“The outstanding commitments - those we have not paid yet - are absolutely normal and pose no financial risk as such. In the new long-term EU Budget, we propose to simplify our rules and procedures which will help Member States to implement their projects quicker and ask for payment faster. This will reduce the time lag between the commitment and the actual payment. To allow the Member States to start with the new EU programmes from day one in 2021, the agreement on the next MFF in autumn this year is of course crucial.”
The RAL - reste à liquider - the outstanding commitments (commitments which have not been paid yet) - is a normal feature of all multi-annual budgets. With projects lasting several years before they are completed, it is normal to have a time lag between the initial commitments and actual payments.
Similar to situations in private life or in business, the European Commission pays according to the progress of implementation. Under the current EU budget rules e.g. for cohesion policy, Member States have up to three years to absorb the money - counting from the moment we commit the money in the EU Budget and the moment they finally ask for transferring it to their accounts. In the meantime, this amount is booked under RAL. Learning from past experience, we proposed a number of measures for the new long-term EU budget (Multiannual Financial Framework - MFF) to speed up implementation in the ground e.g. by simplifying the procedures, allowing for roll-over of existing implementation systems or changing the existing "n+3" rule for automatic decommitment to "n+2", as we realised that it can contribute to a certain delay in absorbing the money.
It is also for this reason that we call for a swift agreement on the next MFF and all the new EU programmes. From the point of view of implementation, a timely adoption of the new MFF proposal is decisive. If adoption comes very late, as it was the case for the current MFF, then beneficiaries may not be able to engage in EU funded projects and get the money from 2021 onwards, but up to 1-2 years later. The Commission created the ideal circumstances to avoid delays in the future. We should build on the progress made so far to reach an agreement on the MFF in October 2019 and advance with the work on the new generation of EU programmes as fast as possible.