PositionBrief Article

There is a natural disparity between the launch of an aid measure and the first payments, especially on long-term infrastructure projects. The procedure includes the call for expressions of interest, the examination of aid requests, granting decisions, calls for offers and the award of contracts before work can begin. Payments must then be made, declared, controlled and certified by the payment authority before submission to the Commission of an intermediate payment request. The duration of this procedure varies according to the project and the administrative systems in the Member States. The existence of amounts awaiting clearance is therefore normal in the financial management of economic development project.

However, this "normality" has its limits. By the end of June this year, a total of Euro 370 million was still awaiting clearance, 0.6% of the allocation for the 1989-1993 programming period. By the same stage, the amount awaiting clearance for the 1994-1999 period totalled Euro 15.8 billion, 9.9% of the allocation. This trend led the Commission to devise the "N+2" system, introduced by Regulation 1260/1999 for the new programming period (2000-2006), which stipulates that all sums allocated by the EU to a programme and which, after 2 years, have not resulted in a repayment demand linked to effective spending on the ground, should be cleared automatically. This rule applies retroactively to the period 1994-1999, which widely explains the anomalies observed for the 2000-2006 programming period, the Member States redoubling efforts to avoid the loss of payment appropriations for previous period still not used. If all the payments initially anticipated in 2000 and 2001, but not requested, were to be added to anticipated payments in 2003 and 2004, the financial perspective would be exceeded by some...

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