The Canary Islands Vice-President and Minister of Finance, Budgets and European Affairs, Román Rodríguez, and the European Commission’s Director of Working Conditions and Social Dialogue, María Iglesia, chaired the launch event for this operational programme last Friday in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, although the latter did so telematically from Brussels.
The session was also attended by Salvador Vargas, advisor to the Administrative Unit of the European Social Fund of the Ministry of Labour and Social Economy; Georgiana-Iona Mozer-Shönborn, programme assistant of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment; Fermín Delgado, Deputy Minister of Finance, Planning and European Affairs, and Luis Márquez, Director General of Planning and Budget.
Rodríguez highlighted the volume of resources that the European Union has made available to the Canary Islands for the implementation of projects related to social cohesion, and pointed out that the obligation of the autonomous government is now to manage the funds “quickly, sensitively and capably” in order to contribute to the development and social transformation of the archipelago.
The Vice-President indicated, in any case, that just as important as the amounts of the European funds are the priorities and political objectives pursued with them, especially in the case of the ESF+, whose projects are intended to reinforce social justice.
The vice-president specified that the Canary Islands will receive some 7.5 billion euros by 2027, between ordinary resources included in the EU budget and extraordinary funds for recovery, included in the Next Generation instrument, according to a government press release.
The Vice-President thanked the European Commission for its sensitivity to their specific needs, which are not only enshrined in article 349 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU but also backed by the European courts of justice, and which have allowed such an intensity of resources, despite the difficulties of the pandemic and the United Kingdom’s exit from the European club.
“Fortunately, this legal umbrella protects the articulation of policies adapted to the singularities of our land and also of the other outermost regions,” said Rodríguez, who also expressed her gratitude for the response offered by the Union to the pandemic, which has enabled a rapid and intense economic recovery, despite the uncertainties that persist, fundamentally related to inflation.
Maria Iglesia stressed that ESF+ is the highest expression of the European Union’s social solidarity and encouraged all participating institutions and organisations to manage projects properly so that they have a multiplier effect on society.
She also stressed that the ESF+ comes at a key moment for the European Union, in a period of transition towards a digital and green economy in which no one will be left behind, and insisted on the resources that will be made available to the Canary Islands for the fight against poverty or the so-called child guarantee to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children.
Vargas, for his part, recalled that the ESF is the oldest structural fund in the Union, having already formed part of the Treaty of Rome in 1957, and pointed out that in this new edition it appears “reinforced and super-vitaminised” because a large social component has been added to its traditional objectives related to employment and training.
“THE RESPONSIBILITY IS OURS”
Fermín Delgado thanked the European Commission and the central government for their sensitivity towards the Canary Islands, not only with the ERDF and ESF+ operational programmes, but also with those instruments of agricultural policy and the Interreg MAC cooperation programme.
“For the Canary Islands it is a success to have maintained the same amount of funds as in the previous EU budgetary framework, and also to have done so with a co-financing percentage of 85%,” said Delgado, who insisted on the importance of the funds that the Canary Islands receive as an outermost region.
In any case, he indicated that the responsibility now lies with the Canary Islands “to manage these funds properly and correctly; there is no point in victimism or diverting attention from one’s own obligations”.
According to Delgado, “we have to be rigorous so that this money reaches those who need it and, therefore, is well spent”.
Luis Márquez thanked the technical work of the teams involved in the extensive negotiation period and described the management of this operational programme, which joins the other ordinary and extraordinary European funds managed by the Budget Department of the Regional Ministry of Finance, as an “exciting challenge”.
A TRULY SOCIAL FUND
On 19 December, the Commission approved the Decision on the Implementation of the European Social Fund Plus programme, by which the EU will distribute aid of 446.5 million euros for the new budget period 2021-2027, an amount which rises to 525 million if the co-financing of the Canary Islands and Spanish governments is included.
In the previous period, European aid amounted to 279.6 million euros. The main difference is that the current contribution includes for the first time an allocation for the Canary Islands’ status as an outermost region (RUP), which amounts to 157 million euros.
Irrespective of this allocation, the most important item is earmarked for social inclusion and the fight against poverty, with 80 million euros, followed by youth employment, with 62.3 million euros.
The ESF+ is a fund that invests in people and implements the European pillar of social rights, contributing to a more social Europe; to economic, social and territorial cohesion, with a special emphasis on employment and training.
In this new period, the programme merges the former European Social Fund (ESF) with the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) and a part of the European Aid Fund for the Most Deprived (FEAD).