European Anti-Fraud Office

About the Hercule Programmes

About the Hercule Programmes

Anti-fraud programmes: Hercule I, II & III

The Hercule programmes protect the EU's financial interests by supporting action to combat irregularities, fraud and corruption affecting the EU budget. They are administered by the European Anti-Fraud Office, OLAF.

Hercule I started in 2004 (Decision 804/2004/EC) and was extended under the Financial Perspectives for 2007-2013 (Decision 878/2007/EC), giving rise to Hercule II (2007-2013).

Hercule III (2014-2020) was set up by Regulation (EU) No 250/2014.

What is the Hercule III Programme and what does it do?

It is the latest EU anti-fraud programme, following Hercule II (2007-2013). Hercule III has a budget of €104.9m to help EU countries fight fraud, corruption and other illegal activities. It helps finance practical projects, such as the purchase by national authorities of x-ray scanners and other technical equipment to stamp out smuggling and other criminal activities against the EU’s financial interests.

What period does Hercule III cover?

2014-2020. The Regulation governing Hercule III was adopted in February 2014.

What are Hercule III's main activities?

Combating tobacco smuggling remains a major concern, accounting for estimated annual losses of at least €10bn to national and EU budgets. Helping to fund x-ray scanners and other technical equipment in harbours and airports, for example, will boost national authorities' capacity to fight smuggling. Over €70m are earmarked for this.

Hercule III also finances training activities. It helps national authorities share best practices through seminars and conferences on issues such as preventing corruption in procurement procedures. Another facet is training to boost and update the digital forensic skills of law enforcement staff.

What's new in this programme?

National authorities can apply for more funding. Potential beneficiaries can now apply even where little national co-funding is available. For projects to boost the technical and operational capacity of customs and law enforcement agencies, national authorities can apply for funding of up to 80% of overall costs – very significant at a time of tight national budgets.

What do the annual work programmes involve?

The first annual work programme adopted by the Commission in May 2014, had a budget of €13.7m. This was spent on helping EU governments to fight fraud, corruption and other illegal activities.

The current one, adopted in February 2017 (C(2017)1120 final, Annex), has a budget of €14.95m. It is earmarked for the following projects:

  • technical assistance measures (€ 9.2m) to help national authorities buy investigation tools, x-ray scanners & computers for automated number plate recognition systems (ANPRS)
  • access to specialised databases (€ 1.5m) for anonymous use by national customs & tax authorities
  • training, seminars & conferences (€3.7m available), including training operational staff in national customs or police forces in retrieving information from computers, laptops & smartphones (digital forensics) & enabling them to share best practice. These events will help legal experts & academics share information on legal practices to combat fraud & corruption.

The projects supported under the 2017 Work Programme will take the form of grants and contracts. The Commission (OLAF) will launch 3 calls for proposals in April 2017, covering the following types of eligible initiative:

  1. Technical assistance - indicative budget €9 150 000,
  2. Training, seminars & conferences - indicative budget €1 000 000, 
  3. Legal training - indicative budget €500 000.

Information on the calls for proposals in 2017 will be published in April 2017.

What type of projects are eligible for grants?

For examples, see the annual work programmes and the annual overviews of Hercule III's implementation. The technical specifications for the calls for proposals explain what kinds of organisation are eligible and set out the criteria applied to applications submitted under a call for proposals.

Legal background

Press releases


Implementation reports, programme evaluations & annual overviews

Additional information

For information on other Commission funding, see the Contracts and Grants website.