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Commission first Simplification Scoreboard

In the context of the ongoing negotiations on the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework, the Commission adopted today its first Simplification Scoreboard.  This consists of a progress report containing concrete elements explaining how beneficiaries of EU funding can expect simpler rules and less administrative burdens in the next generation of spending programmes that will be implemented as of 1 January 2014.

The Commission welcomes the simplification measures that stem directly from the new Financial Regulation which has been agreed by the European Parliament and the Council. In order for the beneficiaries to benefit from these simplification measures, it is essential that coherence between the sectorial rules of the future programmes and the new Financial Regulation is fully achieved. Regarding the 57 legislative proposals for the future programmes, the Commission notes with satisfaction the broad support from all institutions for simplification of the financial rules and welcomes progress in the 120 simplification measures it has proposed.

At the same time, the Commission raises serious concerns over key issues where its simplification efforts risk being undermined.  It is determined to push for easier access and better delivery of EU funds to businesses, NGOs, researchers, students, municipalities and other beneficiaries. This is the only way to increase the effective delivery of programmes and to maximise the EU added value of our scarce resources.

In general, the Commission voices concerns that the on-going negotiations in the European Parliament and in the Council could result in:

  • More burdensome decision making procedures for the implementation of the programmes, causing substantial delays in the delivery of the EU programmes and payments to beneficiaries. For example:
  1. The European Parliament favours the adoption of annual working programmes by delegated acts instead of implementing acts, as proposed by the Commission. The annual working programmes define the framework for the implementation of a programme and constitute a pre-condition for the calls for proposals for grants and calls for tenders. Moving from implementing to delegated acts would not be in line with the Treaty requirements and would excessively delay implementation of the programmes and increase the time to grant and the time to pay for the beneficiaries.
  2. The Council does not agree with the Commission's proposal that selecting projects and awarding grants are taken in the form of Commission decisions.  It wants for certain sectors these to be adopted after consultation of committees of experts. . This would represent additional red tape and unnecessary complication, also resulting in delays in the implementation of programmes.
  • Over-specification of the modalities for the implementation of the EU budget.
  1. Here, the European Parliament's rapporteurs and committees and sometimes the Council have proposed to amend the Commission proposals and to include in the legislative act itself a very detailed break-down for the use of appropriations (e.g. detailed sub-ceilings or amounts for specific actions or activities).  The Commission has explained its opposition to such proposals, which restrict the operational flexibility which is necessary for the smooth and effective day-to-day implementation of the programmes and would result in inappropriate micro-management.
  • Too detailed modalities for the use of the financial instruments
  1. The Council has proposed to include in the legislative acts themselves very detailed modalities for the use of financial instruments.
  2. The Commission considers that this approach overburdens the legislative acts, entails excessive rigidity and affects the attractiveness and effectiveness of these instruments, notably by limiting the reuse of unspent resources.

The Scoreboard adopted today refers to many concrete examples and describes the possible adverse effects on the clarity and simplicity of financial rules that any watering down of the proposals presented by the Commission would have:

  • Single Sector FrameworkThe European Parliament questions the simplification measure proposed by the Commission which foresees the creation of a single coordinating national agency in the "Erasmus for all" programme; this could reduce the flexible use of the EU funds and entail additional administrative work and costs;
  • Clear priority objectives and indicators: The European Parliament and the Council support broadly the approach of the Commission for a limited number of clear priority objectives for individual programmes. However, in several cases, the prioritisation of objectives is being watered down by the Council by adding more objectives (for example, in the "Health and Growth" programme);
  • Simple eligibility rules: The single financing rates proposed by the Commission for the Horizon 2020 programme, which constitute the cornerstone of simplification in research and innovation programmes, are being undermined by the European Parliament committees' and Council's proposals insisting on different rates taking account of different activities or different types of beneficiaries.

The Commission will continue to monitor progress on simplification as negotiations proceed in the Council and the European Parliament, and will report on developments in future editions of the scoreboard.

For background information, see the First simplification scoreboard for the MFF 2014-2020 (Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions).
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