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Unreasonably bureaucratic obligations imposed by the Commission on recipients of EU funding

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  • Caz :  1786/2010/PB
    Deschis la 08.09.2010 - Recomandare privind 09.06.2011 - Decizie din 14.12.2011
  • Instituţia (instituţiile) în cauză :  Comisia Europeană
  • Domeniul (domeniile) juridic (juridice) :  Ştiinţă, informare, educaţie şi cultură
  • Tipuri de presupusă administrare defectuoasă – (i) încălcarea sau (ii) încălcarea obligaţiilor privind :  Proporţionalitate [Articolul 6 CEBCA],Corectitudine [Articolul 11 CEBCA]
  • Subiectul (subiectele) :  Atribuirea contractelor şi a subvenţiilor
Berlaymont building, headquarter of the EC
Autor: European Commission
drepturi de autor: European Union

Summary of decision on complaint 1786/2010/PB against the European Commission

The complainant, the University of Copenhagen, objected to the fact that the European Commission required recipients of EU funding to ensure that the funds received generate interest for the benefit of the EU budget. To comply with this obligation, beneficiaries either had to set up bank accounts, or manage/operate existing accounts for that purpose. In the complainant's view, the Commission thus imposed an unreasonably bureaucratic and disproportionate obligation.

The present case concerned the so-called 'pre-financing' paid by the Commission in the framework of the EU's 7th Research Framework Programme. This kind of payment is paid up-front to enable the beneficiary to start working on a project.

The complainant acknowledged that any interest that arises belongs to the EU. However, it considered that there was no legal requirement to ensure, in the first place, that such interest was created. It moreover argued that setting up and managing such interest-yielding accounts imposes an unreasonable and disproportionate administrative burden on the recipients of pre-financing.

The Ombudsman found that the relevant provisions in the Financial Regulation and the related implementing provisions could be interpreted as supporting the complainant's position, notably in light of the general principle of fairness. He further took the view that it was not consistent with the principle of sound financial management to impose obligations that create disproportionate burdens for beneficiaries. The Ombudsman therefore made a draft recommendation to the Commission.

In its reply, the Commission announced new rules and practices intended to implement the Ombudsman's draft recommendation. The Commission accepted that requiring a beneficiary to open an interest-yielding account would not be appropriate if this were to constitute a disproportionate burden (or if the beneficiary was prevented from opening such an account by national law). In such cases, beneficiaries can now declare that the opening and/or operating of an interest-bearing account would not be in line with the principle of sound financial management. This will exempt them from the obligation that the complainant disputed in the present case. The Commission introduced these changes with immediate effect.

More generally, the Commission expressed its agreement with the Ombudsman that the principle of sound financial management should be contextually applied in light of the policies pursued and of their context. It expressed its intention to also pursue this approach at the legislative level.

The complainant expressed its full satisfaction with the outcome of the Ombudsman's inquiry.