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Tripartite contracts and agreements

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Tripartite contracts and agreements

The purpose of this Communication is increase the focus of Community activities with a strong territorial impact on the diversity of territories by defining the contractual relations between the Commission, the national government and one or more regional or local authorities.


Commission Communication of 11 December 2002 - A framework for target-based tripartite contracts and agreements between the Community, the States and regional and local authorities [COM(2002) 709 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


There is a general emphasis in the Treaties on the need to take account of the local dimension in the implementation of Community policies. While European legislative instruments allow for a certain degree of flexibility, the growing role of regional and local authorities in the design and above all the execution of Community policies must nevertheless be given fuller recognition.

The White Paper on European Governance, adopted in July 2001, puts forward the idea of contractual tools between the Member States, the territorial authorities and the European Community represented by the Commission. These tools are intended to develop the arrangements for the participation of the regions in attaining targets set at European level in cooperation with the national and regional authorities.

The Member States, concerned about the unconditional observance of the principle that they have sole responsibility to the Community for implementing its policies, have asked for clarifications concerning the general conditions for the use of those contractual tools.


Contractual tools can be of two kinds:

  • target-based tripartite contracts concluded between the Commission, a Member State and regional and local authorities in direct application of binding secondary Community law (regulations, directives or decisions);
  • target-based tripartite agreements concluded between the Commission, a Member State and regional and local authorities outside a binding Community framework.

These contractual tools, which are subject to a general obligation of compatibility with the Treaties, must respect the States' constitutional systems and may not under any circumstances constitute a barrier to the sound operation of the single market. They are justified where they provide added value which may take several forms: simpler implementation, political benefits, efficiency gains resulting from the close involvement of regional and local authorities, or speedier performance.

The general characteristics of target-based tripartite contracts and agreements include the following:


The policies concerned include those, such as environment and regional policy, in which the pursuit of Community objectives must take account of sharp variations in impact among regions.


The contracts and agreements are concluded for a specified period that may be renewable.


The identifying of local actors is a key to the success of the contractual tools and requires the involvement of the Member States.


The contracting parties will converge around objectives that are clearly defined in advance and included in the basic legislative instrument in the case of contracts or in the relevant documents in the case of agreements. These quantitative and/or qualitative objectives will, as far as possible, be measurable but must be monitored, preference being given to obligations regarding results as opposed to those regarding resources, above all in the case of tripartite contracts.

Information and advertising:

Wide-ranging information must be available concerning the content, implementation and outcome of these contracts. The regional and local authorities will consult and involve organisations representing local and regional life (firms, chambers of commerce, social partners, associations, universities, etc.). The Commission is to send an evaluation and follow-up report to the European Parliament, the Council and the Committee of the Regions. It is to publish an extract of contracts and agreements to which it is a party in the Official Journal.

Compatibility with the Treaties:

Tripartite contracts must contain an enabling clause in the basic legislative instrument and a provision, in the contract itself, stating that the Member State is responsible to the Commission for the performance of the contract.

Tripartite agreements must contain a clause referring to compatibility with the general provisions of the Treaties.

Non-performance of the contract:

The consequences of failure to perform a contract or agreement and, where appropriate, the means of remedying it are to be included in the official documents. In the case of tripartite contracts, Community provisions apply ipso facto.


On the initiative of any one of the contracting parties, their representative is to sign the official document establishing a contractual commitment. In agreement with the Member States concerned, the Commission is to examine each initiative on a case-by-case basis and ratify the contracts in a decision.

The Commission is planning initially to launch pilot target-based tripartite agreements. After drawing lessons from this experiment, it will consider the possibility of target-based tripartite contracts.

Although tripartite agreements or contracts are not eligible for additional Community financing, they provide a means of using the appropriations normally allocated under the common policies concerned.

Last updated: 27.06.2006