Brussels, 25 August 2006
Opinion No 1/2006 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down the rules for the participation of undertakings, research centres and universities in actions under the Seventh Framework Programme and for the dissemination of research results (2007 to 2013) (OJ C203/1 25.8.2006).
[...] 2. The Commission's proposal for the 'Rules for Participation' essentially retains the framework that was established for previous RTD framework programmes, with the exception of:
- certain aspects related to the setting up of a European Research Council (ERC) to allocate Community funding for investigator-driven 'frontier' research actions (see whereas (4a), Article 1(6) and Article 9. See also the Decision, Annex III a) 4. Individual projects),
- the award of a grant to the European Investment Bank (EIB) to fund a 'Risk Sharing Finance Facility', which is to contribute to the provisioning and capital allocation for the EIB's loan and guarantee financing for European RTD actions (see whereas (23) and Article 53. See also the Decision, Annex IIIb).
3. Besides this, the Commission proposal focuses on achieving greater simplification with regard to the systems for financial management and control, in particular through:
- the use of lump sums, flat rates and scales of unit cost to simplify the reimbursement of eligible costs (see Article 30),
- the establishment of a single cost system together with an increase in upper funding limits (see Article 33),
- the setting up of a 'Guarantee fund' to cover the financial risk of carrying out indirect RTD actions (see Article 38).
4. In the Explanatory Memorandum of the 'Rules for Participation', the Commission proposes a number of additional measures, such as the introduction of remote evaluation, electronic submission of proposals and the establishment of a unique registration system and helpdesks at the Commission and the National Contact Points (NCPs) to ensure a more efficient administration of the Seventh Framework Programme. However, in the Commission proposal these measures are not specified. Unless they are referred to in the legal base, there is no guarantee that they will be implemented (see amendments proposed by the Court to Article 15(1b), Article 16(3a) and Article 17a).
The Court's Opinion
5. In its opinion, the Court pays particular attention to the consequences of the measures proposed by the Commission in terms of achieving sound financial management of the indirect actions funded under the Seventh Framework Programme (2007 to 2013). It also takes into account previous resolutions of the European Parliament and the Council, notably in the discharge procedure concerning the financial year 2003 and the 2006 general budget. The Court's observations in this opinion also refer, in some instances, to the Commission proposal for the 'Decision' concerning the Seventh Framework Programme, and in particular its Annex III defining the different funding schemes (see whereas (1)).
6. When the proposal regarding the 'Rules for Participation' was adopted by the Commission in December 2005, the current series of modifications of the Financial Regulation and its Implementing Rules, which will take effect in 2007, had still only been adopted in part by the Council (see whereas (2)). Under these circumstances, and in view of the observations made in its Opinion No 10/2005, the Court considers it impossible to determine whether this sectoral regulation will comply with the general principles and detailed provisions of a revised Financial Regulation.
7. By analogy, the Court's observations and conclusion set out in this opinion should also apply to the Commisson proposal for a 'Regulation of the Council determining the rules for the participation of undertakings, research centres and universities and laying down the rules for the dissemination of research results for the implementation of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) Seventh Framework Programme (2007 to 2011)'.
8. Detailed suggestions on how to amend the Commission proposal in view of this opinion are set out in the Annex.