High Level Group monitoring simplification for beneficiaries of ESI Funds

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The future of EU finances: High Level Group presents proposals to simplify access to EU funds


Although the achievements of the EU Cohesion Policy are undeniably positive, the current volume of rules does not always make life easy for local authorities managing EU funds or businesses looking to apply for EU funding. Simplification is therefore key and the European Commission should look into how to further simplify access to EU funds in the budget framework post 2020.

This is the main message that the High Level Group of Simplification seeks to feed into the discussion on the future of the EU finances which the Commission launched on 28 June with its dedicated reflection paper, the final paper in the series of five reflection documents released following the publication on 1 March of the Commission's White Paper on the Future of Europe.

For More Information

By decision of 10 July 2015 (C(2015) 4806 ), the Commission has set up a High Level Group of Independent Experts on Monitoring Simplification for Beneficiaries of the European Structural and Investment Funds. The task of the group of experts is to advise the Commission with regard to simplification and reduction of administrative burden for beneficiaries of the European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds. In particular the group will:

  • Assess the uptake of simplification opportunities by Member States including Member States' commitments to reduce the administrative burden for beneficiaries as set out in their partnership agreements covering the ESI Funds for 2014-2020, taking into account the specificities of the different ESI Funds.
  • Analyse the implementation of simplification opportunities in Member States and regions, taking account of a study on the use of new provisions on simplification during the early implementation phase of the European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds and their impact on administrative burden and costs;
  • Identify good practice in matters concerning the reduction of administrative burden on beneficiaries; and,
  • Make recommendations to improve the uptake of simplification measures for 2014-2020, in particular in view of its mid-term review in 2016, and on the way forward for the post-2020 regulatory framework for ESI Funds.

Members of the High level group

The group consists of twelve members appointed in a personal capacity and is chaired by Former Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas.

Siim Kallas, Chairperson

Siim Kallas has extensive experience with how the EU works having worked two terms in the Barroso commission. He is familiar with the challenges of simplifying regulations at the European scale. He was firstly Commission Vice-President responsible for administrative and audit and anti-fraud matters, and secondly, for transport. At the same time he is an ex-Prime Minister and finance minister of a small and well-functioning country with an effective administration. His role in reforming the country as the finance minister and prime minister and seeing the economic transformation brought about by a combination of EU financial support and reform gives him a unique perspective to how to best couple EU funding with progress on the ground.  He has a background in economics and finance and is currently a visiting professor at the University of Tartu.
Considering his wide experience in the above topics, he was considered to be well placed to offer a fresh view on the possibilities of delivering the ESI Funds on the ground in a simpler manner.

Jean-Pierre Audy

Former President of the Public Sector Committee of the National Authority of Auditors, France. Former MEP and vice-chair of the Committee on Budgetary Control.  More than twenty years' experience in audit in the private sector including as technical advisor to the International Auditing Practices Committee of the International  Federation of Accountants.

Michael Berkery

Chairman of FBD Holdings. Chairman of the National Agricultural Research, Education and Innovation Partnership in Ireland. Former CEO of Irish Farmers Association and served on the Praesidium of COPA for over twenty five years.

Anna Lisa Boni

Secretary General of EUROCITIES since 2014. More than twenty years' experience in European policies and funding concerning and involving the regional and local levels of government, including ERDF and ESF programmes. Former Director of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Office in Brussels.

Pawel Chorąży

Deputy minister - Ministry of Economic Development (Poland). Fifteen years' experience in management of EU Funds, including as the Director of the ESF Department. An expert in strategic planning and implementation with a proven track record in simplification through the Simple Funds Taskforce in Poland.

Håkan Forsberg

Over seven years' experience of managing ESF in Sweden and member of the national steering group for the co-ordination of ESI Funds.  Pioneer for ESF simplified costs including bringing Sweden to be the first Member States to apply for a delegated act on the methodology.

Iulia Hertzog

Head of Managing Authority for ETC Programmes in Romania with fourteen years of cohesion policy experience, through the cycle from pre-accession onwards, including managing six cross border programmes covering ERDF, ENPI and IPA funding.  

Erwin Huber

Chair of the Committee of Economic Affairs of Bavarian Parliament. Former Bavarian State Minister of Finance and Economy with vast experience in the ERDF programmes in Bavaria and in administrative reform and reduction of administrative burden.

Malina Kroumova

Deputy Minister for Regional Development and Public Works (Council of Ministers, Bulgaria). Over ten years' experience in EU Funds management and simplification for beneficiaries including roles as Deputy Prime Minister for EU funds, Deputy Minister for the Environment, Director of Systems for EU Funds and Adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister.

Olga Letáčková

Deputy Minister - National Coordination Authority (Czech Republic). Over seven years' experience in Cohesion Policy programmes including as Director General of the National Coordination Authority responsible for simplification of rules of implementation for beneficiaries and managing authorities.

Massimo Sabatini

Director of Department for Regional Policy and Territorial Cohesion at Confindustria. Long experience as cohesion policy expert and in both industry and trade union organisations.  More than twelve years of experience in policies related to SME's access to funding opportunities .

Terri Thomas

Deputy Director of Rural Development and Head of Managing Authority (Wales, UK). More than twenty years' experience in EAFRD and EMFF programmes. Recently worked on aligning the policies and joint approaches between the ESI Funds in Wales.

Louis Vervloet

General Director of ESF-Agency Flanders. Long career of implementing ESF including introducing e-Cohesion and simplified costs options in Flanders.

Work Programme

20 October 2015

First constituting meeting of the High level group

  • Welcome by Commissioners.
  • Opening remarks from Chairperson.
  • Adoption of work programme and rules of procedure.
  • Presentation on ESI Funds and simplification measures.
  • Panel 1: key issues for simplification from the perspective of the EU Institutions.
  • Panel 2: key issues for simplification from the perspective of stakeholders.

1 December 2015

Second meeting of high level group (focus on e-Governance and simplified costs):

  • Presentation and discussion on the results of the study on new provisions on the consideration given to administrative burden in programming documents.
  • Report on achievement of e-Governance target and good practice examples for e-cohesion.  (Rapporteur: Terri Thomas)
  • Evidence from managing authorities and stakeholders on the advantages and challenges of simplified costs and JAPs, and from ETC programmes on specific challenges for simplified costs. (Rapporteur: Louis Vervloet)
  • Conclusions and recommendations on E-governance.
  • Conclusions and recommendations on Simplified Cost Options.

2 February 2016

Third meeting of high level group (focus on access to funding for SMEs and financial instruments):

21 June 2016

Fourth meeting of high level group (focus on gold plating)

  • Brief update from the Commission on the mid-term review of the MFF and on the recommendations for e-Governance and simplified costs options
  • Discussion on synthesis reports on access to EU Funding for SMEs and financial Instruments and endorsement of conclusions and recommendations from the high level group
  • Discussion on draft report prepared by rapporteurs on gold plating and evidence session with stakeholders (Rapporteurs: Anna Lisa Boni and Pawel Chorąży).
  • Conclusions and recommendations on Gold-Plating

28 September 2016

Ad-hoc meeting of the high level group

  • Discussion on synthesis report on gold plating and endorsement of conclusions and recommendations from the high level group.
  • Presentation by the Commission on the mid-term review of the MFF and how the recommendations from the HLG were taken on board followed by an exchange of views with the members of the HLG
  • Presentation and discussions on the REFIT opinions relevant for ESI Funds
  • Exchange of views on how the work of the HLG on post 2020 will be taken forward

29 November 2016

Sixth meeting of high level group (focus on audit and work programme for post 2020)

  • Discussion on horizontal audit issues (both in the context of 2014-2020 and post-2020) - incl. evidence session with stakeholders
  • Presentation of Commission's follow-up to the non-legislative recommendations of the HLG
  • Discussion on the work programme and method for post-2020 (incl. inter-institutional and stakeholders panels).
  • Conclusions and recommendations on cross-cutting audit issues

24 January 2017

Seventh meeting of high level group (focus on post 2020)

Streamlined, more effective shared management

  • Different implementation modes for specific sectors/financial instruments?
  • Structure, role and level of detail of programming documents (PA, programmes); interaction with State aid schemes
  • Partnership principle
  • Enforcement of conditionalities (ex-ante conditionalities, macroeconomic conditionalities, public procurement)
  • Accelerating start of programme implementation
  • Increase use and scope for simplified costs
  • Scope and criteria for differentiation
  • Subsidiarity and proportionality
  • Strengthening tools for integrated urban solutions, ITIs, CLLD

7-8 March 2017

Eighth meeting of high level group (focus on post 2020)

Legislation and guidance

  • Structure and scope of ESIF legislation
  • Structure and role of guidance
  • Alternatives to guidelines which could provide legal certainty

Options for post-2020 audit and management verifications

  • Justification/options for arbitrage/conflict resolution
  • Reliance on national systems – scope, criteria, role of initial verifications/descriptions of management and control systems
  • “Single audit+”: elimination of double-checks performed by the MA/IB/CA/AA
  • Preparatory work of the national managing authorities at the level of the descriptions of management and control system
  • Scope for the EU standardization and simplification for national legal verifications (common public procurement checklists, risk assessments, etc.)
  • Defining error/fraud rate
  • Scope and criteria for differentiation

16 May 2017

Ninth meeting of high level group (focus on post 2020)

Unified rules for EU Funds

  • Extension of privileges enjoyed by centrally managed programmes
  • Alignment within ESI Family
  • Links with other EU Funds (including CAP, CEF, Horizon, EFSI)
  • Streamlined monitoring, collection of data from beneficiaries

11 July 2017

Tenth meeting of high level group (focus on post 2020)

Final conclusions and recommendations for post 2020

  • Panel debate with EU Institutions and stakeholders on HLG's work on post 2020 (incl. presentations on key issues for simplification for post 2020 from the perspective of the group)
  • Debriefing from Cohesion Forum and meeting with REGI Committee and HLG internal discussion on the work plan for the upcoming meetings

30 November 2017

Eleventh meeting of high level group



For any further information please contact M. Krzysztof Kasprzyk, Telephone: (+32-2) 2963255, e-mail: REGIO-HLG-SIMPLIFICATION@ec.europa.eu