Future European funds: lessons from the past | Opinion

This article is motivated by three “ephemeris” that have occurred recently. The first comes down to the fact that a future EU funds regime is in the process of being approved, that is to say a regime which aims to implement the new economic recovery plan following the damage caused by covid. -19: Next Generation EU. The second refers to the fact that a new legal framework is also being developed for the implementation of European, structural and investment funds or socially known as “community support frameworks” and that the Portugal is a recurring beneficiary. The third is our sole responsibility, and is due to the fact that a short book of legal studies on some of the aforementioned subjects has recently been published – European Structural and Investment Funds and Public Aid: European and National Administrative Law Studies , Lisbon, Almedina, 2020.

The confluence of these three events has led us – thus contributing to the long-awaited rapprochement of academic knowledge with civil society – to put forward a few lines, albeit light, given the summer period in which the country finds itself, which may be far from the past. in the application of European funds; naturally, without prejudice to other developments that the theme requires, but that the economy of text does not allow and that these studies can and aim to provide. A first lesson results from the need for administrative simplification in the granting and management of these funds. A second lesson stems from the obligation to ensure that funds are actually invested in the implementation of the public policies for which they were designed and intended. The crossing of the two needs mentioned can be easily offered to any tightrope walker, even if it does not always obtain the best results from the experience offered by the different Member States. It should be noted that the perspective adopted here is neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but simply realistic.

An administrative simplification of the procedures for granting aid financed by the funds concerned is necessary to guarantee the reduction of administrative costs, transaction costs and context costs in which not only public entities (national and European), but above all, incur the recipients of these funds, whether they are natural or legal persons, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises.

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In turn, the application of European funds cannot fail to test whether these public funds (whether based on a European budget or – in part – national) are applied in measures implementing policies aimed at eliminating the lack of economic, social and territorial cohesion of the regions of the Union and of other public policies (national or European), such as that on increasing competitiveness between companies or the development of innovative products and that on promotion environmental and social sustainability.

In addition, this type of public action for economic and social development (emerging in a normal or emergency context), when it exists and affects businesses, must still pursue competition policy, in particular by respecting legal regimes. public aid (control, preferably ex ante). This regardless of whether the person responsible for the management / administration of the support, alias “grants”, is a public entity – Financial Development Institution, Managing Authority, Development Fund or other – or a private entity, therefore, the compliance with these market rules is indifferent to the environment mobilized, before imposing – as with regard to the concerns linked to the aforementioned public policies – public responsibility for the results obtained.

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