Amendments to the Management of Resources from the European Structural and Investment Funds Act, and the New Opportunities for Direct Provision of Grants during the Period of the State of Emergency in Bulgaria
Article 21 of the Measures and Actions during the State of Emergency Act provides for amendments to the Management of Resources from the European Structural and Investment Funds Act. In general, the amendments aim to facilitate the opportunities for direct provision of grants by the managing authorities (MA) of the resources from the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), making them more flexible when it comes to the currently established procedures, in light of the emergency situation.
The MA’s competences in managing the ESIF resources are expanded. While the state of emergency is in force, they will be able to:
1) unilaterally amend grant contracts according to the need for crisis measures, incl. to increase the amount of the agreed grant;
2) award grants under simplified procedural rules, incl. without the publication of a call for proposals;
3) increase the total resources for operations beyond those approved by the monitoring committee under those aid schemes that provide for implementation of measures;
4) reduce the time limits in procedures for direct provision of grants even when those time limits are set out in a legislative act;
5) not comply with the procedure, set out in the State Aid Act, for coordination with the Minister of Finance of the guidelines and/or other documents determining the terms and conditions for application and implementation of the approved projects, while at the same time the possibility for beneficiaries (in procedures of a direct provision) to ask for clarifications or to make objections is taken away.
Thus, until the state of emergency is lifted, a grant may be directly awarded to a candidate, who is approved by the monitoring committee of the respective program, by adopting a decision in default of appearance on a reasoned proposal made by the MA’s head of the program. The monitoring committee of the respective program should, however, make a decision through which it should include procedures, connected with the emergency situation, in the indicative annual work program, and it should also approve the criteria used for the selection of operations that are necessary to ensure the life and health of the citizens and to protect particularly important state or public interests, incl. those related to defense and security. In this instance the grant can be directly provided to a candidate who meets the approved criteria within the timeframe set by the MA’s head.
There is still no indication as to whether and for which programs the MAs have begun to develop procedures and selection criteria related to the state of emergency.
The beneficiaries and other participants in procedures for grant provision that have already been initiated should bear in mind that for the period from 13th March 2020 until the lifting of the state of emergency no suspension of the deadlines for implementation of instructions, given by the MA of ESIF or other administrative authorities in connection with the proceedings, is envisaged under the Measures and Actions during the State of Emergency Act.
At the same time, for the duration of the state of emergency the time limits for appealing against the decisions for imposing financial corrections under the Management of Resources from the European Structural and Investment Funds Act, like all other procedural time limits, cease to run.