Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)
European section of United Cities and Local Governments

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Cohesion policy

Cohesion policy - 02.02.2023

Cities and municipalities in the driving seat for EU Cohesion Policy funds?
What is the common feature between the trolleybuses in Otsravian metropolitan area (Czech Republic), the local food businesses in Ljubljana Urban Region (Slovenia) and the traditional danse festival in Saint-Gervais-d’Auvergne (France)? They all benefited from the European Cohesion Policy through integrated territorial investments (ITI) or community-led-local development (CLLD).
Behind the term “EU Cohesion Policy” we can find a variety of programmes and fundings such as the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) or the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) although the latter is now directly attached to the Common Agricultural Policy.
In practice, these funds reach thousands of  towns, cities and  regions, as well as other beneficiaries through the intermediation of “Managing Authorities” which can be national Ministries or Regions. But there are two lesser-known dimensions of these funds which are directly  implemented on the ground: the so-called ‘ITI’ and ‘CLLD’
Integrated Territorial Investments (ITI) and Community Led Local Development (CLLD) are the main mechanisms used to implement European Cohesion Policy funding in an integrated and place-based manner. Using these tools to implement Cohesion Policy funds is a guarantee that local governments and local stakeholders will be closely associated in the design, implementation and monitoring of the EU funds they receive.
They can allow the use of different funds in an integrated way. For instance, a rural municipality interested in social inclusion project could combine ESF and EAFRD in a single, comprehensive project.
On paper ITI and CLLD are great tools for local and regional governments... But how do they translate in practice?
In 2015, we delved into the analysis of the use of the ITI  in different Member States. A few years later, with the start of the new programming period 2021-2027, we reiterated the experiment to understand how these tools were used in practice in the previous period and what are the lessons learned and changes in their implementations. Click here to read the full study.
To do so, CEMR reached out to some of its member associations to gather feedbacks on the implementation and planning of ITI and CLLD tools from the perspective of cities and municipalities.
Highly appreciated tools, but some difficulties in implementation remain
Overall, the many feedbacks we received were quite positive. ITI and CLLD are considered as great instruments thanks to their adaptability to the local needs and specificities. They empower local authorities, and by doing so help raise their capacities in managing EU funds. But they also strengthen multi-level dialogue between the local authorities and the Managing authorities (either the Ministry or the Region). Hence reinforcing the trust between the different governance level.
All is not yet rosy either: some challenges remain for fully tapping into the potential of these tools such as the administrative burden still inherent to Cohesion policy funds in general. In CEMR’s new analysis, we also identified some recommendations to improve the uptake of ITI and CLLD in the current and future programming period.
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