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The Implementation of ESIF Communication Strategies in 2014-20 : Are they Achieving Expectations?

Mendez, Carlos and Dozhdeva, Viktoriya and Bachtler, John (2016) The Implementation of ESIF Communication Strategies in 2014-20 : Are they Achieving Expectations? [Report]

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In the context of the debate on the future of Cohesion policy, the communication of European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) has acquired a new salience. With discussions underway about the relative value of different EU policies – and their results – the future structure of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) depends on a recognition among the EU institutions and Member States that continuing to spend a third of the EU budget on cohesion is good value for money. This is clearly not guaranteed: recent contributions to the debate on the next MFF are critical of the added value and performance of Cohesion policy and even suggest a double standard in the way different EU policies are being assessed. As Commissioner Creţu points out, communication of the policy and its achievements needs to be improved significantly. This is not just an issue for the politics of the EU budget debate. In the context of declining support for the EU and EU integration in some Member States, and rising concern about inequality, EU Cohesion policy is meant to be an explicit and visible expression of solidarity and have a direct impact on people’s daily lives. Cohesion policy provides funding to all European regions, especially less less-developed regions and countries, and aims to improve economic and social prosperity and quality of life. It has a multi-level governance model intended to bringing the policy ‘closer to citizens’ through programmes that address regional and local development needs and which involve a ‘partnership’ with local authorities, non-governmental organisations, socio-economic partners and civic society. However, there are questions about the awareness of the policy among citizens and whether and how its programmes and projects are recognised. In particular, it is not clear whether the publicity and communication strategies of EU institutions and national/regional authorities are effective, whether they are regarded as propaganda or whether they improve knowledge, understanding and affinity with respect to the Funds. The paper takes stock of how the publicity and communication of Structural Funds is being achieved in different contexts. Drawing on research from IQ-Net countries and regions, it identifies examples of good and interesting practice, and explores the factors contributing to the effective design and delivery of communication strategies and measures.