In the legislative framework for the 2014-2020 ESI Funds the partnership principle has been strengthened. Article 5 of the Common Provision Regulation (CPR) makes it compulsory for each ESI Fund programme to organise a partnership at all programming stages and at all levels. A European Code of Conduct on partnership (CoC) has been set up to support Member States to ensure that all partners are involved at all stages in the implementation of Partnership Agreements and programmes. Even though the partnership principle is not new for the 2014-2020 ESI Funds, more importance has been given to stakeholder involvement and influence.
The aim of this study is to review the establishment of the partnership principle and the application of the CoC in the Partnership Agreements and programmes financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund (CF), including European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) programmes and multi-fund programmes co-financed by the European Social Fund (ESF). The study analyses data collected by document analysis, web-survey and interviews.
The partnership principle has been satisfactorily respected in a wide range of countries and programmes. However, there are still challenges across a broad range of countries concerning the mobilisation of partners. Generally the modified legal framework was perceived as positive as it increased awareness and visibility of the partnership principle. The level of stakeholder involvement has improved since the 2007-2013 programming period, although there are sometimes differences between the content of the programming documents and the perception of stakeholders. Overall, the partnership principle adds value to the implementation of European public policies.