What is the problem?
Member States and regions have programmed about Euro 15.2 Billion on ICT at the beginning of the current programming period (2007-2013). Implementation of these funds has been delayed mainly due to lack of capacity of management authorities to plan and implement ICT project and particularly broadband, a poor coordination among relevant national and regional actors and entities such as the National Regulatory Authorities (NRA), a weak understanding of relevant regulation, and a lukewarm cooperation from relevant actors (e.g.: poor response from telecom operators on broadband mapping and future investment).
The latest strategic report on cohesion policy (18th April 2013) reveals that the EU-27 average absorption rate for ICT measures (61 %) is 10 percentage points below the average absorption rate of all measures (71 %). Member States with the lowest reported achievement ratios (with significant resources allocated) are Bulgaria, Greece, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. The absorption rate for broadband projects is even lower (58%). The lowest performing measures are those concerned with ICT services for SME which registers 46 % absorption rate while the best performing measures are those related to Services and applications for citizens which registers an absorption rate of 71.9%.
Delays in implementation have also caused a reduction in the financing of ICT measures which decreased from Euro 15.2 Billion (programmed at the beginning of the programming period) to Euro 14.5 Billion (2011 data).
Why is EU action required?
There is a considerable difference in the capacity to absorb EU funds on ICT among the different Member States and regions. These differences are affecting negatively the achievement of the Digital Agenda targets, the achievement of Structural Funds objectives on social economic and territorial cohesion and of the achievement of the Europe 2020 objectives. Some of the difficulties are related to the respect of relevant EU legislation, and guidelines, and to the insufficient networking and cooperation between Member States and Regions on good practice including the setting up of pan-European online services and to agree and put in place actions for the realisation of the Digital Single Market.
What has the Commission done so far?
The Commission has provided guidance, technical assistance, promoted good practice exchange and followed the implementation of these actions in a number of Member States and regions. Action at EU level involved, the publication of a guide to broadband investment in December 2011, the organisation of a number of workshops, seminars, and follow up meetings, and the update of the guidelines on state aid for electronic communication networks in December 2012.
What will the Commission do?
- has published a proposal for regulation on cost reduction of broadband investment in the spring 2013,
- will update the guide to broadband investment with a new version planned for the summer 2013,
- will publish guidance on the planning of digital growth actions in mid-2013,
- ensure a follow up of the implementation to those Member States where there is a substantial programming of EU funds on ICT and/or where absorption is weakest and particularly with respect to Bulgaria, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Spain,
- develop a new EU initiative for the 2014-2020 programming period aimed at providing technical assistance, supporting exchange of good practice and networking among Member States and regions.