The Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) is the financial instrument for the European Union (EU) pre-accession process for the period 2007-2013. Assistance is provided on the basis of the European Partnerships of the potential candidates and the Accession Partnerships of the candidate countries, which means the Western Balkan countries, Turkey and Iceland. The IPA is intended as a flexible instrument and therefore provides assistance which depends on the progress made by the beneficiary countries and their needs as shown in the Commission’s evaluations and strategy papers.
Nature of the IPA
The beneficiary countries are divided into two categories, depending on their status as either candidate countries under the accession process or potential candidates under the stabilisation and association process, namely:
candidate countries (Annex I to the Regulation): the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Croatia, Turkey; potential candidate countries as defined at the Santa Maria da Feira European Council of 20 June 2000 (Annex II to the Regulation): Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Montenegro, Serbia including Kosovo as defined by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244/1999. The annexes will be amended as and when changes in the status of the countries occur, pursuant to a Council decision adopted by qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission.
Exceptionally, and in the interests of coherence and efficiency, other countries may benefit from measures financed by the IPA. Provided these measures form part of a regional, cross-border, trans-national or worldwide framework and do not duplicate other programmes under Community external aid instruments.
The IPA was designed so as to address the needs of the beneficiary countries within the context of pre-accession policy in the most appropriate way. Its main aim is to support institution-building and the rule of law, human rights, including the fundamental freedoms, minority rights, gender equality and non-discrimination, both administrative and economic reforms, economic and social development, reconciliation and reconstruction, and regional and cross-border cooperation.
To ensure targeted, effective and coherent action, the IPA is made up of five components, each covering priorities defined according to the needs of the beneficiary countries. Two components concern all beneficiary countries:
the “support for transition and institution-building” component, aimed at financing capacity-building and institution-building; the “cross-border cooperation” component, aimed at supporting the beneficiary countries in the area of cross-border cooperation between themselves, with the EU Member States or within the framework of cross-border or inter-regional actions.
The other three components are aimed at candidate countries only:
the “regional development” component, aimed at supporting the countries’ preparations for the implementation of the Community’s cohesion policy, and in particular for the European Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund; the “human resources development” component, which concerns preparation for participation in cohesion policy and the European Social Fund; the “rural development” component, which concerns preparation for the common agricultural policy and related policies and for the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). Candidate countries are therefore prepared for full implementation of the Community acquis at the time of accession. While potential candidates shall benefit from support to progressively align themselves to the Community acquis. Potential candidates may however benefit from similar measures as those provided under the last three components under the framework of the first component. The difference is essentially in the way these measures are implemented, since for the three components preparing for implementation of the structural and agricultural funds the beneficiary country is required to manage Community funds in a decentralised manner.
Management and implementation of the IPA
The IPA is based on strategic multi-annual planning established in accordance with the broad political guidelines set out in the Commission’s enlargement package, which now includes a Multi-annual Indicative Financial Framework (MIFF). The MIFF takes the form of a table presenting the Commission’s intentions for the allocation of funds for the three forthcoming years, broken down by beneficiary and by component, on the basis of the needs and the administrative and management capacity of the country concerned and compliance with the Copenhagen accession criteria.
The strategic planning is made up of multi-annual indicative planning documents, with the MIFF constituting the reference framework. They are established for each beneficiary country and cover the main intervention areas envisaged for that country.
As regards action on the ground, annual or multi-annual programmes (depending on the component) based on the indicative planning documents, are adopted by the Commission. They are implemented following three management methods: by centralised, decentralised or shared management.
Assistance under the IPA can take, inter alia, the following forms:
investment, procurement contracts or subsidies; administrative cooperation, involving experts sent from the Member States; participation in Community programmes or agencies; measures to support the implementation process and management of the programmes; budget support (granted exceptionally and subject to supervision). The rules of participation for implementing the different programmes launched under the IPA are flexible enough to ensure that the instrument is effective. Participation in the award of procurement or grant contracts is open to all natural and legal persons and international organisations. As such, natural persons must be nationals of, or legal persons established in: a Member State of the EU or the European Economic Area (EEA);
a country that is a beneficiary of the IPA or a country that is a beneficiary of the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI).
Moreover participation is also open to natural and legal persons from countries other than those mentioned above where these countries enjoy reciprocal access to Community external assistance. Reciprocal access is based on a country’s or regional group of countries’ status as a donor and is subject to a Commission decision adopted after consulting the IPA Committee.
All supplies and materials needed to implement such contracts must comply with the rules of origin, in other words they must originate in the EU or a country eligible under the previous paragraph. Experts are not subject to the nationality condition.
However, in exceptional cases, the Commission may depart from these rules. Moreover, operations may be co-financed by the EU and a regional organisation, a Member State or a third country (subject to reciprocity), or financed by the EU and implemented via an international organisation. In this case the natural or legal persons eligible for co-financing are also entitled to IAP financing.
The management of funds granted under this Regulation complies with the general management conditions for Community funds set out in Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002\, which the Commission is responsible for implementing (management, monitoring, evaluation, reporting). Such management must also comply strictly with the rules on the protection of the Community’s financial interests. In this context the Commission and the Court of Auditors have the power of audit over all contractors and subcontractors, on the basis of documents and on the spot, ex ante and ex post.
The Commission is also assisted by committees. The purpose of the IPA Committee set up by the Regulation is to ensure coordination and coherence between assistance granted under the different components. However, for implementing the “regional development”, “human resources development” and “rural development” components, the Commission is assisted by committees established within the framework of each structural fund.
The application of the IPA is also subject to a suspension clause, which applies to all beneficiary countries that fail to comply with the principles of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and minority rights, and the commitments contained in the partnership (accession partnership or European partnership). It also applies to countries that fail to make sufficient progress towards fulfilment of accession criteria or, for the Western Balkan countries, towards the reform process. The Council may then take appropriate measures, acting by qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission, after informing the European Parliament.
This Regulation forms part of the revised external aid framework for the 2007-2013 financial perspective, in particular in terms of efficiency and coherence, while taking into account the specific features of pre-accession aid. The IPA must be consistent with development aid, but its primary aim is to prepare the beneficiary countries for accession in the not too distant future. One of the main characteristics of pre-accession aid is its bridging function, since it is designed to prepare countries for the period after accession.