Seven states launch ‘Friends of Better Spending’ group
By Isabelle Smets | Thursday 26 April 2012
Alongside the group known as the ‘Friends of Cohesion Policy’
(1), a new group has now been launched: the ‘Friends of Better Spending’. It could have been called the ‘group of net contributors’, since Austria, Germany, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden are its members. The launch of the group was announced at the General Affairs Council, on 24 April, during discussions on the financing of the EU’s future cohesion policy (see
The two groups are complementary: the first will focus on the fact that the Commission’s budgetary proposals for 2014-2020 consitute an absolute minimum, and the second on the need to limit public spending. The quality of spending is the “key to create additional growth, even with a limited budget,” said the group in a declaration released during the Council meeting
The text emphasises that the impact of EU funds on sustainable growth and employment must be increased in order to realise economic governance objectives, and that the spending of EU funds must planned, programmed, controlled and evaluated in a more efficient way. These two elements will act as guidelines of during negotiations on Structural Funds and the budget.
Among the measures considered by the group to have a high potential to improve the quality of spending were: establishing a clear link between funding and the implementation of country-specific recommendations, and establishing macroeconomic conditions for financing. This is obviously a very controversial subject: during the 24 April General Affairs Council, several member countries of the Friends of Cohesion Policy group opposed or expressed reservations about macroeconomic conditionality, while outside the group, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom were also unenthusiastic.
The Friends of Better Spending also advocate calling on the expertise of the European Investment Bank to ensure that co-financed projects are economically viable. They emphasise the importance of national co-financing, so that member states and the regions “feel responsible” for projects. The temporarily increased co-financing rates for member states in financial difficulties should end with the expiry of the respective regulation by the end of 2013, the group said. The group is also in favour of a perfomance reserve - reserving a proportion of financing for the most effective propgrammes - but on a voluntary basis, and only in order to create competition between regions of the same country. In this way, funding will remain guaranteed for each country, whatever happens; nonetheless, spending has its limits.(1) Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Croatia(2) The declaration is available at
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