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Experts propose simpler access to EU funds

11 July 2017, 14:52 CET
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Experts propose simpler access to EU funds

EU funding

(BRUSSELS) - Faced with the prospect of Brexit and a diminishing EU Budget, a group of independent Cohesion Policy experts presented its final report Tuesday for a simplified EU funds framework after 2020.

The EU's 'High Level Group of Simplification' presented its final paper on the future of the EU finances as its contribution to a series of reflection documents released following the March publication of the European Commission's White Paper on the Future of Europe.

It is an accepted fact that the current volume of rules has not made life easy for local authorities managing EU funds or businesses looking to apply for EU funding. The group has therefore focused on simplification as the way forward and is urging the European Commission to look into how to further simplify access to EU funds in the budget framework post 2020.

"Simpler rules make for better spending," said Budget Commissioner Guenther H. Oettinger, while Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen said: "Using the full potential of simplification will save money and time that can be used instead for boosting social convergence across Europe."

According to the Group, the current architecture of the rules is effective but needs a good clean-up. Shared management governance should be kept to ensure mutual trust and ownership of common growth and jobs goals. But the simplest rules are those that are few in number; the Group suggests rules to delete or radically reduce.

Rules in different EU funds and instruments should be harmonised in terms of state aid, public procurement and methods to reimburse costs, to facilitate synergies and allow beneficiaries to apply for different sources of EU funding for the same project. For example, applying the same rules in Cohesion Policy and in the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) framework would allow easier access to support for small businesses.

An even simpler framework should be available to all Member States and regions, provided they fulfil a number of criteria: reliable management and control systems; significant national co-financing to incentivise sound spending; identification of key structural reforms to implement and focus on few priority areas to be able to deliver.

The Group suggests that EU rules should then be limited to strategic investment priorities and principles for spending. EU funds would be delivered via existing national administrative mechanisms and Commission audit work would be limited. The Member States and Commission would agree on structural reforms to be achieved and concrete outputs which trigger reimbursements.

The European Commission launched the High Level Group in 2015 to identify opportunities to strip cohesion policy rules of unnecessary complexity, in view of both the mid-term review of the 2014-2020 Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF), to which the Group has significantly contributed, and the reflection on the post 2020 budgetary framework.

The twelve members of the High Level Group represent national and regional authorities and the private sector. They all have personal experience in dealing with EU funds, as well as fresh ideas to reform the system.

Factsheet – key recommendations of the High Level Group on Simplification for the post 2020 framework

Report – High Level Group proposal for policy-makers for post-2020

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