The European Commission is proposing a temporary relaxation of spending rules for the European structural and investment (ESI) funds in order to help Member States in mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. While EU support needs to be available to Member States as soon as possible, relaxing the procedures in place entails risks, according to a new opinion from the European Court of Auditors (ECA).
The Commission’s proposal is part of the EU’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. In particular, as an exceptional measure, new rules are proposed to transfer ESI funds faster to the Member States and give them greater flexibility to target EU support where it is most needed. For example, this would allow Member States to request 100 % EU funding without putting up their own co-financing or needing to devote a fixed share to key topics such as research or climate. In addition, they could more easily transfer funds between their programmes and regions and decide themselves where they want to target them.
“The current situation requires the urgent mobilisation of all available financial means to address the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on health, businesses and citizens,” said Iliana Ivanova, the ECA Member responsible for the opinion. “This short-term reaction proposed by the Commission is necessary to support Member States in mitigating the crisis effects, but the right balance should be set and this proposal should not lead to substantial compromises in terms of accountability”.
Press Release: Mitigating the COVID-19 outbreak using EU structural funds requires a balance between more flexibility and accountability, say Auditors