Harmonising the objectives and strategies of the EU’s financial assistance policy
The EU legislation for the EU funding period 2014 to 2020 state that in future all Structural Funds of the EU (Social Fund/ESF, Regional Fund/ERDF, Rural Development/EAFRD, Cohesion Fund/CF, Fisheries Fund/EMFF) must be coordinated with the Europe 2020 growth strategy and its core targets to support implementation of the strategies in the member states. To this end, the Regulation on the EU-funds was published on 20 December 2013 in the Official Journal of the European Union (L347).
The Common Strategic Framework (CSF) has been established at the EU level as laid down in Annex I of Regulation (EC) No 1303/2013. At the national level, the establishment of a so-called Partnership Agreement (PA) with each member state is foreseen. This agreement is to serve as a link between the EU framework and the individual national/regional operational programmes of the various funds. The Partnership Agreement defines the national contribution to the EU objectives and the concrete measures to be taken to achieve these objectives.
The drafting process of the Austrian Partnership Agreement (=STRAT.AT 2020)
ÖROK reached the decision at the political level to conduct the drafting process for Austria’s Partnership Agreement. The elaboration of the PA has been built on ÖROK’s many years of governance experience. However, what is especially important was to define the process in close cooperation and interaction with the programming processes for the funds EAFRD, EMFF, ERDF und ESF, while at the same time differentiating it. The project has been named STRAT.AT 2020 as the continuation of STRAT.ATplus.
The elaboration process for STRAT.AT 2020 served as a platform for developing the common themes for the national objectives and for preparing a Partnership Agreement that is to take place parallel to the programming process for the CSF funds.
Apart from the development of content, the process made it possible to bring together the different “worlds” and harmonise the ways of thinking (e.g. different funds with different settlement structures, EU, Austrian level, expert public). STRAT.AT 2020 integrates the experience gained in past programming periods and guarantees synchronization with the ongoing programming processes of the ERDF, EAFRD and ESF.
The drafting work on the Partnership Agreement has been carried out from Spring 2012 to the end of the 1st quarter 201. The PA has been officially submitted to the European Commission on 17 April 2014, which reacted in mid July 2014 providing official comments. These have been taken into account by the Austrian authorities and the PA was again officially submitted to the EC on 8 October 2014.
On 17 October 2014 the European Commission officially adopted a decision approving the relevant elements of the Partnership Agreement pursuant to Articles 15 and 16 of regulation (EU) 1303/2013.
Working method: simple, effective and focused
The process has been designed to be as simple as possible, effective and take into account the limited funding available. By taking account of the areas of competence, the focus has been placed on those elements that can be processed jointly. Moreover, the process has been carried out in a spirit of partnership and enabled the adequate participation of the various stakeholders. All actors and interested parties could inform themselves on the results and the progress of STRAT.AT 2020.
STRAT.AT 2020 Steering Group
The Steering Group performed strategic steering tasks for the overall process and constituted the link between the project group, the Subcommittee on Regional Economy and the political bodies of ÖROK. The Steering Group has met approximately two times a year during the elaboration process at the project milestones.
High-ranking public officials (heads of sections, directors of the offices of the Länder, general secretaries), have been appointed to the Steering Group STRAT.AT 2020.
STRAT.AT 2020 Project Group
The Project Group has been responsible for the core process: The purpose of STRAT.AT 2020 to define the common themes and strands for the national objectives of the cohesion policy and the policy for the development of rural areas/ rural development.
The Project Group has been made up of the responsible bodies from the programming authorities; these are the Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection, the representatives of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, the bodies of the Länder responsible for ERDF, and the Federal Chancellery responsible for the overall coordination.
STRAT.AT 2020 Focus Groups
Focus Groups were a highly flexible element of the STRAT.AT 2020 process. The Focus Groups have been set up by the Steering Group for the purpose of carrying out preparatory work to clarify and deepen certain issues and themes. The themes of the respective Focus Groups and their composition have therefore been agreed individually. The Focus Groups reported to the Project Group that decided on the further use of the results for STRAT.AT 2020.
The institutions involved
The STRAT.AT 2020 stakeholder system consists of many actors that work in the various bodies. The bodies of ÖROK include actors from all levels.
The possible forms of public participation and sources of information within STRAT.AT 2020 were:
STRAT.AT 2020 forums
The STRAT.AT 2020 forums were open to all actors involved in the programming (programme implementation partners, economic and social partners, Association of Towns and Associations of Municipalities, intermediaries, NGOs, experts/academia). The forums have been designed to provide information on the interim results and feedback as well as to deepen the exchange among the actors from all programming worlds. Three STRAT.AT 2020 forums and one public presentation have taken place during the elaboration process 2012-2014:
Hearing procedures for the draft partnership agreement
During the STRAT.AT 2020 process, there have been two online hearing procedures:
Participation in Focus Groups
The Focus Groups have been set up by the Steering Group for the purpose of carrying out preparatory work to clarify and deepen certain issues and themes.
Timeframe and milestones
The STRAT.AT 2020 process started in April 2012; the partnership agreement has been officially submitted to European Commission on 17 April 2014 and again on 8 October 2014. It has been officially adopted by the EC on 17 October 2014.