ECA lauds efficiency of EU pre-accession assistance
By Lénaïc Vaudin d’Imécourt | Wednesday 01 February 2012
A special report by the EU Court of Auditors (ECA), published on 1 February, found that the EU’s assistance to Croatia has improved the country’s capacity to manage post-accession funding. The auditors examined whether pre-accession assistance had been effective in supporting Croatia preparations for managing EU funds after its scheduled 1 July 2013 accession as the country is set to receive over €3 billion from the EU between 2013 and 2015, which is three times more than it has received in the past 20 years.
The court’s findings were based on “an analysis of the documents relating to the programming and implementation of the pre-accession assistance, audits of a sample of 16 projects, interviews with Commission staff, and interviews with the Croatian ministries, agencies and regional and local authorities involved in the management of EU funds”.
According to the ECA, even if EU pre-accession aid is making a “significant contribution” in building up the country’s capacity for managing post-accession funding, it has only been “partially successful so far in achieving its objectives”. The court found that some areas of the Commission’s work should be improved, such as securing certain projects due to a delayed implementation of assistance, or strengthening procurement capacity and giving a greater focus to the capacity of regional and local authorities. Indeed, according to the court, the implementation of projects in the rural development sector has suffered from “low absorption rates”.
In addition, the report says that further progress in capacity building has to be supported in a number of key areas, both before and after accession, and it also includes recommendations (see box). Another challenge is to further strengthen the anti-corruption body, the report says, as despite recent progress made, procurement capacity and the fight against corruption are two areas where there is a «particular need to reinforce support to the Croatian authorities”.
Since 2007, Zagreb has been receiving an average €150 million a year through the Union’s Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA), which is divided into five components: transition assistance and institution building; cross-border cooperation; regional development; human resources development; and rural development. The country has been receiving EU assistance since the declaration of its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. This assistance has by now exceeded €1 billion.
- Increase the priority given to building up procurement capacity by implementing plans for on and off the job training
- Take extra steps to meet capacity building needs at regional and local levels
- Build up a portfolio of mature projects that are able to fully absorb the increased post-accession funding available
- Strengthen anti-corruption measures