What are the conclusions of the report published by SMEunited on the involvement of SMEs in the management of cohesion policy funds and investments for the period 2021-2027?

The SMEunited (European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) report shows that the implementation of the partnership principle varies considerably from one Member State to another and that its implementation is still incomplete. While the employers’ association welcomed the proposal to strengthen cohesion policy beyond 2020, it notes that the distribution of support requires caution and flexibility. Therefore, SMEunited sent a questionnaire to its members in individual EU countries to check the implementation of the principles of social partnership in this respect. Responses were received from 17 SME organizations in 15 EU Member States, of which 12 entities from 11 countries reported some degree of involvement in the design of Cohesion Policy funds for 2021-2027. The best situation is in France and Germany where SME organizations are involved in consultation, identification of thematic objectives and the aid development process. Poland found itself in a group of countries such as Romania, Belgium and Finland, where SMEs reported involvement in the development of cohesion policy during consultations and the identification of thematic objectives. Four organizations (including Croatia, Portugal and the Netherlands) have signaled the lack of social partnership in this area at all, while in Austria it has not yet started. When asked what kind of support you would like to receive, most organizations indicated the exchange of information and good practices (13 entities) and financial support for building the organization’s potential (11). Subsequently, the answers were: trainings and seminars (this was indicated by 7 organizations), awareness-raising about participation in program management (7), public consultations (5). It was also asked to what form the organization is involved at national level in the design of cohesion policy. 9 entities indicated the definition of thematic objectives, priorities and the development of needs, and 8 – an initial consultation. There was only two responses indicating involvement in the dialogue at the stage of preparation of program plans, while the option “involved in decisions on allocation of funds” was never indicated. In general, the level of satisfaction with the implementation of the partnership principle in creating the cohesion policy was shown by relatively few respondents, and no significant improvement in moods was recorded as compared to the previous programming period. In concluding the report, SEMunited highlighted the most important challenges faced by SME organizations in the process of social dialogue. These are: delays in the process of public consultations and last-minute invitations to them, shortage of qualified staff and financial resources, lack of requests from managing authorities due to lack of recognition, high complexity of delegated acts and interpretations, gaps in experience and exchange of good practices.

Source: Dialog w centrum i w Regionach nr 8/2020 (86) , Ministerstwo Rodziny, Pracy i Polityki Społecznej

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