Written by Martin Svasek,
The Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) supports countries that are candidates or potential candidates for EU membership. The support goes towards measures aiming at adopting and implementing the political, institutional, legal, administrative, social and economic reforms required to comply with the Union’s values and to align progressively with the Union’s rules, standards, policies and practices, with a view to Union membership. Currently, these beneficiaries are: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo,[i] Montenegro, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey.
In the 2007-2013 programming period, the IPA replaced several pre-accession assistance programmes, including Phare, SAPARD, ISPA, and CARDS. For the current 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework (MFF), Regulation (EU) No 231/2014 establishes the successor to the original IPA, the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (the IPA II Regulation).
IPA II focuses on specific objectives, such as support for political reform and economic, social and territorial development; efforts to strengthen the ability of the beneficiaries to fulfil the obligations stemming from Union membership; and work on strengthening regional integration and territorial cooperation. IPA II funds projects relating to reforms in preparation for EU membership and related work on institution and capacity building, socio-economic and regional development, employment, social policies, education, the promotion of gender equality, human resources development, agriculture and rural development, and regional and territorial cooperation. Receiving €4 453.9 million for 2014-2020, Turkey is by far the largest beneficiary of the IPA II funds. In total, the IPA II allocation for the 2014-2020 period equals €11 698.67 million, which is 1.8 % of the total MFF.
In addition to programmed measures, the IPA II allocation can be used in exceptional circumstances, such as when several Western Balkan countries experienced unprecedented floods in 2014. Following an opinion given by the IPA II committee, the Commission adopted a special measure on flood recovery and flood risk management, and provided €42 million for Bosnia and Herzegovina and €30 million to Serbia from IPA II resources to help both countries recover. In the context of the more recent migration crisis, IPA II has supported many migration-related activities in Turkey and the Western Balkans. In Serbia, for example, a total of €24.5 million of EU pre-accession funds were allocated to help manage the migration flow.
In a special report on pre-accession assistance for the Western Balkans, covering the 2007-2013 and the first stages of the 2014-2020 periods, the European Court of Auditors criticised the IPA’s objectives as not always specific and measurable, and that the projects did not always consider the countries’ political will for reform. Under IPA II, the indicative strategy papers paid more attention to beneficiaries’ capacity to commit to sector reform at political level and manage IPA funding. The report observed a relatively low level of absorption, caused mainly by the weak administrative capacity of the Western Balkan countries. A study on pre-accession funds for Turkey, commissioned by the European Parliament, also criticised the IPA II’s sectoral approach. Questioning the volume of pre-accession funding, the study also noted that utilisation rates in Turkey are low, and that only a limited amount of publicly available monitoring information was accessible.
[i] The text of Regulation 231/2014 states that ‘This designation [Kosovo] is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence’.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA II)’.