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How it Works? Decentralised Management
The Commission transfers the funds to member states only when the  development programmes it adopted are actually being implemented. To encourage the launch of a new programme, it makes a payment on account of 7% when the programme is officially adopted. The Member States must then apply for payments to the Commission, which reimburses only certified expenditure.

For each programme the member state designates a managing authority responsible for selecting projects. The "paying authority" is responsible for certifying expenditure and applying to the Commission for payment. The paying authorities must guarantee that all expenditure declared to the Community Funds complies with eligibility rules and Community policies on, for example, the environment, equal opportunities and state aids. If the Commission finds that national checks are inadequate or if it finds irregularities, it may suspend payments or even require the paying-back of amounts already paid out.

The Structural Funds do not directly allocated to projects chosen by the Commission. While the main priorities of a development programme are defined in cooperation with the Commission, the choice of projects and their management are solely the responsibility of the national and regional authorities. This greater decentralisation is one of the main innovations of recent programming period.

Once projects have been selected, they are financed from both national and Community funds, since programme budgets are always comprised of EU funds as well as national sources (public or private). EU funding is always added to national funding so that the country may overcome the limits imposed by its own financial capacity. However, Community funding is not provided as a means for countries to make savings in their own national budgets.

The member states bear the main responsibility for the development of areas in difficulty. The Union helps them achieve more and obtain better results than they could acting on their own. That is the real added value of the Structural Funds.

The Council, i.e. all the members of the Union, acting on a proposal from the European Commission negotiated with the European Parliament, decides on the budget for the Structural Funds and the basic rules governing its use. The Structural Funds are broken down by country and by Objective. The areas which may benefit from this funding are laid out by the Commission in agreement with the countries concerned. The Commission proposes common thematic guidelines.

Following these decisions, each Member State or region draws up its proposals and groups them in a development plan of areas in difficulty or of vulnerable social groups by taking into account the Commission's thematic guidelines. Actors in economic and social affairs are involved in this exercise. Once they have been completed, these plans are sent to the Commission.

The Member States and the Commission discuss the contents of these documents and the appropriate national and Community funds to be used to implement them.
When both sides have agreed on all these issues, the Commission adopts the resulting plans and programmes. A payment on account is made so that Member States may begin implementing the programme. These are known as Community Support Frameworks (CSFs) or Single Programming Documents (SPDs), depending on whether a Commission decision is required to implement the programmes.

The details of these programmes, namely the Programme Complements, are decided by the national or regional authorities. The Commission does not partake in these negotiations but is kept informed. Once they have been approved, these documents enable the authorities to launch these projects according to their operating methods (calls for project proposals, calls for tenders for the construction of infrastructure, etc). The programmes then become operational.

The relevant authorities select the projects which best correspond to the goals of the programme and inform the tenderers of their choice. The bodies selected may then implement their project, which must be completed before the deadline laid down in the programme since the timetable for the disbursement of Community aid is fixed at the start.

The appropriate authorities on a regular basis monitor the progress of programmes, keep the Commission informed and provide it with proof that the money is being used in the best way possible (certification of expenditure). The Commission keeps track of the audit systems put in place and gradually pays out the remainder of the contribution from the Structural Funds. It analyses the development of the monitoring indicators and evaluation studies and conducts theme exchanges. The persons responsible for programmes are notified when any new Community priorities which have an impact on regional development are adopted.

WHO DECIDES WHAT ACTIVITIES RECEIVE EU STRUCTURAL FUNDS?
 
To draw down EU Structural Funds each Member State must draw up and submit to the European Commission a plan, setting out its investment priorities for EU Structural Funds. This plan forms the basis of negotiations between the Member State Government and the European Commission on the allocations of EU funding, and the subsequent negotiation process results in the agreement of a Community Support Framework (CSF).

The CSF document includes an outline of priorities for action, objectives and targets, anticipates financial resources, and monitoring, evaluation and control systems.

What areas of activity are funded by the Structural Funds?
 
The National Development Plan (NDP) is divided into a number of different Operational Programmes (OP) The Structural Funds are contributing to investment under each OP.

How subjects apply for Structural Funds?

Many activities supported by the Structural Funds under the NDP/CSF are open to individuals, Educational Establishments, Local & Regional Authorities, companies or other groups to submit applications for funding. Qualifying criteria and applications procedures vary depending on the type of activity supported. Funding applications are processed by the Government Departments (ministries), State Agencies and Local/Rural Development Agencies responsible for implementing activities (measures) under the NDP/CSF.

How much money can be paid to a project?

The maximum contribution of the funds to a project depends on the type of project and where it takes place. Basically each project needs co-financing. So beside EU funds also national funds are needed.  It is normally the responsibility of the applicant to find the remaining funding which must usually include public funding to match the Structural Funds contribution.

Regulations

You can access the full texts of the regulations for the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund (for the periods 1994-1999, 2000-2006 and 2007-2013), as well as the regulation governing the European Union Pre-accession structural instrument (period 2000-2006 and 2007-2013).

Political agreement on the regulations for the 2000-2006 period was reached during the Berlin European Council on 24 and 25 March 1999.

Regulations for the Structural Funds for the period 2000-2006:
Structural Funds General Provisions (1260/1999, 1447/2001, 1105/2003)
European Regional Development Fund
European Social Fund
European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund
Finance Instrument for Fisheries Guidance
Cohesion Fund (1164/1994, 1264/1999, 1265/1999, 1386/2002, 16/2003, 621/2004, COM(2005) 5)
Interreg III
Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession (1267/1999, 503/2001, 749/2004)
Commission regulations implementing the Structural Funds
--Regulation on the management and control systems (438/2001, 2355/2002)
--Regulation on eligible expenditure (1685/2000, 448/2004)
--Regulation regarding the procedure for making financial corrections
--Regulation on the use of the euro
--Regulation on information and publicity actions to be taken by the Member States

Regulations for the Structural Funds for the period 2007-2013:

Regulation (EC) No 1080/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 on the European Regional Development Fund and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1783/1999 (1)
Regulation (EC) No 1081/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 on the European Social Fund and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1784/1999 (12)
Regulation (EC) No 1082/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 on a European grouping of territorial cooperation (EGTC) (19)
Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 of 11 July 2006 laying down general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1260/1999 (25)
Council Regulation (EC) No 1084/2006 of 11 July 2006 establishing a Cohesion Fund and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1164/94 (79)
Council Regulation (EC) No 1085/2006 of 17 July 2006 establishing an Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) (82)

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