In the midst of the ongoing reforms to the Eurozone in response to the economic crisis, the second, and newest, revision of the Financial Regulation was ushered into existence on October 27, 2012. The Financial Regulation governs core principles of the EU budget and expenditures of EU funds. It originated in 2002, but has been modified only once until now.
This most recent version was designed to simplify the process by which the EU funds European businesses, towns, individuals, students, and other recipients, as well as make the funding process more efficient and accessible by reducing the administrative burden. Specifically, it promotes innovative measures such as EU trust funds, a greater emphasis on lump sums and flat rates in the grant program, the use of loans, equities, and guarantees to increase the impact of EU funds, and more advanced information technology.
More crucially, however, is the emphasis on fiscal and budgetary accountability. This newest revision of the Financial Regulation coincides with the unprecedented expansion of the Union’s authority over fiscal matters as a reaction to the Eurozone crisis. The destabilization of the Eurozone has led to a consolidation of power in EU institutions in an effort to resolve the crisis and prevent future recurrences, such as the European Stability Mechanism. Accordingly, an official European Commission press release published on Monday links the new Regulation with the crisis, stressing the need for more centralized oversight and accountability over the expenditure of EU funds. Thus, the new revisions correspond to a heightened sense of fiscal responsibility in the Union, such as the tentative plans to impose strict budget deficit limits on member states. Reflecting this trend towards responsibility, the new Financial Regulation implements more thorough oversight on the budgetary management by the member states. Member states, who manage up to 80% of EU budget expenditure, must now produce annual management declarations which state that funds have been used correctly and are subject to independent audit.
The fact that the Financial Regulation has only been modified twice subsequent to its adoption indicates that changes to it do not come lightly or frivolously. As evident from the contemporaneous economic climate, as well as the content of the Regulation, the Commission deliberately crafted these changes as a reaction to the Eurozone crisis. They signify a larger shift in the EU framework to a more economic centralized authority where member states must further delegate sovereignty over economic matters to EU institutions in order to guarantee the future stability of the EU.