Community Initiativesi are specific financial instruments of the European Union’s Structural Policy which were designed to find common solutions to specific problems affecting the whole of the E.U. The Community Initiatives are Co-financed by the E.U. Structural Fundsi and provide added value and complementarity to mainstream regional Programmes such as Objectives 2 and 3. Community Initiatives share three characteristics:
- They address issues of community relevance affecting the majority of Member States aiming to promote transnationali, cross-border and interregional co-operation
- They play an experimental role as they focus on areas where new solutions are needed
- They experimentation they encourage involves exchanges of experience, transfers of know-how, co-operation and the creation of networks
For the period 2000 to 2006, there are four Community Initiative Programmes: EQUAL Equal promotes new ways to combat discrimination and inequality in the job market. The initiative works by bringing together key players in a geographical area or sector to form a Development Partnership (DP) – including public administrations, non-governmental organisations, social partners and private business (notably SMEs). An important aspect is co-operation with others dealing with the same themes across the EU. The results will be used to influence future policy and practice. Interreg lll Interreg lll (2000-06) aims to strengthen economic and social cohesion by stimulating cross-border, transnational and inter-regional co-operation. There is a special emphasis on integrating remote regions and those sharing borders with the countries seeking membership of the Union. Leader+i Leader+ promotes rural development through the initiatives of local action groups. It provides funds firstly to identify development needs within rural communities, and then to develop and test small-scale, pilot projects to meet these needs in a sustainable way. Urban ll Urban ll is the ERDFi funded Community Initiative to encourage the sustainable economic and social regeneration of troubled towns, cities and suburbs for the period 2000-06.
Background There are currently four Community Action Programmes covering anti-discrimination, gender equality, the fight against social exclusion and employment incentive measures which provide financial support to the EU's Social Policy Agenda. The Social Policy Agenda is Europe's roadmap for social and employment policy until 2010 and is an important element of the EU's new Growth and Jobs strategy. These programmes will run until the end of 2006. As part of the discussions on the new financial perspectives for the period 2007-2013, the Commission proposed (in 2004) to bring these four Action Programmes together to form PROGRESS. This single programme will complement the European Social Fund as well as the financial support provided for social dialogue, free movement of workers and social studies. The aim of regrouping the four action programmes is to simplify the way the Commission spends its money and to increase the visibility, clarity and coherence of the different policy areas covered by the programmes. The new standardised approach and harmonised implementing provisions of PROGRESS will also make it easier for beneficiaries to apply for funding. The new PROGRESS programme is due to replace, for the period 2007-2013, the existing Community initiatives and budget lines in the fields of employment, social inclusion and protection, working conditions, gender equality and anti-discrimination. The decision-making procedure is now well under way and the final adoption of the PROGRESS programme should take place in October 2006. The PROGRESS Programme (2007-2013) provides the possibility of co-funding the operating costs of European-level networks. In order to ensure smooth transition between the current programmes and the PROGRESS programme, the Commission will publish, by the end of September 2006, an open Framework Call for Proposals addressed to organisations active in combating discrimination (Action 1), promoting gender equality (Action 2) and promoting integration of disabled people in society (Action 3). These organisations and actions are outlined in more detail below:
- Action 1: Organisations which have as primary objectives and activities the representation and defence of the rights and interests of the people potentially exposed to discrimination on grounds of racial or ethnic origin, religion or beliefs, disability, age and sexual orientation at Community level.
- Action 2: Organisations which have as primary objectives and activities the representation and defence of the rights and interests of the people potentially exposed to gender inequality at Community level.
- Action 3: Organisations which have as primary objectives and activities to represent the interests of disabled people at Community level.
The Framework Call for Proposals will support selected organisations for the period between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2007. Details of the Call for proposals, including application packages and relevant contact details for information can be found at the Employment, Social Affairs & Equal Opportunities section of the European Commision website, listed below. European Commision website
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Replacement for Community Initiatives Announced The PROGRESS programme is due to replace, for the period 2007-2013, the existing Community programmes and budget lines. The Commission has proposed a budget of €743.29 million for PROGRESS from 2007-2013. PROGRESS will provide support for three types of activities:
- Analytical activities that improve the understanding of the Social Policy Agenda's issues, contribute to its effective implementation and help to improve coordination with other EU policy areas and strategies (e.g. collecting and disseminating data, carrying out studies, analyses and impact assessments, developing statistical and evaluation methods).
- Activities involving mutual learning, exchanges of information, awareness-raising, identifying and promoting good practice and measures related to monitoring and evaluation (e.g. peer reviews) that help to establish the state-of-play in Member States and, in this way, improve the application of Community rules.
- Activities that support the main stakeholders in order to promote the exchange of good practice, the sharing of information, preventive awareness-raising measures, as well as discussion processes (e.g. setting up working parties of national officials, developing networking at EU level or funding networks of experts in the different areas).
PROGRESS aims to support the implementation of the European Social Agenda, by pursuing the following general objectives:
- To improve the knowledge and understanding of the situation prevailing in the Member States (and in other participating countries) through analysis, evaluation and close monitoring of policies;
- To support the development of statistical tools and methods and common indicators, where appropriate broken down by gender and age group, in the areas covered by the programme;
- To support and monitor the implementation of Community law, where applicable, and policy objectives in the Member States, and assess their effectiveness and impact;
- To promote networking, mutual learning, identification and dissemination of good practice and innovative approaches at EU level;
- To enhance the awareness of the stakeholders and the general public about the EU policies and objectives pursued under each of the policy sections;
- To boost the capacity of key EU networks to promote, support and further develop EU policies and objectives, where applicable.
More specifically, PROGRESS will support:
- The implementation of the European Employment Strategy
- The implementation of the open method of coordination in the field of social protection and inclusion
- The improvement of the working environment and conditions including health and safety at work and reconciling work and family life
- The effective implementation of the principle of non-discrimination and promotion of its mainstreaming in all EU policies
- The effective implementation of the principle of gender equality and promotion of its mainstreaming in all EU policies
The programme will provide a maximum of 80% of co-financingi for projects. (As an exception, Community support to the operating costs of European level networks of NGOs may be above this limit, taking into account that such Community funding will annually gradually decrease). The programme itself will be divided into five sections:
- Employment (23%)
- Social protection and social inclusion (30%)
- Working conditions (10%)
- Antidiscrimination and diversity (23%)
- Gender equality (12%) With Technical Assistancei of 2%
The total financial allocations over the programme will amount to €743.29 million 2007 – €82.90 million 2008 – €95.72 million 2009 – €103.56 million 2010 – €110.07 million 2011 – €113.63 million 2012 – €116.96 million 2013 – €120.41 million For more information on PROGRESS please refer to the following links: PROGRESS documents PROGRESS Frequently Asked Questions