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EU cohesion fund plans after 2020 'need safeguards'

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EU cohesion fund plans after 2020 'need safeguards'

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(LUXEMBOURG) - New plans for how EU cohesion funds are spent are simpler and more flexible, but additional safeguards are needed to make sure spending has a real impact and complies with the rules, say the EU's auditors.

The proposed Common Provisions Regulation (CPR) for 2021-2027 covers seven funds for investment in regional development and employment, security and border protection, and measures to support migrants in the EU Member States. Together these funds could amount to some €360 billion, up to a third of the total EU budget for the period 2021-2027. The regulation sets out common policy objectives, defines the allocation of funds between Member States, and provides rules for policy programming and enforcement.

"Overall our assessment shows that the European Commission's proposal has succeeded in simplifying the text, but the focus on value for money has not been increased and the accountability arrangements have in part been significantly weakened", said Iliana Ivanova, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the Opinion. "We make 58 proposals for the legislators and the Commission to consider, which, if taken up, will lead to a more effective and efficient cohesion policy".

In their Opinion, the auditors welcome the Commission's continued efforts towards simplification, which, if properly implemented, have the potential to reduce the administrative burden and shift the focus from inputs to results. However, a number of provisions lack clarity, which is likely to lead to different interpretations, affecting legal certainty, say the auditors. Simplification should not result in greater risks to compliance with the rules, or hinder optimal use of the limited EU funds available, warn the auditors.

The document also notes that the Commission proposes five high-level policy objectives rather than linking spending to an EU-wide strategy. These objectives are, however, not designed to be translated into measurable results or targets at EU level. As a result, the proposed reform may turn out to be even less performance-oriented than in the period 2014-2020, say the auditors.

The auditors emphasise that the proposed regulation shifts additional responsibility for managing and controlling EU funds to the Member States. Limiting, or even eliminating, the Commission's supervision of how Member States spend EU funds could jeopardise the progress made in recent years in reducing the level of irregular and ineffective spending in the area of cohesion, warn the auditors.

ECA Opinion No 6/2018 on the Commission's proposal of 29 May 2018 on the Common Provisions Regulation

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