As the negotiations on the future of the EU budget and the reform of Cohesion Policy enter their final year, some progress has been made on the structure of the MFF, and the shape and content of the legislative package, but the amount and distribution of resources are still open and contested. Complicating factors are uncertainty over the budgetary implications of Brexit and the policy agenda of the new Commission. The ambition of finalising the MFF negotiations by the end of 2019 looks increasingly unlikely.Many of the regulatory blocks for ESIF in 2021-27 have been agreed by the Council.
However, there are are a number of finanical issues that remain open and will only be resolved during the final political negotiations on the MFF, notably the level and distribution of funding, macro-economic conditionalities, n+2 and co-financing rates. The proposed conditionality relating to the rule of law is particularly contentious.Trilogues with the European Parliament are underway for those blocks with Council mandates. There are important interinstituional differences on key issues – notably the size of the MFF but also inter alia co-financing rates, pre-financing, inter-fund transfers and Interreg funding.With the delay in finalising the MFF, the outcomes for post-2020 Cohesion Policy expenditure (published by the Commission in 2018) would be affected by updated data for key indicators. This could have a significant effect on national allocations, with gains or losses for individual Member States.
While the EU negotiations continue, programming preparations for 2021-27 have been gathering momentum at national and regional level with different speeds and levels of political and public engagement and debate. European Commission guidance on future Cohesion Policy investment priorities and factors for effective delivery were published in early 2019 as part of the the European Semester country reports. However, in the absence of decisions not just on money but also key issues on how implementation can be managed, there is still a long way to go to the launch of the next programme period.