In 2015, European Commission Vice-President Kristalina Georgieva launched the EU Budget Focused on Results (BFOR) initiative to maximise the Union's budget effectiveness in supporting growth, jobs and stability in Europe and beyond.
The European Union needs to change its spending culture. Prompted by economic prosperity only a decade ago, the main concern of budget stakeholders was to absorb European funds according to the rules. Today, national budgets face unprecedented fiscal pressures. This has highlighted the importance of the EU Budget as an investment instrument that can deliver tangible results on the ground. European innovation projects, cross-border infrastructure and employment programmes for graduates are just a few examples. For success, the EU Budget should focus on results as much as on absorption, rebalancing spending compliance with performance.
A well-performing EU Budget effectively supports the European Union's response to arising challenges and long-standing priorities. Economic growth and financial stability objectives compete for funds with new emergencies related to security and migration. Many of these issues can be addressed more effectively at European level. Capitalising on the advantages of the single market and supplementing national budgets where they are unable to cope individually, the EU Budget's contribution to the solutions is called 'EU added value'.
There's no time like the present to focus the EU Budget on results and maximise its added value. The multiannual financial framework 2014-2020 introduced a number of performance improvements enabling better budget management for results. In 2014, EU member states and institutions alike worked hard to kick-start the new financial period for programme implementation. In 2015, the first annual conference on EU Budget Focused on Results took place involving an extraordinary number of voices on the EU Budget. The EU Results was launched. Performance budgeting, simplification and protecting the EU Budget are at the core of institutional work, paving the way for a meaningful and effective review of the MFF in 2016. Time is short to capitalise on these efforts. This Commission is determined to increase the EU Budget's focus on results in four key areas:
The EU Budget must be aligned with European priorities: investing in programmes dedicated to jobs, growth and competitiveness, serving multiple objectives, for example climate mainstreaming, and making sure it is flexible and agile to address new challenges.
Simple, accessible funding continues to be a core objective. Simplification of the rules helps channel productive energy into the success of projects and programmes. Financial instruments and investment funds such as the European Fund for Strategic Investments attract additional funding from other public and private sources, ensure higher financial leverage from EU money and thus more accessible funding.
A well-performing EU Budget complies with the rules and contributes to the desired results. The Commission and member states should cut audit and control costs, while reducing errors in spending and better protecting the EU Budget. Moreover, the results of spending should be evident – both on paper, and on the ground.
European citizens have the right to know what the EU Budget's results are. The recently launched EU Results gives easy access to a diverse set of EU-financed projects globally and is planned to grow, providing a single platform for results achieved with EU funds. Communication about the EU Budget with all stakeholders should be more open, timelier and more productive too – contribute by participating in the conference.
That's right – everyone can get involved in helping the EU Budget to deliver to its best capacity. A shift to a stronger performance culture needs wide-reaching participation and leadership. Vice-Presidents and Commissioners dealing with the EU Budget meet regularly to take stock of progress and make sure the EU Budget Focused on Results strategy is on course to success. The Commission's top executive management follows, and the process is replicated until performance considerations become a fundamental part of EU Budget-related activities. The initiative does not stop at the Commission. European institutions are all equally important actors in the EU Budget performance system. EU member states spend 80% of EU funding directly, overseeing performance on the ground. Beneficiaries' competences and dedication to results are the ultimate success factor for EU projects and programmes. To be successful, the EU Budget Focused on Results initiative needs all EU budget stakeholders on board.