Rules on the so-called Omnibus regulation on EU financial rules, including Cohesion policy, will be simplified, whether they are managed by the Commission, by various organisations and bodies, or jointly with national authorities. The European Parliament is now expected to approve the regulation in the first reading. The regulation is expected to enter into force in July 2018 and apply in most parts immediately. Some additional time is provided to the EU institutions, which will apply the new rules from 1 January 2019.

The new rules will extend the possibility of basing EU payments on the achievement of results or on pre-defined method rather than tracing every euro of expenditure. Where no statistical or historical data is available, expert judgements could be used for assessing costs. This will reduce paperwork for both beneficiaries and authorities, who will be able to focus on policy achievements rather than on collecting and checking financial documents.

Furthermore, it will become easier for small beneficiaries with limited resources to access EU funds but small organisations will also benefit from the fact that volunteer work will be recognised as part of their contribution towards the co-financing requirement.

Almost all member states are in favour of maintaining the eligibility of all EU regions to access Cohesion funds – on condition that fresh money is found. Under the new rules, it will become easier to use EU structural funds for the integration of migrants and refugees, but the new regulation will also facilitate the fight against tax avoidance and shell companies.

In order to avoid multiple controls of the same activities and entities, the Commission will be able to rely more on audits and assessments carried out by its international partners and member states. The new rules also make it clear that the Commission will not be able to ask for the same information twice. These measures will further cut red tape and allow beneficiaries such as NGOs which receive money from several donors to focus on their work on the ground.

Several amendments are aimed at facilitating the use of different programmes and instruments for the funding of projects, applying a single set of rules where possible. This will encourage the use of a wide mix of contributions from national budgets and private investors in order to make the best use of EU resources. For example, it will become easier to combine financing from EU structural funds with financial instruments and the European Fund for Strategic Investments through so-called ‘blending’. It will also be possible to blend grants and financial instruments under the Connecting Europe Facility to finance projects in the fields of transport, energy, and information and communication technology.

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