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The New Ambitions for 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Evaluation

Pouring Water in a Leaking Container?

Laura Polverari

One of the recurring criticisms that have been levied to EU Cohesion policy has been its inability to prove its effectiveness and value for money. These criticisms, and the parallel growing pressures to reduce the resources assigned to the policy in recent rounds of budget negotiations, have led to the introduction of changes in the regulatory obligations attached to funding. In the 2014-2020 regulations, efforts to improve the policy’s effectiveness have primarily related to a set of new obligations intended to improve the results-orientation of programme design and implementation, and to a strengthening of the purposefulness of evaluation activities, including through a shift from evaluating implementation to appraising impacts. This article focuses on the latter theme. It reviews the main evaluation obligations foreseen by the Common Provisions Regulations (CPR) and the change in evaluation focus advocated by DG REGIO, the preparation of Evaluation Plans in selected EU programmes and these plans’ coverage, focus, objectives and resources. The article concludes with some reflections on the challenges that the new regulatory framework entails for managing authorities. It argues that the new CPR and Commission guidance notes are addressing past weaknesses by adding new demands to old ones without having sufficiently addressed the problems behind the partly ineffectual responses to already existing requirements, and calls for a stock-taking exercise in order to appreciate what is working, what is not working and what is needed to make evaluation a real programme management and accountability tool.

The author is Senior Research Fellow at the European Policies Research Centre, University of Strathclyde in Glasgow (UK). This article is based on research undertaken for the IQ-Net network. The author would like to thank all the IQ-Net researchers for their research in IQ-Net partner countries and all the IQ-Net partners who participated in the research. IQ-Net is sponsored by 18 Managing Authorities of ESIF programmes across Europe. The content and conclusions of this article do not necessarily represent the views of individual members of the IQ-Net network.


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