Member States should increase cooperation with local and regional authorities (LRAs) when preparing operational programmes to ensure timely implementation of EU funds and to minimise the burden for beneficiaries, argues Adam STRUZIK (EPP, PL). His draft opinion on the execution of the EU Budget has been unanimously adopted today by the Committee of the Regions' temporary ad-hoc commission on EU budget. Marshal of the Polish region of Mazowsze calls on the European Commission and the Member States to adopt a more pro-active approach towards the new financial perspective and proposes introducing information and training programmes for LRAs in order to improve the speed and quality of EU budget implementation.
We often hear complaints that the slow rate of implementation of projects co-financed by the EU budget is due to the poor administrative capacities of local and regional authorities. This is only partially justified. The speed of implementation of EU funds is as often affected by issues that fall under the competences of the Member States and the European Commission – argues Struzik, who bases his findings on the survey consultation on the execution of the EU budget launched conducted by the Committee of the Regions' among the LRAs.
Struzik's opinion proposes solutions, such as: simplification of procedures for beneficiaries, timely implementation by Member States of ex-ante conditions, simplified costs, maximizing the rates of EU co-financing or simplified access to other national, private and EIB finance instruments. It also suggests that EC could consider lifting the requirement to include co-financing in the calculation of public sector deficits. Struzik suggests also focusing more on the results than speed of expenditure – we should make sure, that the set objectives, indicator values, performance framework and monitoring and evaluation system are all linked together in a logical manner.
The rapporteur criticizes however, the lack of thorough statistical data regarding the involvement of LRAs in the implementation of the EU budget. Struzik would like to see European Commission and the Member States regularly publish annual implementation reports or periodic cohesion reports which could become basis for follow-up debates with the Committee of the Regions. He draws also attention to the EU budget liquidity and financial planning problems that cause delays in expenditure reimbursements, affecting the LRAs budgets and planning.
EU budget is a key instrument for achieving the European Union's objectives. Increased EU fund efficiency and effectiveness can only be achieved with the active participation local and regional authorities - as both EU budget direct beneficiaries and managers of EU funds. It is the first time that Committee of the Regions is in the process of adopting an opinion on the execution of the EU budget in order to present the views of local and regional authorities.
The opinion is due for adoption at the CoR Plenary Session in June 2014.
Find the draft text of the opinion here