The Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) supports the EU’s neighbours to develop in a way that tackles social challenges and benefits the entire society. It is based on the strong sense of solidarity that exists between the EU and the countries at its borders - countries with which the EU shares enduring commercial, historical and cultural ties.
IPA is directed towards countries that are on the pathway towards joining the EU; they may already be in negotiations to join (candidate countries) or may be making preparations for negotiations (potential candidates). They channel this money into projects that help them meet the criteria for membership, such as fighting poverty, bolstering education systems, building infrastructure, and developing disadvantaged areas. The funding, which totalled €11.5 billion between 2007 and 2013, also encourages countries to increase transparency, take anti-corruption measures, and bolster policy effectiveness.
IPA provides financial assistance for five policy areas, or ‘components’: Transition Assistance and Institution Building, Cross-Border Cooperation, Regional Development, Human Resources Development and Rural Development.
People are at heart of economic activities, and ensuring that citizens have the opportunity to engage in meaningful employment is vital for the development of any society. IPA’s Human Resources Development (HRD) component seeks to boost the quality of human resources in candidate countries with the ultimate aims of: attracting and retaining more people in employment; improving the adaptability and flexibility of workers and enterprises through education; and strengthening social inclusion by integrating disadvantaged people into the workforce.
Before any funds can be allocated, the beneficiary country must carry out a thorough anlaysis of the national situation regarding human resources. This is done through the Strategic Coherence Framework which features an analysis of human resources problems, an assessment of opportunities for assistance, and a breakdown of financial allocations. Then, the beneficiary country, along with the European Commission, relevant NGOs, civil society representatives and social partners, work together to developthe Human Resources Development Operational Programmes (HRDOPs), through which the aid will be implemented. This explains why certain measures are funded, states clearly which types of projects are to be funded, and sets out the criteria for selecting them.
If a country wishes to receive HRD funds, it must develop a strategy for assistance and put in place structures and systems to ensure that funding will be spent in strict accordance with EU rules and in line with EU controls. As such, the beneficiary country develops a structure and appoints dedicated coordinators to manage the programme.
To apply for HRD funds, government bodies and NGOs simply respond to a call for proposals and public tenders.
After the selected projects have been carried out, costs will be reimbursed through IPA, together with a smaller amount of funding from the national governments.
There are four basic steps to be taken in the lead-up to the EU distributing IPA funding. Firstly, EU countries decide on the amount of funding to dedicate to each country and each policy area based on the size, demographics, and the scale of necessary reforms in each beneficiary country.
Then, the EU and candidate/potential candidate countries work together to outline policy objectives and the ways in which the aid should be distributed. Following this, each country participating in IPA prepares to receive funds by establishing the necessary structures, and the relevant government ministry in that country manages and distributes the funding to projects.
For a more detailed description of all IPA institutional structures, see the IPA Glossary.