Implementation of the EU trust funds and the Facility for Refugees in Turkey: Overview

Briefing 16-03-2020

The EU trust funds (TFs) for external action and the Facility for Refugees in Turkey are innovative tools first introduced under the current multiannual financial framework (MFF) for the 2014-2020 period, as made possible by the 2013 Financial Regulation (FR) applicable to the EU budget. Their objective has been to facilitate a swifter and more flexible response to emerging crises and fast moving events, for which funds earmarked in advance had proved insufficient. The EU has set up four trust funds since then, in addition to the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, which, despite some similarities with the trust funds, is a distinct coordination mechanism. The TFs' implementation is ongoing and the Commission reports to the European Parliament regularly on the state of play. Regular reports and evaluations have shown that the EU trust funds have had some positive results, and to some extent met their objectives. However, they have also raised questions. For instance, ad hoc instruments outside the EU budget fall short when it comes to democratic accountability: there is a general need for greater transparency and Parliament scrutiny. Moreover, there is a perceived risk that the TFs could be used to divert development aid funds towards other ends incompatible with official development assistance. While Parliament welcomed the introduction of the EU TFs, acknowledging their advantages, it has insisted that the setting up of instruments outside the EU budget should be the exception to the rule, mostly owing to the above-mentioned concerns. The aim should be to preserve the unity of the EU budget and the principles of accountability, transparency, effectiveness and sound budgetary management, and to safeguard Parliament's right to democratic scrutiny. As argued in a Cost of Non-Europe report, a better coordinated EU development aid budget, incorporating all external assistance, could prove more strategic, bringing efficiency gains, accountability and transparency. This briefing supplements an earlier EPRS briefing on EU trust funds, from November 2015, PE 572.797.