Official Journal of the European Union

C 341/75

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the ‘Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1198/2006 as regards certain provisions relating to financial management for certain Member States experiencing or threatened with serious difficulties with respect to their financial stability’

COM(2013) 428 final — 2013/0200 (COD)

2013/C 341/17


The European Parliament and the Council decided, on 1 July 2013 and 10 July 2013 respectively, to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Articles 43(2) and 304 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, on the

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1198/2006 as regards certain provisions relating to financial management for certain Member States experiencing or threatened with serious difficulties with respect to their financial stability

COM(2013) 428 final — 2013/0200 (COD).

The Section for Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, appointed Mr Sarró Iparraguirre rapporteur and adopted its opinion on 3 September 2013.

At its 492nd plenary session, held on 18 and 19 September 2013 (meeting of 19 September), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 128 votes to one with eight abstentions.

1.   Conclusions


The European Economic and Social Committee considers that the sustained financial and economic crisis has put national financial resources under pressure as Member States pursue necessary policies of fiscal consolidation.


It therefore considers the proposal for amendment of Regulation (EC) No 1198/2006, proposed by the European Commission, to be necessary and very opportune and strongly supports it, convinced that the budgetary resources will be used in the most efficient way.

2.   Background


The sustained global financial crisis and unprecedented economic downturn have seriously damaged economic growth and financial stability and provoked a strong deterioration in financial and economic conditions in several Member States.


Particularly in the Member States most affected by the crisis, which have received financial aid in the framework of an adjustment programme, this situation has been aggravated by liquidity problems resulting from budget consolidation which affect their economic growth and financial stability, as well as by a deterioration in their deficits and levels of debt. Co-financing makes financial assistance more effective and reducing co-financing creates a risk of reducing this effectiveness – a risk which must be minimised by all available means.


In this context, ensuring a smooth implementation of the European Fisheries Fund is of particular importance for investment in the fisheries sector.


Regulation (EC) No 1198/2006 on the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) contains the following definitions:

—   Operational programme: single document drawn up by the Member State and approved by the Commission containing a coherent set of priority axes to be achieved with the aid of the EFF.

—   Priority axis: each of the priorities in an operational programme comprising a group of measures which are related and have specific measurable goals.


The priority axes for the EFF are as follows:

Priority axis 1: measures for the adaptation of the Community fishing fleet.

Priority axis 2: aquaculture, inland fishing, processing and marketing of fishery and aquaculture products.

Priority axis 3: measures of common interest.

Priority axis 4: sustainable development of fisheries areas.

Priority axis 5: technical assistance.


When approving the operational programme presented by each Member State, the Commission establishes with the Member State a co-financing rate for each priority axis which also sets out the maximum amount of the contribution of the EFF.


The payment by the Commission of the financial contribution of the EFF takes the form of pre-financing, interim payments and a final balance, subject to the authorisation of the certification and audit authorities of each operational programme.

3.   State of play


Articles 76 and 77 of Regulation (EC) No 1198/2006 provided, as indicated in point 2.7, for interim payments and a final balance, in accordance with a financing plan for each priority axis.


The economic and financial situation referred to in points 2.1 and 2.2 prompted the Commission to propose a change to Articles 76 and 77, in order to help accelerate investment and improve the availability of funds.


Consequently, the European Parliament and the Council approved Regulation (EC) No 387/2012, which, through a change to these Articles, allows the Member States most affected by the crisis and which have agreed a macroeconomic adjustment programme with the Commission to apply for an increase in the co-financing rate for interim and final payments from the EFF.


To date seven Member States have received financial aid and agreed an adjustment programme: Cyprus, Hungary, Romania, Latvia, Portugal, Greece and Ireland. However, the amendment to Regulation (EC) No 1198/2006 provides that any other Member State applying for and obtaining a financial aid programme in the future, as provided for in Article 76(3)(a), (b) and (c) of the Regulation, can also benefit from these increases in co-financing.


At the request of a Member State, interim payments and payments of the final balance shall be increased by an amount corresponding to ten percentage points above the co-financing rate applicable to each priority axis, up to a maximum of 100 %, to be applied to the amount of eligible public expenditure newly declared in each certified statement of expenditure submitted during the period in which a Member State fulfils one of the conditions laid down in points (a), (b) and (c) of Article 76(3).


It is also provided that, for the purpose of calculating the interim payments and the final balance after the Member State ceases to benefit from the Union financial assistance referred to in Article 76(3), the Commission shall not take into account the increased amounts paid in accordance with that paragraph.


The new text of Regulation (EC) No 1198/2006 includes a new Article 77a, paragraph 5 of which limits the benefit of these co-financing increases to statements of expenditure presented by the Member States in question up to 31 December 2013.

4.   Amendment of the proposal for a regulation


The amendment set out in the current proposal for a regulation, which is the subject of this opinion, is connected with the limitation imposed by Article 77a, paragraph 5.


The Commission considers that, since Member States still face serious difficulties with respect to their financial stability, the application of the increased co-financing rate should not be limited to the end of 2013.


It therefore proposes amending Regulation (EC) No 1198/2006 by deleting paragraph 5 of Article 77a.

5.   General comments


The European Economic and Social Committee considers the European Commission's proposal to be highly opportune and therefore fully supports it.


The EESC agrees that total financial allocation for the period from the Funds to the countries and the programmes in question should not change.

Brussels, 19 September 2013.

The President of the European Economic and Social Committee