A strong European Social Fund is key to a more social Europe

Plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions

CoR members today adopted the draft opinion on the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+), by Susana Díaz Pacheco, President of the Andalusia region (PES/Spain). It responds to a European Commission proposal for a regulation, which merges the European Social Fund, the Youth Employment Initiative, the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived, the Employment and Social Innovation programme and the Health programme into one future fund.

The CoR rapporteur regrets that the European Social Fund has been separated from the European Structural and Investment Funds and the Cohesion Fund, fearing a break-up of cohesion policy post 2027. She firmly stresses that the European Social Fund has to remain anchored within cohesion policy as it is the EU's main instrument to invest in people and human capital, to promote social inclusion and equality between men and women and to improve the lives of millions of European citizens.

Likewise, she advocates a higher degree of decentralisation and the transfer of Member State competences from the national to the local and regional level, as major future challenges, such as in the areas of migration and technological change, can only be addressed effectively by taking into account specific local needs". She also recommends adequate financial allocations to cover the additional objectives assigned to the ESF+.

The rapporteur calls for a stronger focus on social inclusion, urging Member States to allocate at least 25% of their ESF+ resources under shared management to the specific objectives for the social inclusion policy and support regions and cities to tackle poverty, including energy poverty, fighting discrimination and addressing social and health inequalities, promoting policies targeting the most disadvantaged people, and guiding access to adequate social or affordable housing. 

She also calls for measures to ensure that at least 15% of the resources received from the ESF+ are used for measures to support youth employment in order to ensure their effectiveness and efficiency and to prevent the marginalisation of youth employment guarantee schemes in the new ESF+.

Last but not least, she stresses the need to integrate the ESF +  investment priorities into a new long-term EU Strategy implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.

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