Cohesion Policy: Commission and OECD help 5 EU funds managing authorities engage with citizens

Source: European Commission (EC) i, published on Friday, July 10 2020.

Today, the European Commission announced its support to five national and regional programmes to pilot innovative ways of engaging citizens in decisions about cohesion policy investments. The managing authorities from Spain, Poland, Italy and two Interreg programmes (Belgium-the Netherlands and Bulgaria-Romania) will benefit from targeted support from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The objective of the pilots will be to promote active citizen and civil society participation in designing, implementing and evaluating cohesion policy projects, as well as boosting the culture of transparency and accountability of the public institutions involved. Promoting the objectives of the European Green Deal, sustainability and inclusiveness of the economy are important elements in the selected programmes.

Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, said: “Cohesion policy plays a central role in promoting and contributing to a green, digital and resilient economic recovery. Cohesion policy has always worked for citizens and the goal of this initiative is to make it work with citizens. Involving citizens will make investment more transparent and more effective, especially at a time when communities and territories are struggling with the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

Secretary-General of OECD, Angel Gurrìa, said: “The OECD's longstanding work on open government shows that citizen participation in public decision making leads to more effective and legitimate policies, and can help to increase trust between citizens and governments, which is proving to be particularly critical in light of the current crisis. We are looking forward to working with the countries for this pilot project and with the Commission to strengthen citizen engagement in cohesion policy.”

The five programmes were selected on the basis of their ambitious and valuable plans for improving citizen participation in their respective areas:

  • in Spain, the Regional Government of Cantabria will focus on the participation of citizens in the transition to a green and low-carbon economy;
  • in Poland, the authority responsible for the Infrastructure and Environment 2014-2020 Operational Programme will foster public participation in the implementation of large scale transport infrastructure projects, by creating a platform for social participation;
  • the body responsible for the Bulgaria-Romania cross-border programme will promote participation in the investment decisions on projects for environmental protection;
  • the Netherlands - Flanders Interreg Programme will extend the use of their online tool for participation, especially in micro projects benefiting the local communities; and
  • the Emilia-Romagna regional programme in Italy will elaborate a roadmap on involving citizens in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in the cohesion policy investments.

A dedicated team from the Open and Innovative Government Division at the OECD will provide hands-on support to the selected authorities on how to engage closer with civil society, including in the analysis of the state of play, structured discussions with relevant stakeholders, and the preparation of an action plan.

Next steps

The five pilots will be carried out for 12 months starting from July 2020. The results will then be disseminated widely to inspire other institutions involved on how to best engage citizens in the implementation of cohesion funding. The aim is to promote similar initiatives in the cohesion policy programmes under the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027.


These pilots are part of a broader action announced by the Commission at a High-Level Conference on the issue of Engaging Citizens for Good Governance in Cohesion Policy on 6 February 2020. In this context, the Commission will also provide “grassroots” financing to support innovative ideas and initiatives for promoting citizen engagement coming from smaller and local civil society organisations.

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