EU funds to protect the EU’s financial interests

Article written by Kurt Cortis – Executive, MEUSAC
Published on The Malta Independent – 26.07.19

The 1958 Treaty of Rome laid the foundations for the European Union (EU) we know today: an intergovernmental and supranational system of government, comprised of three main institutions representing the interests of citizens, the Member States and the union, respectively, bringing together 28 sovereign Member States under a multifaceted political and economic union, with the aim to bolster the individual and collective economic and social wellbeing of the countries involved, as well as establish a cohesive global marketplace that promotes trade and other social values.

In this regard, the EU develops policies and corresponding strategies, to tackle issues which are common and prevalent in all EU Member States; this is ultimately financed through the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), or simply the EU budget. In fact, the EU, having established its long-term priorities, develops a corresponding MFF, setting limits for EU spending, in a bid to finance its strategies for a period of seven years.

At some €160 billion (2018 figure), the EU budget is quite substantial, yet represents a small fraction of the combined national budgets of all 28 EU countries. Nevertheless, unlike national budgets, which are mainly used to provide public services and fund social security systems, the EU budget is primarily used for investment. Thus, it is imperative for the EU to safeguard the financing of its budget.

In order to protect its financial interests, the EU developed the Hercule III programme, also known as the anti-fraud programme. The Programme is designed to support the efforts of the Commission and the EU Member States in: (i) combating fraud and other illegal activities affecting the EU budget; (ii) mutual administrative assistance in the customs area; (iii) reporting of irregularities by EU Member States affecting EU funds.

Since the EU finances a wide range of programmes which improve the lives of citizens across the EU and beyond, the evasion of taxes, duties and levies, which fund the EU budget, directly harms European citizens and prejudices the entire European project. Therefore, the Hercule III programme directly helps EU Member States to safeguard the EU’s financial interests through the financing of national and transnational projects, including the purchasing of specialised technical equipment, designed to combat smuggling and other criminal activities.

The Hercule III programme also finances projects focusing on specific training activities. Moreover, projects can also involve a transnational collaboration of relevant authorities with the sole aim to share best practices, through seminars and conferences on issues such as preventing corruption in procurement procedures, in order to build their own capacity to work more efficiently and effectively. The programme also supports specialised training to boost and update the digital forensic skills of law enforcement staff.

Several entities are eligible to apply for the calls issued under this programme yet interested organisations should always refer to the eligibility criteria within the specific call document to verify if they can receive funding through the particular call. Eligible applicants vary from one call to another and include, among others, national or regional administrations of a Member State which promote the strengthening of action at Union level to protect the financial interests of the Union.

Through MEUSAC’s assistance, Malta Customs has in recent years managed to successfully garner funds from the Hercule III programme. Tasked with safeguarding its national borders and the EU’s external borders against all smuggled taxable goods that threaten the fiscal and security interests of both parties, Malta Customs sought funding from the Hercule III programme to upgrade its mobile x-ray tunnel vans owing to the phasing out of the previous system. In purchasing such equipment, this project will strengthen Malta Customs’ operational and technical capacity to detect smuggled and counterfeit goods, by targeting control operations, with additional functionality for the scanning of personal luggage and commercial packages at various entry points around Malta.

MEUSAC can support entities to apply for calls under the Hercule III programme and other EU funding programmes. As a government agency which is also tasked with providing information on EU funds, MEUSAC has recently organised an information session in order to provide information on the Hercule III programme to potential beneficiaries.

For more information about the Hercule III programme and other EU funding opportunities, contact MEUSAC on funding.meusac@gov.mt or 2200 3300.

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