ESF Plus: Funding Period 2021-2027

The European Social Fund (ESF), will continue to be the main EU funding instrument and thus also instrument of support for investment in people, as the "ESF Plus".

The main objective of the ESF Plus is to contribute to a social Europe and to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights into practice. The ESF is investing locally in measures to help people cope with economic and social challenges.

In the current funding period 2014-2020, the ESF has already reached EU-wide around 20 million people who were unemployed or inactive, supported around 10 million members of disadvantaged groups and more than 520,000 small and medium-sized enterprises. ESF-funded measures always address key socio-economic challenges in the Member States and regions, while also reflecting the development of the European Union’s employment and social policy agenda.

In the 2021-2027 funding period, the new ESF+ will focus even more on the idea of a more social Europe, bringing together the previous ESF, the previous European Aid Fund for the Most Deprived (FEAD), the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) and the EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI).

In terms of content, the ESF Plus should in particular support:

  • improved access to employment, education and training;
  • active inclusion,
  • the socio-economic integration of third-country nationals;
  • equal access to high-quality social protection systems;
  • the social integration of disadvantaged people
  • and basic material assistance for the most disadvantaged.

ESF Plus funding must also be deployed with a focus on specific topics at Member State level. The detailed requirements are currently being negotiated at EU level. Depending on the outcome of the negotiations, funds will be used in particular to address the challenges of the "Country Specific Recommendations (CSR)", "Social Inclusion" and the most disadvantaged people (= ex-FEAD (European Aid Fund for the Most Deprived)), combating child poverty and promoting young people, and capacity building of social partners and civil society organisations.

A total of around EUR 6.5 billion is expected to be available for ESF Plus funding from the Federation and the Länder in Germany.

Since the beginning of 2020, the Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission have been in trialogue negotiations on the legal bases for the ESF Plus. In particular, the focus is on the content priorities, the governance architecture of the new ESF Plus as well as the rules on monitoring and evaluation of ESF Plus funding.

A balanced political agreement is to be reached within the framework of Germany's Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Legal requirements

The content programming shall take into account the requirements of the relevant EU regulations. Accordingly, ESF Plus federal funding – in addition to the thematic focus already described – will be guided by the basic principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR).

It is also relevant for content programming that the need for action must be explained on the basis of a socio-economic analysis.

Participation of partners

In the summer of 2019, a public online consultation was held, in which about 1,500 people participated and inputs on funding needs, target groups with need for support as well as further content and technical suggestions for the future implementation of the European Social Fund Plus in the funding period 2021-2027.

On 22 October 2019, more than 130 people took part in the federal consultation event in Berlin. The results of the federal online consultation were presented at the event and discussed with the participants. Representatives of the Federal Ministries also presented their ideas for future funding programmes for the next funding period.

The ideas and proposals of the partners are largely incorporated into the planning of the funding strategy.

Coordination with the Länder

Since the beginning of 2020, the Federation has had intensive exchanges with the Länder regarding the programming of the 2021-2027 funding period. The objectives are to avoid overlaps in content and double funding as well as to ensure that ESF Plus funding is holistic and integrated across the board in Germany. Coherence coordination with the Länder is nearing completion.

Further timing

A first informal draft of the Federal Operational Programme is currently being prepared on this basis. Informal negotiations with the European Commission on the adoption of the Operational Programme are due to begin in November 2020.

If negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and the legislative package at EU level can be concluded by the end of 2020, a federal operational programme for the ESF Plus funding period 2021-2027 approved by the European Commission should be available by mid-2021. Calls for funding will be published successively following the official approval of the Operational Programme.

On 10 November 2020, a political agreement was reached under the German Presidency with the negotiators of the EU Parliament in order to secure Parliament’s approval for the next MFF. It complements the comprehensive financial package of €1 824.3 billion negotiated by EU leaders in July, which combines the next MFF – €1 074.3 billion – and a €750 billion temporary recovery instrument, Next Generation EU (in 2018 prices).

The political package agreed with the Parliament includes:

  • a targeted reinforcement of EU programmes, including Horizon Europe, EU4Health and Erasmus+, by €15 billion through additional means (€12.5 billion) and reallocations (€2.5 billion) in the course of the next financial period, while respecting the expenditure ceilings set out in the European Council conclusions of 17-21 July
  • more flexibility to allow the EU to respond to unforeseen needs
  • greater involvement of the budgetary authority in the oversight of revenue under Next Generation EU
  • higher ambition on biodiversity and strengthened monitoring of biodiversity, climate and gender related spending
  • an indicative roadmap towards the introduction of new own resources

The next step would be to approve the agreement by the Member States.

Op­er­a­tional Pro­gramme

teaser funding period 2014-2020 federal operational programme

The Op­er­a­tional Pro­gramme (Fed­er­al ESF OP) de­scribes the over­all strat­e­gy at fed­er­al lev­el for im­ple­ment­ing the Eu­ro­pean So­cial Fund in Ger­many.