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'Final Simplification Scoreboard' heralds simpler EU funding rules

Posted by Nick Prag at 06 March 2014, 16:45 CET |
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The European Commission adopted its 'Final Simplification Scoreboard' this week – a review of over 120 measures supposed to simplify EU funding rules for Europe's businesses, regions, scientists and NGOs.

The Commission first presented its proposal to make EU funding simpler in 2011, committing to monitor the legislative process in the European Parliament and the Council through the regular publication of a scoreboard to track achievements in simplification.

Improvements include a reduction in the overall number of programmes, clearer rules and clearer objectives, as well as simplified grant forms and what EC president José Manuel Barroso, presenting the report, said was a decisive move towards a faster delivery of payments.

These are direct measures to ensure smoother and faster access to EU funding for applicants, he said, so that money can be more efficiently mobilised in order to boost the European economy and jobs."

The Commission believes that much has been achieved over the last couple of years in terms of making access to EU funds simpler for would-be beneficiaries.

Examples of improvements include:

  1. Simplified cost-funding model for the flagship Horizon 2020 research programme, with simplified cost reimbursement options to reduce the administrative burden for all beneficiaries of the ERDF, ESF, Cohesion Fund and the EMFF.  Simplified cost reimbursement options mean that a foundation, for example, no longer has to perform a series of complicated calculations for the reimbursement of its costs.
  2. National allocations are being phased out: national allocation have in the past blocked out some high quality proposals as part of the LIFE Programme for the environment.
  3. More use of modern technologies in cohesion funding means less paper-work and a lower risk of loss of documents.
  4. Fewer delays for document keeping, so that beneficiaries needing to keep documents related to EU-funded projects for a maximum three years, means lower administrative burden for beneficiaries of the ERDF, ESF, Cohesion Fund and the EMFF.
  5. Reduced delay for payments to beneficiaries in cohesion policy, so that a company should receive money it is due by a maximum of 90 days after its payment claim.
  6. Financial instruments to provide financing for Small and Medium Enterprises: a list of intermediaries working with the EU programmes (mainly banks, guarantee schemes and venture capital funds), is to be found at
  7. A small farmers scheme exempts farmers from stringent obligations and controls and simplifies procedures for applying for aid.

Janusz Lewandowski, the Commissioner for financing programming and budget, in his presentation, asks all the right questions, such as what is the use of available funds if they are locked in a fortress of bureaucracy? They need to be accessible, particularly by smaller companies.

He understands that red tape matters even more in times of crisis, as it discourages potential beneficiaries from applying for funds, and thus discourages the entrepreneurs that will pull Europe towards growth.

Too much bureaucracy also makes access to EU funds slower, which can badly affect businesses which may be struggling.

And red tape, he says, is responsible for most of the errors in the EU Budget.

He promises that this year's easier access to EU funds will not compromise on monitoring the way they are used, an important concern for many.

The Commission says it is continuing negotiations with the European Parliament and the Council on EU policies such as cohesion policy, education, science and research, for the 2014-2020 period.

It feels that simplification efforts have sometimes been hampered by divergent positions of Member States - leading to the introduction of numerous derogations and too detailed rules (for instance in funding for agriculture and structural funds) as well as on the execution of the budget in various programmes managed by the Commission.

As some 80 per cent of the EU budget is implemented by the Member States, the Commission makes clear that it is looking for these efforts to be followed up by simplification measures at national, regional and local level.

Member States should now take up their responsibility to themselves further reduce the administrative burden on beneficiaries - making it easier for businesses, especially smaller businesses, to access the funds they need to make their own contribution to the growth and jobs Europe's economy now needs.

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Nick Prag

Nick Prag

Nick Prag is founder and managing editor of Prior to EUbusiness, he was senior editor at Europe Online SA in Luxembourg, where he played a major part in the launch of Europe Online International.