European Anti-Fraud Office

About the Hercule Programmes

About the Hercule Programmes

Anti-fraud programme

The Hercule programme protects the EU's financial interests by supporting action to combat irregularities, fraud and corruption affecting the EU budget. It is administered by the European Anti-Fraud Office.

Hercule I programme 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).

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

In the context of the new multiannual financial framework (2021-2027) the European Commission has adopted a proposal for a new EU Anti-Fraud Programme. The Programme is designed to support the efforts of the Commission and the EU Member States in:

  • combating fraud and other illegal activities affecting the EU budget;
  • mutual administrative assistance in the customs area;
  • reporting of irregularities by EU Member States affecting EU funds.

The Commission’s proposal is to essentially replicate and improve the Hercule III programme and combine it with two activities which OLAF already performs:

  • the Anti-Fraud Information System (AFIS), which supports operational activities to do with mutual administrative assistance between Member States’ customs authorities
  • the Irregularity Management System (IMS), an IT system which enables Member States to report any irregularities affecting EU funds which they may detect, and which supports the management and analysis of such irregularities.

This combination will enable the Commission to create synergies and exploit flexibility between the programme’s three components.

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

Hercule III is the latest EU anti-fraud programme, following Hercule II (2007-2013). Hercule III has a total budget of €104.9m to help EU Member States fight fraud, corruption and other illegal activities. It finances projects, such as the purchase by national authorities of x-ray scanners and other technical equipment to combat 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?

The financial support mostly consists of grants awarded to competent authorities in EU countries to strengthen their operational and technical capacity to carry out investigations into activities detrimental to the EU budget. The financial support is used for the purchase of technical equipment, such as x-rays scanners, soft- and hardware for securing evidence from computers or smartphones (digital forensics examinations) or the purchase and installation of integrated systems for number plate recognition (Automated Number Plate Recognition Systems-ANPRS).

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. The programme also supports specialised training to boost and update the digital forensic and analyst skills of law enforcement staff.

What's new in this programme?

National authorities can apply for more funding (the co-financing percentage increased for the "Technical Assistance" sector to 80%, compared to the 50% co-financing rate under Hercule II).

In 2017 the programme was integrated into the Commission's E-grant management system (Participants Portal). The applications can be sent only electronically via this system.

What does the annual work programme involve?

The current annual work programme, adopted in January 2020 (C(2020)28final, Annex), has a budget of €16.5m, dedicated to the following types of projects:

  • technical assistance measures (€ 10m) to help national authorities buy investigation and detection tools, automated number plate recognition systems (ANPRS), forensic equipment, etc.
  • access to specialised databases (€ 1.4m) for anonymous use by national customs and tax authorities
  • training, seminars & conferences (€4.2m available), including training of operational staff in national customs or police forces in retrieving, securing and analysing information from computers, laptops & smartphones (digital forensics and analysis) and enabling them to share best practice. These events also help legal professionals and academics share information on legal practices to combat fraud and corruption.

The projects supported under the 2020 work programme will take the form of grants and contracts. The Commission (OLAF) is launching three calls for proposals by March 2020, covering the following sectors:

  1. Technical Assistance - indicative budget: €10 000 000,
  2. Training, Conference and Staff Exchange - indicative budget: € 750 000, 
  3. Legal Training and Studies - indicative budget: €500 000.

What type of projects are eligible for grants?

For examples of co-financed projects, see the annual work programmes and the annual overviews of Hercule III's implementation. The call documents published on the Participant Portal explain what kind of organisations are eligible and the criteria applied for the evaluation of projects submitted.

Legal background

Previous Commission decisions concerning the adoption of the annual work programmes

Press releases


Implementation reports, programme evaluations & annual overviews

Additional information

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