Under IPA II, financial assistance is available to candidate countries and to potential candidates, irrespective of their status, and is implemented by addressing the overriding objective of accession and a number of specific objectives. Strategic planning has taken the form of comprehensive strategies covering the entire period with a mid-term review.
Relevant regulatory framework consists of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance Regulation (IPA II) along with two additional acts, the Common Rules and Procedures for the Implementation of the Union’s Instruments for financing External Action (referred to as Common Implementing Regulation – CIR) and the Financial Regulation (FR).
In the broader context of the EU External Action instruments, the Common Implementing Regulation (CIR) (No 236/2014 adopted as of 11.3.2014) is a set of simplified and harmonised implementing rules and procedures applicable to IPA II, as well as to the other three geographic instruments (DCI, ENI, and PI) and to the thematic instruments of EU External Action (IfS, EIDHR, and INSC).
With a view to future accessions, the EU continues to offer Beneficiaries technical and financial assistance to foster growth and sustainability. The IPA II Implementing Regulation (No.447/2014 adopted as of 2.5.2014) lays down the main legislative framework for the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance II. The IPA II Implementing Regulation serves to complete the legal framework for IPA II by introducing specific rules establishing uniform conditions in particular as regards management and control systems under indirect management by the IPA II Beneficiaries; financial management; monitoring, evaluation and reporting; transparency and visibility; cross-border cooperation, as well as agriculture and rural development. Annexes to the IPA II Regulation include 1) the list of Beneficiaries, 2) the thematic priorities for assistance and 3) the thematic priorities for assistance for territorial cooperation.
The Financial Regulation (FR) (No 966/2012 adopted as of 25.10.2012) is the main point of reference for the principles and procedures governing the establishment and implementation of the EU budget and the control of the European Union’s finances.
The FR (applicable since 1.1.2013) is supplemented by Rules of Application (RAP) (No 1268/2014 adopted as of 29.10.2012) which contains more detailed and technical rules, which are essential for the day-to-day implementation of the FR. Of particular relevance for programming are the provisions on the essential elements of a Financing Decision (objectives, results, total amount etc.) and the essential elements of an Action (for grants, for procurement, for financial instruments, etc.).
The European Commission and each IPA II Beneficiary Country concludes a Framework Agreement (FA) for the entire programming period. The FA sets out specific provisions for the management, control, supervision, monitoring, evaluation, reporting and audit of financial assistance. The FA also transposes into the legal order of the Beneficiary Country the relevant provisions of the Union’s regulatory framework. IPA II assistance can only be granted to the Beneficiary Country after the Framework Agreement has entered into force.
Based on this legal framework, the European Commission and the Republic of North Macedonia, as Beneficiary of pre-accession assistance concluded Framework Agreement, in order to set out and agree on the rules for co-operation concerning financial assistance.
The Framework Agreement is applied to all Financing Agreements signed under the programming period 2014-2020.
The European Commission and the Republic of North Macedonia has concluded Financing Agreements for each action programme. Financing Agreements has further detailed, inter alia, the terms on which the IPA II assistance is managed, including the applicable methods of implementation, aid intensities, implementation deadlines, as well as rules on the eligibility of expenditure. Under indirect management by an IPA II Beneficiary, the Financing Agreement has included the required provisions of Article 40 of Delegated Regulation (EU) No.1268/2012.
The Indicative Country Strategy Papers (CSP) and the indicative Multi-Country Strategy Papers (MCSP) are the overarching strategic planning documents from which priorities and objectives of individual programmes derive.
The Indicative Strategy Papers (ISP) are Implementing Acts (Art. 291 TFEU) adopted by the European Commission following the opinion of the IPA II Committee. The role of the Country Strategy Papers is to set the frame for financial assistance over the period 2014-2020, to prepare the ground for Action Programmes, to identify priorities and sequencing for the reforms and investments and to ensure a coherent and consistent approach in line with the enlargement agenda. Planning of financial assistance spelled out in the Indicative Country Strategy Paper represents the European Commission’s strategy for the use of EU funds for Republic of North Macedonia, as IPA II Beneficiary.
Similarly, Multi-Country Strategy Papers define priorities and conditions for achievement at regional level for multi-beneficiary programmes and for territorial cooperation programmes.
Other important documents of reference include the countries’ national plans and sectorial strategies where they are compatible with the pre-accession objectives, with an applied Sector Approach.