Today the High Level Group on Simplification, launched by the Commission in July, held its first meeting in Brussels. The chairman of the Group, former Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas and the newly-appointed members met with European Commission Vice-President in charge of the Budget Kristalina Georgieva and Commissioners Corina Crețu and Marianne Thyssen in charge of Regional Policy and Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, respectively.
In line with the initiative "An EU budget focused on results" and with the Commission's efforts in the field of Better Regulation, the Group's purpose is to reduce the administrative burden for beneficiaries to access and use the five European Structural and Investment Funds.
Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu said: "I am glad to have met with the new members of the High Level Group today; their expertise will be precious to find concrete solutions for beneficiaries to access EU funds more easily. The quicker beneficiaries receive our support, the faster we will see the impact on the ground in terms of growth and jobs. Today's meeting already established a clear roadmap with key deliverables over the next two years; the Group will submit its first conclusions next year, and in the meantime its work will also feed into the reflection on the future of Cohesion Policy."
In 2015-2016, the High Level Group will address identified administrative bottlenecks in the access to the European Structural and Investment Funds as well as promote good practices in the following areas:
- Increasing the use of online procedures ("e-cohesion") and of simpler ways to reimburse costs
- Facilitating the access to funding for SMEs
- Tackling the "goldplating" practice, where extra requirements or administrative hurdles are added at national or regional level.
The Group will also monitor the progress of the Member States in their uptake of the simplification measures as set out in the European Structural and Investment Funds Regulations 2014-2020. In 2017 the High Level Group will focus on the post-2020 framework and its final report will be one of the cornerstones of the Commission's reflection on the future of Cohesion Policy.
The Group, chaired by Former Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, is composed of twelve high level independent experts selected on the basis of their expertise in the reduction of administrative burdens and the European Structural and Investment Funds. It will also have the occasion to meet with representatives of other EU Institutions to address the simplification challenge from all perspectives.
The work of the High Level Group on Simplification for the beneficiaries of the European Structural and investment Funds is part of a broader initiative to improve how Member States and regions invest and manage Cohesion Policy funds, set by Commissioner Corina Creţu and the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy.