Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski is raising the alarm. By publishing a scoreboard of ongoing negotiations, on 27 February, the European Commission wants to make sure that its thrust to simplify access to EU funds in the future does not go to waste. In particular, Lewandowski wants to make sure that the usual suspects, "big brands," are not the only ones to capture EU research funds. He also advocates a move toward an "output-oriented" approach to make sure it is less important to properly fill out the paperwork than to have growth potential when getting access to EU funds.

European Parliament and Council are negotiating on legislative acts for each programme, from agriculture to research, education and development, in the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF). Each time, the Commission has proposed ways to simplify access to EU funds based on past experience and a quiz of beneficiaries.


The gist is to cut red tape and formalities to make sure potential entrepreneurs and laboratories are not daunted by the volume of paperwork required. In addition, the EU executive hopes this can bring the error rate in transactions down.

In the area of research, under the Horizon 2020 programme, the Commission wants to avoid the sort of complex calculations, reporting and errors that stem from the current actual cost method. To make things easier, the EU executive proposed a single rate for reimbursement and a mandatory flat rate for indirect costs. The Commission's scoreboard notes that the EP opposes both and is leaning toward keeping the current method. The Council supports the principle of a single rate but introduced an exception for non-profit legal entities.

This has Lewandowski out of sorts. "When you are calculating real cost per grant, when you are not simplifying indirect costs that is good for somebody with routine participation in the programmes," he told Europolitics information society. For those entities that have already had access in the past to EU research funds, "the nightmare of red tape is already in their biography". For newcomers, the actual cost methodology is "an additional barrier" and they are bound to make errors in filling out the paperwork even if their project is beyond suspicion. "When you make errors you have to give back some money," says the budget commissioner.

Lewandowski tells the European Parliament and Council that "what is allocated on the basis of excellence [ie research] shouldn't be...

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