Given the scale of the Cohesion policy budget, the European Commission does not want to leave the "right to know" to chance. With the Member States’ agreement, it has established a certain number of obligations so that the mechanisms for granting funds are transparent and citizens can find out about the European objectives of these funds, along with their results.
The obligations of public authorities responsible for structural aids have therefore been defined in European regulations, which apply to the entire European Union. The European Commission ensures that they are implemented effectively.
Information for potential beneficiaries and citizens has to be carefully prepared and should continue throughout the lifetime of all programmes co-funded by the ERDF, ESF or the Cohesion Fund. The Commission would like all institutions involved in the implementation of the operational programmes, including beneficiaries, to play a genuine role as information multipliers.
2007-2013 Programming Period
In the programming period 2007-2013 the emphasis on proper information and communication at all levels of the structural funds management process is not only maintained, but even strengthened. The efforts to enhance transparency on EU spending needs to be seen in the context of stronger emphasis put on communication issues by the Barroso Commission, in particular as regards the Growth and Jobs Agenda, and the European Transparency Initiative, which was launched in late 2005 in order to give better access on EU grants to the citizens.
The "General Regulation" (Council Regulation No 1083/2006 of 11 July 2006) puts in Art. 69 an obligation on the Member States and Managing authorities for the operational programmes to provide information on and publicise operations and co-financed programmes. This obligation covers for the period 2007-2013 the remaining three Structural Funds and instruments: the European Regional Development Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Social Fund.
Specific details of the new publicity requirements are laid down in articles 2-10 of the Commission's "Implementing" Regulation 1828/2006 of 8 December 2006. These need to be seen in the light of the new transparency requirements which have also been reflected in the Council's revised budget regulation 1995/2006 stipulating in particular the publication of the beneficiaries of cohesion instruments.
The provisions in short:
COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 846/2009 of 1 September 2009 amends the Regulation (EC) No 1828/2006 as follows:
(1) In Article 8, paragraph 2 is amended as follows:
(a) in the second subparagraph, the second sentence is replaced by the following:
‘The information referred to in Article 9 shall take up at least 25 % of the plaque.’
(b) the following subparagraph is added:
‘Where it is not possible to place a permanent explanatory plaque on a physical object as referred to in point (b) of the first subparagraph, other appropriate measures shall be taken in order to publicise the Community contribution.’
(2) Article 9 is amended as follows:
(a) in the first paragraph, the introductory sentence is replaced by the following:
‘All information and publicity measures provided by managing authorities or beneficiaries and aimed at beneficiaries, potential beneficiaries and the public shall include the following:’
(b) the following paragraph is added:
‘Where an information or publicity measure promotes several operations co-financed by more than one Fund, the reference provided for in point (b) of the first paragraph shall not be required.’
In this sense, information and communication will continue to form an integral part in the process of cohesion policy's implementation, which adds a value on its own to the quality of programmes and projects on the ground. This needs to be understood, highlighted and put in practice by national and regional administrations, final beneficiaries and by the Commission services as well. Therefore it is important to evaluate and follow-up the information and communication strategies and actions and their connection to the overall objectives of the operational programmes.
The overall objective is to raise awareness for EU interventions, to generate more applications for funding, to inform the public about results and hence, to raise the quality of the policy’s output.
Information and publicity rules target: a) the general public and b) the potential beneficiaries and professional organisations. The means to achieve these objectives are: the publication of the “assistance package”, the information on selection procedures, criteria of eligibility, names of contact persons etc., the information of media (including information on the work of monitoring committees), the use of billboards, commemorative plaques etc.
The interventions of Structural Funds in the Member States are implemented on the basis of the principle of partnership and subsidiarity. Partnership shall be conducted in full compliance with the respective institutional, legal and financial powers of each of the partners; the principle of subsidiarity implies that the implementation of the assistance shall be the responsibility of the Member State without however prejudice of the powers vested to the Commission, notably for implementing the general budget of the European Communities.
Shared management in the field for Cohesion and Structural Funds means in practical terms that a number of transparency and publicity actions, such as publications, linking of websites, databases on best practices etc. can be coordinated between the Commission and the managing authorities in the Member States and regions. In addition, the Commission coordinates a network of communication officers across Member States called INFORM (the follower of the Structural Funds Information Team), which will works on enhancing the quality of information actions by exchanging experience and best practice.
2000-2006 Programming Period
Publicity and information about EU assistance aimed to increase public awareness and transparency regarding the activities co-financed by the EC funds and create a coherent picture of them throughout the Member States. The following legal acts laid the foundation of Information and communication activities on the Cohesion and Structural Funds and ISPA:
Council Regulation 1260/1999, art 46;
Commission Regulation (EC) No 1159/2000 on information and publicity measures to be carried out by the Member States concerning assistance from the Structural Funds
Commission Decision (EC) No 503/2001 relating to information and publicity actions to be undertaken in beneficiary countries concerning the assistance provided by the Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession (ISPA).