Today, the Commission announces its intention to create a High Level Group on simplification. It aims to reduce the administrative burden for beneficiaries to access the five European Structural and Investment Funds– the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.
The group is to independently assess and monitor the uptake of simplification opportunities to access and use European Structural and Investment Funds by the Member States, thus contributing to the Commission's efforts for Better Regulation.
Speaking from the Informal Meeting of Ministers responsible for Cohesion Policy, territorial cohesion and urban matters in Riga, Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu said: "In the management of our funds, there is a pressing need for simplification, while preserving sound administrative and financial management. I do not want to hear again that an SME is no longer interested in receiving our support because it finds it too lengthy, bureaucratic and cumbersome. With this High Level Group I want to ensure that Member States make full use of the simplification measures included in the new regulations. On our side, we will explore what we can do to further improve the rules."
Former Commission Vice President Siim Kallas will chair this group which is planned to run for three years. The members of the group should include the best available experts in the field. Special focus is to be put on five priorities:
1. Facilitating access to funding for SMEs
2. Tacklingthe "Goldplating" practice, where extra requirements or administrative hurdles are addedat national or regional level, including in the process of selecting projects.
3. Using simpler ways to reimburse costs.
4. Increasing the use of online procedures, such as "e-cohesion" in Cohesion Policy funded projects
5. Analysing how projects initiated and managed by local communities are implemented (community-led local development)
Furthermore, the group is to make recommendations to improve the implementation of simplification measures on the way forward for post-2020.
This High Level Group on simplification is part of a broader initiative to improve how Member States and regions invest and manage EU Cohesion Policy funds, set by Commissioner Corina Creţu and the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy.
This four-pronged initiative aims to help Member States effectively use the remaining investments from the 2007-2013 programming period through the Task Force on Better Implementation. It also focuses on helping building administrative capacity in Member States and regions, on reducing territorial disparities and helping slower growth regions to catch up and finally, on assessing the uptake of simplification measures and identifying further possibilities to simplify rules. It is in line with the Commission's initiative for an "EU budget focused on results", which aims to ensure that EU funds are spent in an effective manner and bring a real change for EU citizens.
Moreover, as stated repeatedly by the European Court of Auditors in its annual reports, the use of simplified procedures reduces substantially the risk of errors and therefore generates savings for the control authorities and increases certainty for the beneficiaries.
InfoRegio website:Improving how funds are invested and managed
ESF website:Better public services