(17 January 2014) – A report published today by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) calls on the EU Commission to increase the effectiveness of the LIFE programme by improving the dissemination and replication of successful environmental projects.
“The dissemination and replication of LIFE projects is clearly insufficient, and this significantly reduces the programme’s capacity to act as a catalyst for environmental changes, which is its overarching objective.” stated Mr Jan Kinšt, the ECA Member responsible for the report.
The EU’s environmental policy is integrated across its main spending policies, such as the structural funds and the common agricultural policy. LIFE (L’Instrument Financier pour l’Environnement), and in particular its environment component, is a specific financial instrument designed to serve as a platform for developing and exchanging good practices and to catalyse and accelerate developments of EU environmental policy. Its effectiveness is therefore strongly determined by whether funded projects serve as catalysts for environmental change. LIFE is managed directly by the Commission.
The latest LIFE programme covered the period 2007-2013 and had an average annual budget of € 239 million for financing projects – less than 1.5 % of estimated overall environmental related expenditure by the EU.
The audit found that the lack of a mechanism to target scarce resources on pre-selected objectives resulted in a lack of critical mass of good projects to promote meaningful developments in EU environmental policy. Also, the indicative national allocations hampered the selection of best projects because projects were not only selected based on their merit but also on their Member State of origin.
The EU Auditors pointed out that the Commission did not sufficiently justify the selection of projects and that, even if some supported projects achieved positive results, the programme did not fulfil its fundamental role to ensure their effective dissemination and replication.