The European Commission has shown its support for civil society in key rules to improve the way member states consult with partners over the planning and spending of structural funds which have also been wholeheartedly endorsed by the European Parliament’s REGI Committee.
The European Code of Conduct on the Partnership Principle published last month is a common set of standards that aims to improve consultation, participation and dialogue with bodies representing civil society, public bodies at national, regional and local level during the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of projects financed by the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF). Importantly, it is directly applicable to the Member States upon its entry into force.
In particular Member States are required to:
- ensure transparency in the selection of partners representing regional, local and other public authorities, social and economic partners and very importantly for us, bodies representing the civil society, to be appointed as full members in the monitoring committees of the programmes
- provide partners with adequate information and sufficient time as a prerequisite for a proper consultation process • ensure that partners must be effectively involved in all phases of the process, i.e. from the preparation and throughout the implementation, including monitoring and evaluation, of all programmes
- support the capacity building of the partners for improving their competences and skills in view of their active involvement in the process
- create platforms for mutual learning and exchange of good practice and innovative approaches.
A key function of The Opening Doors campaign is to promote the importance of civil society involvement in the planning and delivery of national reform.
The Structural Funds present a unique opportunity to stimulate reform at national level by contributing to the additional costs which arise during the phase of transformation which can be a significant barrier to states engaging in the reform process.
Civil society has a fundamental role to play in this process. NGOs can be strategic partners to implement deinstitutionalisation strategies and they should be actively involved throughout the programming cycle of the Structural Funds, including in the phases of preparation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation
There is a great deal of knowledge and experience regarding the process of deinstitutionalisation within Europe. Much can be learned through the experience developed at national level if it can be harnessed and shared across the region.