With the 2013 reform of Cohesion policy only just being implemented through the 2014-20 programmes, discussion is already turning to the future of Cohesion policy after 2020. In this context, the aim of this paper is to contribute to the debate on the future of Cohesion policy after 2020, focusing on the management and implementation of the policy. The mid-term review of the MFF is due in 2016 and is expected to provide some changes to the remainder of the MFF in 2017-20 as well as indications of how the MFF might evolve after 2020. The starting point for considering the future direction of Cohesion policy is to take stock of the most recent reform. The main message is that, while the regulatory reforms for 2014-20 have addressed important deficiencies to improve Cohesion policy, the potential benefits at programme level are still emerging – and have often been obscured or constrained by the complexity of administrative procedures and workload associated with implementation.
Further efforts are clearly needed to achieve real simplification for MAs and IBs, enhance the functioning of subsidiarity and improve further the intended results-orientation. Improved strategic coherence is the aspect of the 2013 reform most valued among IQ-Net authorities at the programming stage, but there are several practical problems that may hinder a more strategic approach to implementation. Real simplification and proportionality are still far from being achieved. The results-orientation has improved the starting position of programmes but itis proving difficult to embed the new ‘programming logic’ mentality among implementing bodies andwithin project applicants, and there are concerns about the rigidity of the approach taken by theCommission. Many IQ-Net partners consider that there are areas where modifications to the performance framework and results orientation are needed.
Finally, there is the question of how to provide more flexibility for the policy to react to new challenges.Shorter programme periods are not favoured; reserves held at national or regional levels, or mid-termreviews have potential, but only if they were available as an option and not obligatory. An EU reserve to allow the ESIF to respond to sudden or new crises is viewed more favourably, although a widespreadconcern is to avoid top-down prescription and diversion of programme funding away from long-termobjectives.