The German federal Operational Programme (2014-2020)

The Operational Programme (Federal ESF OP) describes the Federal Government's overall strategy for implementing the European Social Fund in Germany.

To implement the goals, the Federal Government submitted the "German federal Operational Programme for the implementation of the European Social Fund in the 2014-2020 funding period" ( Fed­er­al ESF OP, p. 1-25 [PDF, 415KB]), which was approved by the European Commission on 21 October, 2014.

The content of the Operational Programme is set down in Article 96 of Regulation (EU) 1303/2013; this contains, inter alia, planned measures, anticipated outcomes, financing plans and output and result indicators. The Operational Programme comprises the following sections:

  • Presentation of the overall strategy at federal level aligned with current needs (including appendix with socio-economic analysis) and the contribution, inter alia, to the Europe 2020 strategy, Germany's National Reform Programmes, employment guidelines and country-specific recommendations according to Article 148 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (section 1).
  • Description of the planned types of activities, objectives, indicators and performance framework (section 2).
  • Financing plans (section 3).
  • Arrangements for the involvement of partners (section 7) and a description of the overall approach to the horizontal principles of anti-discrimination, equality and sustainability (section 11).

Led by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the following ministries were also involved in the development and delivery of the Federal ESF OP:

  • Federal Ministry of Education and Research
  • Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth
  • Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action
  • Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection
  • Federal Ministry for Housing, Urban Development and Building (formerly Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and the Community)

During the early planning phase of the Operational Programme, an online consultation involving roughly 800 partners was held in October 2012 on the future ESF priorities of the Federal Government. The results of the online consultation were presented to the public on 21 November, 2012 and discussed.

Following the consultation phase, the future priority areas and programmes were defined in greater detail in extensive negotiations at the federal level and with the Länder, and were then finalised. Due consideration was also given to the European Commission's position paper containing recommendations on the use of structural funds in Germany. The consistency of all the planned ESF programmes at federal level was coordinated and agreed extensively with the federal states in the planning stage in order to draw a clear line between funding and deliver integrated, intermeshed ESF support in Germany.

Apart from the Federal Ministries mentioned, external partners (economic and social partners, welfare organisations, churches, municipal central associations etc.) were very much involved in the development of the programme. The federal ESF funding priorities for the 2014-2020 funding period, which were informed by the consultations, were finally presented to the public in a workshop held in March 2013 and discussed.

Financing in the 2014-2020 funding period

Due to positive economic and labour market developments, Germany received structural funding of roughly €19.3 bn. The European Social Fund accounts for roughly €7.49 bn of this amount, which was distributed to the regions as follows:

  • More developed regions (western German States including the Leipzig and Berlin region, and excluding the Lüneburg region): €4.23 bn (56.4%)
  • Transition regions (eastern German States including the Lüneburg region, and excluding the Leipzig and Berlin region): €3.26 bn (43.6%)
Diagram: Structural Funds (ERDF and ESF) eligibility 2014-2020
Diagram: Structural Funds (ERDF and ESF) eligibility 2014-2020

The ESF funds continued to be managed separately by the Federal Government and the Federal States. The Federal Government managed roughly €2.689 bn (= 35.9%) while the remaining funds for the Operational Programme totalling roughly €4.8 bn (64.1%) were managed by the Federal states.

Diagram: Distribution of ESF-Funds on federal level