TACIS CROSS-BORDER CO-OPERATION PROGRAMME
Special Report No. 11/2001 by the Court of Auditors concerning the Tacis cross-border co-operation programme.
||27 July 2001|
|Forwarded to the Council:
||12 October 2001|
|Deposited in Parliament:
||7 November 2001|
|Basis of consideration:
||EM of 29 November 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
|To be discussed in Council:
||No date set|
20.1 The Tacis Cross-Border Co-operation
(CBC) Programme was established in 1996 with the aim of reducing
differences in living standards between the western border regions
of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova and those in neighbouring
countries. It seeks to encourage co-operation between regional
authorities on either side of the border and to support projects
with a cross-border impact.
20.2 The European Court of Auditors carried
out its audit of the operation of the Programme over the period
1996-2000. The report concludes that whilst the Programme has
the potential to address important needs, it has had little impact
so far on improving living standards in beneficiary regions or
on cross-border co-operation. It highlights some reasons for this
- serious delays in programming funds for the Small
Project Facility (SPF) and in assisting regional authorities to
increase their management capacity. Implementation procedures
have been too centralised. However, overall, projects financed
from the SPF yielded the most cost-effective results;
- difficulties in obtaining bids within tender
budgets for works contracts;
- equipment had sometimes been supplied after the
end of the scheduled duration of projects because of the Commission's
lengthy procurement procedures and delays in customs clearance
in the beneficiary countries;
- obtaining exemption from value added tax has
been a major problem for projects; and
- most environmental projects suffered from a lack
of follow-up investments, whether from Tacis or other sources.
20.3 It proposes a number of measures to
address these problems, namely:
(1) The strengthening of co-ordination mechanisms
between this programme and the EC's programmes which cover bordering
countries, the Interreg and PHARE Programmes;
(2) An increase in the Programme's budget and
the availability of matching finance for bordering regions in
the PHARE countries;
(3) A greater emphasis on infrastructure and
(4) Greater priority to be given to projects
which directly contribute to increased living standards in the
(5) Support for the participation of local and
regional authorities in the Programme; and
(6) A higher proportion of funds to be allocated
to the SPF with a decentralisation of its management.
The Commission's response
20.4 The Commission acknowledges that the
Tacis CBC budget is limited. It was reduced from _30 million in
1998 to _20 million in 1999 when there was a cut in the overall
Tacis budget but now has a larger share of the total. The need
to address the exceptional situation in the Caucasus after the
Russian crisis in 1998 and to contribute to the Chernobyl Shelter
funds also played a part. New procedures delayed the first years
of the SPF but it is now catching up.
20.5 Measures have been introduced to improve
co-ordination between the Tacis CBC, INTERREG and PHARE programmes.
The border crossing projects contribute substantially, according
to the Commission, to improving living conditions. One example
is the western border of Ukraine, where Western European companies
produce textiles, furniture and shoes. They depend on fast crossings
and give employment to the local population. The results of the
programme only started to be seen in early 2001, when two crossings
were completed. Two more will be completed in 2001, a further
two in 2002 and construction on an additional two will start in
20.6 Finally, the Commission says that it
intends to increase the SPF budget from 2001.
The Government's view
20.7 The Secretary of State for International
Development (Clare Short) says that the Government welcomes this
report but comments:
"We were disappointed to note the limited impact
of activities to date particularly on the Programme's main objective
of improving living standards. We support the majority of the
measures proposed by the Court to increase the Programme's efficiency
and effectiveness. In particular, we welcome the intention for
greater co-operation, both within the Commission and with regional
partners, and we are encouraging the Commission to develop practical
measures to address this issue. We do not however feel the time
is right to increase the budget for the programme when impact
has, to date, been so limited. We also feel the Commission should
focus on improving coordination internally rather than addressing
weaknesses through a new Regulation with its own budget line
the development of new Regulations is usually very time consuming.
"More generally, we welcome the Court's recommendation
for the Programme to give greater priority to projects that improve
the living standards of the population in the target regions.
We are encouraging the Commission to focus more substantially
on the Ukraine/Poland border where there are greater economic
development opportunities, and away from the Russia/Finnish border".
20.8 The Minister adds that she expects
the report to be the subject of Council Conclusions in due course.
20.9 The Commission's annual report on The
Implementation of the European Commission External Assistance
includes an analysis of the Tacis programme as a whole. It includes
the following two paragraphs on the CBC programme:
"In 2000, Tacis support for environment
on the EU/candidate countries [borders] was substantial: implementation
was on-going in 14 projects, totalling _35 million. The main emphasis
was on water resource management and the control of water quality.
Tacis provided support to most of the major waterways in the border
region, including work on the Paz, Prut, Bug and Danube rivers.
This includes the improvement of monitoring capacity, introduction
of guidelines and regulations for water quality control, and setting
down what infrastructure is necessary.
"In addition, two projects in Karelia concentrated
on the development of eco-tourism. The management of the Karelia
National Parks was strengthened and new improved infrastructure
is being built.
"Some existing border crossings permit only
bilateral traffic. The EU is opening up new international border
crossings to encourage more trade.... This is no mean undertaking.
Some crossing points are huge. One example is Salla, where just
the administrative-operational building set up for customs and
border controls or cars, buses and lorries covers an area of 1,020m2.
There are also canopies covering control booths for all lanes,
a building for detailed vehicle inspection with storage area of
450m2, not to mention truck weighing posts, dog kennels
and a fully secure perimeter fence with controlled entry and exit
20.10 While the annual budget for this
programme, at _20- 30 million, is small, the programme is of political
importance to Member States because the region will form the new
eastern border of the EU after accession. It is clear from the
report that some of the problems could be addressed without the
need for a bigger budget and a new Regulation. We therefore support
the Government's view. However, if the other measures proposed
prove ineffective, we do not rule out the need to consider directing
more funds to the programme when it is next reviewed.
20.11 We now clear this document.
47 (22903) 13744/01; see paragraph 9 of this Report. Back