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Partnered for results in the next structural fund period: Adopting a phenomenon-based approach to create more impact

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment 10.2.2020 12.26
News item
Marja-Riitta Pihlman, Director General of the Regions and Growth Services Department of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment
Marja-Riitta Pihlman, Director General of the Regions and Growth Services Department of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment

Preparations for the upcoming EU structural fund period are being made with focus on a phenomenon-based approach. According to Marja-Riitta Pihlman, Director General of the Regions and Growth Services Department of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, attention in regional development matters is increasingly focusing on phenomena that are crucial for societies at large, such as climate change, urbanisation and digitalisation.

“Our preparations for the next programming period essentially involve phenomenon-based thinking and ways of addressing current phenomena,” Pihlman explains.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment has three strategic priorities: to raise the employment rate to 75%, to achieve a carbon neutral Finland by 2035, and to raise the level of investment in research, development and innovation to four per cent of GDP.

Targeted funding to support social goals

Support from Structural Funds can be used to promote key social policy objectives such as employment and climate change mitigation. Targeted measures that focus on key phenomena are far more effective than uncoordinated individual measures.

“The important large-scale phenomena to which resources from Structural Funds are to be channelled appear to be the same in Eastern, Northern, Southern and Western Finland,” says Pihlman.

Although Structural Funds represent a central development instrument, it is important to bear in mind that the funding it provides can only address some of the jointly identified challenges. According to Pihlman, clear choices must be made and measures must be limited when preparing the programme.  Similarly, national public and private funding also play an important role in regional development and efforts to build a sustainable future.

One-programme model improves cooperation

According to Pihlman, all those participating in programme preparation are engaged and committed to the work at hand. Ever since the preparation began, it was to be expected that the regions would express very dissimilar views especially on the regional distribution of funds. Last autumn, the distribution of funding in the next programming period sparked heated debates between regions.

In Pihlman’s opinion, the decision of Katri Kulmuni, Minister of Economic Affairs at the time, to assign responsibility for agreeing on the principles of how to distribute funds between the regions to the regional leaders, was a good one. Having a shared mission and responsibility helped to offset tensions between regions.

Pihlman wants to highlight the positive experiences gained of the one-model programme and the nationwide project activities.

“With a single coordinated programme it is easier to build networks between regions or cities than with multiple separate programmes. 

In Pihlman’s view, the national project activities funded from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) to be carried out during the forthcoming programming period are also important. Successful nationwide activities carried out during the current programming period to create a shared concept include the ESF-funded Ohjaamo services for young people.  Ohjaamo service centres are engaged in cross-administrative, multidisciplinary work to promote the employment of young people.

This news item is based on an interview with Marja-Riitta Pihlman, Director General of the Regions and Growth Services Department of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. Preparations for the EU structural fund period 2021-2027 are being made in collaboration between various stakeholders in line with the partnership principle. Other interviewees in the serious of news themed “Partnered for results in the next structural fund period” include Päivi Keisanen from the Regional Council of Oulu, Tiina Huotari from the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council, Mauri Yltiö from the Ministry of the Environment and Jussi Ahokas from the Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health.

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