The decision includes detailed guidelines on a number of areas which have proved to be the most problematic when deciding whether an expenditure item is eligible for financing.
Uncertainty has now been removed since both the commission and the member states agree on these guidelines. The court of auditors has several times called for clear and coherent guidelines for eligibility criteria. The decision is a clear response to this criticism.
'The decision is a major step towards better EU financial management. A change of the financial management culture has been one of my priorities as commissioner responsible for financial control', says Anita Gradin.
The decision has been taken within the framework of SEM 2000. The commissioners Anita Gradin and Erkki Liikanen, responsible for budget, together launched the programme for Sound and Efficient Financial Management, SEM 2000, two years ago. The current commission has set the need to modernise and improve finance and resource management systems as a major priority since it took office in January 1995.
The two first stages of this programme focused on management reforms within the commission itself, resulting in an action plan including improved evaluation, fraud proofing legislative proposals as well as more effective internal audit and control.
The third stage of the programme was launched in November 1995 and is aimed at improving partnership with the member states. Stage Three has also involved the creation of a new group of personal representatives of finance and budget ministers under the chairmanship of commissioners Gradin and Liikanen. This group has, among other issues, discussed the new guidelines.
Member states have been formally consulted and have all given their support to the decision.
The decision will take effect from 1 of May 1997 and will then be legally binding in all member states.