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EU funding to countries that are aspiring to join the European Union must be distributed on a ‘fair share’ basis and suspended in cases of persistent rule of law breaches.

On Wednesday, the European Parliament adopted its position on the proposed Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA III) for the period 2021-2027. EU pre-accession funds help (candidate and potential candidate) countries aspiring to join the EU to reform their political, economic and legal systems, in order to prepare for the rights and obligations of an EU membership.

Parliament voted for stronger democratic conditionality provisions, improved coherence and enhanced parliamentary scrutiny of the EU’s external financing.

Performance-based approach

Parliament agrees that the proposed IPA III programming framework should focus on priorities and ‘a fair share principle’ rather than fixed country envelopes, since this will introduce more flexibility to address the evolving needs of the ‘EU enlargement partners’ and make it possible to encourage progress and performance towards meeting the EU membership criteria.

MEPs want to strengthen parliamentary control and improve the governance of the IPA III by putting Parliament on an equal footing with the Council.

Coherence of EU’s external financing

Parliament also aims to improve the consistency of the EU’s funding by ensuring complementarity of the rules governing the Union’s external financing. The adopted text aligns IPA provisions on the review, suspension and governance clauses with the proposed broad Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI).

Democratic conditionality

In order to reinforce the performance-based approach, Parliament further pushes for tougher conditionality provisions featuring a viable suspension clause, which would penalise backsliding in areas of democracy, the rule of law or human rights. MEPs want to compel the European Commission to suspend or partially suspend the EU assistance in cases of consistent breaches by a concerned enlargement country of one or more of the Copenhagen criteria, which are the rules that define whether a country is eligible to join the EU or not.

More visibility

Parliament also calls on the authorities in the EU enlargement countries to improve their communication about the EU funds and provide information to both media and the public about the added value of the European Union’s assistance in the area.

Next steps

The text was approved by 513 votes in favour, 97 against with 45 abstentions. It will serve as the negotiating position of the Parliament during the upcoming talks with the Council that will shape the final text of the IPA III regulation. These negotiations are expected to start later this year.

Background

The Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) is an EU programme for enlargement countries that was established for the 2007 to 2013 programming period and that replaced several former pre-accession assistance programmes. Under the current 2014 to 2020 multiannual financial framework, the phase of the programme is called IPA II. The pre-accession funds help candidate and potential candidate countries to cope with political and economic reforms and to progressively align to the European Union's rules, standards, policies and practices on their path towards EU membership.

The proposed budget for the implementation of IPA III for the period 2021-2027 is 14.5 billion euro in current prices, with the EP’s position being 14.66 billion euro in current prices.