In a letter seen by EURACTIV, four EU commissioners call on their president, José Manuel Barroso, to bring key EU funds under the same umbrella from 2014, in order to cut out overlap and ensure better strategic spending.
The letter, signed jointly by Commissioners László Andor (Employment and Social Affairs), Dacian Ciolo? (Agriculture), Maria Damanaki (Fisheries) and Johannes Hahn (Regional Policy), calls for EU funding tools under their control to be brought under the same "strategic framework".
At present, the funds in question – the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF), the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) – have separate "strategic guidelines". In other words, they have a certain degree of autonomy in deciding where and how their significant purses should be spent.
A more sensible approach, argue the four commissioners, is to bring the funds together under the same strategic blueprint. This will not only cut out overlaps between the various funds, but also bring them closer in line with the EU executive's key 2020 strategy, which will decide the direction of EU spending priorities in the coming decade.
The letter effectively acknowledges that the present system is not optimal, and the new proposal would "help limit the fragmentation of the different instruments and allow better prioritisation of EU funding".
Clearer, cheaper, better?
Furthermore, the commissioners claim that the new plan would also "ensure more clarity for member states, reduce administrative costs and would set the example for a more coordinated approach at national, regional and local level".
Initial indications suggest that regions would back such a move. The Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) yesterday (7 September) enthusiastically welcomed the proposal, arguing that local and regional authorities have had problems achieving the coherence of their projects in the past, precisely because of "the fragmentation of EU funding programmes".
The commissioners argued that the distinct characters of these very different funds should be maintained, but only after their broad direction has been set and streamlined from a central level.
"CEMR has been hoping for such a proposal for years as it would enable a more efficient local and regional development," said Frédéric Vallier, CEMR secretary-general, in a statement.
"We are very enthusiastic about the commissioners' proposal and hope that President Barroso and the Council will endorse it, with the European Parliament having already asked for this in the past".