Integrated territorial investment – Implementation and future prospects

Briefing 07-03-2018

An optional territorial development tool, integrated territorial investments (ITIs) make it possible to combine resources from the European Social Fund, European Regional Development Fund or Cohesion Fund under priority axes of one or more operational programmes. While ITIs may be used to implement sustainable urban development as well as other territorial strategies, they also allow Member States to delegate management tasks to the local level. Their take-up in the current period, however, has been relatively low, leading to questions regarding their current form. Commentators have highlighted a number of obstacles to implementing ITIs, such as their complex structure, the administrative burden they represent for local authorities and the reluctance of many Member States to delegate responsibilities to the local level, with the European Parliament also adopting a resolution on this topic in 2016. There is clearly room for improvement and the current discussions on the future cohesion policy framework provide fresh impetus to further develop this tool. Stakeholders have put forward a number of proposals, finding common ground on issues such as ensuring the wider use of ITIs and a place-based approach, the need for greater simplification, and the importance of strengthening the sub-delegation of powers to involve the local level more in selecting projects. With a commitment to maintaining a key role for cohesion policy in the EU budget after 2020, the Bulgarian Council Presidency has made this policy one of its priorities. Yet in a context of increasing budgetary pressure, it remains unclear whether Member States will wish to strengthen a tool that devolves greater power, at some financial risk, to the local level.