The Brief powered by ENI – EU funds under Brexit pressure

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

The Commission today presented proposals for simplifying access to EU funds. They are intended for the period after 2020, when the EU budget will be smaller, as it is likely that the UK will have left the Union by then. There is no appetite for the other countries to fill the gap left by the UK, which is a net donor, despite the famous rebate.

Trying to do more and better with a smaller budget makes sense. Simplifying the rules for companies, cities or individuals to get access to EU funds is one avenue. There are too many rules and they differ a lot in different programmes. Sometimes potential beneficiaries of EU funds, like start-ups or SMEs, simply give up and stop applying in the face of the complexity of the process.

In Bulgaria, the country I know best, the complexity of the paperwork has given birth to a new business: providing services to help file applications, in return for a percentage of the funds obtained. Even though this business is not exactly illegal, it still diverts EU taxpayers’ money away from the purposes of the bloc’s respective programmes. Sometimes the percentages are outrageously high.

If the new initiative could kill the business model of the parasites that feed off the Brussels bureaucracy, it would be a step forward.

But this is one small step, and other steps need to be taken to boost Europeans citizens’ trust in the institutions. More transparency is needed in assessing the bids for EU financing. Many Europeans feel the EU mother always feeds the same children.

A reflection on the future of the EU’s finances has already started, and it has taken stock of the work of the Monti group, named after its chair Mario Monti, the former Italian prime minister and EU Commissioner.

In particular, the Monti group recommends introducing alternative revenue sources, which are not perceived as national contributions but rather as resources directly linked to EU policies. It also recommends focusing on the EU’s added value.

The single market is the essence of EU added value. This is why one of the traditional own resources components of the EU budget is revenue from taxes raised on behalf of the bloc as a whole, principally through import duties on goods brought into the EU.

And if the Digital Single Market was completed, this would raise companies’ revenues and generate a new source of EU budget revenue. The same applies to the Energy Union.

The problem with good reports is that they often lie forgotten on the EU shelves.

But who knows? Maybe pressure from the Brexit challenge will help blow away the cobwebs.

This Brief is powered by Eni – Following our passion, inspiration and driven by our scientific expertise, we are gearing up to turn waste – from the oil in which you cooked French fries to the leftovers of your salad – into high-tech fuels to power our transport. Eni’s biofuel initiatives are giving a tangible contribution to the circular economy. We look forward to an EU policy that supports innovative action.

THE ROUNDUP

Britain’s services industry will suffer as a result of Brexit, but the UK’s trade surplus with non-EU partners offers hope, as long as the government can sign new trade deals quickly.

~ ~ ~

Bad news for pub-goers across the continent: Europe’s drinking habit has been linked to rising rates of digestive cancer. Theresa May is facing a rebellion over plans to leave the Euratom treaty. Questions have been raised about the future of cancer treatment if the UK loses the ability to move radioactive materials.

~ ~ ~

Environmentalists and NGOs are calling for loopholes in the EU’s definition of endocrine disruptors to be closed to ensure it protects consumers and respects the precautionary principle.

~ ~ ~

The EU’s population grew by 1.5 million in 2016, despite equal numbers of recorded births and deaths. The increase was driven by migration, according to Eurostat. Ireland is considering whether to join the EU’s naval mission to fight people smuggling in the Mediterranean.

~ ~ ~

Amsterdam’s multilingual workforce, good transport links and high quality of life makes it the perfect city to host the European Medicines Agency, Dutch Health Minister Edith Schippers told EURCTIV’s Sarantis Michalopoulos. Read our special report here.

~ ~ ~

MEPs today voted to exempt international flights from the EU’s carbon pricing scheme until 2021. Flights within the bloc are subject to emissions fees.

~ ~ ~

Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen said investment could be left out of future free trade deals to ease the ratification process.

Roundup by Samuel White.

LOOK OUT FOR…

The leaders of six Western Balkan EU hopefuls will meet with the bloc’s leaders in Trieste tomorrow. They hope to lay the foundations of a common market in the region to ease EU accession in the future.

Views are the author’s.

Subscribe to The Brief.