Making it work: the European Social Fund - European Union Committee Contents


EU Sub-Committee G (Social Policy and Consumer Affairs) is conducting an Inquiry into the effectiveness of the 2007-13 European Social Fund (ESF) thus far, and how it might be amended and resourced in the future.

The European Social Fund (ESF),[32] worth €75 billion over the period 2007-13 (out of a total budget of €862 billion), is one of the EU's "Structural Funds", set up to reduce differences in prosperity and living standards across EU Member States and regions, and therefore promoting economic and social cohesion.

When the overall EU budget for 2007-13 was agreed in 2005, it was decided that a "budget review" should be undertaken in 2009, with a view to informing the spending priorities in the next financial programming period (2014-2020). A first consultation document was published by the Commission in 2007[33] and another one is expected in late 2009. As one of the largest single spending programmes, the ESF will be an important consideration in the review.

The European Commission considers the ESF an important tool at Member States' disposal to help tackle the effects of the global financial crisis. It made a number of suggestions to that effect in its Communication, A Shared Commitment for Employment,[34] published on 3 June 2009. That Communication also makes it clear that the ESF is likely to have an important role in the post-2010 Strategy for Growth and Jobs, which includes the European Employment Strategy.

Our objectives are threefold:

·  To make recommendations on short term changes that might be made to the European Social Fund to allow it to respond effectively to the evolving challenges raised by the financial crisis;

·  To assess the contribution that the ESF can make in the medium term to the post-2010 Strategy for Growth and Jobs, including the European Employment Strategy;

·  To make recommendations on the long term role and functioning of the European Social Fund, within the context of the EU budget review.

Particular questions to which we invite you to respond are as follows:

Objectives and funding

(1)  What is your view of the current objectives of the European Social Fund? Does the available funding align with those objectives? How appropriate do you consider the balance of projects funded by the ESF to be (for example the volume of projects designed to increase the adaptability of workers as compared to those designed to reinforce the social inclusion of disadvantaged people)?

Delivery and effectiveness of the ESF

(2)  What has been your experience with the operating rules of the ESF?[35] What has worked well? What problems have you encountered and how might the process be improved?

(3)  How effective do you consider the ESF to be? How is that effectiveness being monitored? And how is that information on effectiveness being shared and used?

(4)  How successfully have national and regional administrations worked together in delivering the ESF, where appropriate?

Short term: Use of the ESF to respond to the financial crisis

(5)  How useful has the ESF been as a tool to respond to the financial crisis? How might its usefulness in responding to the current crisis be improved, and how might it be amended to ensure that it is able to respond more effectively to a changing economic climate in the future?

Medium term: the ESF 2010-2014

(6)  How might the potential of funds deployed via the ESF to promote life-long learning, skills for new jobs, security of employment and flexible labour markets across the UK and EU be improved?

(7)  What contribution can the ESF make to the EU's renewed Jobs and Growth Strategy post-2010, including the European Employment Strategy? How can the EU best contribute to "jobs and growth" in the period 2010-2014?

Long term—the ESF post-2013, and the EU budget review

(8)  Bearing in mind the depressed economic context and the EU's budget review which is intended to consider spending priorities post-2013, what do you consider the role of the ESF should be, if any, post-2013? On what sort of priorities should it focus, and how might it most effectively complement, rather than duplicate, other spending programmes?[36]

Interested parties are invited to submit a concise statement of written evidence to this inquiry by Friday, 2 October 2009.

32   Regulation (EC) No 1081/2006 of 5 July 2006 on the European Social Fund Back

33   SEC(2007)1188 12.9.2008 Back

34   COM(2009)552 3.6.2009 Back

35   Where applicable, please refer to the principle of additionality.  Back

36   Such as: the European Regional Development Fund; the Cohesion Fund; the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development; and the European Fisheries Fund.  Back

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