In May 2020, Europaforum Northern Sweden, a network which brings together politicians from the four northernmost regions of Sweden, adapted a position paper on the proposal of a new national ESF+ programme. Europaforum Northern Sweden welcomes the proposal, but emphasizes that the proposal for increased co-financing requirements challenges projects in particularly the northernmost regions of Sweden.
Europaforum Northern Sweden (EFNS)
Europaforum Northern Sweden (EFNS) is a network for politicians at the local and regional levels from Norrbotten, Västerbotten, Jämtland Härjedalen and Västernorrland. EFNS has for the past 20 years provided a meeting place and a knowledge arena for discussion and analysis of the impacts of EU policy on northern Sweden. The overall aim of EFNS is to safeguard the interest of northern Sweden in matters with a clear European perspective.
The European Social Fund+ (ESF+), part of the EU budget from 2021-2027, is what the EU-commission calls a ‘simpler but stronger’ version of the existing European Social Fund. The ESF+ will be the main financial instrument for strengthening social cohesion and employment opportunities across Europe for the 2021-2027 period and is an important financial tool for regional development work in northern Sweden.
Europaforum Northern Sweden's view on a national ESF+ programme 2021–2027
EFNS argues that there is a great need for regional adaptation in the implementation of the ESF+ programme. The proposal of a national ESF+ programme by the Swedish ESF Council, which pays great attention to the different regional dimensions inthe northernmost regions in Sweden, is therefore welcomed by the EFNS. The accompanying regional action plans are crucial to secure a regional dimension in the ESF-projects. EFNS calls for a close cooperation between the ESF Council and the organisations responsible for regional development in both the drafting of the actions plans and the implementation of the ESF+ programme.
Another issue of concern is the European Commissions' proposal for increased co-financing requirements from 50 % to 60 % in the 2021-2027 period. Opportunities to local and regional co-financing are limited for stakeholders in the sparsely populated areas, implying that an increased requirement of co-financing might hinder many stakeholders’ opportunities to participate in the programme. Many ESF-projects are today co-financed through publicly financed remuneration for job-seeking participants, such as activity support through the Swedish Public Employment Service (SPES). The next programme period will entail changes on how the SPES’s activity support can be used within ESF+ projects, resulting in even more limited opportunities for local and regional co-financing. EFNS emphasizes that these concerns need to be compensated with national funds in order to secure financial stability for project owners in the 2021-2027 period.
Read the position paper here.