policy

DG REGIO is also launching new initiatives to ensure more active participation of and closer cooperation with citizens and civil society in the governance and implementation of Cohesion Policy and management of dedicated EU funds. Through a more active citizens’ engagement, institutions can become even more transparent and accountable, while investments will bring more and bigger results on the ground. The ESIF Open Data platform is a very important element of this stream as it gives the possibility to monitor, compare and assess what is happening on the ground.
In order to take stock and promote further citizen engagement, DG REGIO also organised a high-level conference on Engaging Citizens for Good Governance in Cohesion Policy in February 2020.
Anguel Beremliysky
Anguel has been working for DG REGIO since January 2015, dealing among others with governance and capacity building issues. Previously, he worked in the Commission Representation in Italy. Communication and open data are his passions.