The European Commission released guidelines for adjusting the implementation of the rural development programmes (IPARD) under the instrument for pre-accession assistance in the current crisis triggered by the outbreak of the coronavirus. Directed at candidate countries benefitting from this instrument (Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey), the guidelines list short-term actions that allow flexibility in the implementation of IPARD, to support and relieve beneficiaries in the current context, while ensuring coherent action.
The guidelines cover three types of possible actions: actions that can be directly implemented by national authorities, actions that would need to be approved by the Commission before being implementation at national level, and actions at the initiative of the Commission.
In terms of actions that could be directly taken by national authorities, the guidelines propose using alternative means for on-the-spot verifications necessary for project approvals, extending deadlines for the implementation of projects, introducing e-signatures, temporarily suspending other checks and controls, among other actions proposed.
Measures that would need prior consultation and approval of the Commission before implementation include the possibility to extend the list of eligible expenditure under the national IPARD programmes. Concretely this means that beneficiaries could use IPARD funds to buy material useful in the fight against the coronavirus, such as masks, disinfectant, transport vehicles for instance. Other possible actions under this category include the temporary modification of the “4 eyes principle” for on-the-spot verifications. This means that instead of having two controllers, one can visit the project and take photos/ videos, which would then be verified and countersigned by a second controller.
Finally, the Commission is also considering flexibility measures to be implemented by the Commission directly. This includes allowing increased advanced payments to project beneficiaries by IPARD agencies. The second measure, which would apply on a case-by-case basis, is to suspend fines when IPARD agencies do not respect the six-month payment deadline to project beneficiaries.
The guidelines were introduced at the second videoconference organised by the Regional Rural Development Standing Working Group, in cooperation with the North Macedonian Ministry of Agriculture, on 22 April 2020.
IPARD are rural development programmes implemented as part of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance in four Western Balkan countries (Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia) and Turkey. The overall budget of IPARD is about €1 billion for the budgeting period 2014-20. IPARD programmes, by design and implementation modalities, resemble rural development programmes under the common agricultural policy for EU countries.
29 April 2020