Željana Zovko, rapporteur on IPA III: “The political deal safeguards EU’s support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans”
Brussels 4 June 2021,
The European Parliament and the Council have concluded a political agreement on the new generation of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance, IPA III. This European fund, with a value of 14,2 billion euro aims at supporting the countries in the Western Balkans countries and Turkey to prepare them for accession to the European Union. The objectives of the instrument focus on implementing the necessary political, institutional, legal and economic reforms that would align the beneficiaries with European values and rules.
Željana Zovko, rapporteur on IPA III and negotiator on behalf of the European Parliament, said that the agreement is a big breakthrough in the negotiations that lasted for almost two years. She stressed that she was proud on the agreement as it safeguards the EU’s financial support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans. “The situation in the Western Balkans calls for urgent assistance and the current pandemic has demonstrated that our solidarity with the region is of crucial importance. With IPA III the EU will not only be a payer, but also a player in the region,” Zovko stated.
To ensure an overall progress among the beneficiaries, IPA III is based on a policy driven approach. The allocations will focus on five thematic windows including rule of law and democracy, good governance and good neighbourly relations, Green agenda and sustainable connectivity, competitiveness and inclusive growth and finally territorial and cross-border cooperation.
European assistance will be allocated according to a performance-based approach and will take into account the progress made by each beneficiary, while ensuring an appropriate level of support to all of them given their needs and capacities. This way, the instrument will stimulate the beneficiaries to invest IPA finances in more sustainable and impactful projects and to improve their absorption capacity.
Zovko also stressed that during the negotiations she pushed for a clear conditionality to the financial allocation to the beneficiaries’ projects. The regulation will allow the assistance to be modulated in case of significant regression or a persistent lack of progress in a beneficiary. “It is essential to ensure that IPA III contributes to the strengthening of the beneficiaries and that cases of systemic threats to the Union’s interests are avoided,” Zovko stated.
The upcoming IPA III regulation also differs from its predecessors by the enhanced involvement of the European Parliament in the governance and monitoring of the instrument. The negotiators agreed to include the European Parliament in the pre-programming of the funds by means of a delegated act, a legal procedure via which the Parliament will be able to give its consent on specific objectives and thematic priorities covering 60% of the IPA envelope. “Together with a similar delegated act in the recent deal on the NDICI – Global Europe instrument, this is a historic achievement as it is the first time that the European Parliament will be so closely involved in programming the EU’s external assistance,” Zovko said.
The role of the Parliament has also been improved by the agreement on a strategic geopolitical dialogue between the Commission and the European Parliament. Twice a year a high-level dialogue between the Commissioner in charge of Neighbourhood and Enlargement on behalf of the Commission, and the European Parliament will be held to discuss the implementation of IPA III. Furthermore, a permanent dialogue at senior officials’ level will be organized to prepare and follow up to the high-level dialogue.
An important chapter in the regulation and one of the priorities of the Parliament focuses on the enhanced visibility requirements for the beneficiaries. Zovko explained that the recipients of IPA funding will have to highlight the European assistance in their communication on supported projects. This improved communication should create public awareness and boost the credibility of the EU in the region and the added value of European assistance.
The political agreement will now be converted in the final text before the vote in the Parliament, first in the Foreign Affairs Committee followed by the plenary session, and the adoption by the Council. IPA III is set to be formally approved and signed into law by early autumn.