LIFE+ (The Financial Instrument for the Environment) has been in operation since 1992 and co-finances environmental initiatives in the EU as well as in some candidate, accession and neighbouring countries.
The agreement was reached with unanimous support from MEPs who had been battling against the 'renationalisation' of LIFE+ funds. MEPs were forced to cede 78% of the budget to the responsibility of member states with the Commission delegating 22% to cover administrative costs. However, the Commission will maintain centralised control of the programme, with proposed projects being subject to its final approval.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas interpreted the preference for keeping a centralised management of the Programme "as a sign of trust in the Commission".
MEPs also pushed for a larger budget for the programme, managing to squeeze out an extra €40 million, bringing the total of LIFE+ funding to €1.95 billion - an amount rapporteur Marie-Anne Isler Béguin (Greens/EFA, FR) said was "only a drop in the ocean compared with the Union's annual budget".
LIFE+ will gather together several funding arrangements such as the former LIFE+ programme, Forest Focus, the programme for sustainable urban development and the support programme for the NGOs. 50% of the budget has been reserved for spending on the "nature and biodiversity" part of the programme.
Sacha Cleminson, senior European advocacy officer with NGO Birdlife, said: "We hope these EU-funded projects will help keep birds such as Spanish Imperial eagles soaring over our countryside, enriching our lives. But [the projects] can also do more, by allowing natural systems to help safeguard and purify our drinking water and to keep us healthy by tempting us out to walk in an enriched countryside."
"This deal will enable us to breathe life into LIFE+ as soon as possible. Interested parties will be able to apply for EU funds very quickly," said Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (EPP-ED, EL).