Brussels, 26 November 2008
Road to recovery: the Cohesion package - Questions and Answers on the contribution of Cohesion Policy to the European Economic Recovery Plan
What is the role of Cohesion Policy in the recovery plan?
How much has already been paid in advances to Member States?
In 2007-08 all the Member States received 5% of their total Structural Funds allocations from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF). As regards the Cohesion Fund: Spain, Portugal and Greece received advances amounting to 2% in 2007 and 3% in 2008. EU-12 Member States received 2.5% in 2007 and 4% in 2008.
The recovery plan proposes additional advances in 2009. What do they amount to?
The Commission is proposing to modify the general regulations on the ERDF, ESF and the Cohesion Funds to allow an additional advance payments, as follows:
In total, for the 27 Member States, these measures
will inject an additional 6.25 billion euros within the financial envelope
agreed for each Member State.
When will the new advances be paid?
In 2009, the advances will be paid as soon as the modified regulation is adopted, normally this should be within 30 days following the adoption of the regulation.
How does the cohesion payments system work in practice?
Payments by the Commission are made in three steps:
Following the Commission decision concerning an operational programme, a pre-financing sum is allocated for the 2007-13 period. It is delivered in instalments, as defined in the above tables. The interim payments are made based on documentary evidence of expenditure sent by the Member States to the Commission.
How can Member States afford to match cohesion policy funding received from Brussels when their national treasuries are already under pressure?
The advances aim to provide an immediate cash flow at the initial phase of the programming period in order to facilitate the payments to the project beneficiaries. Member States are obliged to respect the minimum national co-financing rates set by the regulations (these range from 15% to 50%, depending on the programme), but the system is flexible. Member States can vary the Community and national contributions when it comes to individual projects inside a programme: for example some operations could be financed at 100% by Structural Funds in 2009 if they are balanced by operations funded nationally by the end of the programming period.
What other legislative changes could be considered?
The Commission has proposed further modifications in the legislation with the main objective to accelerate the implementation on the ground. In particular, the aim is:
All legislative changes will have to be agreed by the Council before being put into practice.
What support can Member States receive from the European Investment Bank (EIB) or other financial institutions to prevent the project pipeline from drying up?
The European Commission, the EIB, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau Bank have set up a joint initiative called JASPERS ("Joint Assistance in Supporting Projects in European Regions") to support Member States and regions in the preparation of “major projects” (whose total cost exceeds EUR 25 million in the case of an environment project and EUR 50 million in other fields). The Commission wants, together with its partners, to significantly extend the possibility of using the JASPERS facility through a 25% increase in technical assistance manpower from 2009. As a result, it is expected that more than 70 expert staff as compared to the current 58 experts, will be available to assist Member States, in the technical preparation of major projects in order to speed up their implementation.
Is the Commission encouraging Member States to 're-prioritise' cohesion investments in view of the current turbulent economic situation?
The European Commission is inviting Member States to explore possible changes in priorities and objectives with a view to accelerate the spending in the areas with more growth potential. This could include more focus on energy efficiency measures, including in housing and strengthening the focus of support for small and medium enterprises, which are the main motor for growth in the European economy. Therefore the Commission will work closely with the European Investment Fund (EIF) and other partners to accelerate and expand the existing provisions on financial engineering products for small and medium enterprises, under the JEREMIE ("Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises") initiative. In addition, the Commission, together with the EIF and the EIB and all the Member States, will launch early next year two specific networking platforms as a forum for exchange of information, guidance and good practice.
The Commission is also proposing to work with Member States to simplify the delivery and content of the programmes to speed up implementation.
[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]