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About the Hercule Programmes

About the Hercule Programmes

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Anti-fraud programmes

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 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 2 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 3 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?

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. The programme also supports specialised 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 (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 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 Member States to fight fraud, corruption and other illegal activities.

The current one, adopted in December 2018 (C(2018)8568 final, Annex), has a budget of €15.8m, dedicated to the following types of projects:

  • technical assistance measures (€ 9.9m) to help national authorities buy investigation tools, x-ray scanners & computers for automated number plate recognition systems (ANPRS)
  • access to specialised databases (€ 1.3) for anonymous use by national customs and tax authorities
  • training, seminars & conferences (€4.1m 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 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 2019 Work Programme will take the form of grants and contracts. The Commission (OLAF) has launched 3 calls for proposals in March 2019, covering the following sectors:

  1. Technical Assistance - indicative budget: €9 866 200,
  2. Training, Conference and Staff Exchange - indicative budget: €1 100 000, 
  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

Press releases


Implementation reports, programme evaluations & annual overviews

Additional information

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