This morning Commissioner Lasló Andor opened the launch conference of the new European Social Fund (ESF) for the next planning period of 6 years. He underlined that the particular instrument with a budget of 76 billion Euro will focus on professional (employment) and social inclusion and is meant to support the achievement of the Europe2020 strategy. Targets will refer to National Reform Programmes and Country Specific Recommendations. He reminded that 20% are earmarked in each country for social inclusion and that the fund will also support the implementation of the European Youth Guarantee.
Speakers from the Commission services, member states, social partners and social NGOs referred to the partnership principle which is regulated for this new programming period by a European Code of Conduct on Partnership which needs to be implemented at member state level and monitored at EU-level.
This code stipulates transparency in selection of partners, adequate information and timing, capacity building and support to platforms for mutual learning and best practice exchange. Social innovation will be some kind of leitmotiv, but as SOLIDAR Secretary General Conny Reuter underlined in a discussion contribution this morning, social innovation is evident, but social NGOs are very concerned regarding the sustainability of intervention, meaning the reliability of funding, timing and procedures.
All in all the ESF in the new programming period is an excellent example of what we as SOLIDAR can proud of and what we have achieved together with other social NGOs through campaigning, cooperating, advocating and working closely with allies and partners in the European Parliament and Commission: earmarking of 20% for social inclusion, 23% (and not the 25% requested) for structural funding in EU-budget, partnership principle and preventing from conditionality rules which would double punish those countries suffering from austerity policies.
One question remains on the agenda for clarification: the need for getting a block exemption for companies and organisations over 250 employees so that ESF's means remain in compliance with the state aid rules.