Despite some initial difficulties, the spending plans agreed between the European Commission and the EU Member States have successfully identified national investment needs, objectives and expected results, according to a new report from the European Court of Auditors. They are also targeted at supporting the EU 2020 strategy for growth and jobs. However, too many performance indicators have been developed and a number of important definitions are not harmonised.
EU Member States sign so-called “Partnership Agreements” with the European Commission. These are strategic investment plans which indicate their national spending priorities under the European Regional Development Fund, the Cohesion Fund and the European Social Fund. Investments supported by the three funds and implemented through operational programmes are expected to total some €350 billion between 2014 and 2020, which represents about one third of the EU budget.
The auditors examined whether the Commission had negotiated these Agreements and operational programmes effectively, so as to better target EU funding towards the EU 2020 strategy priorities, and whether the setting of performance conditions had been adequate. They visited Spain, Ireland, Croatia, Poland, Romania and Denmark.
“The Cohesion policy legislation was adopted just before the start of the 2014-2020 programme period”, said Mr Ladislav Balko, the member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report. “Despite this difficulty, the Commission has been effective in adopting the Partnership Agreements and operational programmes and in concentrating EU funds on growth and jobs promoted by the Europe 2020 strategy. But achieving results will also require substantial contributions from national budgets as well as structural reforms. This shows that the Commission is making greater use of these funds to influence economic governance in the Member States.”