In 2017 and 2018, the Thematic Network of European Social Fund on Partnership has been working on the review of the European Code of Conduct on Partnership which sets out a cooperation framework between the European Commission, public authorities, social partners and civil society. The scope of the Thematic Network on Partnership is to provide an effective space for the users of European Social Fund (ESF) in order to assist ESF managing authorities, intermediate bodies and wider stakeholders from across the ESF to improve partnership practice.
The Opening Doors for Europe’s Children evidence demonstrates that the European Code of Conduct on Partnership was a breakthrough in the 2014-2020 funding period. It established a common set of standards to improve participation of civil society in the process of implementing the EU structural funds and supported civil society with influencing how the EU funds should be used to ensure best interest of children in Member States. Although the ECCP faced some challenges with its implementation, it was welcomed by most of the Member States.
Through Eurochild as a campaign leader, the Opening Doors for Europe’s Children campaign have been actively participating in the work of the Thematic Network on Partnership. We are pleased to see that our recommendations on representativeness and transparency in the procedures in the work of the Monitoring Committees of Operational Programmes have been taken on board. Specifically, Technical Dossier No 7 dated June 2018 includes our recommendations to ensure meaningful representation of the civil society in the monitoring committees and the role of the EU in their work.
Furthermore, the Opening Doors “Maintain, Strengthen, Expand” publication has been referenced in the review, and the examples from our National Coordinators in Bulgaria and Romania have been cited as good practices to learn from.
In 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), we want to see the European Code of Conduct on Partnership strengthened and reinvigorated, with an emphasis put on ‘doing more with better partnerships’. Principles enshrined in the ECCP must become more robust with clarity on what they mean and how they should be put into practice. Based on the current review of the ECCP by the Thematic Network on Partnership, we are asking for the relaunch of the ECCP as part of the Common Provisions Regulation.
In the next MFF, the cooperation standards between users of European social funds in the framework of ECCP should:
- Encourage greater representativeness and diversity in partner selection and clear procedures for including end users, ‘non traditional’ and local partners;
- Promote transparency and accessibility in decision-making processes with stronger guidance around timeframes, expectations and opportunities for partner input;
- Ensure ongoing involvement in all phases of the programme cycle and concerted efforts to better integrate local voices through approaches such as Community-led Local Development (CLLD);
- Use technical assistance and other relevant means to provide partnership skills training for all stakeholders and strengthen the institutional capacity of those unable to contribute effectively to ESIF programmes and projects due to lack of resources, skills, confidence or adequate time;
- Improve review and assessment processes through more proactive stakeholder involvement and European Commission representation in Monitoring Committees;
- Reinforce the responsibility of all stakeholders to engage in exchange and learning about partnership through more dynamic linkages within, between and across multiple levels and funds, with a focus on using the knowledge obtained to inform future developments.