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Demands to cut red tape at the European Commission are not new, but at least in the realm of education and culture some efforts have been made to reduce bureaucratic bottlenecks. In this context, the European Commission has issued a new report to the European Parliament and the Council, demonstrating that the measures taken in December 2008 to shorten the decision-making period for the allocation of grants issued under the EU Lifelong Learning, Culture, Youth in Action and Citizenship programmes have been effective. Prior to December 2008 an advisory procedure was in place in which the European Commission was required to consult with the European Parliament and programme committees before awarding grants, including those for the Erasmus Mundus programme. Under the new rule, however, the Commission is allowed to make grant decisions independently, so long as they report the decisions to the Parliament within two working days; according to the report, the Parliament and related committees have yet to raise a complaint about any of the Commission’s grant decisions.
According to the report, the wait time for grant decisions for all applicable programmes, including the Lifelong Learning Programme actions, has been substantially reduced. For example, from 2007 to 2009 the average wait time for a grant decision across the Lifelong Learning sub-programmes (such as Erasmus) decreased from 175 days to 131 days, a decrease of about 25%. The proven efficacy of this change in policy is excellent news for all those who stand to benefit from Commission grants; in fact, the Commission itself states that the new measures have “had positive effects on the sustainability of funding partnerships, resulting in a very positive impact on the quality of the projects themselves.”
It is important to note, though, that this positive change mainly concerns the initial application stage for projects under the above-mentioned programmes. Interestingly, there has been a parallel increase in requirements for the final reporting stage of projects, which could be interpreted as an increase of bureaucracy towards the end of the project period. Admittedly, the latter change is intended to ensure greater transparency in the use of financial resources coming from EU institutions, but at an additional ‘cost’.