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In the 2014-2020 European Union (EU) programming period, the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) reached EUR 461 billion, financing a broad range of investment projects and programmes. Three out of five ESIF funds are under the EU’s Cohesion Policy, which aims to support balanced economic, social and territorial development and cohesion across its Member States.

Administrative capacity has been identified as a fundamental factor behind the performance of EU funds, especially those under Cohesion Policy. Successfully managing and administering these funds rests on the effective governance of the investment process, on the administrative capacity of Managing Authorities, and on the capacities of a diverse range of stakeholders. The management of ESIF involves a complex ecosystem of actors – from multiple levels of government, to private firms and non-profit entities. Clear, evidence-based strategies are essential to intelligently direct ESIF to where they are most needed and likely to have a positive impact; effective co-ordination and communication among actors, including beneficiaries, is necessary to ensure the maximum impact from the use of the Funds; and having the right skills and capacities is core to good project management. This can prove challenging. EU Member States show varying degrees of administrative capacity in a) “absorbing” and spending the allocated amount of ESIF; and b) doing so in a strategic fashion, one that supports development by addressing national, regional and local needs.

In anticipation of the 2021-2027 programming period, the European Commission, through its Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO), launched a pilot project entitled “Frontloading Administrative Capacity Building for Post-2020”, with the participation of Managing Authorities from Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Poland (Lubelskie) and Spain (Extremadura). The aim of this pilot was to support Managing Authorities in designing roadmaps for action that would delineate concrete activities to enhance their administrative capacity. Throughout the pilot, OECD experts from the Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities, and the Directorate for Public Governance provided technical support to these Managing Authorities and relevant stakeholders to develop their respective Roadmaps. The role of the OECD was to advise on structural, procedural and strategic changes that Managing Authorities could introduce to make the most of EU funding in the 2021-2027 programming period. This report captures the main findings of this project, and offers recommendations to Managing Authorities, national authorities and the European Commission regarding the management and implementation of ESIF. It intends to be of value to national and regional-level Managing Authorities throughout the European Union moving into the 2021-2027 programming period.

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