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Improving information on assistance from the Structural Funds
A steady flow of information on the European Union's activities in the Member States is one way of guaranteeing that good use will be made of public money. For the first time the regulations now require a communications action plan to be drawn up for each operation assisted by the Structural Funds. Evaluation of the information measures taken will be mandatory. A wide range of means of communication are envisaged. New technologies in particular will be mobilised to get the message through to potential beneficiaries and the general public. The European Commission is contributing to these measures.
Regulation (EC) No 1260/1999 on the Structural Funds provides for information and publicity measures on each operation assisted by the Structural Funds. These measures are intended to increase public awareness and transparency regarding the activities of the European Union and give a consistent picture of the assistance concerned across all Member States. More specifically, they are designed:
- to inform potential and final beneficiaries about the opportunities offered by joint assistance from the European Union and the Member States;
Beneficiaries include regional and local authorities, any other competent public authorities, trade organisations and business circles, economic and social partners, non-governmental organisations and project promoters;
- to inform the general public about the role played by the European Union and the Member States in the assistance concerned.
Each managing authority putting into action the assistance from the Structural Funds will be responsible for information and publicity. It will act in cooperation with the European Commission. At each annual meeting the managing authority will inform the Commission about the work done.
The information and publicity measures will be set out in a communications action plan for each operational programme and each single programming document (SPD). The operational programme and SPD are multiannual planning documents with a view to implementing a regional development strategy. Each communications action plan must specify:
- its objectives and target groups;
Mobilisation of new technologies is a decisive factor to attain the objectives and reach out to the target groups;
- the content and strategy of the communications and information measures;
- its indicative budget;
- the administrative departments or bodies responsible within the managing authority;
- the criteria to be used to evaluate the measures carried out.
Ensuring transparency for potential beneficiaries and target groups
Throughout the 2000-2006 programming period, the managing authority must keep in place appropriate channels for circulating information in order to ensure transparency for the various potential partners and beneficiaries, particularly small and medium-sized businesses. To this end, it will secure the cooperation of organisations representing businesses, vocational training bodies, bodies concerned with employment, training centres and non-governmental organisations.
The managing authority will circulate all documentation concerning the structural assistance for which it is responsible. It will provide information on the management, monitoring and evaluation of such assistance. Wherever possible, it will give an indication of the Structural Funds involved. The key points which must be included are:
- a clear outline of the administrative procedures to be followed;
- a description of the system for managing applications;
- a description of the criteria used in selection procedures;
- an explanation of the evaluation mechanisms;
The managing authority is required to provide evidence of the work done, to demonstrate the quality and effectiveness of the action taken, to inform the monitoring committee and the Commission, and to include a separate section on the subject in the annual implementing report;
- a list of names of persons or contact points at national, regional or local level who can explain how the assistance packages operate.
Informing the public
In order to raise public awareness, the managing authority must keep the media informed about the structural assistance part-financed by the European Union. The messages released must state the tasks of each Fund. The national and regional media (press, radio and television) must be alerted when the assistance is first launched and of the results achieved in the field. Possible means of achieving this include press releases, the placing of articles or advertisements in newspapers, site visits, websites, publications describing success stories and competitions.
Other ways of informing the public include:
- billboards erected on site and permanent commemorative plaques for infrastructure open to the general public;
These measures apply to infrastructure investments costing a total of over EUR 3 million, such as congress centres, airports and stations. In the case of operations part-financed by the FIFG the figure is lowered to EUR 500 000.
These announcements must include a space reserved for indicating the European Union's contribution.
Not later than six months after completion of the work the billboards must be replaced by permanent commemorative plaques. In the case of physical investments in commercial business premises, plaques commemorating the assistance from the European Union may be installed for a period of one year;
- measures to raise awareness of the part played by the European Union in vocational training and employment schemes;
These measures are targeted on beneficiaries implementing measures financed by the Structural Funds, such as employment agencies, vocational training centres, chambers of commerce and industry, chambers of agriculture or regional development agencies.
All beneficiaries must publicise the European Union's contribution to the activities, notably by means of posters;
- informing beneficiaries that they are participating in an operation part-financed by the European Union;
These measures apply to investments in businesses, in particular.
All notifications that aid has been granted must mention the amount or percentage of the assistance funded by the Community instrument concerned.
Publications (booklets, leaflets and newsletters) about assistance part-financed by the Structural Funds must clearly indicate, on the title page, the participation of the European Union and, where appropriate, of the Fund concerned. They must display the European emblem if the national or regional emblem is also used. Publications must give details of the body responsible for the information content and of the managing authority. The same rules apply to information made available in electronic form or as audio-visual material.
The bodies responsible for information and publicity may organise public information events such as conferences, seminars, fairs, exhibitions and competitions. The European flag will be displayed in meeting rooms and the Community emblem will be used on documents as a reminder of the Community's contribution.
In a spirit of partnership, the European Commission makes its expertise and material available to the authorities, notably via its offices in each Member State. It supports exchanges of experience via informal networks among those responsible for providing information. The "Structural Funds Information Team (SFIT)" set up in 2002 has started to gather examples of good practice. The first network - for Objective 1 - started work in March 2002 and the second - for Objective 2, INTERREG III and URBAN II - has been in operation since the end of 2003.
For further information, consult the " Communication campaigns " page on the European Commission's "INFOREGIO" website.
|Act||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
|Regulation (EC) No 1159/2000||3.6.2000||-||OJ L 130 of 31.5.2000|