Three management types
All the programmes funded by the EU budget fall under one of three types of implementation modes depending on the nature of the funding concerned:
- direct management: EU funding is managed directly by the European Commission
- shared management: the European Commission and national authorities jointly manage the funding
- indirect management: funding is managed by partner organisations or other authorities inside or outside the EU
Therefore, while the EU provides the funding for a specific programme or project, it is not always directly involved in the day-to-day management. However, whereas the Member States are in charge of the implementation of the majority of the EU budget, it is the Commission that has the ultimate responsibility for its execution.
Consequently, the Commission carries out rigorous and effective controls on how the EU funds are spent. The procedure will vary depending on how the programme is implemented.
To get funding for a project, the applicant needs to identify a relevant call for proposals/project and carefully follow the specific guidelines on how to apply – each call is unique. The project will compete for funding with those submitted by other applicants for that call.
In direct management, the European Commission is directly responsible for all steps in a programme's implementation:
- launching the calls for proposals
- evaluating submitted proposals
- signing grant agreements
- monitoring project implementation
- assessing the results
- making payments
These tasks are carried out by the Commission's departments, at its headquarters, in the EU delegations or through EU executive agencies; there are no third parties. Programmes implemented in direct management account for around 20% of the EU budget 2021-2027.
An example of a programme run directly by the Commission is the programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME), where the main objective is to support the creation and expansion of SMEs. If an applicant is an entrepreneur, looking for financial backing from the EU, the contact and managing department would then be the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency, which runs COSME.
Calls for proposals under direct management are published on the Funding and Tenders Portal (SEDIA)
A big part of the funds from NextGenerationEU, the temporary recovery instrument, will also be implemented in direct management mode, notably the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) – which will make €672.5 billion in loans and grants available to support reforms and investments undertaken by Member States.
Due to its exceptional nature, the RRF implementation will follow specific procedures. Funds will be disbursed directly to the Member States based on the progress in the implementation of national recovery and resilience plans.
The plans should effectively address challenges identified in the European Semester, particularly the country-specific recommendations adopted by the Council. The plans should also include measures to address the challenges and reap the benefits of the green and digital transitions.
For implementation of RRF by Member States please see the Recovery and Resilience Facility page.
In shared management, both the European Commission and national authorities in Member States, such as ministries and public institutions, are in charge of running a particular programme. Around 70% of EU programmes are run this way.
For instance, if you are a farmer anywhere in the EU, and have a project to start growing organic tomatoes, you would be eligible to apply for funds under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). For that, you would have to go through your country's Ministry of Agriculture, or an equivalent institution, which would be in charge of managing the funds for your project on behalf of the EU.
The Member States' administrations (at national, regional and local level) choose which projects to finance and take responsibility for day-to-day management. Working together with the Member States, the Commission makes sure that the projects are successfully concluded, and the money is well spent.
EuroAccess: a free online search tool to support the use of existing funding opportunities to improve economic, social and territorial cohesion in the European Union and its Macro-Regions.
Some funding programmes are partly or fully implemented with the support of entities, e.g. national authorities or international organisations. The majority of the EU budget allocated to humanitarian aid and international development, for instance, is implemented under indirect management.
Examples include the financial support to fight Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the earthquake in Nepal in 2015. Programmes implemented under indirect management account for around 10% of the overall EU budget.
Under this management mode, the Commission delegates budget execution tasks to different types of implementing partners, for example
- Third countries or the bodies they have designated
- International organisations such as the United Nations (UN) family, the World bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
- the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Investment Fund (EIF)
- Decentralised agencies such as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) or the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex)
- Public-private partnerships, including Joint Undertakings such as Initiative on Innovative Medicines, Shift2Rail, European High Performance Computing (EuroHPC)
- Member States Bodies such as Erasmus+ national agencies, Member States’ development agencies, National Promotional Banks
For additional examples of implementing partners under indirect management, see The application process