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EU Council grants €14.2bn in pre-accession aid

IPA III mainly concerns the Western Balkans (map: European Commission)
IPA III mainly concerns the Western Balkans (map: European Commission)
EU. The European Union is to provide financial aid of €14.2 billion over seven years to eight countries (Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iceland*, Kosovo, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey) to finance their pre-accession.
On Tuesday 7 September 2021, the Council of the European Union gave the final go-ahead for the release of this sum, which is significantly higher than in previous periods (see box below).

It had been under discussion since June 2018 and the presentation by the European Commission of a "proposal for a regulation establishing the instrument for pre-accession assistance (IPA III)".

The Council, via the Portuguese Presidency, then negotiated with the European Parliament the details of priorities, objectives and governance to reach a political agreement on 2 June 2021. All that remained was for the Member States to endorse this decision, which they have now done. The plenary of the European Parliament will complete the process by formally adopting the regulation in September 2021.

Aid modulated according to the efforts made

The €14.2 billion is planned for the period 2021-2027 and will support the implementation in the eight countries concerned of the political, institutional, legal, administrative, social and economic reforms needed to comply with the Union's values and to align themselves progressively with the Union's rules, standards, policies and practices," as stated in a Council press release.

The Commission's suggestion to allocate aid according to thematic priorities (and therefore not by country) and its allocation according to the actual performance of the beneficiaries (on the basis of an annual evaluation) was retained. "Particular attention will be paid to efforts in the areas of fundamental reform (rule of law and fundamental rights, democratic institutions and public administration reform, and economic development and competitiveness). At the same time, a principle of equitable sharing will be applied to ensure that the scope and intensity of funding takes into account not only the performance of the beneficiaries, but also their needs and capacities, in order to avoid a disproportionate level of assistance compared to others and to ensure progress for all beneficiaries," the Council says.

Conversely, the scope and intensity of assistance may also be "modulated in case of significant regression or persistent lack of progress by a recipient in key reform areas. In such cases, funds could be reduced proportionately and redirected without compromising support for the improvement of fundamental rights, democracy and the rule of law, including support to civil society.

* On 12 March 2015, the Icelandic government asked the European Union to stop considering Iceland as a candidate country. However, Iceland has not officially withdrawn its application for membership. Iceland is therefore mentioned in Council documents, but not in those of the European Parliament. It should not benefit from this IPA III.

Read also : Albania, Northern Macedonia and Serbia unite in "Open Balkans", antechamber to the Schengen Area
Read also our survey The introduction of new Member States stuck in the European funnel.    

The first Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) was adopted in January 2007 for the period 2007/2013 with a budget of €11.5 billion. It was then followed by IPA II (2014/2020) with a budget of €11.7bn.

Six countries are candidates for accession: Albania, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey and Iceland.

Two are considered as potential candidates: Bosnia and Herzegovina (actual application but not yet officially recognised as a candidate) and Kosovo (application not submitted).

Eric Apim

Wednesday, September 8th 2021

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