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Participant perspectives from the fi-compass ESF seminar in Rome

fi-compass organised a special advisory seminar for European Social Fund (ESF) managing authorities in Italy on 1 December 2016 and this article provides an overview of participant perceptions about topics covered during the seminar. Topics included information about opportunities for ESF financial instruments to work alongside the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and also how managing authorities can become involved with establishing more financial instruments that draw on funding from Italy's ESF Operational Programmes.

Jader Canè from the European Commission Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPLOI) told the seminar that: “EFSI has done well. Since July 2015, ESFI has mobilised €115.7 billion in investments across 26 Member States benefiting more than 200 000 SMEs. However, it can do even more. In the words of President Juncker in Strasbourg, Europe must invest strongly in its youth, in its job seekers and must promote job creation. He also said Europe is not social enough. This indicates that there is room for action in the social field. President Katainen asked Commission services, including DG EMPLOI, to take ownership of the Investment Plan for Europe and EFSI and contribute to its success by explaining opportunities and by raising awareness among stakeholders, including managing authorities and financial intermediaries.”

Martina Rosato from the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy welcomed the seminar's focus on promoting ESF financial instruments saying: "During 2007-20013, Italy was a front runner for the implementation of ESF financial Instruments. We have the same ambition for this period too. This seminar aims to make Italian ESF managing authorities aware of the opportunities coming from financial instruments, from EFSI and from using them together.”

Positive feedback

Delegates at the seminar also found the content useful and especially presentations describing actual cases using ESF financial Instruments. “I believe that some of the most important aspects of today's seminar were the cases presented by colleagues from managing authorities, the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund” said Francesco Pesce, from the Molise ESF Regional Operational Programme. “These give us operational information but also new ideas beyond standard microcredit. For example, the case presented by the Sardinia region gives me ideas of how to use financial instruments for enhancing social companies as well.”

Seminar topics prompted many questions from participants. “What I appreciated most about today was the willingness to share information and views. I really like the frankness of microfinance institutions when explaining the problems of working with us managing authorities” said Luca Galassi, from the Sardinia ESF Regional Operational Programme. Sara Casillo from TECNOSTRUTTURA (the national public agency providing technical assistance to all Italian ESF Operational Programmes) agrees: “Financial intermediaries are aware that working with ESF Operational Programmes can be challenging because of the public procurement necessity, the State aid regulations and so on. However today, I have the clear feeling that they are ready and willing to be engaged and to take on the challenge. Furthermore, EFSI represents a new opportunity for all of us, public and private actors.”

Outcomes from the fi-compass ESF event are expected to facilitate enhanced cooperation between Italian  ESF managing authorities and financial intermediaries. “Today it seems we are all aware of the great opportunity in front of us offered by ESI Funds and EFSI,” concluded Giampietro Pizzo President of Rete Italiana Microfinanza (RITMI), the Italian microfinance network “so let’s start already tomorrow to work together and not waste any more time!”

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