Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Seventh Report

35 Evaluation of the MEDA Programme



European Court of Auditors' Special Report No 5/2006 concerning the MEDA programme

Legal baseArt 248(4) EC
Deposited in Parliament21 July 2006
DepartmentInternational Development
Basis of considerationEM of 15 August 2006
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in CouncilTo be determined
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared, but further information requested


35.1 The MEDA programme is the EC's main financial instrument for the implementation of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, whose legal basis was Council Regulation (EC) 1488/96 of 23 July 1996. The Regulation describes measures to support reform of economic and social structures in 12 Mediterranean countries and to mitigate associated negative impacts. The 12 MEDA partners are Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Cyprus and Malta. Following an evaluation in 1999, the MEDA programme was extended and a new Regulation passed. The two programmes are referred to as MEDA-I and MEDA-II when it is necessary to distinguish them. More than €8 billion (£5,474 billion) has been allocated under the MEDA programme for the period 1995-2006. At the end of 2005 about €7 billion (£4.790 billion) had been committed and some €4 billion (£2.737 billion) had been spent.

The Court of Auditors' Report

35.2 This is a special report from the European Court of Auditors, providing a summary of the audit results of the MEDA programme. The report also contains the Commission's replies. It is helpfully summarised in his 15 August Explanatory Memorandum by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development (Mr Gareth Thomas) as follows:

"The audit work was carried out in Autumn 2005 and consisted of: visits to a selection of programmes and projects in Egypt and Morocco including discussions with delegation staff, local authorities, project managers, technical assistants and other donors; a desk review of projects and programmes in Jordan; and examinations of relevant evaluation reports including the mid-term evaluation of the MEDA-II programme, completed in 2005.

"The audit focused on:

—  The programme's relevance in contributing to economic reform and social development in the partner countries, as measured by its focus, capacity building, ownership and results;

—  The Commission's management of the programme in terms of: speed and efficiency of programming; preparation and implementation; monitoring and evaluation; and donor co-ordination.

"The Court of Auditors concluded that the programme has been relevant to the needs of the countries and has focused on a limited number of sectors. It has encouraged ownership by an increasing use of budget support and has also systematically included institutional capacity-building measures. The Court found it harder to assess the impact of the EC support for a number of reasons: 10 out of the 11 MEDA-I projects examined were still being implemented; total EC support usually represents less than 1% of the government's budget; EC support often attempts to address reform issues of a qualitative and innovative nature, which are difficult to quantify; and the often general nature of the strategic objectives in the relevant EC Country Strategy Papers.

"The Commission's management of the MEDA programme was deemed satisfactory and as having improved since MEDA-I thanks to the introduction of new programming rules under the MEDA-II Regulation. Improvements include a more even allocation of resources from year to year since 2000, shorter preparation periods, and significantly higher disbursements since 2002. Monitoring and evaluation at the level of the individual projects/programmes has become more systematic and there is more intense dialogue and co-ordination with local partners and donors. The report believes that devolution of project preparation and implementation to EC Delegations has contributed to the overall improvement. The Court expressed some concerns that some MEDA-II projects might not be completed due to time constraints on signing contracts set out in the Financial Regulation.

"With the MEDA Regulation coming to an end in 2006 and the new European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) due to enter into force in 2007, the Court recommends that the Commission:

—  ensures a smooth transition to the new country programmes, including by a clearer definition of strategic objectives and appropriate indicators to allow for better impact monitoring and evaluation;

—  continues to focus on a limited number of intervention areas to keep programmes manageable and coherent;

—  continues to strive for best practice management of projects to avoid delays, for example by making further improvements to procurement management and by allowing more decentralised management of projects by national authorities.

"The Commission agrees with most of recommendations. Its response to the auditors' comments notes that:

—  the mid-term evaluation of MEDA-II was positive about the political relevance, policy orientation, financial performance during the last five years, the increasing preference for sector operations (as opposed to stand-alone projects), the success of the devolution process and the revision of the MEDA Regulation. In the general framework of the transition to the new ENPI, the EC needs to consider further the assignment of tasks in the programming cycle, the appropriate profile of staff and lessons learned;

—  initial delays have been considerably reduced under MEDA-II;

—  while EC financial support to the Mediterranean countries is limited in relation to the countries' overall budget, it is significant in relation to the budget for social policy reforms to address basic needs;

—  the implementation delays observed are often attributable to the need to comply with procedural procurement rules and principles of equality and non-discrimination. The EC recently undertook a simplification exercise which resulted in a practical guide to contract procedures in the field of external aid;

—  the definition of priorities under the ENPI will be based on the objectives of the European Neighbourhood Policy and the priorities of the ENP Action Plans. Under the ENPI programming exercise, the strategic objectives of the Country Strategy Papers will be in line with the Action Plans. Specific results indicators are defined at the identification phase and form the basis for Monitoring and Evaluation;

—  programme coherence will be ensured by limiting the number of programmes and by focusing on the reform of policies, legislation and regulation in selected areas of political, economic and social spheres in the partner countries;

—  best practice in managing projects will be strengthened by involving partner countries in the selection of the most appropriate instruments and activities."

The Government's View

35.3 The Minister says that he is content with the audit report and its recommendations, which are in line with the UK views on the MEDA-II mid-term evaluation presented at the last MEDA Committee on 14 July.

35.4 He highlights the Court of Auditors' recommendation that the EC define more clearly strategic objectives and appropriate indicators and allow for better monitoring and evaluation of the impact, "bearing in mind the large number of priorities defined in the Action Plans".

35.5 He also agrees with the need for the Commission to continue to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the MEDA programme:

"In this regard we will continue to press the Commission to implement the 2005 Development Policy Statement (DPS) and the commitments made at the 2005 Paris High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. The DPS emphasises the need to select a strictly limited number of areas for action when Community aid is being programmed. This should avoid a repeat of the situation in Morocco under MEDA-I, where support was spread over a large number of sectors."

35.6 The Minister notes the time constraint concerns expressed in the report and says he will take these into account when entering into negotiations on the Financial Regulation for the next Financial Perspectives (2007-13): "There is a fine balance to be struck between encouraging prompt implementation of commitments and ensuring flexibility in exceptional circumstances."

35.7 He is generally content with the EC's response:

"We have already pressed for an impact evaluation rather than a programme/project evaluation. The EC, supported by the MEDA Committee, promised a final impact evaluation in 2007 that would feed into subsequent ENPI programmes in a flexible way. We will reiterate the need for an impact evaluation and ask the EC to elaborate on the impact of the new practical guide for procurement procedures in the MEDA — soon to be renamed ENPI — Management Committee."

35.8 Looking ahead, the Minister says that the relevant Working Group will consider the Report in the autumn, and that it is also likely to be discussed at the next MEDA committee meeting.


35.9 Given recent developments in the region, the importance of the Mediterranean component of the ENPI is all the more evident. The positive assessment of MEDA is thus welcome.

35.10 It is plain that the challenge now under the ENPI is to consolidate and deepen all the positive elements in the ways underlined by the Minister, particularly with regard to more clearly strategic objectives, limited areas of action in line with those objectives and appropriate indicators and evaluation mechanisms that focus on impact. We should accordingly be grateful if, in a year's time, the Minister would let us know what progress has been made with regard to the final MEDA impact assessment to which he refers, and more generally in these areas under the ENPI.

35.11 In the meantime, we now clear the document.

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